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  • Writer's pictureKen Harms

Have You Been Downplaying the Importance of Your Testing & Inspections Agency?

So, you've been downplaying the importance of your testing and inspection agency. Haven't updated your RFQs and selection criteria? Chances are, you're not alone. However, as the construction industry continues to adapt to more collaborative delivery methods, such as progressive design/build, it's becoming increasingly important that we reconsider how our testing and inspection agencies fit into our overall team dynamic.

What is Qualification Based Selection?

Qualification Based Selection (QBS) is a competitive procurement process that requires a public agency to evaluate and hire construction professionals (engineers, surveyors, architects, construction managers, etc.) on their qualifications and competency.

California Law

The Little Brooks Act, (Government Code 4526), requires all government agencies in California, both state and local, to utilize QBS for the selection of professional services.

Are Geotechnical, Testing and Inspection Firms Considered ‘Professional Services’?

Short answer: YES.

While some contractors compete for a specified product, professional services are NOT a commodity.

Testing and inspection companies do not actually build anything. Our job is to observe, test, and report. These tests, observations, and reports are required, by law, to verify that all work has been constructed according to the approved plans and specifications. At MatriScope Engineering Laboratories/Signet Testing Labs, all our field inspectors meet the highest standards of specialty certifications, and all our reports and tests are certified and approved by a licensed Professional Engineer.

Common Steps in a QBS Process

While each agency may have its own process, the typical steps are summarized below:

The Benefits of QBS

There are numerous advantages to QBS on public works projects. As projects become more complex and costly, owners choose alternative delivery methods. Whether it is Design/Build, Construction Manager at Risk, or another type of delivery, owners, architects, and builders are relying on collaboration and teamwork to succeed.

QBS for testing and inspection offers the following benefits:

The ASCE, APWA, NSPE, ACEC, and CMAA all recommend QBS for professional services. Should you have any questions please feel free to give us a call.


An Example of QBS By a Public Agency

Project Background

As summarized by UC Davis Health Facilities Design and Construction RFQ for the Replacement Hospital Tower, dated May 6, 2022:

The University of California, Davis Medical Center, located in Sacramento, is the primary teaching hospital for UC Davis. To meet California seismic standards and the projected space needs for the hospital, UC Davis Health has started a new project, the Replacement Hospital Tower (RHT/California Tower). The Tower site is located on the east end of the existing hospital, adjacent to the Pavilion that houses primarily surgery, ICUs, the burn unit, and the emergency department.

The new California Tower/RHT, which will attach to the Pavilion, is envisioned to provide 332 inpatient beds (ICU, Medical/Surgical, Acuity Adaptable (i.e., ICU capable), Airborne Infection Isolation, Protected Environment), complex procedure rooms, and imaging and other support services. The building will have 14 floors, including a basement, a penthouse, a helipad, approximately 900,000 BGSF of new space, plus approximately 85,000 BGSF of renovation. Utilities for the RHT will be supplied from the Central Utilities Plant.

The RHT will be delivered by the Progressive Design-Build Approach emphasizing Integrated Project Delivery processes. The RHT will require intensive and close collaboration between the Progressive Design-Builder, the Architect, all consultants, UC Davis Health staff, HCAI, the State Fire Marshall, design-build and design-assist trade contractors, all other subcontractors, and other project participants.

Professional Services Requested:

UC Davis Health’s goal for the selection of Materials Testing and Inspection Services was to identify the most qualified firm. The nature of the services requested, and the duration of the project involved require a multi-year contract from approximately 2022 to 2030. The University expects the Proposer to adequately staff the Project with fully qualified inspection staff as the job demands.

The Materials Testing and Special Inspection firm shall perform its services in accordance with the approved plans and specifications, applicable codes, regulations, and accepted testing procedures, and shall furnish all material, labor, equipment, and tools. The Materials Testing and Special Inspection agency shall perform all services provided in accordance with the Contract Documents, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations (as amended), Design, and Construction of Buildings Under HCAI Jurisdiction by the California Healthcare Foundation, dated March 2006, HCAI, and all applicable State and local codes and regulations.

Submittal Requirements

Interested firms submitted qualifications that included a cover letter and company introduction, technical approach, relevant experience, key personnel, and references. The total number of points available was 100. The breakdown was 20 points for General Qualifications, 20 points for Technical Approach, 20 points for Experience of the Firm, and 40 points for Expertise of Personnel.

The screening committee reviewed and scored the submittals, and the top-ranked firms were invited to an interview. Following an intensive 1-hour presentation and Q and A, firms were given their final ranking and negotiations with the top-ranked firm began.


This is an excellent example of how Qualification Based Selection should be used to procure professional testing and inspection services. UCDH selected a qualified, local team that was fully committed to an attitude of ’project first’ and became an active member of the integrated design-build team.


About the Author

Ken Harms

Senior VP of Business Development and Corporate Strategy, MatriScope

With over 35 years of experience in the built environment, Ken Harms is seasoned at developing sustainable relationships within the construction industry. His proven record of accomplishment implementing corporate initiatives is in perfect alignment with MatriScope’s long-term strategic expansion plans. Ken is responsible for overseeing MatriScope’s strategic growth initiatives as the company expands into new markets and explores additional service offerings. Additionally, Ken enjoys mentoring the next generation of industry leaders, volunteering locally in Sacramento, and giving back to the community.

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