Completing construction projects on time and within budget can seem like a daunting task. With additional pressures like fluctuating material costs, skilled labor availability and operational costs, clear and creative planning from the start becomes even more crucial. This is where value engineering can offer several benefits.

When value engineering is referenced in our industry, our minds may immediately go to a process that reduces project cost by slashing scope or decreasing the quality of materials used. However, that is not necessarily what the definition should be.

In construction, value engineering empowers project teams to improve value by examining the function of each element and its associated cost. By examining the cost-benefit ratio, integrated design and construction teams can make suggestions for alternate delivery methods, designs or materials that enhance project value.

It’s crucial to note that boosting the value of projects does not mean reducing costs. It means optimizing project components through an analysis of all factors — cost, upkeep, wear and tear, aesthetic value, etc. To provide truly advantageous value engineering, design and construction teams must first understand the project as a holistic effort. Every project is different, as is every business’ definition of value.

Value engineering assesses the functionality of a product, good or service in relation to the cost. With this service, consideration is provided right from the beginning of the project regarding availability of materials, labor and material costs, construction delivery methods, construction site constraints and more. By evaluating these factors upfront and limiting possible difficulties that could arise during the project, owner expenses may be reduced and the schedule can be tightened.

The way value engineering is integrated can vary for each type of project and industry. For the construction of a new hotel, value engineering may lead to money better spent on details at eye level or easily highlighted, as opposed to installing an ornate ceiling that is 50 feet in the air. In the industrial space, longer-term visions might take precedence, such as reconfiguring equipment layout to reduce linear footage of pipe runs. 

Although its utilization differs from project to project, value engineering is as beneficial for modularization and prefabrication as it is for on-site builds. Starting early, focusing on procurement lead times and understanding subcontractor schedules continue to be invaluable factors when used for modular and prefabricated methods, just like for standard construction. For example, in high-rise condo or apartment construction, stacking bathrooms and preassembling items off-site reduces installation time and the chance of layout errors, along with reducing overall costs with efficiency in materials and labor.

In combination with value engineering, the best way to achieve successful results during a project is to have a fully integrated design and construction team that lives and breathes the entire project life cycle. The design, construction and, ultimately, the end user need to be joined together on every decision, from design inception through training and turnover. This allows the team to not only suggest innovations and value propositions during the project, but also to offer solutions for the most efficient yet reliable results for years to come.


Construction of complex facilities can hit unexpected snags that may increase costs and extend schedules. Learn how modular construction — when approached with proper planning and management considerations — can offer predictable results and mitigate safety risks.

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John Maranowicz is a vice president at Burns & McDonnell and oversees design-build projects ranging from major airport expansions to work involving industrial manufacturing, food and consumer products, aerospace, and surface transportation. He is experienced in every facet of construction management, including preconstruction, estimating, design management, value engineering, scheduling and direct supervision of self-perform projects.