In Layman’s Terms (A Non-Architect’s Point of View)

A Blog by Miranda Paquette

Our Twitter account ArchitectsDCA has been chatting about procurement with regards to Public Service, and DCA President Toon Dreessen asked me to think about it from a generalist perspective and offer an opinion (in layman’s terms).

When the government buys “things” they are spending our money. They are buying it not for the “Ministry of Pins” but for us. They believe that without these “things”, they are unable to properly serve the people of Canada. Think about it. This is a group of people we call Public Service. They are supposed to be of service to the public – the people of Canada.

For example, in Ottawa there is only one police station at which you can get a Criminal Records Check. This Check that is necessary in order to volunteer throughout the city. So if the Public Service was working with service in mind, it would allow the application to be submitted at ANY police station – there are five of them across the city. Since we know that there is only one database that they pull from, they could also coordinate activities so that all the RCMP, OPP, Service Ontario and Service Canada offices could accept applications. Unfortunately, they don’t. We design the system for the servers, not the public. Limitations to access must be a barrier to volunteering.

The same is true when buying a building. When we go with the lowest cost option, we are making a decision based on the immediate benefit to the politician trying to sell it to the public. If we were to do this logically we would buy a well-built building and pay to maintain it over its lifetime. We would expect it to last hundreds of years. There are buildings in use today that were built during the Second World War with an expected life of 20 years. This was a “quantity winning over quality” era. It has been over 70 years since the war ended, and those buildings are likely now accidents waiting to happen.

In my opinion, I want to buy a good thing once, and then carefully maintain it over time. I have sweaters older than my high-school children because they are beautiful, well made and I took good care of them. I want the public service to buy things for me in that same way. I want them to buy good buildings with the intention that they will last and be maintained appropriately.

Want to join the conversation? Tweet us @ArchitectsDCA and tell us what you think!

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