The use of Qualification Based Selection is applicable to the selection of a person or firm to perform architectural or engineering design, interior design, landscape architecture, land surveying, geo-technical services or other environmental design services. Throughout this manual, the term "designer", "design team", or "design professional" is used to indicate a person or firm that may be retained to perform any of these services. When using the forms contained in this Manual, the terms listed above may be changed, if desired by the user, to more accurately reflect the type of service to be provided. The term "owner" or "client" is used to indicate the individual or organization responsible for acquiring and/or using the services.
One of the more important tasks associated with any construction project is the selection of a design professional to design the project. Frequently, public officials assume that all design professionals are equally qualified for all types of projects, therefore hiring the one with the lowest price is the best approach. This is far from the truth.
Procuring design services is not the same as procuring road salt or paper for the office copier. When acquiring design services, the client is acquiring professional talent, skill, creativity, and the effort necessary to find the most appropriate solution to the client’s problem. Different designers may arrive at different solutions based on the designer’s experience, ingenuity, knowledge and ability to innovate, as well as the number of hours available to investigate alternatives. The development of the "most appropriate design" usually requires extensive discussions with the client so that both the designer and the client fully understand not only the client’s intent but also the implications of that intent.
When the client selects the project designer, it is extremely important to consider the designer’s qualifications, as not every designer is equally qualified for all types of projects. Retaining the most-appropriately qualified designer should improve the overall quality of the project and increase the ultimate success of the project by improving the quality of the design. This should help control the total construction cost by reducing the number of unknown issues. A quality design should increase the usefulness of the completed project. It should also help reduce the on-going maintenance and utility costs for the completed facility.
As the qualifications of the designer are of much greater importance to the success of the project than are the difference in amount of the design fees between different designers, it is critical to use a designer selection process that provides the best opportunity to consider qualifications. This was the reason for the development of the "Qualification Based Selection" (QBS) process. This process is the one recommended by the American Bar Association in their Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments and has a long history of use by federal, state, and local governmental units. In addition the "Brooks Act" and other subsequent Federal Laws require the use of QBS on Federal projects.
It is important that funds are expended in a way that provides the greatest return on the investment. This means that you want to retain a designer that will be both responsive and responsible. The use of QBS in the designer selection process provides the greatest possibility that the funds will be wisely invested.
Qualification Based Selection (QBS)
QBS is a fair and rational procedure that facilitates the selection of a design team. The selection is based on qualifications and competence in relation to the scope and needs of the particular project. It should be noted that the qualification criteria include many important issues, and prior experience on similar project types is only one of many relevant criteria to be included. The process enables the project owner to obtain the services of a qualified design professional at a fair and reasonable cost - a quality investment that should result in substantial savings over the life of the project.
This manual has been developed by the Maine QBS Program, a state-wide program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects - Maine Chapter , the American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine and the Maine Society of Professional Engineers. It is hoped that the manual will assist you in your selection of a design professional using the QBS process.
The intent is to simplify the procedures to the extent possible. If additional assistance is needed, owners are urged to contact The Maine QBS Facilitator, William R. Charland, CCCA at (207) 944- 3690.
The Process in a Nutshell
The QBS process usually involves the following steps:
- The Owner prepares a Schedule of Activities for the project. ( See Form F1 )The owner prepares the "preliminary scope of work" - that is, the owner describes the project to be built or the problem to be solved. This preliminary scope of work is not intended to be all-inclusive, rather it is intended to be a general statement about the anticipated project. (See Form F3)
- The owner advertises the search for designers or invites designers to submit statements of qualifications for the project in a format provided by the owner. Some public owners are required by law, regulation, or ordinance to publish legal advertisement for design services. (See Form F2 for a Model Ad if the project is to be publicly advertised and Forms F4 and F5 if only invitations are to be used.)
- Following receipt of submittals, statements of qualifications are evaluated (See Forms F7, F8 and F9) and three to five design teams are selected, or short-listed, for further consideration. The easiest and fairest method to accomplish this task is for a small group to read, evaluate, and rate each submittal. At the same time, the references listed on each submittal should be contacted to see if the previous clients are satisfied with the work of the design team. The results of the "reference checks" should become a part of the evaluation of the various submittals.
- A schedule of interviews with the firms on the short-list is scheduled. In preparing this schedule, the availability of the designers to be interviewed must be verified prior to finalizing the schedule. A copy of the project "Program", "General Information about the Project" (See Form F6), and any other relevant information, along with a schedule of the interviews should be sent to each designer selected for further consideration (See Form F11). All other teams should be notified in writing of the selections. (See Form F10)
- Pre-interview visits are arranged with the short-listed teams to provide the opportunity for site visits and/or a better understanding of the program requirements.
- Interviews are conducted with each short-listed design team. To assure fairness to the teams being interviewed, every effort should be made to have the same group interview all of the designers on the short-list. Further, it is extremely important that the same questions be asked of each Team being interviewed. The Interview Team should meet prior to the first interview and agree on the specific questions that will be asked all Design Teams.
During this process, it is important that the same issues be covered by each team. In fact, it is suggested that the list of interview question categories be made available to each team to be interviewed prior to the interview so that all designers interviewed cover the same areas (See Form F12). Design Service fees should not be discussed at this time, since the final scope of work and design responsibilities have not been determined at this stage of the project.
- Following the interviews, the design teams are ranked in accordance with a pre-determined ranking system. (See Forms F12 and F13)
- The number one ranked team is then asked to meet with the owner to negotiate a detailed scope of work, the conditions of contract, and a fair and equitable service fee. The owner may wish to check with the design professional's former clients, as a means of comparing fees negotiated. It is important to remember that the size of the fee is fully dependent on the amount and type of service that is to be provided under the negotiated contract. The QBS Facilitator can provide references for fee comparison.
- If a satisfactory agreement can not be reached, negotiations with that team are suspended and negotiations are commenced with the second-ranked team. The process continues until an agreement is reached and formal contract executed.
- All teams that were interviewed should be notified in writing as to the final selection. (See Form F14)
The forms, which are provided on the following pages, are offered to assist in the selection process. They can be used, in most instances, by merely filling in the blanks or they can be altered to fit the specific project requirements. It should be noted that certain of these forms have been coordinated with other forms. When changes are made, it may be necessary to check to see if the change results in a change in a related form.
Appropriate sections of any form may be copied from the website page or the form printed from the web page.
Table of Contents - Forms
To view form, please click on a link below.
- Schedule of Activities F1
- Model Newspaper Ad F2
- Preliminary Scope of Services F3
- Request for Qualification Statement Sample MemoF4
- Requirements of Qualification Statement F5
- General Information about the Project F6
- Letters of Qualification Evaluation F7
- Qualification Evaluation Summary F8
- Reference Check F9
- The Memo-For Design Teams Which Submitted Letters/Statements Of Qualifications "Not selected for Interviews" F10
- Memo to Short-listed Firms to be Interviewed F11
- Interview Score Sheet and Questions F12
- Group Summary – Interview Evaluation Form F13
- Memo For All Design Teams that were InterviewedF14
- EXAMPLE - Interview Score Sheet and Questions F15
- EXAMPLE - Group Summary - Interview Form F16