DSP Process Overview

Advertisement and Request for Designer Services (RFS)

Each contract for designer services for a project within the jurisdiction of the MSBA’s Designer Selection Panel is publicly advertised by the respective city, town or regional school district in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the project is located and in the Massachusetts Central Register at least four weeks before the deadline for filing applications. Using the MSBA’s model Request for Designer Services (RFS), the city, town, or regional school district then should prepare an RFS and distribute it upon request. The RFS will contain:

  1. A description of the project, including the specific designer services sought, the time period within which the project is to be completed, and, if available, the estimated construction cost;
  2. If there is a program for the project, a statement of when and where the program will be available for inspection by applicants, and when and where a briefing session will be held for applicants and if there is not a program for the project, a statement to the effect;
  3. The qualifications required of applicants for the projects;
  4. The categories of designers’ consultants, if any, for which applicants must list the names of consultants which the applicant may choose to use;
  5. Whether the fee has been set or will be negotiated, and if the fee has been set, the amount of the fee;
  6. The deadline for submission of applications;
  7. The person and address from which application forms may be obtained and, when completed, to whom they may be delivered;
  8. Any other pertinent information deemed appropriate by the District or the DSP.


Master File Brochure

Prior to filing an application for any project, designers must first file a Master File Brochure (MFB) with the MSBA. The MFB utilizes the same form required by the Commonwealth’s Designer Selection Board (DSB) when applying for DCAM projects. Download the Master File Brochure Form from the DSB. Please note that an MFB must be filed separately with the MSBA even if one has already been filed for DCAM projects.

MFBs contain the following information:

  1. Certification that the applicant, if applying to perform design services other than preparation of studies, surveys, soil testing, cost estimates or programs, is a designer as defined in M.G.L. Chapter 7C, Section 44, paragraph (b);
  2. The names and addresses of all partners, if a partnership, of all officers, directors and all persons with an ownership interest of more than five per cent in the applicant if not a partnership;
  3. The registration number and status of each such person in every jurisdiction in which such person has ever been registered as an architect, landscape architect or engineer;
  4. A list of all projects for all public agencies within the commonwealth for which the applicant has performed or has entered into a contract to perform design services within the five year period immediately preceding the filing of the information required in this section;
  5. A list of all current projects for which the applicant is performing or is under contract to perform any design services; and
  6. If the applicant is a joint venture, the information required in this section shall be required for each joint venturer, as well as for the joint venture itself.

Master File Brochures must be updated on an annual basis and are sworn to under the penalties for perjury.

Project Specific Applications

In addition to the Master File Brochure which a potential applicant must file with the MSBA at least once per year, a designer must file a project specific application for each project for which the designer is applying. The project-specific applications are on a standard form developed for cities and towns by the Designer Selection Board of the Commonwealth. Click here to download the Standard Designer Application Form for Municipalities and Public Agencies not within the DSB Jurisdiction. Unlike the Master File Brochure, the project specific applications must be filed with the respective city, town or regional school district.

Designer Qualifications and Selection Criteria

Minimum qualifications for designers include:

1. Applicants must be a qualified Designer within the meaning of M.G.L. Chapter 7C, Section 44, employing a Massachusetts registered architect or engineer responsible for and being in control of the services to be provided.

2. The Project Architect/Engineer for the Designer must have successfully completed the Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official Program seminar “Certification for School Project Designers and Owner’s Project Managers” as administered by the Office of the Inspector General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and must maintain certification by completing the “Recertification for School Project Designers and Owner’s Project Managers” seminar every three years thereafter. Proof of recertification or registration in the next recertification seminar for which space is available must be provided. View more information for Certification for School Project Designers and Owner's Project Managers from the Office of the Inspector General.

3. Pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 7C, Section 6, the Designer must agree to contract with minority and women-owned businesses as certified by the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) formerly known as the State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance (SOMWBA). The amount of participation that shall be reserved for such enterprises shall not be less than seventeen and nine tenths percent 17.9% of the contract price for combined minority business enterprises (MBE) and women-owned business enterprises (WBE). Applicants must include a reasonable representation of both MBE and WBE firms that meets or exceeds the combined goal. Click here for Supplier Diversity (SDO) Guidelines (formerly State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance (SOMWBA).

Other criteria for selection of finalists include:

  1. Prior similar experience best illustrating current qualifications for the specific project.
  2. Past performance of the firm, if any, with regard to public, private, DOE-funded, and MSBA-funded projects across the Commonwealth, with respect to:
    1. Quality of project design
    2. Quality, clarity, completeness and accuracy of plans and contract documents.
    3. Ability to meet established program requirements within allotted budget.
    4. Ability to meet schedules including submission of design and contract documents, processing of shop drawings, contractor requisitions and change orders.
    5. Coordination and management of consultants
    6. Working relationship with contractors, subcontractors, local awarding authority and MSBA staff and local officials.
  3. Current workload and ability to undertake the contract based on the number and scope of projects for which the firm is currently under contract.
  4. The identity and qualifications of the consultants who will work on the project.
  5. The financial stability of the firm.
  6. The qualifications of the personnel to be assigned to the project.
  7. Geographical proximity of the firm to the project site or willingness of the firm to make site visits and attend local meetings as required by the client.
  8. Any other criteria that the DSP considers relevant to the project.

Communication Between Applicants and Districts

Districts can and should hold informational pre-proposal conferences prior to the deadline for receipt of applications, provided that invitations to such conferences are publically advertised and open to all interested parties.  Districts should record all questions raised, along with the answers provided, and distribute them and any other information offered at the conference to all parties that requested copies of the Request for Services.  Any and all questions raised outside of these pre-proposal conferences should be submitted in writing and addressed to the designated District contact person. These questions, along with the answers provided, should also be distributed to all parties that requested copies of the Request for Services.  Private meetings and other communication between individual potential applicants and District representatives prior to the deadline of receipt of applications that are not open to all interested parties are prohibited.  Please see below regarding applicant interviews.

Panel Meetings

Meetings are generally held at MSBA’s offices in Boston. The DSP's meetings are open to the public, and all discussions relating to applicants and the selection of designers for specific projects are conducted in open session. (To encourage discussion, however, competitors are asked to voluntarily leave the room when designer candidates are being interviewed by the DSP for specific projects.) Executive sessions (i.e., sessions closed to the public) are rare and would only be warranted under certain circumstances. Designers who have responded to the RFS for aProject and other interested parties are welcome to attend the DSP's meeting and listen to the DSP's discussion.

Each applicant for each project is reviewed and discussed by the Panel, typically moderated by the chairperson. All Panel members, especially the Panel members representing the school district, are welcome and encouraged to make comments and ask questions during the DSP's meeting as each applicant is discussed.

At the conclusion of the DSP's discussion of all of the designer applications for the Project, each member of the DSP, including the Panel members representing the school district, will have an opportunity to vote on the applicants, assigning three (3) points to their first choice, two (2) points to their second choice, and one (1) point to their third choice. After the points are tallied, the DSP then will decide whether to rank the top three choices and authorize the community to begin negotiations to award a contract to the top choice, or to interview the top-ranked firms.

If the DSP votes to interview the finalists, the interviews will be scheduled for a subsequent meeting date.  Once it has been determined that interviews will be conducted, all communication regarding the potential project must be forwarded in writing to the MSBA DSP staff.  Communication relative to the project before the DSP between applicants and any individual associated with the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), District or MSBA other than the DSP staff is strictly prohibited. Failure to observe this rule will result in disqualification of the applicant. After each finalist is interviewed, each member of the Panel votes once again, assigning three (3) points to their first choice, two (2) points to their second choice, and one (1) point to their third choice.

After the points are tallied, the DSP then will vote to rank the top three choices and authorize the community to begin negotiations to award a contract to the top choice.