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History of Federal Design Procurement

Federal procurement of architecture and engineering (A/E) services has changed dramatically over the past several decades. As these professions expand and become more specialized, so too must the methods of comparing and evaluating firms that provide professional services. Prior to 1975, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and other federal agencies used a very simple Standard Form 251 to evaluate interested firms and individuals electing to submit credentials in pursuit of federal design projects.

The SF 251 was often supplemented by elaborate brochures, color photography and lengthy descriptions of projects previously completed by firms and individuals. In the 1950s and 1960s, with expanding federal services and government bureaucracy, large scale federal projects became more prevalent in the nation’s capital and throughout the United States.

As the government expanded, opportunities to design significant and lasting pieces of architecture grew. However, few firms were experienced with federal requirements and procedures. Small firms, in particular those outside of Washington, DC, had little chance of winning significant federal work.

In 1975, GSA issued Standard Forms 254 and 255, replacing the more general SF 251. SFs 254 and 255 were created through an inter-agency committee with advice and input from professional architectural and engineering societies. The SF 254/255 submission process was used extensively by federal agencies, state and local governments, and other institutions as a vehicle for evaluating providers of A/E services. The SF 254/255 process leveled the playing field and provided for a broader spectrum of A/E firms to compete for government design commissions.

As A/E services expanded and became more specialized, and as employees of various firms migrated from one company to another, it became increasingly difficult to assess the capabilities of a particular firm using the SF 254/255 format. In 1994, an effort was undertaken to modify and revise the SF 254/255 process.

An interagency ad hoc committee developed the Standard Form 330. It was based on the results of a joint federal-industry survey of the existing SFs 254 and 255 conducted by the Standing Committee on Procurement and Contracting of the Federal Facilities Council (FFC) in 1995, and published in 1996 as FFC Report Number 130, entitled “Survey on the Use of Standard Forms 254 and 255 for Architect-Engineer Qualifications.”

Both federal and A-E industry practitioners believed that the forms needed to be streamlined and updated to facilitate electronic usage. The objectives of the SF 330 were to merge the SFs 254 and 255 into a single streamlined form, expand essential information about qualifications and experience, reflect current A/E disciplines, experience types and technology, eliminate information of marginal value, permit limitations on submission length, and facilitate electronic usage.

On October 19, 2001, a proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) rule for a new A-E Qualifications form was published in the Federal Register (66 RF 53314). The final rule replaced SFs 254 and 255 with SF 330. SF 330 began to be used on January 12, 2004, and became required by all federal agencies on June 8, 2004.

Next: How the Federal Government Selects A/E Firms


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