Selection of a Design Professional
A research laboratory facility typically requires more time for design and construction, a larger capital expenditure, and higher operational costs than most other building types. Because of the highly technical and complex nature of research laboratory facilities, the design professional should be selected carefully and thoughtfully. An objective selection process should be developed so that a highly qualified design professional is selected. Fee and agreement negotiations typically follow the selection of this person. The Brooks Act of 1949 codifies this type of selection process, by which the most highly qualified design professional is selected prior to fee and agreement negotiations. However, if funds for professional design fees are limited, this should be disclosed at an early point in the process. Institutions that favor working with a local design professional may be at significant risk; the attractiveness of familiarity is generally not a reasonable substitute for appropriate experience. Conversely, if a more remotely located design professional is engaged, the extent and method of local oversight by this person should be established.
The selection process described below represents a formalized step-by-step procedure that should result in the selection of an architectural firm experienced in the appropriate building type and the assignment by the firm of individuals who have the appropriate qualifications for the project. Other less-formalized selection procedures can also be used; each institution should decide the most appropriate objective selection process. Some institutions may wish to use a design competition to select an architect. Although the amount of time and interaction generally associated with a design competition is only a fraction of the effort typically required to design as technologically and programmatically
complex a facility as a research laboratory, it normally requires 12 to 14 months, as well as extensive interaction with the proposed users and institutional representatives. For this reason, most institutions do not use a competition for selecting the architect.
The selection process begins with the identification of a ''long list" of potential candidates, usually by a selection committee, and proceeds through the request and review of qualifications, the development of a "short list" of candidates, the request and review of formal proposals, and interviews, to the selection of the most appropriate architectural candidate. The selection committee is typically composed of representatives from the administration (e.g., CEO, CEO), researchers (e.g., principal investigators and technicians), and physical plant and/ or buildings and grounds representatives. One individual, often the client project manager, should be identified to oversee this process and be the single point of contact for the architectural candidates.
LONG LIST OF ARCHITECTS
Often, a "long list" of architectural candidates is developed by the selection committee after the institution has identified the project's need, program, and site. Some institutions, however, choose to begin selection of the architect before the project site is selected and before the project program is developed, as most architects are trained in site planning and some are experienced in developing detailed programs for research laboratory facilities. Other institutions engage a site planner and or programmer to complete a preliminary description of the overall project program and site. Each institution should decide the best time to begin the architect-selection process. The sooner the architect becomes familiar with the project, however, the sooner the architect will be able to assist the institution in the selection of a site, development of the project's program, and design of the research laboratory facilities that respond to its needs.
Once it has been decided to engage an architect, the institution develops a "long list" of potential architectural candidates. This long list can be anywhere from 7 to 15 architectural firms. Too short a list may not capture the best potential candidates, while too long a list may risk a cumbersome review process and discourage potential candidates from responding. The length of this list is determined by the number of potential candidates identified by the institution. Potential candidates should be identified by asking colleagues for referrals, contacting the American Institute of Architects, and checking with other institutions that have built science facilities similar to the anticipated project. The identification of the long list of architects can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS
Once the institution has identified the long list of architects, the selection committee should prepare a request for qualifications (RFQ). The RFQ should include a general description of the anticipated project, including its size, location, and stage of development (e.g., initial planning stages, just starting programming, ready to start design). The RFQ should also include established project requirements such as cost, schedule, program, design goals, project participants, background information, existing buildings if involved, and so forth. The RFQ should include a request for information about the architectural firm, including similar projects, history of the firm, size of firm, list of key individuals including resumes, list of references, list of awards, and the like. The purpose of this RFQ is to receive materials about each candidate that provide the institution with a better understanding of the firm's general qualifications. The information requested from the architect is generally information that the firm has prepared previously for similar requests.
It is important that the architect be provided with as much information as is available about the anticipated project so that the firm can provide the appropriate qualification information. Architectural firms may want to know more about the project, and a representative of the institution should be available to answer the architect's questions. Some architects may want to visit the site prior to the preparation of the RFQ package. Although tours of the campus should not be discouraged at this stage, giving tours to those architects who are identified on the subsequent "short list" would be more appropriate. The architect should be informed about the selection process as well as the criteria by which the institution will decide which firms are appropriate for the subsequent short list and interview process. Typically 2 to 3 weeks should be allowed for the architect to prepare a qualifications package.
