Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I find out more about QBS and who do I contact?

Answer: The following is a list of both Georgia and National contacts.

QBS Georgia

100 Peachtree Street, Suite 2150

Tel: 404-521-2324

Atlanta , GA 30303

FAX: 404-521-0283

Thomas C. Leslie, P.E. or

Gwen Brandon

Georgia QBS Sponsoring Organization Contacts

American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia

Same as above


American Institute of Architects – Georgia Association

113 Peachtree Street NE

Phone: 404-222-0099

Atlanta , GA 30303

FAX: 404-222-9916

Marci B. Reed, CFRE , Executive Director 

Georgia Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

100 Peachtree Street, Suite 2150


Atlanta, Georgia 30303


Carolyn Jones, Executive Director

American Public Works Association

David Griscom


National QBS Sponsoring Organization Contacts

American Public Works Association

2345 Grand Boulevard, Suite 500

TEL: 816-472-6100

Kansas City MO 64108-2625

FAX: 816 472-0405

Ann Daniels


American Council of Engineering Companies

1015 Fifteenth Street NW, Suite 802  

Tel: 202 347-7474

Washington DC 20005

FAX: 202 898-0068

Roger Jordan

The American Institute of Architects

1735 New York Avenue NW

Tel: 202-626-7381

Washington DC 20006

FAX: 202-626-7583

Christy Agner


National Society of Professional Engineers/Professional Engineers in Private Practice

1420 King Street

Tel: 703-684-2862

Alexandria VA 22314

FAX: 703-835-4875

Lee White


Question: Is there anyone available to meet with to learn more about QBS and give guidance on its use?

Answer: Yes, QBS Georgia provides the services of two Facilitators who are available to travel to any location within Georgia to outline the basic procedures and provide preliminary guidance to the QBS process.

Question: What is a QBS facilitator?

Answer: A QBS facilitator is a person who works with you to develop an appropriate selection process tailored for your specific project.  

Question: What does a QBS facilitator cost?

Answer: QBS Georgia Facilitator services is FREE. Contact QBS Georgia as early as possible in your project planning process to obtain the services of a Facilitator.  

Question: What can a QBS facilitator do?

Answer: 1) Meet with your board, committees, staff and other groups to provide QBS selection information. 2) Help customize QBS materials to meet the project’s special needs, 3) Provide guidance and answer questions throughout the selection process, and 4) Provide resources, from State and Federal agencies to fine tune your project consultant selection process

Question: What will a QBS facilitator not provide?

Answer: 1) Recommendation for any individual firm, 2) Evaluations or critiques of any individual firm, 3) Participation in the interview process or contract negotiations between you and the selected firm, and 4) Provide estimates for A/E services or construction costs.

Question: Are public agencies required to bid?

Answer: The State of Georgia does not require public agencies to bid for professional services. In fact, if federal funds are involved in your project, you are not allowed to use bids alone to select your A/E firm.

Question: Who uses QBS?

Answer: QBS is endorsed and promoted by the American Public Works Association, The American Institute of Architects , the American Council of Engineering Companies and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

QBS is also recommended by the American Bar Association in its model procurement codes and is currently used by most states, numerous localities and private owners.

State of Georgia agencies such as Georgia Building Authority, Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission, Georgia Board of Regents, and the Georgia Department of Transportation use the QBS process to select A/E firms.

Since 1972, with passage of the Brooks Act, the federal government requires QBS for its A/E services procurement.

Question: How much time will QBS take?

Answer: It depends on the project and the number of decision makers; it can go from one week to five months. Between one to two months is common.

Question: Is there help to implement the QBS process?

Answer: Yes. Several sources are available. One such source is the “Selection and Use of Engineers, Architects and Professional Consultants-Guidelines for Public Agencies,” produced by the American Public Works Association. Copies of this document are available through QBS Georgia. Simply call the above QBS Georgia contacts for a copy. There may be a minimal charge for printing and shipping. Also, as stated above a Facilitator is available to assist you in developing a selection process and answer your questions. Also, a DVD is being produced which, when available, will outline the QBS process and its benefits.

Question: What are the general services engineers and architects provide?

Answer: The basic phases of service on a typical project are feasibility study, preliminary design, final design, construction bid evaluation, and construction observation. Architectural projects often include a detailed programming phase that would precede actual design work.

Question: How are architectural and engineering firms retained?

Answer: The traditional method of hiring engineering and architectural firms for public work is through a process known as negotiated procurement or qualifications-based selection. The basic goal of this selection procedure is finding the best qualified firm or individual to perform the work. There are six major elements to this procurement procedure: public notice, submittals of qualifications, review of submittals, interviews, ranking respondents, and negotiation of a contract.

Question: Why not bid these services?

Answer: The process for selection of a firm to construct a project differs from that used in the selection of a firm to design the same project. A construction contract can be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder because all major aspects of the project are defined, including the type and amount of construction materials required to complete the project.

Conversely, you retain architects and engineers to turn your undefined concept into a set of plans and specifications. The engineers and architects take an idea and give it definition. The contractor takes that definition and turns it into a physical reality.

Question: Can QBS be used with Design/Build projects?

Answer: Yes, it can. Design/build is an alternative delivery process. When design/build is utilized, QBS should be used to select the design/build team. Some organizations advocate a two-step process where 1) selects an owner representative and 2) selects a design/build team. More detailed information is available from the QBS Colorado office.

Question: What other types of firms are selected through qualifications-based selection?

Answer: All professional design firms should be retained for public work through qualifications-based selection. This would include, in addition to engineering and architectural firms, geotechnical, landscape architectural, photogrammetry, planning, owners' representatives, environmental consultants, and surveying firms. Design firms frequently offer combined services. For example, many firms provide both architectural and engineering services, hence the term A/E. Many civil engineering firms also provide land surveying services.

Question: How does qualifications-based selection work?

Answer: The contracting agency announces that it needs architectural or engineering services for a particular project and invites interested firms to submit information about their qualifications and their experience.

The agency then reviews and evaluates the submissions and selects a "short list" of three to five firms. Personal interviews are usually conducted with these firms to discuss each firm's qualifications, philosophies and overall approach to the project.

Once these interviews are completed, the agency ranks the firms. The top-ranked firm is then invited to negotiate a formal agreement. This includes a discussion of your concepts and goals, the alternatives that might be considered, a specific scope of work, the general approach of the firm to the scope of work, and the firm's compensation for the project.

Question: Does this process inhibit competition?

Answer: No. It simply focuses competition for professional services on the most meaningful factors: qualifications, competence, previous performance, and availability.

Question: Are there programs to help me take advantage of qualifications-based selection procedures?

Answer: Yes. In most states, design professionals offer assistance to state and local agencies through their professional societies. This is also true in Georgia ; however, Georgia also has in place QBS Georgia which is available to provide independent facilitators or technical advisors who work with public officials to structure a qualifications-based selection procedure that provides the contracting agency with an efficient process that is a long-term benefit to the taxpayers and users of public facilities.

Question: Why is qualifications-based selection the preferred method of selection for public projects?

Answer: As stated in the American Bar Association's "Model Procurement Code for State and Local Governments" which states: “The principal reasons supporting this selection procedure for architect-engineer and land surveying services are the lack of a definitive scope of work for such services at the time the selection is made and the importance of selecting the best qualified firm. In general, the architect, engineer, or land surveyor is engaged to represent the State's interests and is, therefore, in a different relationship with the State from that normally existing in a buyer-seller situation. For these reasons, the qualifications, competence, and availability of the most qualified architect-engineer or land surveying firm is considered initially, and price negotiated later."

Question: Isn't price a factor in the selection process?

Answer. Yes. However, until you, and the architects and engineers you are considering, know in some detail what professional services you need, price discussion can't be meaningful. If you focus first on qualifications, you will be assured that the professionals you hire will have the technical ability and professional judgment to turn your vision into an efficient, effective and economical reality.

Question: Is the qualifications-based selection and negotiation procedure consistent with competitive procedures?

Answer: Yes. It is a generally accepted concept that public procurement should be a on a competitive basis. This is fully met by the qualifications-based selection and negotiation procedures. It is highly competitive among the firms seeking the assignment. In fact, in the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act, Congress explicitly declared that "competitive procedures" for Executive Branch agencies includes procurement of architectural or engineering services under the Brooks Act, which is the legislation mandating the use of qualifications-based selection for projects using Federal funds.

Question: Does the qualifications-based selection and negotiation method lead to political favoritism?

Answer: No. The qualifications-based selection procedure recommends that there be public announcement of project requirements so that all firms may submit their qualifications and be considered on their merits. The record is open for public scrutiny at all times during the selection process. In addition, attempts to introduce political favoritism into the process are opposed by the professional societies representing engineers, architects, and other design professionals.

