“VE” (Value Engineering) has to be one of the more dreaded terms of our industry. It tends to be treated as a weapon - able to instantly vaporize the best of ideas and intentions. KA-PLOW! It is often pointed first at the elements that have the broadest appeal and most interaction, like a high-quality material or custom fabrication. BLAM! Like a mass-firing at large company, the last ones in the door are the first ones to go... ZAP!
At the core of what a designer or planner does is prioritize and arrange. What is most important? What does not belong? We ascribe value. Value Engineering - making calculated decisions about what elements and objects have the most value - is just another design tool. Sometimes this tool has to be used at the end of the design process.
Such was the case with a recently completed retail storefront. We worked closely with our supplier, engineer and contractors to develop the most efficient and cost effective method for attaching large sheets of glass to irregular wood poles. Despite the most careful approach, when it came time for people to put a price on it we were over budget. We could have cut out sections of glass, used framed sheetrock walls, or worse just told the client that there was nothing that could be done.
Instead, we found the one glazing contractor who was willing to enter into a dialogue with us about how we can preserve the design intent and provide a system at a greatly reduced cost. We learned of the complicating factors of the actual installation and what he feared. We proposed an alternate installation method and way of restraining the glass with off-the-shelf steel. The result was a stronger, quicker and richer storefront at 60% the cost.
How do you design something without value engineering it?