By Bruce G. Matthews
Special to Ontario Construction News
Items of public infrastructure — bridges, water and wastewater facilities, hospitals, etc. — have lifespans measured in decades and lifecycle costs in the millions or billions of dollars, mainly related to operations and maintenance. Pre-construction design represents a minuscule portion of these costs, and yet provides the greatest opportunity to add value to a project.
So why do governments so often procure engineering design services on the basis of the lowest price?
ACEC-Ontario advocates for Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) — an approach to the procurement of professional services that emphasizes competency and qualifications, at prices that are fair and reasonable. QBS is a competitive and transparent process that lowers risk, encourages innovation, and enables optimization of infrastructure life cycle costs.
Research has shown that projects using QBS have significantly lower cost increases, and fewer schedule slippages, during construction. QBS also allows designers to better focus on design for operability and design for maintainability.
QBS is the law for federal projects in the U.S. and state-level projects in most U.S. States. If the province and municipalities are serious about getting the greatest value for taxpayer dollars, they need to enshrine QBS as their procurement process. The lowest price doesn’t provide the best value.
Bruce G. Matthews, a professional engineer, is the executive director of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC) – Ontario. This viewpoint was originally published in the National Post as part of a special interest section “Engineering Our Future”.