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Designer Selection Procedure in Public
A town hall, an administrative building, a post office, a swimming pool, a bus shelter, an electrical substation, a noise barrier, a bridge - the demand is there and the funds are waiting, but how do you find an architect or designer to come up with a suitable, sustainable design? It was for this very reason that the Flemish Government Architect developed the “Open Call” procedure as a means of selecting designers. The Open Call is a tool for selecting designers for landscape architecture, urban planning and architectural contracts. The Open Call regulates the award of building contracts by public commissioning bodies. The Open Call is an innovative selection method. The commissioning body makes no statement of the architecture it has in mind, but rather, in its project definition, describes what the project means to the town or municipality, society or users, and the qualities it expects. This method ensures that the commissioning body gains a good understanding of the qualities of the designer it commissions; that is well acquainted with his or her vision, knows who will be involved in the project, and understands how the design team will tackle the project. In the framework of the Open Call, the design team will also put together an architectural proposal, which includes a sketch or, where relevant, a more comprehensive design. Having made its selection, the commissioning body can then work with the design team to achieve the best possible design.
The Open Call aims for high-quality selection and recommendation of
It is the aim of the Architect to help create a well planned living environment in consultation with the parties involved. Public patrimony provides the tool by which this ambition can be realised. Public buildings occupy a place in a society's memory. This is why they have to be incorruptible and have to carry the right cultural value and significance. From its public standpoint, the Architect aims to lend shape to that patrimony, which encompasses architecture, public spaces, art, landscapes and infrastructure. In the framework of these ambitions, the Government of Flanders has conferred upon the Flemish Government Architect the task of selecting for government contracts, within the European competition rules, designers who are prepared seek out the maximum quality for a given project. The Open Call was developed in the framework of the public procurement regulations, with the emphasis on qualitative selection and the recommendation of laureates to the commissioning body. The Architect launched the first Open Call in 2000. Government projects for which a designer is sought through Open Call are listed and published twice a year. Architects and designers are called to enter nationally and internationally and apply for one or more projects. The projects cover landscape architecture, urban planning and architecture. The Open Call is announced in the Bulletin der Aanbestedingen
[Public Tender Bulletin] and at the European level. Alongside this compulsory official publication an advertisement referring to it may also appear in a select group of daily newspapers and a few trade journals. To begin selection for a project the client writes up a definition of the project, in which he sets out his expectations and ambitions. The project definition provides the basis for the qualitative selection. Selection takes place over two steps. To start with, the Architect and client select between three and seven candidates who are considered suitable on the basis of their portfolios and in the light of the project definition. These candidates (applicants) are then invited by the client to study the building contract and present a concept and approach. This task is paid. The applicants are given a briefing by the client at the building site, where they are able to ask questions about the contract. They then submit their proposals. The (anonymous) proposals are assessed by the jury. The jury writes up a report in which it evaluates the proposals in the light of the evaluation criteria. In the light of this report the laureates are designated for the contract. They are then invited by the commissioning body (as part of the first phase following negotiations with the laureates) to explain their vision verbally and provide clarification by answering questions. The client awards the contract to the design team whose vision best matches the ambitions and expectations of the client. Important extra criteria are willingness to comply with procedure, concern for sustainability, estimation of the cost of the project and fees, and team composition.
The selected team then produces the final design, in consultation with the client. The
eventual working design may come to differ from the original vision during this
Objectives of the Open Call
A public procurer has a certain cultural responsibility, because he builds with a view
to fulfilling his social contract. He has a mission and a vision and he manages to
achieve this through the way he builds.
More and more clients are realising that a building contract involves more than simply
satisfying the planning and housing requirements. They want their building project to
help them be instrumental, recognisable, accessible and approachable. More and
more public procurers are taking this concern for quality seriously. Therefore, the
model client sets out his ambitions and expectations in a project definition before he
starts to build. It is the client who takes the final decision and concludes the contract
with the designer. Research by design and diversity
Initially, the Open Call invites designers to present themselves through their
achievements and designs and to show their vision of architecture through a portfolio.
Thanks to these office presentations a predetermined number of suitable candidates
(between three and seven) can be selected for a building contract.
