Qualifications Based Architectural Selection: A Comparison With Fee Based Methodology


Owners have choices when it comes to how they evaluate, compare and ultimately select, design professionals for their architecture projects. Athough professional fees are a valid factor in that consideration, architectural services are not a commodity. They are complex and require a high level of specialized skill. As such, the track record and qualifications of the firm and professionals that would be responsible for a project’s design are much more meaningful metric than merely the lowest fee.

Acknowledging this as a matter of public interest, the US Congress adopted The Brooks Act in 1972. It requires the use of a Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) process by federal agencies for the procurement of architectural and engineering services. The goal is to ensure that public clients work with the most qualified firms at a fair and reasonable cost. Today, QBS is being used by all federal agencies, 46 state governments and many local government entities throughout the US.

With the goal of encouraging further use by all owners of selection processes that fairly incorporate qualifications as the primary consideration factor, The American Institute of Architects (AIA) commissioned this study by Dodge Data & Analytics. This report features new research with owners who have experience with selecting the design team through a qualifications based selection and fee based selection approach in order to determine which approach yields better results for owners.

  • The study reveals higher owner satisfaction with teams selected using qualifications-based selection than those who used fee-based selection on nine different measures, including quality of project, amount of rework needed and dealing with project challenges like accelerated schedules, site issues and high levels of complexity.
  • A much higher percentage of owners would prefer to use a qualifications-based selection approach again than those who would prefer to use a fee-based selection approach.
  • Top drivers for adoption of a qualifications-based selection approach include reducing project delivery problems and dealing with complex projects.