The National Academies

ACRP Synthesis 11-03/Topic S01-18 [Active (Synthesis)]

Value, Benefits, and Limitations of Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) for Airport Project Delivery
[ ACRP 11-03 (Synthesis of Information Related to Airport Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Staff Responsibility: Gail R. Staba
Research Agency: Gransberg & Associates, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Doug Gransberg
Fiscal Year: 2018

Final Scope

Airport operators are required by Federal and State law to use various procurement methods to deliver best value publicly funded projects. With many airport facilities at the end of their useful life, airport sponsors consider both traditional and alternative procurement methods and tools to cost effectively develop, modify, renovate and maintain their facilities. Qualifications based selection (QBS) is a procurement method that selects companies on the basis of qualifications; cost is not considered. This is different from best value procurement, which provides a price element. Airports select and retain professional services using QBS methods, most typically when hiring architectural and engineering (A/E) firms for project planning, design, program/construction management and other activities. Less typically, airports use QBS for selection of construction contractors where enabling legislation and funding sources allow.

Outside of the Federal requirement to use QBS, this research focuses on the merits of using QBS for all facets of project delivery, beyond professional services or design. Industry is increasing its use of alternative project delivery procurement methods. Airports can learn from other transportation modes, and have explored QBS strategies in the delivery of capital projects. Successful highway project delivery has included QBS for many years to complete projects in a competitive and efficient manner. There may be examples where airports have used QBS to increase project success by using a collaborative process for project delivery.

The objective of this synthesis is to understand which airports are using QBS, when and why, and describe the benefits and limitations of QBS in construction, in addition to professional services. The intended audience for this report includes airport administrators and decision makers. Compiling this information provides additional resources to assist in decision making when choosing the most advantageous procurement approach.

The researcher will collect data from as many U.S. airports or their tenant partners as possible (20-30) for a range of vertical and horizontal QBS projects. Data collection should represent a range of NPIAS airport categories and airport owners/sponsors.

For QBS projects beyond professional services, the researcher will collect macro-level information, including but not limited to:
• Project types, and number of projects using QBS
• Funding source for QBS projects
• Delivery method utilizing QBS for construction (e.g., DB, CMAR, IPD)
• Challenges overcome to be able to use QBS for construction
• Justification methods and business cases used to validate use of QBS
• Advantages and disadvantages of using QBS
• Lessons learned
• What would you do differently next time?
• Recommendations for further research and additional useful tools

A concise report is expected that includes the following:
Background, including enabling legislation for QBS in construction (graphical summaries encouraged)
Summary of literature (short discussion of QBS in professional services and longer discussion of QBS in construction)
Data analysis from survey/interview
Case examples of six airport QBS projects, with one representative non-airport public works example that provides context of the state of practice outside of the airport bubble
Open issues-gaps in knowledge
Further research and tools needed
Appendix information that includes selection criteria used and qualifications matrices

Note: While we have defined QBS as 100% qualifications, for instances where a fee component is identified as relatively insignificant in the selection criteria, that information can be captured and included separately in the report.

Partial Information Sources;
Chinowsky, P. S. PhD, & Kingsley, G. A. PhD. An Analysis of Issues Pertaining to Qualifications-Based Selection. 2009.
AGC of America Qualifications Based Selection for Contractors August 2009.
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) QBS Coalition (Committee) and 2013 Survey of
State QBS Laws and Registrations Boards Contacts are Larry Fleis from Fleis & Vandenbrink
Engineering at
American Council of Engineering Companies QBS Resource Center,
The Brooks Act (Public Law 92-582) and Professional Services Procurement Act; Section 2254.004; Texas Code; Michigan and many other states regulations.
NCHRP Web Document 38: Quality-Based Performance Rating of Contractors for Prequalification and Bidding Purposes, Final Report. Gary R. Smith and Robert E. Minchin, Jr., March 2001.
National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 390: Performance-Based Construction Contractor Prequalification, 2009.
Alleman, Douglas; Antoine, Arthur; Gransberg, Douglas D; Molenaar, Keith R. Comparison of Qualifications-Based Selection and Best-Value Procurement for Construction Manager’s General Contractor Highway Construction. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Issue 2630, 2017, pp 59-67. http://trid.trb.org/view/1439310
Harper, Christofer M; Tran, Daniel; McGuire, Tim; Molenaar, Keith R. Selecting a Procurement Procedure for Highway Construction Projects. Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting, Transportation Research Board, 2014, 19p.
Van Doren, V., & Brenke, R. (2009). Contracting for services? Qualifications should come first. Control Engineering, 56(6).

Topic Panel
Larry C. Bowron, City of Battle Creek/W.K. Kellogg Airport
Jon Faucher, Mead & Hunt
Michael Kenig, Holder Construction Company
Tamera L. McCuen, University of Oklahoma
Susan Winslow, Delta Airport Consultants, Inc.
Michael R. Witiw, HDR Inc (former SEA)
Susan J.H. Zellers, Hanson Professional Services Inc.
Mike Rottinghaus, Federal Aviation Administration
T.J. Schulz, Airport Consultants Council

Doug Gransberg
Gransberg & Associates, Inc.

TRB Staff
Gail R. Staba
phone: 202/334-2442
email: gstaba@nas.edu

First meeting: May 24, 2018, Washington, DC
Teleconference: July 20, 2018, 11:00 a.m., EDT 
Second meeting: March 20, 2019, Washington, DC


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