These designers are then invited by the client to study the building contract, and go
on to show specifically what their vision, working method and approach could mean
to the client, how the architecture and building can help them realise their social
ambitions. Clients often imagine that there is only one good solution to their
architectural problem. When designers study a building specification, their personal
visions usually lead to very different but equally valuable results. The Architect wants
clients who show a surprising variety in their visions and opinions of architecture. The
different perspectives all help give the client a better understanding. Good cooperation between commissioning body and designer
The model client knows that close and effective cooperation with the designer is
essential to the end result. He selects a designer on the basis of an approach, a work
method and an initial interpretation of the specific contract, but knows that the
selection procedure cannot as yet yield a definitive design. Designers have to be
prepared to enter the process and show their willingness to comply with procedure.
The Open Call gives the client the opportunity to discuss spatial concepts and known
designs with the designers and test their willingness to comply with procedure. Good procedural monitoring
A project unfolds systematically. The process starts with the conclusion of a
partnership protocol between the public commissioning body and the Flemish
Government Architect. This protocol covers all the arrangements that are crucial to
the success of the process. It is also a good way of bringing transparency to the
The model client knows that management of this process is a crucial factor in the
successful conclusion of the project. This is why the commissioning body appoints a
project manager who is responsible for the communication process. The project
manager ensures that the project develops in line with a vision. He/she ensures that
all the building blocks of content and communication are put in place to enable well-
founded decisions to be made. Good quality control
The design process does not stop but starts with the commissioning body's selection
of a design or designer. This is basically a process of adding value, in which it is
helpful if the commissioning body can rely on the know-how and recommendations of
an independent expert.
This advisory role is best played by the external jury member appointed by the
Flemish Government Architect. He/she is an independent advisor chosen for his/her
specific, project-related expertise. In acting as a jury member he/she has a good
knowledge of the contract and the designs submitted. He/she is therefore ideally
placed to advise the client in crucial decisions. This extended task relates not only to
preserving the quality already achieved, but to monitoring the permanent
improvement of the design based on the ambitions and expectations of the
commissioning body. The extended task can commence once the contract is
awarded to the designer, and is gradually phased out.
In consultation with the Flemish Government Architect the commissioning body
makes specific arrangements about the extended task of the external jury member
and sets these out in the protocol. Concern for sustainability
Building is expensive and so it makes sense to build sustainably. Buildings exist
longer than their commissioning bodies, or then again the housing requirement for
which they were built. The construction, operation and management of buildings
accounts for 40% of Europe's total energy consumption. Yet another reason why it
makes sense to build sustainably.
The essence of sustainability is variability: variability whilst retaining value, preferably
with an increase in value over time. Added value in both the economic and emotional
sense. It is about environments and buildings that can be culturally recycled,
designed for a new lease of life. History teaches us that it is possible to create
buildings that people cherish and can, as a result, always be put to another use. This
is cultural sustainability.
Sustainable urban development, sustainable architecture, the pursuit of which is not
a fashion, a trend or a luxury, but a fundamental starting point for every project. Here,
we cannot confine sustainability to a consideration of energy and nothing else. In
terms of the project, sustainability must be defined in its broadest sense. Therefore, it
involves an approach that is not just technical, but one born of a broader social-
societal, cultural and economic context. In this framework, we should at least
consider mobility, accessibility, waste management, health, the rational use of
energy, water and materials, and prioritise a life cycle analysis when developing our
space and buildings. Commissioning bodies and designers are encouraged through
the Open Call to continue to improve their results in this area.
Kunst in opdracht [Art by Commission]
In Flemish Kunst in opdracht
concept originates from a percentage ruling for art in
and around public buildings (Flemish Parliament Act of 23 December 86; Flemish
Parliament Act of 12 May 98). This regulation obliges public procurers to question, in
every building project, the added value of art when completing a building contract. Art
can be one of the ways in which a commissioning body, designer and artist meet the
search for quality in the living environment. The artistic diversity offered by Flanders
is a backdrop of enormous potential. By bringing experts from different backgrounds
together in a shared vision and challenging them to search for the moment at which,
and the language in which, an artistic work can find its niche, the commissioning
body is positioning itself within today’s cultural-social context.
The Open Call is a procedure designed to maximise the quality of the selection and
recommend designers for design contracts. When it comes to selecting one or more
artists for an arts contract it is possible, in cooperation with the arts unit of the
Flemish Government Architect team and the client, to start up a procedure based on
the vision of the designers.
