How to Procure Design Services

Resource Center

Procurement of Services for Architects, Engineers, Land Surveyors, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers

In 1972, Congress adopted the Brooks Act (P.L. 92-582), requiring the use of Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) for the procurement of architect and engineering services. In response, the State of Alaska followed with similar legislation (Alaska Statute 36.30.270). The use of QBS ensures that federal and Alaska agencies — and the taxpayers — receive highly technical architect and engineering services from the most experienced and most qualified firms at a fair and reasonable cost. QBS is used by all federal agencies; most state governments, including Alaska; and most municipalities throughout the country. It works because:

  1. QBS protects the public welfare.
    Most individuals would not select medical or legal services based solely on cost — these highly skilled services are too important to leave to the lowest bid. Likewise, A/E professionals (Architects, Engineers, Land Surveyors, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers) provide highly skilled services that should not be selected on basis of the firm offering the cheapest price. Engineers design the highways and bridges we drive on, our water treatment systems, and all other infrastructure and systems upon which we rely. The design services provided by A/E firms directly affect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and it is important that only the most qualified and experienced firms be tasked with this critical function.
  2. QBS protects the taxpayer.
    Over the life of a project, engineering services account for less than one-half of one percent of total project costs. Yet these services play a profound role in determining overall project costs. A well-designed project by a highly qualified firm will stay on time and on budget, solve construction and operational challenges, experience fewer change orders during construction, enhance performance of the completed project, and reduce long-term maintenance and repair costs. A 2009 study by the University of Colorado and Georgia Tech found that using a QBS process to procure engineering services results in lower construction costs and lower schedule growth, which means real cost savings to the taxpayer.
  3. QBS benefits small firms.
    QBS helps small firms compete by providing a forum to demonstrate their unique capabilities that often include a greater degree of niche market expertise, knowledge of local regulations and business practices, and greater involvement of senior level management in the execution of a project.
  4. QBS promotes technical innovation.
    Using QBS, owners have the opportunity to fully define the project scope during the selection process. This process fosters innovative, cost-saving, and time-saving approaches to problems, ensuring that the final project meets or exceeds the functional and performance goals set by the owner.

APDC Position

APDC urges legislation that would protect and promote the use of QBS. APDC also supports requiring state and local governments receiving federal and state funding, including grant and loan programs, for any portion of a project to use QBS.

Additional Information:

  1. Brooks Act PL 92-582
  2. Alaska Mini-Brooks Act AS36.30.270
  3. Qualifications Based Selection Process (as outlined from NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement )
  4. NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement
  5. APDC Selection Presentation (forthcoming)