Quality Based Selection (QBS) Committee
What is QBS?
This traditional, qualifications-based approach to procuring architectural and engineering services on publicly funded projects was codified into law (PL 92-582) in 1972 by the US Congress. The law has since been known as the Brooks Act, as it was introduced by US Representative Jack Brooks of Texas. The law requires that architects and engineers be selected for all federal government projects on the basis of qualifications, subject to negotiation of fair and reasonable compensation.
Whether it's called Brooks selection or Qualifications Based Selection, the process is the same. It provides owners with a fair, rational and efficient method of selecting an engineer based on an evaluation of the engineer's qualifications and competence as they relate to the demands and needs of the specific project. QBS is used not only by the federal government, but also by most states and numerous local government entities.
When selecting a design professional, a public owner's primary concerns are to get the best available design services for the taxpayers' money, and to conduct a fair and equitable selection process. Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) evolved from the public owner's need to be an informed customer and to have a logical, fair and objective means of selecting an engineer.
The New Hampshire Section of ASCE has long supported the QBS approach to selecting engineers for public projects. All clients in the public and private sectors are, of course, free to choose an engineer by whatever lawful method they believe best suits their needs. Long experience with many successful and unsuccessful projects tells, however, that selection first on the basis of qualifications, followed by negotiation of a fair and reasonable fee, is most likely to achieve the good results every public owner desires.
The QBS process recognizes that design professionals play a critical role in the public building process and that procurement of engineering services is a very specialized type of procurement. The quality of design services provided by the architect or engineer is the single most important factor in determining the overall construction costs and life cycle costs of a project. Since design services represent only a small percentage of the initial construction budget, it is in the best interest of the taxpayer to ensure that the most qualified firms are selected for public projects.
In recommending QBS for public owners, the American Bar Association's Model Procurement Code for State and Local Government says:
"The principal reasons supporting this selection procedure for architect/engineer and land surveying services are the lack of a definitive scope of work for such services at the time the selection is made and the importance of selecting the best qualified firm. In general, the architect/engineer or land surveyor is engaged to represent the (state's) interest and is, therefore, in a different relationship with the (state) from that normally existing in a buyer/seller situation. For these reasons, the qualifications, competence and availability of the three most qualified architect/engineer or land surveying firms is considered initially, and price is negotiated later."
of the selection procedure, the client often is not aware of which professional services are required; the client and the selected engineer define the scope of those services as part of their negotiation to ensure that the services provided fully meet the owner's needs.
In addition, studies have shown that the
use of QBS for public buildings is more efficient and less costly than the use of a selection system that uses price as a primary criteria
Examples of Provisions of Federal, State and/or Local QBS laws:
- Requires prequalification of firms
- Requires public notice of projects
- Requires evaluation of firms' qualifications, which may include professional personnel, record, experience, performance data, time requirements, location and workload.
- Requires selection committees, which may include public members
- Prohibits cost proposals prior to ranking and selection.
Jim Spaulding, P.E.