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what is qbs

What Is Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) in Canada And Why Use It?

Qualifications-based selection is becoming the norm across the country of Canada. It's also known as QBS. What is QBS? Simply put, it's choosing professionals within certain industries based on their qualifications rather than going by price alone. The process of qualification-based selection should ensure you have the best talent available for successful projects, which can help you avoid a lot of headaches in the long run.

Need help with the QBS selection of engineers? Get help from the best Calgary mechanical engineering & design consulting firm.

Quebec has introduced a new regulation that mandates provincial agencies utilize a qualification-based selection for engineering and architectural consultants. This rule will govern how many provincial agencies will procure both architectural and engineering services, ranging from the construction and remodeling of medical facilities to projects governing infrastructure and transportation.

What Is QBS (Qualifications-Based Selection)?

Using the qualification-based selection of contractors is a best practice recognized globally for the successful procurement of engineering services at a professional level. This transparent and systematic process chooses the best engineering firm for a project in order to protect the public good throughout a project life cycle.

This starts with design and construction before moving through operations and maintenance and on to the eventual upgrades or decommissioning of a project.

The qualifications-based selection QBS model has been required in the United States for many decades and is growing as the accepted standard within parts of Canada. Rather than having engineering teams compete for the lowest-possible bid, the QBS system evaluates prospects based on qualifications well before price negotiations take place.

Consideration is still given to a client's budget, but reasonable prices are negotiated with the best-qualified firm within range.

Utilizing the QBS system can result in numerous advantages such as, but not limited to:

  • Getting the best time to do the job right;
  • Creating and sticking to pragmatic budgets and schedules;
  • Lowering the costs of an overall project life cycle;
  • Handling a project with minimal disputes or change orders;
  • Better taxpayer value;
  • Promoting improved, long-term business relationships between the involved parties;
  • Offering improved service, value, and quality for clients.

Pros of Engineering Qualifications-Based Selection

While there are both qualification-based selection pros and cons, the truth is that QBS civil engineering has many notable advantages, and here are just a few.

QBS Saves Money

Cost growth on QBS projects is half that of other projects. Solving problems early in the project also results in more savings later, and using higher qualifications in the procurement phase doesn't actually make anything more expensive overall as many in the industry already know.

QBS Saves Time

Hiring a qualified and experienced team means they are more likely to get things done on schedule. If things do fall behind, it will be less than the national average, and massive delays are unlikely to occur.

QBS Simplifies Complex Projects

Using QBS at the start of a project is an investment that pays off more as the project goes further on. The more sophisticated the situation is, the better things go by picking a highly qualified team instead of a cheap one.

QBS Delivers Innovation

When you're more likely to get a highly qualified team involved, innovative solutions are more likely to get your project moving forward whether it's physical or political obstacles that you face.

qualifications based selection

QBS Drives Procurement

Using this methodology improves access to talent at a time when many career civil servants are retiring. Get access to more possibilities in the engineering and architectural fields when turnover is high.

Potential Risks of Price-Based Selection

Managing risks is one reason to use qualifications-based vs low-bid contractor selection. Price-based competition normally proves to be the industry standard. However, if a bidder gets more points for offering a lower price, they usually don't fully understand or cover how much scope the work involves.

When price takes the predominant role, there is far less emphasis on having prior experience or evaluating the technical components involved with the work being bid on. That leads to firms providing a minimum scope of what is acceptable. What follows is minimal standards and staffing, and that creates needless and often unacceptable levels of risk.

The price-based selection runs the risk of initial-stage proposals not being defined appropriately for the entire scope of the work. Any definition that is lacking runs many risks, including:

  • Overruns
  • Changes in scope
  • Claims
  • Extra capital expenditures
  • More time is necessary
  • Lack of innovation
  • Substandard quality

Another problem with the market based on price selections is industry players who like to keep their cards close to their chest. They only want to qualify for the specific proposal the owner asks for. Many might withdraw if things change from the initial project scope. They don't want to risk potentially lower pricing, more scope changes, or the possibility of losing other work.

How Does QBS Work in Canada?

Do you know how the process of qualification-based selection works in Canada? The list of qualifications-based selection steps follows this outline:

  1. Issue the RFQ describing the broad service scope for this particular assignment.
  2. Develop the terms of reference, weighting scores, and evaluation criteria.
  3. Request proposals from consultants on the shortlist to get detailed information from them.
  4. Evaluate the proposals and rank them by performing reference checks so you can short-list three of the consultants.
  5. Do a joint scope definition with your preferred consultant.
  6. Negotiate the fee for the scope of services you agreed to.
  7. Award the final assignment formally based on fee estimates and agreed-on project scope.
QBS Work in Canada

How Building Owners Should Prepare for QBS

Building owners need to be ready for the QBS selection of engineers. This decision-making methodology doesn't focus on particular qualifications or work practices so much as evaluating the providers most qualified for an owner project. To be sure, QBS is not exactly a uniform process.

Expectations vary based on region and even project. In fact, QBS documentation usually is only written to serve as a guidebook for owners to make sure procurement practices are in alignment with the federal-level Brooks Act.

Owner requests for qualifications, or RFQs, need to include a thoroughly defined project description. This needs to include goals and requirements so that responses might be evaluated in ways that match project criteria with skills and proper experience. A detailed scope of work means proposers can make arrangements for qualifications and teams that suit project requirements.

At the very least, an effective project description needs to involve the following:

  • The name and location of the project.
  • An outline of the project listing facility characteristics such as kind of building, intended usage, overall size, and occupancy.
  • A description of the functional space needs, such as mission-critical, medical, research, technical, and other specialties.
  • The schedule and estimated budget, incorporating various phases and specific completion requirements.
  • Descriptions of work done on the project so far, if applicable.
  • Descriptions of particular services that are requested.
  • Lists of expected outcomes and deliverables.

How Canadian Commissioning Providers Should Prepare for QBS

Canadian commissioning providers need to get ready for the qualifications-based selection of engineering services by taking several things into consideration:

  • The evolution and utilization of QBS are coming together not just with commissioning providers, but also with building owners and the entire building industry.
  • QBS mechanical engineering is something that building owners and commissioning services need to be mindful of given its growing acceptance. It's already par for the course in the United States, Quebec, and the city of Calgary. QBS is a tool that both property owners and government commissioning providers should use to be sure that project capabilities meet the needs and expectations involved.
  • Commissioning providers responding to any RFQ based on QBS need to know that this is a competitive rating process. It's one based on points and percentages. I.E, applicants have to demonstrate relevant work, capabilities, experience, and successes with similar projects in order to stand out from other contenders.
  • Those contending in this qualifications-based vs low-bid contractor selection must show they understand and can meet the client's ambitions and expectations, rather than just meet the technical specifics involved.
  • While there are numerous qualification-based selection pros and cons, government involvement in the planning and commissioning stage helps ensure private owners follow through with ensuring the public good via the QBS process.


Following the qualifications-based selection steps to procure engineering and architectural teams for your projects makes sure you get the best team available within your budget rather than seeing a race to the bottom price that might put the public and project quality at risk. Not to mention, it could cost you more in the long run if you focus only on budget and not quality.

Do you need help with QBS mechanical engineering? If you want the assistance of an experienced full-service Calgary engineering consulting firm, then contact us for more information.

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