Approved by the Engineering Practice Policy Committee on February 9, 2023
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on March 3, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the selection of professional engineering services on the basis of qualifications including training, experience, past-performance, and capabilities. Personnel should also be evaluated when selecting an engineering firm.
ASCE supports qualifications-based selection (QBS) procedures such as those specified by the Brooks Architect-Engineers Act of 1972, 40 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., the numerous similar state, and local laws, and the American Bar Association's Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments for the engagement of engineering services. ASCE recommends that the application of these procedures to the development of a scope of work and the selection, procurement, and administration of contracts for engineering services be primarily the responsibility of technically qualified staff or representative of the project owner.
Owners must understand that requesting bids for engineering services and accepting the lowest bid without regard to qualifications of the selected engineering team may not result in the quality of work that they desire for their project. Relevant experience, ability and specific technical approaches of the proposing design professionals are far more important to the overall quality, utility and life-cycle cost of any project than is the initial engineering fee, which is invariably a relatively small percentage of the total project cost.
The QBS procedure is characterized by three basic steps:
- The owner evaluates and selects the professional engineer based on demonstrated qualifications and experience in the required types of services without considering fee
- The owner and the selected professional engineer confer to determine and/or review the scope of work, including contract scheduling
- A fee for engineering services is negotiated based upon the mutually developed scope of services. In the event a mutual agreement on scope of services and fee is not achieved, the owner may negotiate with the next most qualified professional.
Thus, cost is addressed at the appropriate time after the scope of services has been fully defined.
The cost of engineering services, while important and meriting careful negotiations, is generally a relatively small percentage of the overall cost to plan, design, build, operate and maintain a project and may be related to work that is not clearly defined at the time the engineer is selected. Therefore, selecting consulting firm services based solely on cost is not recommended.
ASCE Policy Statement 304
First Approved in 1985
Note: See ASCE Manual No.45 “How to Select and Work Effectively with Consulting Engineers: Getting the Best Project,” and ASCE Manual of Practice No. 73, "Quality in the Constructed Project: A Guideline for Owners, Designers, and Constructors," for more detailed examination of this subject.