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Selecting a Design Consultant; A Guide for Owners and Property Managers

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 22, 2021 7:15:00 AM / by Peter A. Byrne, PE

Construction projects are costly undertakings for owners, so it is important to be thoughtful when choosing the design consultant and the team to implement it. Saving costs by skimping on the design time is not the best way to save money on a project. The lack of a complete and coordinated design on a project has resulted in many failed projects.
How do you ensure you pay a fair value for architects and design services? The owner or their representative has two tools at their disposal to ensure they get the right fit with the design and the team to bring it to life: 1) Requests for qualifications (RFQ); and 2) Requests for proposal (RFP). These two steps enable owners to narrow down the field of qualified design firms and separately use pricing to make the final decision.


Requests for Qualifications

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The owner and project team compiles a list of architects and/or design consultants and then sends them a request for qualifications (RFQ). At CCA, we typically send RFQs to at least six firms.

 This document provides the designer with the project scope and requirements in narrative form, and the project schedule including milestones. The architect or consultant replies with information about their business, as well as how they would help meet the goals and achieve the project vision. A typical RFQ response includes the following:


  • Approach
    How the consultant will approach the project, how many designs or revisions they will provide, and any unique aspects of their firm or design ideas that make them the best choice.
  • Experience
    Similar projects they have done, which helps you understand their capabilities.
  • Staffing
    How many people and what skills they will devote to this project.
  • Sub-consultants or subcontractors
    Key sub-consultants to be on the lookout for include the ones handling structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection. As with the primary project team, it is important to have a picture of any additional team members who will be working on your project.
  • References
    People you can contact to understand how the project team works together, the strengths and weaknesses of any individuals on the team, and how they dealt with project changes, etc.
  • Outstanding litigation
    Any ongoing litigation with which the designer is This impacts their insurance limits and the viability of the firm to deliver on your project.
  • Professional Licenses
    Copies of current licenses and a stamped final design, which are necessary to get permits for the project.
  • Confidentiality Agreement
    To ensure the information on the project and the design remains confidential.


Requests for Proposals

Horizontal view of happy team working together-1.jpeg

After reviewing the responses to the RFQ, the owner and their team create a short list of designers they believe are most qualified for the job. We typically select at least three firms and send them a request for proposal (RFP).

 The RFP is created with a legal team and requires the designers to include the scope of work, pricing, and ideas for designing and building the project.

  •  Confidentiality Agreement
    A new agreement for the RFP to ensure the information on the project and the design remains confidential.
  • Proposal Instructions
    Detail of what you are looking for in the proposal and how you will review the elements, including timing and anticipated award.
  • Design Scope of Services
    A narrative that focuses on exactly what services you need from the consultant.
  • Facilities Program Documents
    The scope of this exhibit is a list of any client programs and specifications that can be provided to the designer to better understand the project.
  • Compensation Schedule
    A breakdown of the proposed fee and when it will be invoiced.
  • Partial Waiver of Lien
    The partial waiver of lien that the consultant fills out with each payment application.
  • General Release and Final Waiver of Lien
    The final waiver and release form that the consultant fills out at completion of their services.
  • Contract Time
    Milestone dates that the consultant needs to meet in providing services on the project.
  • Architects Sub-Consultant List
    List of sub-consultants and subcontractors, with contact information.
  • Project Intent
    Project scope and goals for the completed project.
  • Hourly Billing Rate
    Hourly billing rates for the design team.
  • Sample Consultant Agreement
    Agreement for the services for this project, with sample contract language.

Soliciting and contracting with a qualified design professional is key to the success of a construction project. It is critical for an owner or their representative to work in a systematic way to choose the best design firm for a particular project to keep costs in check and to ensure the project meets their desired objectives.

To learn more about how an owner’s representative can help with the critical step of selecting a designer for your project, contact us today. 

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Topics: Owner's Representative, Project Management

Peter A. Byrne, PE

Written by Peter A. Byrne, PE