New York City’s Procurement Policy Board adopted Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) as the method for selecting design professionals for city construction projects. The new rule will become effective around Dec. 1, 2006, after publication in the City Record.

This change in the city’s procurement rules resulted from lobbying by a coalition of professional organizations led by the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC New York), and including the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, the New York Building Congress, and the General Contractors Association of New York.

"We are confident that this approach will better serve both the city and its large number of highly experienced and qualified design professionals, and complements Mayor Bloomberg’s Design and Construction Excellence Initiative, which has raised the bar on the look and function of city projects," says Jay Simson, executive director, ACEC New York.

Used by 46 states, including New York State, QBS involves ranking engineering and architectural firms based on overall competence for a particular project; the government agency then negotiates a price for the work with the highest ranked firm. If the firm and the agency agree on a design fee, the contract is awarded. If not, negotiations begin with the second ranked firm. Until now, New York City’s system involved setting a percentage for design, with firms opting to bid on a project based on that fixed fee. Or, if the firms were closely ranked, the city chose the firm with the lowest price. Under this system, procurement for design services promoted price over quality.

Mayor Bloomberg’s Design and Construction Excellence Initiative worked closely with the QBS coalition, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, and the Department of Design and Construction to develop a series of procurement demonstration projects to test QBS and related techniques. According to ACEC New York, these projects proved successful, leading to an improvement in design quality and an increase in the number of design firms bidding for New York City projects.