Choosing a Design Professional Through Qualification Based Selection

Qualification Based Selection (QBS) is an objective and fair process used by owners to select a design professional based on the qualifications (versus price) of the designer in relation to the specific project as the basis for awarding architectural, engineering, landscape, and interior-design contracts.

The AIA strongly supports Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) for procuring professional design services. QBS is required for federal projects as mandated by the Brooks Architect-Engineer Act. The reason is clear: Projects contracted solely on price do not take into account the myriad additional factors that go into the evolving process of architectural design. QBS fosters a collaborative environment and clearly defines the roles of the stakeholders.

Although 48 states use QBS to procure architectural and engineering services, a vast number of them, along with local jurisdictions, are sidestepping this process, mostly under the veil of their budgets. How often do design professionals speak to local procurement officials, legislators, and state agencies about their procurement process? How often do they write letters to the editor that extol the importance of achieving design excellence?

AIA Resources on QBS

Why is this the best A/E selection system?
Public and private owners use this proven selection system because it ensures that the best firm is selected to design their project, and to represent them during construction of the facility. This prevents competing design firms from fee bidding and cutting the scope of work performed just to get the job. The design team will make certain that appropriate project analysis, engineering and economic studies are made. The project benefits from this professional service and is delivered in a functional, efficient manner, within budget and on time.

Experience with QBS
Many years of experience with projects that have resulted from utilizing QBS procedures demonstrate the following benefits:

  1. Ensures that the most qualified design professional is retained for the project, thereby providing safeguards for competent design and minimizing construction problems and claims.
  2. Saves owner time and money through an organized approach that gets the design professional on board early enough to improve project planning, minimize total project costs, and help prevent costly mistakes.
  3. Encourages the development of a productive team effort between the owner and the design professional, because they develop the scope of work together. This provides increased client satisfaction.

Is price a factor in selection?

Yes! When the full detailed scope of professional services is ready for contract, then the agency and the A/E firm can come to an agreement on final fees based on open comparison of agency and design firm estimates of services that are fair and reasonable to both.