Value Engineering at which project phase it is the most productive



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    Diane Colucci

    I'm confused on this too. I thought the best time to do VE was right before it went out to CD..

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    Michael Ermann

    Kirill and Diane. . .

    Take a moment to look at this graphic, click <<here>>. The earlier you change a decision, the more impact it has on the project. Take energy use as an example. Asking questions like. . .

    How many square feet does our lab building really need to be to accommodate 50 physicists? In what climate shall we build it?

    These considerations have far more impact than sexier, later-in-design, decisions like. . .

    Which type of photovoltaics should we install on the roof? Shall we apply spray-foam insulation or extruded polystyrene?

    Similarly with value engineering, which seeks to make the tough tradeoffs in order to get the project under-budget, we use our design priorities to leverage cost savings far more when sizing, diagramming, and siting a building than we can after a basic plan has been put to paper. We can’t prioritize everything, so which is more important, generosity in daylighting or generosity in circulation? Generosity in plan or generosity in section? Building size or building durability? Convenient parking or beautiful landscaping? A fast-track construction schedule or an inexpensive construction budget?

    Later, when value engineers get busy swapping for less-expensive air handlers and less-expensive roofing membranes. . . from the point-of-view of the budget, those savings are “rounding errors” in comparison to those available in pre-design and early-design VE.

    To read more about this, click <<here>>.

    *Of course, in practice, value engineering commonly appears late in design. . . it’s just that earlier is better.

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    Christopher Hopstock

    Thanks for the explanation Michael! We agree with your take on this.  I think that this is one of the topics where experience somewhat contradicts the 'by the book' answer.  In practice, VE is often taken on late in the design process (and often, during the construction process), when costs are no longer in line with initial budgets.  However, it would be better to perform these exercises as early in the project as possible, as bigger ticket items can be tackled at this time (such as - how big does my building really need to be?).  

    Chris Hopstock RA
    Black Spectacles
    ARE Community

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    Kirill Ryadchenko

    Michael Ermann thank you for sharing WBDG material. 
    I totally agree that the early decisions make the most impact on the project.  McLeamy curve comes to mind with the cost of design change and ability to impact the project through all project phases 
    However, in WBDG article written by Scott W. Cullen (Value Engineering Consultant) he substitutes Value Engineering with Design itself.
    If Value Engineering is introduced before the Design Intent is defined there is too high of a risk that Value Engineer will design the project instead of architect.
    AHPP (Pg. 1138) defines Value analysis (aka Value engineering) as organized effort directed at analyzing systems,... for the purpose of achieving essential functions at the lowest life cycle cost consistent with required performance and quality.
    I believe that we need to define essential functions, performance and quality of project components in Optimal Design before we can do any Design Optimization.
    So If "earlier is better" does that means that Value Engineering should be introduced during Programming phase?

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    Rebekka O'Melia

    The answer on the ARE, assuming it's a multiple choice question, is whichever option is the earliest project phase.  So if SD is one of the options, then that's the correct choice.  IRL I have seen things being 'value engineered', also known as 'cheapened' as the construction is happening.    Programming is pre-design, so you cannot 'value engineer' that.  Programming is determining what the clients needs are.  You CAN come up with innovative ideas that create value for your client, but in the programming phase this would still be part of 'defining the problem', since no design has happened yet.

    Value analysis usually involves reducing sf or using cheaper materials somehow to save money.  Sometimes during construction the client is running out of money and/or time and needs to do something.  The contingency (which should be about 10% of the construction costs) may be dwindling early in the project, and some cost-savings are needed.  Architects can then help the client pick the least painful way to save $$$. 

    Hope this helps!

    Rebekka O'Melia, Registered Architect, NCARB, B. Arch, M. Ed, Step UP, Step UP ARE 5.0 Courses

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