Saturday, January 3, 2009

Consider value, not just cost

I contributed the following letter to The Register-Guard, which was printed in the January 2, 2008 edition of the paper. I wrote it in response to an article by Susan Palmer of The Register-Guard on the subject of EWEB's selection process to select a consultant team for its riverfront master plan process. While not directly stating that fees would be the primary selection criterion, her article used the word “bid” repeatedly to describe the fee proposals of the teams under consideration (the “bids” of the five shortlisted teams were also printed). For architects, any notion about bidding fees is a bugaboo. The AIA-SWO board regarded the article as an opportunity to educate, to clarify that design professionals should be selected on the basis of the most meaningful factors – qualifications, competence, and previous performance – rather than as a result of a focus on fees. This should especially be the case when the scope of a project is not well established at the time of the consultant’s selection.

Consider value, not just cost
The Dec. 29 coverage in The Register-­Guard of Eugene Water & Electric Board’s effort to select a master planning consultant for its riverfront parcel prominently displayed each contender’s fee proposal. Readers may have the impression that cost is the only factor being considered by EWEB’s Community Advisory Team. Not so. Cost is one of many considerations. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects applauds the work being done by these community volunteers.

EWEB wants the greatest value, not the lowest cost. The advisory team is deliberating carefully because it’s in the best interests of EWEB and its ratepayers to not base the selection on cost alone. Design professionals do not sell a commodity but rather their knowledge.

Professional architects and urban designers turn undefined concepts into realistic visions, plans and specifications. They take an idea and give it definition.

EWEB wants to ensure that the future of our downtown riverfront is in the hands of the most qualified and competent team possible, not simply the one that offers the lowest fee proposal — which isn’t a “bid.” The likelihood of a project’s success would be reduced if the selection was merely a bidding process.

Good design may cost a bit more, but it pays for itself many times over the life of the project. For the sake of our city and its downtown riverfront, EWEB can’t afford not to hire the best consultants available.

Randy Nishimura, 2009 President
American Institute of Architects – Southwestern Oregon Chapter

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