After the selection committee has reviewed the qualifications of the long list of architects, a short list is developed by reviewing the qualifications packages based on prescribed criteria. This process often includes assigning values to various criteria, such as appropriate experience, references, organizational depth, size of the firm, and so on. Of all the criteria, appropriate experience is probably the most important. It can also be important to match the size of the Firm with the size of the project. For instance, a smaller firm that has done only projects on the order of $1 million to $5 million may find a project of $10 million to $15 million a significant challenge. Similarly, larger architectural firms that typically work on $40 million to $100 million projects may find it difficult to give a $5 million to $10 million project appropriate attention. The short list typically consists of 4 to 6 architectural firms.
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS
Once the short list of architects is developed, the selection committee should prepare a request for proposals (RFP). The RFP includes a detailed list of questions that the architect should answer in a formal proposal. An RFP typically includes questions such as the following:
How will the architect approach this project?
How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
Who will be assigned to this project on a day-to-day basis, for overall management during the construction process?
What are the qualifications of the individuals who will be assigned to this project?
How does the architect typically establish a fee for a project?
What does the architect deem to be the most important issues for consideration on this project?
How does the architect manage schedule and costs during design and during construction?
Who would the architect recommend as engineers and consultants?
It is appropriate to request detailed resumes of the individuals who will be assigned to the project, as well as references for those individuals.
Some institutions have found it helpful to include as part of the RFP a draft of an Owner/Architect Agreement prepared by the institution. Other institutions have chosen to provide a standard Owner/Architect Agreement produced by the American Institute of Architects (AIA-B141 Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Architect) and ask each architect to provide a list of the modifications he or she would typically make to this standard document.
Some institutions may ask the architect to prepare a formal fee proposal. If a formal fee proposal is requested, it should be understood that this represents only a guideline for the institution to compare with that of other architectural firms. It is difficult for an architect to estimate accurately the services that will be required by a project at such an early stage, and therefore it is difficult to project a fee accurately. It is appropriate, though, to request that the architect provide a description of how the fee would be established and what services the architectural firm includes within its standard scope of services. The RFP should include the names of the other architects that the institution is considering so that each architect can decide whether to proceed with the selection process. In general, the preparation of a proposal, particularly one responding to a formal RFP prepared by an institution, requires a substantial effort on the architect's part. This is particularly true if the architect decides to visit the site, which will require travel expenses and time in addition to that needed to prepare the RFP.
An architectural firm usually will expend a significant amount of time and energy on the preparation of a proposal once it has made the short list. Typically, 3 to 4 weeks is allowed for the architect to prepare a proposal.
Once the selection committee has received the proposals from the short list of architects, it should review and rank the proposals, using a method similar to that used in reviewing the qualifications package sent in response to the RFQ. The selection committee may choose to reduce the number of candidates or to interview all candidates on the short list. At this point, the architects should be encouraged to visit the site, if they have not done so, and to review the project details with the appropriate representatives on site. In addition, for major projects the selection committee may wish to visit facilities built previously by the architects on the short list. Prior to the interview, the selection committee may develop a list of questions and issues that it would like the architect to address. This may simply be the list of questions and issues developed as part of the RFP, or alternatively, a list of questions and issues developed specifically for the interview.
The interview typically includes a presentation by the architect of projects he/she has developed that are similar to the anticipated project. The interview may also include a description by the architect of the process that would be used to develop this project program, identify the project site, develop the design, collaborate with the institution, manage the schedule and costs, and administer the construction contract. A sufficient amount of time should be allowed for the architect to present qualifications and ideas, and also for the selection committee to ask the architect questions about the project. On average, a presentation lasting 45 minutes followed by a 45-minute question period is adequate. Prior to the interview, the selection committee should develop selection criteria that allow each member of the selection committee to record thoughts and evaluations during and immediately after each interview. As much as possible, interviews should be scheduled for the same day, or for two consecutive days, to minimize the amount of time between the first and last interviews. It is essential that those individuals who will be assigned to the project be present at the interview.
Some selection committees visit similar projects completed by the architect. References should be contacted before or immediately following the interviews. Shortly after the interview, the selection committee should meet to discuss its impressions and observations and to decide as quickly as possible which architect is the most appropriate for the project.
Personalities and human chemistry form an important part of the decision-making process. The institution and the architect will be working together for an extended period, and it is important that the design team and the institution's representatives form a constructive working relationship.
Once the institution decides to engage an architect, the amount of time needed to develop the long list (in order to prepare the RFQ, review qualifications packages, develop the short list, develop the RFP, review proposals, interview architectural candidates, call references, and decide on the appropriate choice) can range from 12 to 16 weeks. This process requires the focused attention of the selection committee and especially that of the individual designated to oversee and manage the process.
After the selection committee has made its decision, the architect selected should be notified, as should those who have not been selected. If ratification by a higher authority is required and may delay prompt notification, a letter of intent or other similar document should be prepared and executed to formalize the working relationship until a formal agreement can be executed.