How to Follow The Brooks Act for Your Next Selection

Published on Mon, 07/20/2020 - 09:42
Written By: J.R. Norvell, PE, Regional Manager

The Brooks Act (better known as Qualifications Based Selection or ‘QBS’) has been in place for publicly funded Architectural and Engineering contracts since 1972. The purpose of QBS is to promote fair competition, reduce monopolies within the industry, and provide good stewardship of public funds. The old saying, “you get what you pay for” is typically true – lowest price is usually not equivalent to highest value.

With professional Engineering and Architecture services, every single project is unique. The success of each project depends on the experience, knowledge, and intelligence of the design team. At T-O we firmly believe that healthy competition promotes creativity in the design process. The Brooks Act has improved everyone’s quality of life by challenging design professionals to explore newer and better ways of solving problems. This higher quality of life can be seen in the water quality of our lakes and rivers, the efficiencies of our transportation systems, and the resiliency of our infrastructure.

If you are not familiar with the QBS process, it can be quite overwhelming. The American Public Works Association has a 52-page book called the “APWA Red Book” that outlines the QBS process in detail. If needed, you can purchase it here: APWA Red Book 

In general terms, you should follow these steps:

  1. Advertise for Qualifications of design teams.
  2. Review and rank all submittals.
  3. Interview 2-3 firms at your discretion, recommended if rankings are close.
  4. Negotiate scope and fee with the highest ranked firm.

Note that different agencies apply the Brooks Act in slightly different ways. State laws vary, as well, so be sure that you’re following current guidance for your state and the agency you are working with.

Additional resources include:

ACEC Guidance

FAA Guidance


JR Norvell  J.R. Norvell, PE is T-O Engineer's Regional Manager (Washington and Northern Idaho) as well as the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Office Manager. Since 2002 J.R. has served as a Project Manager for our Aviation Services Team. For more information regarding the Brooks Act or to speak to J.R. you can contact him via email: