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Value Engineering Done Right: Avoid a Frankenstein Design

April 12, 2023

Value engineering (VE) can be an effective process to align an owner’s budget with design strategies that provide the best combination of function and value, but if applied incorrectly can also yield a final solution not reflective of the original design intent and project ambitions: a Frankenstein design of mismatched parts.  

In a traditional design-bid-build process, Value Engineering is often initiated after construction documents are issued for bid to reconcile scope and budget. At this point the process is often reductive, and an owner must make difficult decisions on what to defer or remove from a project. Significant VE changes in late stages of design can trigger costly redesign efforts, impact permitting, and delay the project schedule.

An integrated design-build process avoids these issues because budgeting is done in parallel with design, not just at the end of it. Key subcontractors are engaged by the design-builder to provide accurate market pricing, evaluate product availability, and collaborate with the design team on alternate solutions that honor the design intent and offer a reduced cost or schedule benefit.

Early in design an owner can understand the cost of each major scope category and its impact on overall project costs. Based on this data design decisions can be prioritized and evaluated against how each strategy supports key goals for the project. Scope can be added, adjusted, or removed to balance the overall project costs throughout the design process. This gives the owner more control and influence over the design and a better final product. In this way value engineering is additive and yields a project that’s more reflective of the original design intent and ambitions.