THE OPEN CALL REGULATIONS
1. Legal basis
The reviewed Open Call procedure has its legal basis in the invitation to tender for
designs pursuant to articles 20 and 21 of the Law of 24 December 1993, articles 75
to 77 of the RD of 8 January 1996 and articles 66 to 74 of Directive 2004/18/EC of 31
The ensuing award of the design contract to the recommended designer takes place
via the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice referred to
in art. 17, §2, 4° of the Law of 24 December 1993. 2. Publication of a contract notice
Contract notices are published in the Bulletin der Aanbestedingen
[Public Tender Bulletin] and at European level in accordance with the specimen tender notice for designs. The notices are periodic and grouped together to form a list of projects, so as to keep the red tape to a minimum for the candidates and authorities. The notice includes, among other things: - A description of the subject of the contract (type of building, location, etc.) In some
cases there is also a reference to “further” contracts that follow on from the actual design contract.
- The selection requirements and criteria for selecting from the commissioning
body's choice of three to seven applicants, as well as any specificities relating to the way this procedure is applied.
- The criteria for the jury's evaluation of the projects submitted (the so-called
“evaluation criteria”) and their respective weight.
- Payment for (1) candidates who, when invited to send in a design, submit an
adequate dossier (irrespective of whether or not they are laureates) and (2) laureates who, once questioned by the jury or the commissioning body are asked to modify the design as part of a negotiated procedure.
A candidates' information brochure can be downloaded from the website of the
Flemish Government Architect, containing for each project a description of the
contract, photos of the location, schedule, maximum project budget and authorised
paid work. 3. Application
Architects, urban planners and designers from home and abroad can apply in accordance with a simple procedure for one or more of the projects on the published list. The language to be used in all communication (written and verbal) is Dutch. If parts are submitted in another EU Member-State language, a translation to Dutch may be requested. In addition to submitting a participation form and a signed statement of the grounds for exclusion, candidates must provide all the relevant details on their bureau and produce a portfolio of designs and realisations. These documents must give a good picture of the vision, the approach the architectural firm stands for, and the quality of the realisations.
In their applications candidates must indicate whether they themselves have the
necessary specialist technical expertise (such as stability), or intend to collaborate
with a consultancy office. Candidates will be required to explain how they envisage
this and with whom they intend to work (if needs be giving a list of the consultancies
they are considering). In the negotiation stage after the request for tender the
laureate/candidate will be required to produce the necessary undertakings from the
consultancy office of their choice. It should be stressed here that in this stage it will
not be possible for several laureates/candidates to propose one and the same
consultancy. The principle that every candidate can improve their position by
collaborating with expert partners will always apply.
The application is limited to the projects chosen from the list of contracts. The list of
projects applied for is binding to the candidates and, in terms of selection, binding to
the Flemish Government Architect.
The info brochure enables the designers to make an informed choice of projects. 4. Minimum requirements and selection criteria
Every portfolio should contain at least 3 (similar) projects that were realised in the candidate's own name and allow for an evaluation of conceptual skills. The projects can be realised or as yet unrealised designs. The candidates must not be subject to any of the exclusions. In the case of architectural contracts, candidates must be enrolled with the institute of architects (or a similar professional organisation in the European Union). To guarantee the candidates' financial and economic standing, proof of insurance against professional errors is requested, with relevant minimum cover for the projects chosen. Technical proficiency is verified on the basis of: 1. general design expertise relating to the project; 2. professional competence; 3. relevant experience. “General design expertise relating to the project” (the first criterion) tests the designer's ability to achieve objectives through his design which are not confined to the design in itself, but also lend shape to the public procurement. Candidates must show that, by taking into account the context of the spatial task, they are able to fully guarantee the public function of the design. Therefore the requirement is for an understanding of the social task, which offers general added value besides the specific function of the building. “Professional competence” (the second criterion) relates to the designer's expertise in all aspects from design to realisation and aftercare of spatial projects. For example, it covers acknowledgements from third parties, such as architectural prizes, mentions in national and international magazines and trade literature, or academic achievements.
“Relevant experience” (the third criterion) tests the designer's specific references. In
the framework of this criterion it is possible, for example, to refer to earlier designs or
projects realised, as well as to studies, traineeships or collaborations that have taken
place in the past. A designer can mention all experience that might be relevant to the
contract; no specific references per contract are actually required.
