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Construction Procurement

  • Qualifications Based Selection for Engineering Services 


    • Since 1972, the federal government has required every agency to award contracts for architectural and engineering services using the qualifications based-selection (QBS) process created under the Brooks Architect-Engineers Act of 1972. The QBS process assures the government of obtaining the most-qualified professional services at the most reasonable cost to the agency.
    • QBS requires the agency client to negotiate a contract at a price that it decides “is fair and reasonable to the federal government.” Low bids requiring substantial change orders or resulting in high construction or high life-cycle operating or maintenance costs are not cost-effective.
    • The QBS procedure assures the selection of the best qualified firm. The agency client identifies three qualified firms and begins negotiations with the firm most likely to meet the government’s needs. If a contract cannot be procured at a fair and reasonable price to the agency, the government stops negotiations with the first firm and begins negotiations with the second firm and so on. The process ends when all parties agree on a fair and reasonable price for the services required. Under QBS, firms compete based on their professional qualifications and quality of services, which allows large and small firms alike to compete on an equal footing. 
    • ASCE is a founding and active member of the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES) whose goal it is to promote sound architectural and engineering procurement practices through the use of competitive negotiations under QBS procedures of the Brooks Architect-Engineers Act of 1972. 

    Activity in the 116th Congress

    • ASCE will attempt, where appropriate, to add QBS language to existing non-covered federal programs.

    Recent Success

    • In October 2018, favorable QBS language was included in the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ( P.L.115-254) which expands the QBS process to cover any airport project that uses federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds at any stage (Section 131). Additionally, existing QBS requirements and state licensing laws under the Geospatial Data title of the FAA reauthorization were not weakened and remain constant (Section 759B).
    • As of December 2016, QBS is required for projects financed with loans from the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, passed in 2016, extended the Brooks Act to the CWSRF program.

    ASCE Position

    • Congress should extend the scope of the QBS process to federal grant programs that finance essential public works infrastructure, including those administered by the Federal Aviation Administration, governed by Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs).
    • ASCE supports the use of the two-phase competitive source-selection process required by the Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1996 for design-build contracts awarded by government agencies. The design-build team must be selected using the modified QBS criteria specified by the Act. The contract between the design-build team and the owner must establish the means for direct communication between the owner and the designer as well as other team members. On complex projects, the owner should provide predetermined reimbursement for the firms selected to make complete design-build proposals.

    Further Information