Question: What does the term "scope of work" mean?

Answer: The scope of work is a definition of the project and the services to be provided to secure its execution, including specific tasks necessary for completion. Negotiation of the scope also involves an evaluation of alternative solutions or approaches to the project.

Question: Will the negotiated procurement process preclude problems during project execution?

Answer: The potential for these problems may be reduced because the parties will have a thorough understanding of respective responsibilities and obligations. Qualifications-based selection and negotiated procurement fosters cooperation because it eliminates the potential adversarial relationship between the client and the design professional associated with the selection made on the basis of price.

Question: Does qualifications-based selection increase project costs?

Answer: No. There can be an inverse relationship between the cost of design and the much larger cost of constructing and operating the ultimate facilities. Sufficient funds invested in engineering and architectural design services, that are generally a very small percentage of total construction costs, will bring out the most cost-effective requirements for a successful project through consideration of alternative methods and materials, life-cycle cost factors and costs of operation and maintenance of the facility.

In a price-based competition for architectural and engineering services, potential design savings to you, the owner, are likely to be more than offset by higher construction costs resulting from less than optimal design considerations.

Question: What about life-cycle costs?

Answer: Under budgeting in design fees can be even more costly, when one considers the life span of a construction project. The life-cycle, or life-span, of a building or engineering project is generally about 40 years, and negotiated design fees are usually less than one percent of a project's total life-cycle cost; the other 99 percent are maintenance and operating costs. But the expertise of architects and engineers and the time spent in examining alternatives in, for example, energy use can have a dramatic effect on maintenance and operating costs year after year.

Question: How do I know I'm getting a fair price?

Answer: A detailed discussion of the project scope and your expectations will enable the architect or engineer to develop as accurate a professional service budget as possible. Budget comparisons can then be made with past successful projects of a similar nature that you or others have undertaken.

Question: What happens if there is a lack of agreement during negotiations?

Answer: If for any reason you can't reach agreement on the scope of work and compensation, negotiations with the top-ranked firm are formally terminated. This rarely happens, but if it does, the agency then enters into negotiations with the second ranked firm. The process is repeated until agreement is reached.

Question: Is a two envelope system where qualifications are placed in one envelope and price is placed in the second envelope with an assurance from the public body that the price will not be opened until the selection, based on the most qualified firm, is acceptable?

Answer: No. This is still considered a submission of a price in a competitive process and is considered a bid.

Question: What about the delivery of unit prices for the project?

Answer: The delivery of unit prices as a response to a Request for Proposals identifies relative information with respect to general fees and is not specific to tasks related to the project. The submission of a fee or rate schedule is acceptable, but not with an estimate of man-hours, which can be easily correlated to a fixed price or a bid.

Question: Are there exemptions for special conditions?

Answer: Yes. An emergency, acts of God or a time in which the consultant must be called in for immediate performance of task to eliminate danger are exemptions. It is best to obtain the exemption in writing from the appropriate governing body.

Question: During a short list or interview type of arrangement, if the interviewing party requests a price, is the consultant free to give a price at this time?

Answer: Price should not be given until the consultant is selected for the provision of service and negotiations are entered into to establish fee.

Question: What is the basic QBS Process?

Answer: The QBS process usually involves the following steps:

  • Owner prepares the preliminary scope of services, describing the project to be built or problem to be solved and formulates a schedule of activities.
  • Owner places legal notices of invitation in newspapers and/or invites qualified firms to submit letters of qualifications in a format provided by Owner.
  • Owner reviews letters of qualifications, checks references, ranks firms and selects 3 to 5 firms for interviews. All other firms are notified in writing of the selections. Pre-interview site visits are arranged with the firms to be interviewed to provide the opportunity for a better understanding of the project requirements.
  • Interviews are conducted. During this process, it is important that the same questions be asked of each firm. In fact, it is suggested that qualification criteria and interview format material be made available to each firm prior to being interviewed.
  • Following the interviews, the Owner ranks each firm in accordance with a predetermined ranking system. All interviewed firms are notified of the results.
  • The highest-ranking firm is asked to participate in the preparation of a detailed scope of services and to negotiate conditions of the contract, including a fair and equitable fee.
  • If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, negotiations with that firm are suspended and negotiations are commenced with the second-highest ranking firm. The process continues until an agreement is reached and a formal contract is executed.















Website development in association with Brown and Caldwell