Value engineering in construction comprises a set of disciplined procedures designed to seek out optimum value for both initial and long-term aspects of a scheme and has been widely used in the construction industry for many years. The process is not meant to comprise a cost-cutting exercise, rather it should comprise a creative, organised effort by all parts of the design team, to assess the requirements of a project to achieve and deliver the prescribed design at the lowest total cost, whilst considering the life span of the development and the use of innovative and environmental design.
There are a number of essential functions in a project that will generally be appointed at the lowest total costs (such as capital, staffing, energy, maintenance, etc) and so early design group discussions, ensures that design concepts, materials, and methods can be utilised without compromising the functional and value objectives of the client.
The biggest risk to any building or civil engineering, construction project is the unknown and the unknown with regard to construction is always, “what lies in the ground”. It is estimated that up to 50% of project overruns are caused by poor or no ground investigation, with the delays caused, often eclipsing the likely cost of an early and informative investigation.
With Ground Investigation and assessment, once a scheme concept has been realised, an early assessment comprising a Geoenvironmental Desk Study and Exploratory (preliminary) Investigation can provide information very early in the design process on the Conceptual Ground Model, geotechnical aspects such as a feasibility assessment of suitable foundation types, bearing pressures and settlement considerations alongside geoenvironmental considerations such as contamination assessments etc.
Ultimately this means that early in the process, site specific ground information can be used to inform the design and also raise immediate awareness of aspects that may need to be considered both physically and financially as part of detailed design and development. For example, risk posed by mining, low strength soils or karst features which would impact on stability and foundation choices and risks posed by contamination from soils, groundwater or ground gas that may require further assessment and remedial treatment prior to commencement of the development.
Another aspect that benefits from Value Engineering is the collection and disposal of surface water displaced by the development. The current SuDS process (particularly in Wales) around the, application and approval of drainage features is independent of the planning process. Early infiltration testing and assessment can assist in confirming site layouts, drainage options and incorporation of features that will visually benefit schemes and may also offer a cost saving i.e.. the use of swales and ponds to collect surface water rather than costly buried traditional soakaways.
Value engineering is essential to all schemes from the very concept of design and the inclusion of appropriate, professional ground investigation as part of this process, can help ensure that unknown risks do not impact on a development, in regards to both safety and stability as well as cause unanticipated financial complications once a development is underway.