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The most important element of any construction project is its design. Construction design quality is the single most important factor in determining a project's life-cycle cost, which includes the initial cost of construction, plus the ongoing cost for operations and maintenance.

Design is the initial step in the construction process. It dictates everything that follows. The size and layout of the facility; type of construction materials; capacity of mechanical and electrical systems; energy efficiency; and other factors are all impacted by the design of a project.
Estimated by the federal government to be 1% or less of a building cost, design services represent only a small percentage of the construction budget, and a far smaller percentage of life cycle cost. It makes sound economic sense to ensure your consulting engineer has the experience and qualifications needed to deliver a high-quality design.
Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) is a process that enables the project owner to obtain the services of a highly qualified engineering professional at a fair and reasonable cost, and investment in quality that will save money over the life of the project.
Every construction project is unique, with its own technical challenges. For any project to be successful, owners and design professionals must share the understandings of these challenges and the services needed to transform generalized concepts into reality. During the construction process, design professionals represent the owner's interests in day-to-day dealings with contractors, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and others providing goods
and services on the project. For this reason, owners and design professionals need to establish a professional relationship characterized by trust, respect and effective communication.
QBS develops this type of relationship by bringing the owner and design professional together as a team, enabling them to define the project in detail and agree upon the services that will be required to make the project a reality. This prevents competing design firms from fee bidding and cutting the scope of work performed just to get the job. The design team will make certain that appropriate project analysis, engineering and economic studies are made.
The project benefits from this professional service and is delivered in a functional, efficient manner, within budget and on time. No wonder, then, that QBS is the most widely endorsed method for selecting a design professional.
Contractor groups, public works officials, and the American Bar Association endorse QBS Agencies of the federal government and the state of Maryland are required by law to use this procedure in selecting design professionals.
Many years of experience with projects that have resulted from QBS procedures demonstrate the following benefits:
  • Ensures that the most qualified design professional is retained for the project, thereby providing safeguards for competent design and minimizing construction problems and claims.
  • Saves owner time and money through an organized approach that gets the design professional on board early enough to improve planning, minimize total project costs, and help prevent costly mistakes.
  • Encourages the development of a productive team effort between the owner and the design professional, because they develop the scope of work together. This provides increased client satisfaction.


  1. Preliminary Scope: The owner prepares a preliminary scope of service, describing the proposed project in detail.
  2. Announcement: The agency announces it requires A/E services for the project and issues a request for qualifications (RFQ).
  3. Screening and Evaluation: The agency reviews and evaluates all the A/E submissions and develops a "short list" of three to five firms.
  4. Interviews: The agency staff interviews the A/E teams at the firm's or the agency's offices.
  5. Ranking and Selection: The agency rates all the firms and selects the top ranked firm in order of qualifications, philosophies, project management, and client references.
  6. Negotiation: The top-rated firm is invited into negotiations with the agency to develop both a detailed scope of work and a formal contract and fee, based on this approved scope of work. If the agency cannot negotiate a reasonable fee with the first firm, it will terminate negotiations with that firm and start with the second or then third firm if required, until a successful agreement is reached. Again, none of the firms are put into a situation to compete fees with each other. QBS is a comprehensive process, yet it need not be burdensome. In fact, the great virtue of the system is that it can be adapted to any project, large or small.
You can tailor each step in the process to meet the size of your project and your timetable. For instance, on a small project, the preliminary scope of service might be brief, perhaps only a few paragraphs. And rather than sending out formal invitations to submit statements of qualification, you might simply phone three or four recommended firms, fax them the preliminary scope and ask them to submit statements of qualification. On the projects of greater urgency, you may want to request comprehensive technical proposals from two or three trusted firms, then proceed directly to interviews, ranking, selection and negotiation.

Yes! When the full detailed scope of professional services is ready for contract, then the agency and the A/E firm can come to an agreement on final fees based on open comparison of agency and design firm estimates of services that are fair and reasonable to both.

Please visit the Maryland QBS website for more information,


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