LAST WEEK the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) scrapped a shortlist of firms prequalified for the design and construction of its key structure, the stadium, selecting Sir Robert McAlpine, HOK Sport and Buro Happold as preferred bidder.
The industry responded with amazement, and fury, accusing the ODA of flouting its own procurement rules (see News).
Why scrap a proposed shortlist - which was to have a minimum of three bidders - in favour of just one team to work out the design and scope. Why remove any incentive to be competitive on design or cost?
In a statement confirming the selection of the team responsible for delivering Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, the ODA claimed that 'their submission was the only one that met all the its 'prequalification criteria'.
Firms bidding for the stadium were asked to complete a 25 page questionnaire outlining their suitability for the role (see box).
Other bidders included Arup with German contractor Alpine Bau Deutschland; Whitbybird with architect Ryder HKS and US contractor Hunt Construction Group; URS Corporation with architects Foster & Partners, Martha Schwartz, AFL Architects and project manager Gleeds. Architect Richard Rogers bid alone.
It is likely that the Rogers and URS team bids fell at the first hurdle by failing to provide a contractor for what is essentially a design and build job.
But there is confusion about the ODA's thinking when it came to eliminating other bidders.
As one bidder points out, the original advertisement for the job asked only for an 'integrated design and construction team'.
'Our view was that you needed to have a British-based contractor to have those established links to the supply chain, but they were all ruled out by the Delivery Partner competition, ' he says (see news).
Firms bidding for the Delivery Partner role were barred from competing for the stadium contract until they knew they were out of the running for the top job - only last month.
'We felt we had an integrated team of designers, project managers and cost consultants that could develop the design over the necessary period, ' he adds.
'We could bring the contractor on at a later date, when the project was better defined and they weren't tied up in the delivery partner procurement.' Clearly the ODA took a different view.
It was intended that shortlisted bidders would work with the ODA to develop the design of the stadium over the next six months (NCE 27 July).
This process will now be carried out solely by the Arsenal Emirates Stadium team, with the aim of shaving as much as three months off the delivery schedule.
But what of those that had teamed up with a contractor?
'We had a team with a strong established contractor and we felt we ticked all of the ODA's boxes, ' says a bidder.
But it would seem, quite simply, that the Arsenal Emirates Stadium team won because it was the only one with a contractor fi mly established in the UK market.
Many consultants and contractors feel that the shortage of contractors was a problem entirely of the ODA's making, created by locking contractors into the delivery partner procurement process (NCE 10 August).
As a result, the Authority was forced to ask one fi rm to dictate the entire scope of the most important stadium since Wembley without any competition on price or design.
Only time will tell whether the ODA was right to scrap the shortlist and forge ahead.