Qualifications-Based Selection of Professional Services
Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) for
professional design services has been required on the federal and state levels
for many years. Practically all professional societies and associations have
information about QBS. In addition, many states have statewide QBS committees
and organizations supported by that state’s professional associations. A
search on the Internet will yield hundreds of sources of information on QBS.
Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) Seminars were presented by Catherine
Fritz, AIA, Janet Matheson, AIA, and Colin Maynard, PE, on November 9, 2013, at
the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Alaska Chapter annual convention, and
on December 6, 2013, at the Council of Educational Facility Planners (CEFPI)
Sessions included extensive discussions of existing QBS State of Alaska and
municipal statutes regulating design professional selection, and of guidelines
for preparing and scoring proposals that require basic QBS information.
The QBS seminar materials are posted on the APDC, AIA and other websites to
provide educational information for Alaska design professional firms and project
managers with public agencies needing guidance on QBS procurement:
AK AIA QBS Presentation 11-9-2013
CEFPI QBS Presentation 12-6-2013
QBS Laws and Regulations
Sample RFP Using QBS
What is QBS?
Qualifications-Based Selection is a process of choosing a professional design
firm for a project. The decision is based on a list of criteria, not on price.
The list can include the ability of the firm, the work plan, schedule,
availability, management plan, references, and experience of the firm as a whole
and of the individuals proposed. Each owner chooses any or all of these criteria
and weights them according to project needs. For example, if the design has to
be completed in a short time, schedule and availability could be weighted higher
than experience. If it’s a complex project, especially one that hasn’t been
done before, specific experience might not apply, so the work plan might be most
important. There are all types of variations in requests for proposals (RFPs)
depending completely on the owner or the RFP preparer.
When the proposals are received, a selection committee grades each proposal
and generally negotiates both a detailed scope of work and a fee with the
highest ranked proposer. In the unlikely event that an owner and the top-ranked
design firm cannot reach agreement, the owner can negotiate with the next
State of Alaska requirements for QBS are outlined in Alaska Statute
(AS) 35.30.270. The QBS excerpt from
Alaska Statutes attached in pdf format includes a link to search Alaska Statutes
The Difference between a Bid and a Fee
When construction contractors bid on a job, they have thorough, detailed and
quantifiable criteria on which to place a price. The bid documents tell them
exactly how many and what type of windows and doors,
quality and quantity of materials and equipment, the type and color of the
finishes, etc. At bid opening, the owner knows that the building will look the
same no matter who constructs it. Therefore, it comes down to who can construct
the building for the least amount of money.
Purchasing design services, however, without benefit of a detailed scope of
work, detailed scope of services, and a face-to-face negotiation is not
quantifiable because a broad RFP is so open to interpretation. The types of
services the owner is expecting may be interpreted differently by each firm
proposing. Therefore, when owners compares fees for professional services, they
more than likely end up comparing apples to nuts. A lower fee generally means
fewer services or a lower level of service. If the owner accepts the fee and
then realizes that a need for services that were not included, the contract must
be amended and costs rise. In fact, in Maryland, they discovered that using
fee-based selection actually cost the owners more than a qualifications-based
Negotiating a firm scope of work with the highest ranked design firm and a
corresponding fair cost for those services is the best way for owners to get
what they are expecting: a quality design at a reasonable price.
There are many sources for QBS materials on the Internet. In fact, going to http://www.google.com and searching for "qualifications based selection" will get
hundreds of hits. Listed below are just a few of the many sources for QBS
information. Listed below are links to some of the QBS resources available.
New York State QBS Resources:
Owner’s Handbook – Qualifications Based Selection, American Council of
Engineering Companies of Arizona:
American Public Works Association:
Qualifications-Based Selection: A Guide Including Model Local Government
Policy and Procedures for Selecting Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors:
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Monday, January 06, 2014