Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Qualifications-based selection (QBS)

Qualifications-based selection (QBS) (sometimes called “quality-based selection”) is one of the most common methods of selecting the right architect for the project. In particular, institutions, corporations or public agencies (sometimes represented by a committee) use this method. QBS is a system that chooses an architect on the basis of professional qualifications and competence. This procedure will provide your project with the best-qualified architect with whom you can develop a professional relationship. Such a relationship is very important for the kind of in-depth discussion which allows the architect and the engineers to deal effectively with issues on your behalf.

To achieve an objective comparison, QBS uses predetermined, value-based criteria that may include such factors as:

  • the architect’s history and capability to perform required services;
  • related experience such as past performance on similar types of projects;
  • familiarity with local geography and facilities;
  • experience and skills in project management; and
  • design approach/methodology.

The process compares two or more architects. The client (or committee members, if applicable) makes a selection based upon their judgement of which architect is most likely to handle the project successfully. Other criteria include:

  • reputation;
  • rapport;
  • technical competence;
  • commitment to the client’s interests; and
  • the client’s desire for imagination and ingenuity.

The QBS process usually includes all or part of the following steps:

  1. The client identifies the general scope of work and project definition.
  2. A schedule for selecting an architect is established.
  3. The client calls for Statements of Qualifications (SOQs).
  4. Statements of Qualifications are received and evaluated.
  5. All firms are informed of their rating and ranking (optional).
  6. A short-list of four to six firms is prepared, and a Request For Proposal (RFP) is issued (if required).
  7. A tour of the site and/or facility may be arranged for short-listed firms.
  8. After proposals are received, interviews are conducted and the firms are ranked based on pre-established criteria.
  9. The client negotiates scope of services, fees/expenses, and payment schedules with the top-ranked firm. (If an agreement cannot be reached with the top-ranked firm, those negotiations are ended and negotiations begin with the second-ranked firm, and so on down the list until an agreement is reached.)
  10. An agreement is prepared.
  11. All firms involved are informed of the outcome after the selection has been made.

Once an architect has been selected because of his or her demonstrated qualifications to perform the work, you can then negotiate a fair fee with that architect. Some provincial associations publish appropriate scales of professional fees to help clients and architects in determining fair amounts.

Select an architect by using the method that is most appropriate to your circumstances and needs.

Why are architects not selected on a competitive bid basis?

If you are a prospective client experienced in the procurement of commodities, you are accustomed to obtaining competitive bids for goods you purchase. You may wonder why the same procedure is not used to procure architectural services. The answer is simple. You are not a “customer” buying a product off the shelf. Rather, you are hiring architectural advice and ability for a customized building or project that is not yet determined. When seeking an architect’s creative, technical, and management skills, the most appropriate way for you to ensure that your project has the best possible expertise is through analysis of credentials and qualifications, not by the lowest fee.

Competitive bidding does not permit the architect to help the client determine exactly what services are required. At the start of an architectural project, it is difficult for both the client and the architect to define the exact nature and scope of services to be performed because it is not possible to foresee all professional services, technical knowledge, judgement, skill, and decision-making. Together, the client and the architect define and delineate the scope of these services as part of their discussions, often as the project evolves.