Canadian Consulting Engineer

Mixed Signals From PWGSC on QBS

"We have also begun to develop a life-cycle assessment system for major building projects. That will allow us to design innovative and energy efficient buildings even when it costs more up front." --...

August 1, 2005   Canadian Consulting Engineer

“We have also begun to develop a life-cycle assessment system for major building projects. That will allow us to design innovative and energy efficient buildings even when it costs more up front.” — Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) Minister Scott Brison.

Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada representatives were pleased to hear the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, at a recent breakfast speech at the National Press Club in Ottawa, express support for infrastructure investments in order to ensure quality and sustainability for government projects. Minister Scott Brison spoke about the importance of innovation and sustainability to launch Environment Week. ACEC supports these sentiments as they reflect the principles of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS), a method of procurement that focuses on choosing the best engineering firm for the project rather than the cheapest firm. ACEC wrote to the minister to express support for his words, saying “Investing wisely in the design of facilities will lead to significant life-cycle savings while contributing to Canada’s and the world’s environmental goals.”

However, not all messages from the minister are in favour of QBS. ACEC is very concerned about musings by Minister Brison, prior to the Environment Week speech, about the possibility of placing even more weight on price rather than qualifications when selecting design professionals. Specifically, the minister is considering changing the scoring system from the current 90/10 (90% for technical merit, 10% for price) to a 75/25 ratio. This would be a significant blow to QBS, the principles of which PWGSC has accepted in the past and ACEC has been actively promoting for years.

ACEC has written to the minister to say that it is of “the unequivocal view that this would be a step backward.” In the letter, ACEC also strongly urged the minister not to take action until he has held full consultations with all stakeholders, including the consulting engineering industry and the minister’s own design services procurement experts. A 75/25 ratio would unquestionably allow for a less qualified and inexperienced firm to be selected. To ensure that the appropriately qualified engineers are chosen, ACEC firmly believes that selection must be based on relevant technical competence, managerial ability, experience on similar projects, and proven performance.

The consulting engineering industry in Canada stands united on the principle of Qualifications-Based Selection as the optimal way to select engineers. In fact, ACEC and all provincial and territorial member organizations have developed a common position on QBS. Consequently, the industry will strongly oppose any further dilution of the QBS principles, which have been embraced both by PWGSC and ACEC in its latest Memorandum of Understanding.

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