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September 2014

QBS may soon be a reality


Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) may soon be the reality for selection of consulting engineering services in Alberta. Excellent relationships with government elected officials and staff have led to a clear understanding of the benefits of QBS. Consideration is being given to legislation that would make QBS mandatory within Alberta. The Saskatchewan Consulting Engineers are making similar progress and the Consulting Engineers in BC are moving forward as well. ACEC has strongly endorsed QBS.

It is important for all CEA members to have a clear understanding of QBS. In a capsule QBS is as follows:

QBS is a method of procurement of consulting engineering services where the first part of the selection process is qualifications. The client issues an RFQ. Firms submit their qualifications for the project. The RFQs are evaluated and the three most qualified firms are short-listed. Terms of reference are developed and the shortlisted firms are requested to submit a proposal. The responses are evaluated and ranked against criteria and a choice is made. The preferred (most qualified) firm then meets with the client to clearly define the scope of work. The firm then submits a fee proposal based upon agreed scope. The client and firm can negotiate fees and scope as necessary. When agreement on scope and price is achieved the project proceeds. If agreement on price cannot be reached, the second most qualified firm is asked to negotiate scope and price.

Twenty-one benefits of QBS:

  1. QBS appropriately engages the best consulting engineering firm for the project resulting in maximum benefits for the client.
  2. Price remains a critical component of the selection process but it is not the initial or only criteria.
  3. During the price negotiations the consulting engineering firm offers advice and clarifies all the project’s specifics. The net result is a reduction or elimination of cost-overruns that typically result from unclear or misunderstood project scope.
  4. QBS simplifies the procurement of consulting engineering services resulting in reduction of costs for both the project’s proponent and the provider of services.
  5. QBS develops mutual trust between a project owner and a professional service provider so that responsibilities and risks are understood and budgets, planning and an owner’s project expectations are respected.
  6. QBS enables the total project value over the project’s life cycle to be maximized because of a project-focused consultant selection rather than solely a price-based selection.
  7. QBS fully supports the owner’s preferred model of construction. (open tendering, design build, P3s or best value models)
  8. A close owner and engineering consultant relationship fostered by QBS encourages creative and innovation solutions in solving complex project challenges.
  9. The QBS process is recommended by Infraguide (a municipal guide to infrastructure developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities).
  10. QBS recognizes the public interest by being based upon the professional obligations of consulting engineers as established by law. (APEGA Code of Conduct)
  11. QBS conforms to the NWPTA (New West Partnership Trade Agreement) by establishing an open and transparent selection process for professional consulting engineering services.
  12. QBS mitigates liability issues for the project owner. (A recent BC Court of Appeal ruling assessed liability on the basis of a municipality’s failure to appropriately consider the qualifications of all prime and sub-consultants engaged in a project).
  13. QBS reduces potential for litigation between a project owner and service provider and thus reduces overall costs for insurance for both parties by reducing potential for insurance claims.
  14. QBS was established by law in the United States in 1972 through The Brooks Act. It applies to selection of engineering consultants for most federal government projects as well as for most projects in the individual states. Reviews have shown lower overall costs and higher levels of engineering excellence through QBS.
  15. QBS is supported by all professional engineering societies and professional engineering regulatory bodies across Canada (including NWPTA partners Saskatchewan and British Columbia).
  16. QBS is supported by the Alberta Construction Association, the Alberta Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, and the Alberta Association of Consulting Architects.
  17. The Province of Quebec has instituted QBS for procurement of consulting engineering services for public projects in that province.
  18. The QBS process prevents price rigging which can occur when price is the only consideration (Quebec).
  19. QBS promotes high standards and engineering excellence which has the added benefit of creating a positive environment to attract the brightest minds that graduate from our schools of engineering to the consulting engineering profession.
  20. QBS ensures that the consulting engineering profession is a trusted and respected advisor and can attract exceptional talent to the industry.
  21. QBS ensures that there will be a strong local consulting engineering industry that supports the economic and social well-being of the province.

Reprinted from Consulting Engineers of Alberta’s The CEA Minute.


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