Back in college, we were taught in Construction classes that
Value Engineering is either...
1) providing a better solution for the same price OR,
2) providing the same solution for a better price.
Anything else is COST CUTTING (and short cutting,probably also ...short-sighted).
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.
I know, I know. Idealistic if you've worked in our industry for a second. It's naive to think projects won't include cost-cutting, that there aren't ulterior motives in play, or at best, that first-cost isn't the main priority all the time.
However...are we accepting cost-cutting, first-cost defeat immediately, or are we giving the true VALUE engineering definition a go? (BLAHs retracted!)
I extend a challenge, especially to my commissioning engineering and construction peers:
Cx providers (CxPs) get invited to the VE table all the time. CMs: Use CxP as experts for their up front systems insight. They can prioritize what's important based on owner's goals, operations experience --- what's a good trade-off, what will cause heartburn, what not to skimp on (i.e., what will cost more, even in the short). CxPs: Don't sit there and think anyone else around that table can see creative ways to save money...and preserve the design intent. You've been in the trenches with the designers, and with the owner team. Speak up. Worst case you're wrong. If you've got a credible thought process, identifying an opportunity won't ruin your credibility. Best case, you can save money (the intent of the VE meeting) and reduce costs in ways that doesn't compromise the systems, performance, or long term operation.
Mission Possible: Value Engineering, Recommending Manufacturers, and Staying Product Neutral.
As commissioning providers, we maintain an unbiased, product-neutral approach to systems. It's to a point though. For us, all products are equal until proven unequal by performance, by operations (esp. in the long term), needs matching, and cost over time. The good thing for neutrality's sake is that products change all the time. So do owner preferences and capabilities. Throw into the mix that different systems, configurations and certain products match different owners..differently. Product neutrality is marked by the fact that products change all the time, and that no matter what, we'll always recommend the best product that is best for the building and team as we've charted out in owner-intent meetings.
So how does this really play out for VE? There's one example from a few years ago where I had a project where the design and construction teams had selected premium dehumidification units based on reliability, premium construction, and well-known reputation. The equipment was good; we, as commissioning providers, couldn't argue. It was pricey however. But, since the units supported the main building function, they weren't even considered on the value engineering list. Sitting at the VE table, though, our experienced Cx teamers had seen less expensive equipment in use for a good stint 5-10 years at the time. Our crew brought up that they had a reputable manufacturer, just not mainly known for their dehumidication units. Based on the Cx team's experience and recommendations we had from other owners and maintenance teams, we were confident to recommend the different brand that didn't have the same reputation, but whose equipment had proven to be just as maintainable and premium by performance. The swap provided the same performance at a 30% discount. True value engineering--possible.
We can't preserve the true definition of value engineering all the time. But, we always should start there. Also -- please tap the experience of the commissioning provider when prioritizing value and places where pricing compromises will impact systems the least ...or add value the most!
Tracey Jumper, CCP