Planning new facilities, expanding existing ones, or renovating requires specialized guidance and resources.

Value Engineering

What is value engineering?

Value engineering is the systematic process of identifying necessary best value project components and providing alternative solutions without compromising on quality or performance. Value engineering is not the same as cost cutting, which may result in indiscriminately replacing all high-quality materials, important design elements, mechanical systems, or electrical components with lower quality focusing only on reducing the bottom line.

The positive goal of value engineering is to improve the cost effectiveness of your project. When practiced correctly, this can lead to a more economically efficient design that may result in lower construction and operational costs. However, there can be added initial cost if the component value will ultimately be more beneficial in meeting the needs of the end user, minimizing maintenance and operation costs, or saving life cycle costs by spending a little more up-front.

According to Designing Buildings Wiki, the value engineering process remains generally consistent:

Step 1: Identify the material makeup of a project
Step 2: Analyze the functions of those elements. (What do they each do?)
Step 3: Develop alternative solutions for delivering those functions. (What else could do this?)
Step 4: Assess the alternative solutions. (Can this deliver the same function, experience, and qualities the organization demands?)
Step 5: Allocate costs to the alternative solutions. (How much will this cost?)
Step 6: Develop alternatives with the highest likelihood of success. (What will do the best job for the longest time in the specific context of this project?)

In this process, value is defined as function over cost (Value=Function/Cost)

  • Function = the specific work that a design/item must perform
  • Cost = the life-cycle cost of the product
  • Value = the most cost-effective way to reliably accomplish a function that will meet the user’s needs, desires, and expectations

Setting the Stage

In the process of programming, new facility wants and needs are established, as well as the scope of the project to be designed. Initial information is derived from a functional analysis of your existing program, critically identifying those building elements that support mission delivery and those that interfere with it. This may include the amount of space needed for specific components and the relationship between the spaces, durability and quality of the materials used. It can also look at energy efficiency associated with the type of windows, exterior wall, roof construction, mechanical systems, and electrical components currently used. From this knowledge you can determine where to place value in your project.

For materials and systems, make note of those elements in your current facility that require frequent repairs and generate ongoing maintenance costs. Consider whether a different material, mechanical system, electrical component, or method of installation would prevent as frequent an amount of damage and ultimately save your organization money in the long term.

Some activities and building uses have a greater impact on building components than others. The activities and occupants of a business office are significantly different from those of an active teen shelter.


Take for example a teen shelter. Teens’ day-to-day living can be hard on an environment. More durable materials are typically desired to improve safety for the teens and minimize maintenance and replacement costs. The architect working on this project would likely specify a more durable flooring and wall board. For a facility in a cold climate with high energy costs, highly efficient windows, exterior wall and roof systems, and mechanical systems will also be suggested.

The options for flooring may range from highly durable and long-lasting terrazzo flooring to stained concrete. For the cost, terrazzo is more suited to a large public facility, such as an airport. Choosing stained concrete would be an alternative solution that does not compromise function or safety and saves costs.

Walls are commonly damaged in teen centers. High impact resistant wall boards cost more but provide improved safety and aesthetics and save on repair and maintenance costs over time. This alternative solution is more beneficial in meeting the specific needs of this end user.

Highly energy efficient building construction also has higher associated costs. However, in the lifecycle of the building, there are significant savings in operational energy costs – often with a payback in the first 5-10 years.

Working Together

Your knowledge about your program and the relationship between the building occupants and facility function are critical for identifying building component value. Your architect and engineers will be designing a building in response to your programming and operational needs and desires.

Not only are there many creative design possibilities, but there are also different means and methods for constructing each building. Early participation from a builder or construction contractor may provide input on value engineering related to constructability, systems value, and suggestions for innovative construction solutions. These can result in construction cost savings.

Depending on the project delivery method, value engineered peer design drawing reviews can also generate alternative solutions that reduce cost and/or add value through use of different materials or different methods of construction. The value may be related to advancements in technology, sustainability, ease of installation, ease of maintenance, and longevity of use.

You may be content with the design, but it is always a worthwhile exercise to explore the value of each component to ensure your definition of value is addressed relative to your specific location and program needs.

Value Engineering Resources