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    Productivity Commission Report on Public Infrastructure: architects must add value in early stages of project design

    Geraldine Chua

    The final inquiry report of the Productivity Commission into Public Infrastructure has been released, urging the reform of governance and institutional arrangements to promote better decision making in the selection, funding, financing and delivery of services for both new and existing infrastructure.

    An independent government research and advisory body on a range of economic, social and environmental issues affecting Australians, the Productivity Commission was instigated by Treasurer Joe Hockey. 

    The report, released last week, notes that there are numerous examples of poor value for money arising from inadequate project selection in the Australian infrastructure sphere, and a reliance on infrastructure deficit that could encourage poor investment choices.

    Key recommendations made range from significant institutional and longer-term road pricing arrangements to create more direct links to road users, to ensuring a coordinated and coherent data collection process in addressing current limitations whilst improving future project selection decisions.

    Highlighting the “urgent need to comprehensively overhaul processes for assessing and developing public infrastructure projects”, the report has also presented a series of findings relevant to the architecture industry.

    According to the Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA), this includes:

    • The need for specialist expertise within government coupled with sensible risk allocation and ways to encourage innovation
    • Showing how architectural and engineering services are leading export of their services overseas
    • Strongly recommending more time and money to be spent at the design phase of a project to achieve the best value for money outcome
    • Recommending the implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on projects. The report discusses ways governments can assist in an orderly implementation of BIM through standardisation and cooperation across the different sectors of the construction industry
    • Encouraging collaboration and early contractor involvement, whilst discussing ways to reduce bid costs

    “The report challenges architects to articulate the value of their services throughout the construction process, but in particular the early stages of design,” says ACA’s South Australian president, John Held.

    “Architects must work to be leaders in the uptake of BIM and in collaborative models of working to ensure we achieve the best public and social infrastructure possible in Australia.”

    The inquiry report can be accessed here.

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