Selecting a consulting engineering firm is one of the most important decisions a client makes. The success of any project often depends upon obtaining the most able, experienced and reputable engineering expertise available. Upfront procurement decisions have a significant impact on not only the cost and quality of the design and construction phase, but on operations and maintenance of infrastructure assets over their entire design life.
The recommended best practice
Experience shows that selecting a consulting engineer through Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) is ultimately the best value for money. QBS means that the client chooses a consultant according to: technical competence, managerial ability, experience on similar projects, dedicated personnel available for the project's duration, proven performance, location and/or local knowledge, professional independence and integrity. The choice is made based solely on these qualifications; the fee is negotiated after the consulting engineer is selected.
How the best practice works
Selecting the right team for the right project at the right price
QBS encourages the selection of the most qualified team who will work with the owner to jointly develop the required scope of services and the appropriate schedule and fees. QBS is similar to hiring people – identify the candidate who will provide the most value to the organization and help the organization achieve its objectives, and then negotiate terms of employment. If the owner and the preferred team cannot come to terms on scope and fees (e.g... project budget), the client is free to proceed to the next-preferred team.
Better value to taxpayers
QBS encourages innovation and provides better value to Ontario taxpayers on their infrastructure investments. It provides accountability by ensuring that fees will directly correspond to the level of service and the value of deliverables to be provided. QBS also results in more realistic and predictable budgets and schedules for capital expenditures.
Significant life-cycle savings
QBS maximizes the value of the engineer’s contribution to a project while reducing the project’s life cycle costs. Design engineering typically accounts for only about 2 per cent of the life cycle cost of infrastructure, but dramatically impacts the cost and quality of the remaining 98 per cent. A recent American Public Works Association study shows that using QBS for engineering reduces construction cost overruns from an average of 10 per cent to less than 3 per cent - equivalent to a savings of up to $700K on a $10M capital project. QBS emphasizes quality, fosters innovation, and generates real savings in construction, operations and maintenance, saving taxpayer dollars while optimizing public safety and welfare.
A transparent and competitive process
QBS is a competitive process – the cost of engineering services is a factor in the procurement, but it is finalized after the most suitable firm for the project has been selected.
What’s wrong with the lowest price?
If public infrastructure development is based on the lowest possible fee, there are potential long-term consequences to both the economy (higher costs to the taxpayer) and public safety. Selecting the lowest fee creates pressure to expend the least amount of resources necessary to meet the bare minimum requirements of the project – losing an opportunity to optimize the design, reduce lifecycle costs and enhance safety. It also discourages innovation and effectively penalizes proponents that anticipate potential complexities or who wish to propose value-added solutions all to save tax payers money. The results of this will be felt in the years to come.
Who supports QBS?