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6 Ways to Protect Your Architectural Design from Value Engineering Nightmares

When considering innovative building solutions, value engineering (VE) is a term that often comes to the forefront, especially at the point where the project begins to go over budget. Though value engineering is commonly defined as cutting costs by substituting in another design element while keeping the same level of quality, the changes that are made are often based more on budget than on the quality of the building supplies.

When design elements are eliminated or have their quality lowered, the design may no longer work effectively or provide the same performance as the original design. How does an architect avoid having the soul ripped out of his design while still building value options into it that will help keep the project on track financially?

Here are six ways architects can avoid these problems by building value engineering into the project’s design from the beginning:

1. Create designs that limit the likelihood of budget overruns.

By incorporating value features into your design, there won’t need to be additional changes made because the support structure isn’t strong enough, there isn’t enough lighting for a new, value engineered design element or similar problems that initially appear to make more sense in terms of budget but actually cost more in the long run.

2. Use Building Information Modeling (BIM) for lower chances of having costly design flaws.

When BIM is used to model a new building, you can get a feel for how the building will perform in mixed use development and under different situations. By having this information in place, you can find where design flaws exist before everything is set in stone with your design and can make changes before they become mistakes and design flaws that can cost you repeat and referral business down the road.

3. Consult with material manufacturers to ensure building products work well together.

When it comes to construction materials, it’s very easy to find materials that have contradicting instructions, requiring you to go through unusual configurations that can be costly or cause problems down the road. Many manufacturers are willing to look at your particular situation to help develop a best-case scenario and provide installation instructions to best meet your client’s needs.

4. Consider the long-term costs and document them in your design.

Are you adding LED light fixtures and ultra-efficient heating and cooling systems that will keep the building operating more efficiently and at a much lower cost down the road? Those features may be left by the wayside as too expensive in a VE overhaul, but the owner may be willing to leave them in place if they understand that they’ll reap the rewards of these design elements down the road.

Include a set of documents that shows the long-term costs or savings of particular design elements to justify why they’re included in the project.

5. Add options into the design that allow for "pick one" VE changes.

Are there a variety of building envelopes you can put into the design that would be adequate to get the job done? What about windows that are less expensive? Make sure you include the different costs for both immediate and long-term for these options so the owner and contractor can make an informed decision based on what each choice will mean in the long run.

6. Include details on life-cycle analysis on why you’ve selected particular elements.

Have you selected design elements that will provide value by having a longer average lifespan than less-expensive options available on the market? Spending a few more dollars now can save a lot of money down the road in costly replacements. Making sure the owner and contractor are aware of these potential problems helps protect your design.

By keeping these details in mind when putting your design together, you’ll be able to avoid the worst value engineering headaches while providing your client and the contractor with the information they need to make smart decisions when budget concerns come to the forefront.

Whether you’re facing a potential VE situation with your current design or need some ideas for building supplies that help you avoid that problem in the future, BuildingSolutions.com is here to help. To get you started, we’ve written a guide “13 Tips for Project Estimates”.

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