5. List of approved candidates
After the period of application the Flemish Government Architect releases a list of
approved applications that satisfy the minimum requirements for each project.
Being listed does not imply a contract, but a chance of being invited to submit a
proposal for the project.
The Flemish Government Architect may also draw on this list of candidates for
projects that do not, due to their small size, require notice.
The list of approved candidates expires two years after publication.
6. Task of the commissioning body
The commissioning body decides the point at which it starts the project. It begins by producing a project definition. In this it formulates its expectations and ambitions for the project. The project definition describes not so much the architecture the commissioning body has in mind, but says something about the level of ambition and significance of the project for the town, society and users. The project definition lays down the social and cultural requirements, aspects in which the commissioning body wishes to be exemplary in the realisation of its building contract. The project definition therefore sets out the quality requirements and forms the framework for evaluating quality, from the awarding of the contract to a designer to execution of the project. A schedule of requirements describes the hard data, spatial and functional requirements to be satisfied by the project. The commissioning body also sets the maximum project budget, including study expenses, to which the designers are bound, as well as the authorised paid work. The project definition is a determining factor in the jury's examination of the evaluation criteria for every specific project in the Open Call. The client specifies the evaluation and award criteria, and their respective weight, based on the criteria given in point 10. The client may add to these or make them more specific depending on the project definition. The commissioning body also sets the payment for the project proposals submitted by the applicants. The research by design is paid, the rule being that 0.2 % of the investment cost per applicant can be used to pay the laureates. Depending in part on the size of the contract and the work involved in the design, the commissioning body will consult the Flemish Government Architect to set the size of the payment for submitting the project proposal. The minimum payment is EUR 3,2501 per applicant.
1 All fees under the Open Call regulations are linked to the consumer prices index. All amounts are exclusive of VAT.
7. Selection of the applicants
In consultation with the commissioning body the Flemish Government Architect
decides the number of applicants to select, with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 7.
The size and complexity of the contract are important parameters in this decision.
The commissioning body then selects the predetermined number of applicants per
project (between 3 and 7) from the list of approved candidates, who are then invited
to submit a project proposal. The selection is based on the selection criteria and
candidates' portfolios. The Flemish Government Architect prepares the selection by
drafting a shortlist and advises the commissioning body in respect of the selection.
The selection report, drawn up by the commissioning body, gives the reasons for the
choice of designers based on a comparison of the candidates. All candidates are
informed of the result of the selection report in a transparent manner (including
mention of the possibility of appeal). 8. Composition and payment of the jury
In conformance with article 75 of the RD van 8 January 1996, a jury of minimum 5
people is set up for every project in the Open Call. These jury members will have the
knowledge and experience needed to evaluate the designs. When the specifications
require the participants to have special professional qualifications, the jury will consist
of a minimum of 2 experts with the same or equivalent professional qualifications.
This jury will always be chaired by the Flemish Government Architect or his
The jury consists of: the Flemish Government Architect, three of four representatives
from the commissioning body and one external expert.
When it comes to the external expert's fee the guideline is EUR 375 per half day. If a
higher fee is paid the commissioning body must give its reasons for this. The fee is
payable by the commissioning body.
9. Submission of project proposals
The (3 to 7) applicants are invited by the commissioning body to submit a proposal anonymously. The letter of invitation or the project dossier will state the dates of the joint briefings, the latest submission date, the evaluation criteria, the composition of the jury, the fees chargeable (any differentiation of fees will be decided by the jury beforehand), the number and form of the documents to be submitted and the date and method of presentation, as well as the award criteria (the latter can be altered later – depending on the project dossier – in the framework of the negotiations). The requested design exploration of the contract will depend in part on the nature and size of the contract and will be communicated to the applicants in advance. The research by design may therefore vary from a sketch and vision statement to a more involved design and vision statement. The commissioning body may, more generally, in consultation with the Flemish Government Architect, impose restrictions on the level to which sketches/designs are worked out and the maximum size of the project proposal. Project proposals are submitted anonymously to the office of the Flemish Government Architect.
The design teams are briefed by the commissioning body. This can be done at one or
more joint meetings, at which the contract is explained and the project dossier
handed over. Besides the schedule of requirements the project dossier contains the
project definition, which says something about the ambition and expectations of the
commissioning body and gives the specimen agreement over the eventual study
contract. The briefing is also an opportunity to visit the site and the build location. The
briefings are points of consultation between the commissioning body and designers
and make it possible to explore the contract further through open dialogue and give
answers to questions.
