Procurement of Engineering/Architectural Services

Type:  General 



Why Existing Law Provides for Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) and Why Bidding Services Is a Bad Idea That Doesn’t Work



Existing law in Massachusetts, the federal government, and almost all other states provides for a process for selecting professional services that is referred to as qualifications-based selection (QBS). QBS is a competitive process under which entities rank potential providers on the basis of qualifications, experience, and their ability to bring value to the project, then negotiate with providers in order of rankings until a fair and reasonable contract. 


QBS is the overwhelming standard across the country, not the exception.

QBS is not just a design industry idea; it is supported by owner groups such as the American Public Works Association and is a key component of the American Bar Association’s Model Procurement Law. Over the past 20 years, the proposed approach has been tried by several large state DOTs and rejected as unworkable.


Bidding proposals leads to higher administrative costs, project delays, and more bureaucracy.

Typically, in the early stages of an engineering procurement, the precise scope of work is undeveloped. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to put proposers on a level playing field with a common project understanding. Owners attempting to implement the proposal will be forced to make more engineering decisions in-house, which will result in more staff, higher administrative costs, project delays, and less innovation.  Studies from other states confirm and quantify this fact.


Bidding services will cost taxpayers far more than it saves.

Although engineering costs are only one or two percent of the life cycle costs of a typical construction project, it is the quality of the engineering decisions made at the front end of the project that drives construction costs and life cycle costs.  The designer works as the owner’s agent in developing cost-effective solutions the model becomes one of designing what is cheapest to design. Bidding for engineering services actually makes a project more expensive for the owner to build.  With quality design, the owner gets the evaluation of engineering alternatives and design quality. Without quality design, projects see increases in change orders and construction costs. Since construction and maintenance costs are many times larger than design costs, it is important to have qualified designers at the beginning of the job.