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How to Use Value Engineering in Your Next Construction Project

Because the tristate is heavily populated and was so dramatically affected by the pandemic, contractors are facing some of the worst material shortages in decades. Many contractors in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey are turning toward a concept called value engineering to solve problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Q4 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index reports that more than 40% of builders said that the pandemic had severely impacted their access to necessary materials. Because of interruptions to the supply chain and the rapid, extreme changes to the industry, contractors must now be more creative and innovative than ever.

What is Value Engineering?

To understand value engineering, it is important to understand value. Value is often defined as the ratio of functionality to cost. Value engineering is the process of adjusting that “value” by improving function or reducing cost. When it comes to construction and contracting, that most commonly means substituting materials or processes by using less expensive alternatives while maintaining functionality and quality, or using higher quality materials without increasing cost.

In this era of materials shortages, it can be tempting to sacrifice quality to save money or improve quality with costlier materials. However, from a value engineering perspective, pricey solutions don’t actually add value. Value engineering requires that safety, functionality, or design quality must–at the very least–be maintained. It is very different from cost-cutting, in which quality suffers.

Value engineering can be used to help improve the material value for many aspects of commercial contracting projects, including suspended ceilings or acoustical ceilings, exterior sheathing or exterior panels, steel frames, insulation, soundproofing, lumber, fasteners, adhesives, firestop, fire safety doors, personal protection equipment (PPE), and job site protection equipment.

A Step by Step Guide

Many contractors who want to apply value engineering to their practices and materials may wonder exactly where to start. To help address this question, Metro has put together this step-by-step guide.

  1. Identify the scope of materials or methods to be assessed. If a contractor is trying to apply value engineering to their materials, they have to first identify what materials they want to improve the value of. It can be tempting to simply say “all of them,” but this can present challenges further down the line. Value engineering is a careful and methodical process, so it is critical to apply it to one product at a time.
  2. Analyze the functions of the design. Functionality has several different components that all need to be addressed. Function may refer to durability, moisture resistance, fire resistance, acoustics, strength, conductivity, or aesthetics. List all the functions as part of the analysis.
  3. Explore alternative solutions. This is the research phase. During this part of the value engineering process, it is important to enlist the help of a knowledgeable building supplies company as you investigate potential alternatives and look at a wide range of possibilities. For example, a roofing contractor using a value engineering approach might consider alternatives to asphalt shingles such as clay tiles, steel or aluminum alloy shingles, or any number of wood shake options. The most crucial part of this step is to find the widest possible range of suitable alternative solutions.
  4. Evaluate costs and timing of alternative solutions. Once the alternative solutions have been identified, the next step in the process is looking at their costs and how quickly they can be put into place. Many material changes can lead to system changes which may actually reduce labor costs and time for the installation. Delivery time is also a factor. Identifying how quickly materials can be delivered is a critical component of this part of the analysis.
  5. Get buy-in from key players. This is the phase where engineers, architects, designers, site managers, and other decision-makers in the process buy-in and commit to the alternative. Buy-in can be tricky, but as long as the functionality and price of the alternative solution are as good or better than what is being replaced, most people can be convinced.

Getting Started on a Value Engineering Approach

Ideally, it is best to consider value engineering at the start of a project, but at any time during the construction process, value engineering can save you money, A good commercial building supplies distributor should be able to help with the process and give valuable insight into what might work best for a project’s unique circumstances. A seasoned supply distributor, like Metro Interiors, will be proactive and offer help when it comes to looking for alternative solutions. For additional support during the value engineering process, or for help on how to get started in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, contact Metro’s skilled support staff.

Want to learn more about value engineering? Check out these articles:

Value Engineering for Fun and Profit: A Profit Guys Blog

How to Increase Profitability on Your Next Suspended Ceiling Job