Public section decision-makers who have never heard of qualifications based selection (QBS) often ask, “We buy everything else from the lowest bidder, so why shouldn’t we choose an architect, engineer or other professional consultant by low bid, too?” The answer is that most professionals deal in creativity, not commodities. Hiring a professional service provider, and determining a fair value of his or her work, is a different situation than pricing computers, vehicles or janitorial services. In the latter cases, the buyer can describe to the potential supplier exactly what is wanted and get competitive price quotes on a predefined product. When hiring a professional service provider, however, the client is essentially buying solutions to problems that will only be clearly defined or discovered as the design process moves forward. The professional service provider’s role is to generate and evaluate many possible alternatives and present their relative costs and benefits for the client’s consideration.
The Qualifications Base Selection (QBS) Facilitator Council is a coalition of many design and professional service volunteers formed to bring information about qualifications based selection to cities and counties in Idaho. The coalition began meeting in 1998 shortly after the passage of a new state law that requires this method of selection when hiring a professional in design or construction projects. As of 1999, the coalition received money from a national partnership created by the American Consulting Engineers Council, the American Institute of Architects, the American Public Works Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Society of Professional Engineers. The Idaho coalition matched this grant with local funds contributed by each of its members, creating a budget to enable the QBS Facilitator Council to offer many services to cities and counties at no cost.