Jane Embury, director, looks at the implications of low bids
Over recent weeks, the government has introduced a number of initiatives in the construction sector.
Most have been about safety, which we have welcomed, and creating a chain of responsibility to safeguard good practices and products.
Those changes may have come about because off the Grenfell disaster, but they are also about building resilience into the sector.
It means that building suppliers have to be absolutely mindful of their responsibilities to deliver safe products and systems. That’s particularly so when it comes to fire safety.
That means developing better and safer products and systems. Under the new regulations, responsibility for building safety will lie with individuals.
It’s a responsibility that starts with the design of a building, and extends well beyond its completion.
It adds up to a new recognition that building safety needed to be updated. The complexities of a large new building involve contractors, sub-contractors and a plethora of sometimes conflicting safety certifications.
But the government now seems to be addressing another issue that is also close to our hearts at Wrightstyle.
A new initiative is to be aimed at contractors who submit unrealistically low bids for public sector contracts.
According to a senior government official, those companies will face “intense scrutiny.”
The official in question is Fergus Harradence, deputy director for infrastructure and construction at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
He was speaking at a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). It was made clear that any bids that appear unrealistically low will be rejected unless the bidder has a plausible explanation.
He said that, “we need to get away from a situation where people are only able to make a profit by putting pressure on their supply chains.
“We need the industry to behave responsibly and embed the rigorous, comprehensive approach to quality that has been so successful in manufacturing.”
He also said that everyone needed to be more “open and honest with each other.” The government, he said, would prefer that projects appeared to cost more at the start to avoid problems later.
He said: “Persistent under-bidding leads to ministers having to…apologise for projects running over time and budget.”
It’s an issue that we recently drew attention to because companies like Wrightstyle need a reasonable level of profit.
That allows us to develop new levels of fire safety and, importantly, test those systems against any and all threats.
The test on Wrightstyle’s steel and glass advanced curtain wall system.
The significance of the test at WarringtonFire was that the exterior building surface faced into the furnace.
The test therefore means that our SR60 system is certified as being dual directional. Most advanced glazing systems only offer fire protection from one side.
But fire safety developments like that come at a price – in our design and testing programmes.
Low tendering is good for nobody in the long run because it squeezes profit. In turn, that limits our collective ability to innovate.
Outlawing low bids in public sector building is a good place to start.