Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) is a competitive procurement process that requires a project owner to hire design professionals (engineers, land surveyors, architects, etc.) based on their qualifications and demonstrated competence. QBS prohibits the use of cost as a factor in the initial evaluation and selection of design professionals. Instead, firms are ranked based on their qualifications and experience. After identifying the best-qualified firm, only then may a project owner enter into negotiations for a fair and reasonable price.
Advocating for the use of QBS is a priority for ACEC California. We are committed to collaborating with public agencies to ensure that they have a clear understanding of design professional procurement laws, as well a clear understanding of the many benefits that QBS provides to clients and taxpayers.
What is QBS?
Federal statute requires federally-funded projects to utilize QBS. Likewise, California law mandates all state and local agencies apply QBS procedures when hiring design professionals. In separate opinions, the Legislative Counsel (the California State Legislature’s attorneys who write bills and provide legal counsel to legislators) have opined that all local agencies are required to follow QBS procedures, including charter cities.
A bidding atmosphere can be created when professionals are required to submit a price in their proposals. Once a fee is included in a proposal, there is a natural tendency for agency staff to look quickly at the bottom line cost and for the fee to have an undue and often decisive weight in the selection. The use of price as a determining factor of selection could save owners a small amount upfront but may result in less technical expertise, higher construction costs, additional change orders, and more maintenance costs. A project designed by the most qualified firm can significantly decrease the construction and life-cycle costs, leading to much greater savings over time. QBS results in the best value, to the benefit of public health, safety, and satisfaction.
Response to QBS Non-Compliance
Members are encouraged to submit to ACEC California any Requests for Proposals/Requests for Qualifications (RFPs/RFQs) issued by a public agency that contain provisions that do not comply with QBS. In consultation with the QBS & LAC Committee, ACEC California staff will contact the agency responsible for the RFP/RFQ in an attempt to achieve positive addenda. In order to seek assistance, please fill out the QBS Non-Compliance Form below.
1989 Opinion: Affirms Legislative Counsel's understanding that local agencies are required to select design professionals on the basis of demonstrated competence & professional qualifications.
1991 Opinion: Confirms that charter cities are required to select design professionals on the basis of qualifications & demonstrated competence.
QBS Champion Award Program
ACEC California seeks to recognize public agencies that make exemplary use of the Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) process at the state and local levels.QBS
Award winners recognize the importance of selecting the most qualified design professionals. They serve as examples of how well the QBS process works, and they help ACEC California to promote the practice of QBS in jurisdictions that
do not use, or underutilize, QBS to procure engineering or land surveying services.
For more information or to nominate an agency, click here.
For more detailed information on QBS issues, contact ACEC California staff at (916) 441-7991 or email@example.com. You can also visit ACEC National's website on QBS.