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 Engineering Colorado Qualifications-based
Selection 101
by Marilen Reimer Executive Director
 In 1972, Congress adopted the Brooks Act (Public Law 92-582), requiring the use of qualifications-based selection (QBS) for federal procurement of architect and engineering services. Similarly, in 1988, Colorado passed the “Mini Brooks Bill” (Colorado Revised Statue 24-30-1401), which requires the use of QBS for state agencies’ selection of “professional services provided by architects, industrial hygienists, engineers, landscape architects, and land surveyors.” The use of QBS is mandated also by 45 other state governments and localities throughout the country.
So, you might ask, “what exactly is QBS?” Simply stated, it
is the concept that the firm selected to design a project (or portion of a project) should be the firm that is most qualified to perform the design services. However, the idea that qualifications is of prime importance is sometimes replaced by the belief that hiring the “low bidder” guarantees savings, which is usually far from the truth. In reality the use of QBS actually ensures that federal and state agencies—and the taxpayer—receive highly technical services from the most experienced and most qualified firms at a fair and reasonable cost. Selected firms are highly accountable to their clients and to taxpayers. Agency project managers oversee design consultants’ work and contracts—including all billings, change orders and final work products—and firms are subject to frequent audits. Market forces also promote
cost competitiveness.
In a QBS process, the client issues only a Request for Qualifications (RFQ)—i.e., not a Request for Proposals—from consultants and selects the best few to several qualified firms to be interviewed. The RFQ typically includes:
• firm description,
• experience of key personnel,
• management plan and roles,
• experience on similar projects,
• unique or relevant experience,
• capability to meet schedule,
• quality assurance program, and
• familiarity with project location and climate.
Consultants respond with:
• brief firm history (why the firm has the best qualified
• resume (who will do it),
48 | Colorado Construction & Design
• project approach (what and how it will be done by whom), • references (who it has been done for),
• experience (how it has been done before),
• workload (how long it will take to do it),
• quality control (how well it will be done),
• project location (how it has been done there before).
The client evaluates the responses based on project team experience, management and organization, design abilities, experience on similar projects and unique qualifications.
Consultants with successful responses are invited to interview. During the interview, the client learns firsthand what special skills and unique approaches to the client’s project each
firm offers. The best qualified firm then is selected based on competency, design and technical abilities, experience, and availability of staff to complete the project according to the client’s schedule.
Together, the client and selected consultant develop a
scope of services and the consultant submits a fee proposal directly related to the agreed upon scope. Then, the client and consultant negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the client terminates negotiations with the first firm and begins negotiations
with the second most qualified firm. Price may not be a determining factor in selecting qualified firms. Experience and trust are required in a business relationship that may last several years. Services that are procured on a competitive basis—including as a two-envelope system, two steps,
or just outright request for proposal—are not following standard industry practice and are more concerned with price than quality.
For more information on QBS, including an informational video and free, downloadable templates, visit QBS Colorado Coalition’s website at QBS Colorado Coalition includes these partners: ACEC Colorado, American Institute of Architects of Colorado, American Society of
Civil Engineers of Colorado, American Society of Landscape Architects of Colorado, National Society of Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado. |

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