Please explain value engineering to me…


When I first meet a potential client and give them my typical spiel on why they need me for their next project, I always stress the importance of value engineering.  But alas, what is value engineering you ask?  It simply means that someone is looking out for your budget during any given phase of a project.  Here are several examples of how Balber Architecture is looking out for your wallet:

Example 1:  If you were to come to me and say, “Dave we want to design a modern home so we can keep it in the family for years to come…” we would talk about the design, but we would also talk about how during the entire process from start to finish, myself along with my trusted consultants would be value engineering your project to make sure you are saving money wherever possible.  pie chartSo if it is a modern home you may be thinking about the type of roof you want. Let’s say we’re talking about shingle vs. metal.  Well, from the start we could tell you that either would work with a modern aesthetic, however the metal may be a little more on the “clean lined” modern side as opposed to the shingle which may lean toward the “cozy modern” side.  Now having said that, a metal roof typically costs at least twice the amount of s shingle roof.  Pointing this out would be an example of value engineering; we are showing you ways to cut cost.

Example 2:  Example 1 was a conspicuous example.  Let’s try another example only this time we’ll look at something a bit more technical:  you have a building (doesn’t matter what the typology is) and during design development it comes to our attention that the second story could either align with the wall below it or it could cantilever out…or for that matter, it could be pushed in.  Now for the sake of this example let’s say the construction type for the building is “block”, meaning CMU (Concrete Masonry Units).  If it were a block building (all block as opposed to level 1 being block and level 2 and upper levels being “frame”, or “stick-built”, or built with wood!) then I would say that the cheapest way would be to align the walls (this is usually the case no matter what the construction type is).  I would further explain that insetting, or pushing in the 2nd level wall would be cost a little more while cantilevering the 2nd level would be the most expensive route to go.  You would then ask why and I would bore you with all the technical details.  The point is I would be looking out for your best interest…in this case your best interest equates to your budget.

Example 3:  Another example (again more on the technical side), would be how my team and I deal with structural issues.  Everyone can relate to a more expensive roof or appliance…or even a finish like flooring, but most people don’t know, understand, or care about structure.  Structural elements can be a fairly significant portion of the budget for a building especially if it is a complicated design.  Structure relates to many things including but not limited to:  wall systems, foundation systems, roof systems, floor systems, etc.  These components deal with concrete and steel as well as wood.  Foundation systems in particular can be extremely expensive as they deal with concrete and steel almost exclusively.  When we are designing foundation systems we are taking great care behind the scenes to make sure we aren’t “over engineering” any structural element.  What I mean by this is that we are always making sure we are up to code, that are calculations are correct, but yet we are not using more structure than is required.  If we made every structural element twice as heavy-duty as it needed to be it would crush even the loftiest of budgets.

Example 4:  FFE (Furniture Fixtures and Equipment) advice.  Let’s say we are working on a building together and you ask me which doorknobs to choose…or which faucets, flooring, cabinetry, cabinet pulls, railing, lighting fixture, etc. to choose.  We would talk about options with respect to the look that we are trying to achieve and then I would recommend choosing the item that makes the best impression for the least amount of money.

This example is particularly interesting to me because it segues from value engineering into the realm of design.  It goes without saying that as an architect I’d much rather talk about the pursuit of beauty than the budgetary restraints of a project!

Most people would look at two buildings and perhaps find one more appealing than the other.  Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder and I use the word “beauty” very sparingly, thus I used the word “appealing”.  Enough of semantics…back to the buildings:  so if someone found one building more appealing than the other, he/she might be inclined to think that it cost more money to design and build when in fact that may not be true.  Good design doesn’t cost more (or doesn’t need to…even better let’s say good design should not cost more!), it just takes the right team like we have at Balber Architecture to execute it that’s all.  So in example 4 when I was talking about the furniture, fixtures and equipment of a project, I meant that the myriad of decisions that goes into every project makes it what it is.  I truly believe God is in the details…and those details don’t need to cost more than other details they just need to be well thought out.  They need to be thought of.  They need to be coordinated so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  That is what architects do…we take a bunch of heterogeneous materials and slap them all together into something that the clients find beautiful.  In architecture school we used to call these disparate materials a “kit of parts”.  The great thing about this equation is that although it doesn’t cost the owner (our client) more money to simply design a building properly, on the back end buyers will pay a premium for good design simply because it emits a sense of higher worth.  For more reading on how architects bring value click here.

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