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Value Engineering: An Essential Building Approach for Price, Quality and Function

Updated: Sep 28, 2022


There is one phase during a building project when having a general contractor (GC) onboard early can make a huge difference. It may seem like the best time to hire a GC would be when the project has gone out to bid. After all, a contractor's work begins when it's time to break ground, right?


Well, not always. If a value engineering plan is needed, the GC's input during the design phase can play an important role.


A developer's design team typically initiates a value engineering plan in the preconstruction phase. It should be a collaborative process between the planning team (architecture firm) and general contractor, if one has been hired, and other key players. It makes sense to start this process early because the architect and general contractor and other key players are integral to a commercial project's success. Collaboration is critical from the very start—there are too many interlocking pieces to think otherwise. There is also a greatly likelihood of a project staying on-schedule and meeting high standards when a value-engineering plan is created early on.


What is value engineering? Perhaps the simplest way to say it is value engineering is about maintaining quality at the lowest price. It incorporates the right mix of quality, cost controls and long-term value. But should you use a material that cost less now, but in the long run won't hold up? Probably not. Cost-cutting is not always the answer with value engineering.


The skills of a general contractor complement those of an architect and can add tremendous value well before ground is broken. A GC can often identify issues in construction drawings and offer more practical and lower-cost solutions. Sometimes an architect will create a flawless design, but a lingering question remains: is it realistic to build? Maybe there’s a more practical and less expensive way to design and/or build it? A GC's input in the predesign phase can go a long way toward creating a more successful project.


No one likes surprises that can potentially delay a construction project. A value engineering approach based on collaboration will address budget, schedule, and the building’s lifecycle. The specific suggestions in an value engineering plan help keep a project moving forward.


As an owner or developer, a value engineering plan is your roadmap for keeping your project on-budget, ensuring quality, and taking steps that align with the life cycle of the building. The building’s life cycle is important when considering what materials or processes to use. A value engineering plan must anticipate how things may change or become obsolete and suggest adjustments in the construction process accordingly.


Architects and general contractors often see projects in different ways due to their education, experience and sometimes different priorities. A value engineering approach can act as a bridge for resolving differences and mitigating problems before they even arise.




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