Value engineering. Whether you love it or hate it, every lighting specifier worthy of a photometer has had to review a product specification to determine the most cost-effective way to fulfill it without taking away from its intended purpose. In fact, it’s estimated that between 45 and 60 percent of projects undergo some degree of value engineering, as we all know specifications are often written well in advance of a project’s start date. However, like most aspects of project planning, there’s a right way to navigate the value engineering process, and a wrong way. Here are the three biggest value engineering mistakes to steer clear of the next time your budget is slashed.
DON’T forget the initial intent.
We know…there’s a lot of pressure to dramatically reduce your budget. The easiest option is to revert to a cost-first method of thinking, right? Actually, in the long run, it’s best to take a step back and remember the original intent of all the specified products. All too often immediate budget pressures make specifiers forget the reasons for the specification as written, and the designer’s intent can get lost during value engineering when design decisions are made based exclusively on cost.
You go to great lengths to design the spaces to meet the owner’s needs, and the owners invest significant amounts of money in this process, so pausing to review the original project goals is paramount at the beginning of the value engineering process. Additionally, design expertise offers value of its own. For example, a well-lit space can increase an owner’s business revenue, as lighting contributes to well-being, productivity and comfort, and can set the desired mood and tone in a space.
DON’T compromise on quality.
You understand how important building and keeping trust with your stakeholders is. That trust doesn’t become less imperative simply because a project’s budget has been cut. In the long term, compromising on quality never translates to strong partnerships with stakeholders. Unfortunately, swapping products from established manufacturers in favor of low-priced, knockoff imports from non-reputable manufacturers has now become commonplace in the lighting industry. Use of products such as these damages the trust between stakeholders and can ultimately reflect negatively on the specifier. In many cases, these manufacturers will not be in business even one year after their products are installed – which means they can’t provide support or honor warranties. Worst-case scenario: these knockoff imports are low quality, do not meet accepted safety standards, and do not allow for post-installation maintenance.
Seek out high-quality, reliable and competitively priced products available from reputable manufacturers. You may be surprised how often you can find options from the originally specified manufacturer that meet value engineering goals.
DON’T present only one option.
Value engineering comes with inherent trade-offs. But, while you’re limited in terms of budget, you’re not limited in options. A Good-Better-Best approach helps decision-makers focus on features and think about which ones they value most, as well as how much they’re willing to pay for them. Presenting good, better and best options that each meet the project requirements organically leads to a discussion of how adding or removing features will ultimately impact the space.
It’s also important to identify the specific trade-offs associated with each alternative, as compared to the original specification. In many cases, a less expensive, “good” option may work well for certain spaces in a building, while the “best” option is worth the higher price tag in others.
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