A first-of-its-kind survey shows that 78% of public agencies hire design and engineering firms based on qualifications and 59% hire builders based on lowest bid.

The American Council of Engineering Companies presented the results of the first national analysis of the use of qualifications-based selection (QBS), a procurement process that doesn't consider price until after the owner selects an architecture and/or engineering firm. The study was supported by the American Public Works Association and conducted independently by University of Colorado and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers.

Virtually all of the 195 projects completed within the last seven years in 37 states were public and ranged from $100,000 to $10 million. While the results also show that that construction-manager-at-risk, design-build with concept, and direct design-bid with performance requirements are also increasingly popular, respondents claim long-term success is greatest with qualifications-based selection, a claim supported by Theron Roschen, PE, who until four months ago was chief engineer for the Sacramento County DOT and is now a program manager for Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (www.jacobs.com/aboutus/overview.asp).

He used the technique primarily for bridge work, which his 36 engineers and technicians had neither the time nor expertise to tackle. He insisted on meeting the employees who would be working on a project, and provided interview questions before the meeting to immediately start building a relationship. Typically, his department narrowed the search to two firms, and asked for and interviewed references extensively. Only rarely did talk stall or terminate because an acceptable fee couldn't be negotiated.

The department doesn't use the technique for sole-source contracts, emergencies, or late-phase project amendments.

"QBS retains the focus on traditional issues while adding a focus on the future," says Roschen, who also used the process to try out new technologies, such as intelligent transportation systems, and train staff, who collaborate with the consultants on every phase of the design.

"It's like finding a car mechanic you trust," he says of the technique's relationship-building capability.

- Stephanie Johnston

Session: Peas and Pods - Five New Reasons for Owners to Use Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS)
Jeffrey Beard
Vice President, American Council of Engineering Companies, Washington, D.C.
Theron Roschen, PE
Program Manager, Jacobs Carter-Burgess, Sacramento, Calif.
Sun, Aug. 17, 2008
8:30-9:45 a.m.