State and federal governments within Australia should use their position as major clients to lead a fundamental overhaul of ‘twentieth century’ procurement models for major construction projects, a respected industry figure says.

Australian Construction Industry Forum chief executive Peter Barda called for a paradigm shift in the way the tenders for developments are managed so that head contractors and trade contractors are included upfront in the project design.

 Peterr Barda

Peterr Barda

Barda’s call comes shortly after ACIF released a raft of policies calling for changes not just in procurement but also across areas such as housing affordability, sustainable design and construction, building and planning regulation, occupational licensing, workplace relations and occupational health and safety – policies the organisation says are necessary to drive future gains in industry productivity.

Of all of these areas, Barda says shifting the approach toward procurement is arguably the most challenging in which to implement change but perhaps the biggest area in terms of yielding lasting results.

He says current practices under which a portion of the design work is locked in before calling for tenders means clients miss out on the chance to benefit from the expertise of trade contractors and head contractors regarding how buildings and infrastructure can be designed and maintained.

Instead, he would like to see clients go out into the marketplace and entire teams be put together to work on the design collaboratively.

“In an ideal world you would actually work backwards from maintenance,” Barda said. “You would think about how you are going to commission for example, mechanical services, lift services and then how you are going to maintain them. That needs to be part of the thinking in terms of how you are going to put all of the Lego blocks together.”

He noted that the traditional approach does not allow for that type of thinking.

“The second thing the traditional approach denies the client is thinking about how you are actually going to build the thing,” he said. “Where are you going to put the cranes? How many cranes? How are you going to manage material handling? How are you going to manage onsite storage of materials? How do you co-ordinate the access that different trades need as the building goes up?

“If you actually have the trade contractors and head contractors involved in the design early, all of that gets taken into account.”

The release of ACIF policies come as government tender processes are under the public microscope after a draft report into the delivery of public sector infrastructure from the Productivity Commission called for a comprehensive overhaul of assessment and development processes last month.

Barda says ACIF hopes the release of its policies will help advance discussion of important issues amongst industry stakeholders.

He says current procurement methods will be hard to change, but has challenged governments as buyers to devise new ways which allow for whole of team approaches to design without compromising transparency or probity within the process.

“We are looking for some courage from government buyers to say ‘we are going to do things differently. We’ll actually appoint teams early and as they come up with a model of the asset that will deliver the performance that is required. All of those people will stay together and they’ll do the work and be paid for it,’” Barda said.