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Value Engineering?

Value Engineering

“Value Engineering” – the term is routinely bantered around by contractors as a way of cutting costs.  But does that have anything to do with value?  Does it even have anything to do with engineering?  If the approach involves considering each individual component in isolation as mere comodities, and offering the cheapest possible alternative for every category – the answer is a resounding “NO”!

In their landbreaking book, Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins argue that the wiser approach is to optomize the entire building as a system.  The example they give is to consider spending more money on costlier windows in order to reduce the air conditioning requirements.

“The key is whole-system engineering with meticulous attention to detail.”

The same integrative, collaborative approach can (and should) be applied to the landscape.  Civil engineering and landscape architecture overlap.  Take for example, the matter of stormwater management.  Rather than spending lots of money on pipe and drainage structures (which are underground and don’t add to the aesthetics of the site), why not “daylight” the stormwater, develop vegetated swales, rain gardens, and perpaps even use the resultant design as an object lession in environmental education?  By spending a bit more on grading and planting, you just might end up with a solution that provides faster rates of stormwater infiltration, uses natural systems to filter stormwater, and provides a higher level of beauty.

We need to get out of our individual “silos” and begin to collaborate with allied design professionals – and that needs to happen early in the design process, rather than later.  Don’t make the mistake of relegating the landscape architect to the role of site cosmetician!  You might just miss an opportunity for a better and more cost-effective project.

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2 comments to Value Engineering?

  • Don Stafford

    A noteworthy and appropriate comment about the mis-use of value engineering and a more proper way to think about value. For an even better understanding of value engineering, you may wish to visit the website of the professional value engineering society, SAVE Inernational at http://www.value-eng.org.

    Don H Stafford, PE, CVS-Life
    Vice President-Education
    SAVE International

  • Don,
    Thanks so much for your input. It’s great to have an organization available to provide the true value that is so often overlooked because of mere expediency and trying to simply “win a contract”. I’ll be pointing others your way!

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