Applicants who submit an adequately detailed dossier qualify for payment. There is
no requirement that they be appointed as laureates, but they do have to submit an
adequate dossier which is fit for evaluation. 10. Appointment of the laureates by the jury
The office of Flemish Government Architect puts the project proposals before the jury anonymously. The jury evaluates the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria given in the project definition. In order of importance the jury's evaluation criteria are as follows: 1. the quality of the concept and vision and the research by design in the light of the
ambitions and expectations of the commissioning body, as set out in the specifications - within a broad social framework;
2. concern for a global approach to sustainability;
3. estimate of the project cost.
The weights of the respective criteria are, in theory, based on the following
proportions (in accordance with the list of criteria above): 3/2/1. These proportions
may change in consultation with the commissioning body.
The evaluation of the qualitative criteria uses scores based on the following scales:
excellent (10/10), good (8/10), satisfactory (5/10), unsatisfactory (0/10).
The jury evaluates the proposals. The jury can if needs be, via the commissioning
body, ask the candidates questions in writing and in anonymity. In addition it may,
with a view to supporting the commissioning body in the next stage, suggest the
commissioning body questions to aid clarification.
The jury reaches its final evaluation and chooses one or more laureates, which it
recommends to the commissioning body.
Only those applicants with a minimum total score of satisfactory (i.e. a score of 50%),
will qualify for retention as a laureate. Applicants who fail to submit one or more of
the documents required in the specifications, thereby rendering evaluation and/or
comparison against other proposals difficult or impossible, may be refused.
The jury's report contains the basics of the deliberations and the reasons for its
choice. The designs are ranked according to how they measured up against the
All candidates are informed in a transparent manner as to whether or not they have
been appointed as a laureate (along with a mention of the possibility of appeal). 11. Designation of the designer by the commissioning body
The contract is awarded via the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a
contract notice referred to in article 17, §2, 4° of the Law of 24 December 1993.
All laureates take part in the negotiated procedure. The commissioning body is
assisted by the Flemish Government Architect (as the government-appointed advisor
to the Government of Flanders) and by the jury members.
The laureates can then present their proposal to the commissioning body. At that
point the commissioning body is able to ask questions. The Flemish Government
Architect and other members of the jury attend the presentations to ensure continuity
of evaluation. The laureates may be given a term within which to offer further
clarification in writing if this was not possible at the presentation.
The laureates may in some cases be given a formal invitation to submit a modified
tender, based on the commissioning body's comments and questions. In this
invitation the commissioning body will establish the term, conditions, etc. At a later
stage the commissioning body can always set an extra payment for laureates who
submit a modified tender that qualifies for evaluation. This amount must be more than
100 % of the initial payment.
In order of importance the award criteria are as follows:
1. the quality of the concept and vision and the research by design in the light of
the ambitions and expectations of the commissioning body as set out in the
- in a broad social framework - more functionally applied to the practical requirements of the user
2. task orientation and willingness to comply with procedure 3. approach to sustainability 4 estimate of project cost and fee 5. team composition Other, additional criteria may include “cost control in terms of fee and project cost” and “term of completion”. It is up to the commissioning body to decide the relevance of these criteria. The various criteria and their weights are set out in the specifications, according to the following proportions (using the summary of criteria above):4/3/2/1/1. The score for each of the award criteria and their sub criteria, is shown on numeric scales (excellent, good, satisfactory, unsatisfactory). It is possible for (final) contract negotiations to be held with “preferred bidder(s)”, either before or after final rejection of the other laureates.
12. Award of the design contract
The commissioning body can conclude the design contract with the laureate who was
identified as the best choice on the basis of the award criteria. This award decision is
communicated to all laureates in a transparent manner (including mention of the
possibility of appeal).
In the contract, the fee percentage is applied to the designer's estimated project cost,
which must not exceed the maximum project budget set by the commissioning body.
The negotiations must not lead to the allocation of a fee higher than that requested
by the designer in the tender.
The percentage shall be the same as that for any
unforeseen additional services following award of the contract, provided the
unforeseen additional services are due to a request for additional services by the
client or to unforeseen circumstances.
In principle, the Flemish Government Architect is not involved in this final award
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