What is Value Engineering?
Before we get into the gore and horror that we all know value engineering can cause, let’s see how this monster came to be.
During WWII, Lawrence Miles was hired to find the raw materials that General Electric needed for their factories. Unfortunately, the war caused severe material shortages, forcing Miles to find suitable alternatives that functioned in a similar fashion to meet the factory production schedules.
During his search for substitutes, he found that some alternatives were not only cost-effective, but also had higher quality standards than the original materials being used. Miles named his new process “value analysis,” but we know this six-step process today as value engineering.
1. Assemble project information based on the scope of the project. Once you know the products and materials involved, it’s time to discuss function.
2. Analyze the functions of each element and divide them into primary and secondary categories.
3. Develop alternative solutions necessary for providing building functions and services.
4. Assess the potential substitutes for performance, durability, and longevity through discussion with subject matter experts.
5. Cost analysis should include not only today’s costs, but the costs associated over the building’s lifecycle.
6. Develop the alternatives with the highest potential success rate within the project’s timeline and budget.
According to the GSA, which requires value engineering on every federal building project, the process can be defined as “an organized effort directed at analyzing designed building features, systems, equipment, and materials selections for the purpose of achieving essential functions at the lowest life cycle cost consistent with required performance, quality, reliability, and safety.”
That’s nice, but let’s get real.
Is this what your VE experience actually looks like, or is it more Frankensteined?
Why Is Value Engineering So Scary?
If you’ve spent any time in the industry, you’ve probably experienced a value engineering nightmare on at least a project or two. No matter how much time and energy was spent on bringing the client’s vision to life, when a project bid exceeds the proposed budget, it’s typically “value engineering” time.
And just like a low-budget horror movie, everyone splits up and no one on the design or construction team is safe. Design elements are slashed, finish schedules are left in shreds, and infrastructure elements shrink in size as if cowering in fear. It’s no wonder that we all cringe when we hear the term.
Value Engineering Challenges
One of the biggest challenges for most design teams is they simply don’t have access to a platform to present and discuss potential solutions. As a result, other team members can’t fully understand the design and cost impacts involved or easily provide the necessary feedback regarding an alternative solution.
As a result, design teams can only focus on their documents without the feedback or input of other team members. The result is “siloed” decisions that continually need to be revisited and recoordinated, due to a basic lack of shared information.
We all know what happens to that singular guy in the movie who strikes out on his own to become a hero by saving the team. Yup, he’s always the first victim.
Let’s face it, collaborating within spreadsheets is a nightmare for most people. If you think that Freddy guy or the Babadook is scary, between the data security, broken formulas, pivot tables, and merge data fields, you’re never more than one mouse click away from killing your reputation and the chance to execute the project.
Relying only on spreadsheets is like trying to find a ghost with a flashlight. But if you throw in an EMF meter, thermal imager, and a Dark Matter Generator to that toolkit, you might just live to tell the tale, or at least survive to appear in the sequels.
Sharing documents and drawings via email is problematic due to file size. Everyone has their favorite like Dropbox or WeTransfer, but what you need is Newt Scamander’s handy suitcase so there is room for everyone’s favorite application whether it’s pdfs, docx , xlsx or anything else.
As a result, feedback can easily get lost as twenty people across different time zones respond within minutes of each other, creating mile-long email strings for everyone else to read and sift through.
The current system also makes it difficult to maintain an archive of the decisions made on the project. An ideal system would allow you to store and review all the information and revisit why the team decided to move forward on a decision.
Unfortunately, these frightening scenarios are common because so many are focused on only one variable of the value engineering equation: today’s construction costs.
A Value Engineering Solution That Works
Wouldn’t it be great to find a value engineering solution that works for every member of your project team?
The first feature in this solution should allow all your project files, drawings, and documents to be accessed through a single platform. This allows your project team see easily see all your projects and their respective details so decisions are less scary.
And the platform must be robust enough to handle projects ranging from design-build, target value design (TVD), construction manager at risk (CMAR), and even integrated project delivery (IPD). And let’s streamline the communication channels so you can easily see the who, what, when, and why behind each project decision.
Next, the platform should simplify collaboration, so you can effectively present how cost and design ideas will impact the project budget and timeline using real-time data. Move forward with design direction and coordination earlier by using a tool that allows you to see which ideas have been accepted, rejected, or are still pending approval with the click of a button.
Another feature would be the ability to connect your drawings with cost
estimates. This would make it easier to compare the pros and cons of each alternative and its associated costs without fumbling through stacks of digital files.
Well, that’s exactly what we did at Join.