Delivering value engineering

Mechanical and electrical services for the 100 000 m2 headquarters of Barclays Bank in London were designed by hurleypalmerflatt to meet future-proofing requirements by being able to accommodate one person per 7.5 m2, compared with the British Council for Offices guideline of one person per 10 m2. Substantial future plant space and riser capacity is available to support this growth.
Delivering value for building services is not the same as reducing costs. Indeed, a small reduction in cost could reduce value by much more. JIM HARRISON presents a consultant’s perspective.The term ‘value engineering’ and the criteria used to it this in practice is a subjective one. If you ask a client, FM provider, quantity surveyor or engineer for an answer, the level of expectation of each will differ. Quantity surveyors will expect a well engineered scheme that falls within the expectation of the agreed cost plan. The FM provider will seek value in the ease of maintenance and component reliability. The client will ask whether it meets the brief and the budget, while offering cost-in-use commensurate with life expectancy. From an engineering perspective, the emphasis must always be on engineering and the value that comes from the application of the systems — not from a reduction in their quality. The engineer must balance the appropriate technology for the project and its energy use with the expectations of the client and project team. Value in engineering comes from applying design software to assist the engineering team in the development of the appropriate solution for rationalising the scheme. This approach also combines with the expertise of the professional team in delivering the project and fulfilling the client’s expectations. Key criteria Value engineering in building services must positively answer the following questions. • Does plant meet the performance criteria and provide capacity for expansion without being grossly over-sized? • Are the components, often provided by third-party suppliers, of the same standard or better than the product selected? For example, the use of cheap flow switches on chillers can result in the loss of cooling to a business-critical system even if no problem exists. Similarly, inferior fan bearings in cooling towers could expose business-critical cooling systems to a high degree of risk, leading to expensive arrangements for downtime replacement and water treatment • For a small increase in the capital cost, can manufacturers and suppliers offer key components of a higher standard, which are cheaper as a result of cost-in-use, with payback periods of, typically, three to five years?
• Do components or equipment offer greater reliability — particularly in business-critical situations, where failure can be potentially disastrous and costly?
• Apart from factory acceptance testing, does the engineering team undertake factory inspection during assembly to check quality assurance and specification compliance?
• Do manufacturers provide an audit trail of all equipment and components used in the manufacture of plant? Preparation and analysis Engineers provide real benefit when a thorough value-engineering exercise is undertaken and regularly reviewed during the design phase. It must be stressed that this process is not a case of simply changing product selection for the cheapest available, or reducing the specification of the product or omitting features that would normally enable the FM provider to deliver a more effective and efficient system in operation. In setting the agenda for a value engineering audit, there are key activities that must be included. Firstly, an appropriate period during the design production phase should be allocated for a full value-engineering audit. Ideally, this should be during outline scheme design and final design, prior to tender. The value-engineering process should include a rationalisation of systems to avoid duplication. Why install expensive double regulating valves across flushing by-pass loops that may never be used again? Checklists should be produced that provide engineers, particularly young engineers, with guidance on what to look for when undertaking a value-engineering study. For example, spot checks on pipe cable and duct sizes must ascertain whether they are oversized or provide a margin for anticipated future changes. Standardisation needs to be considered, particularly when providing brackets and supports for M&E services. Prefabrication must deliver cheaper and quicker fabrication without compromising quality and requires stringent off-site quality control. Simplified arrangements for on-site commissioning and testing can be achieved through precise design details and clearly specifying arrangements for both regulation and flow control. Valuable time and expense can be saved if plant and control systems can be tested off-site and their performance validated in a controlled environment. Teamwork is also essential as part of the value-engineering process. The contractor should be engaged as early as possible and help develop a construction programme which it is happy to work to. The engineer should draw on the contractor’s expertise and experience in suggesting different options and, particularly, better buying procedures that do not necessarily entail changing equipment for that with reduced quality. Early discussions with the contractor also allows the construction standard to be set early and a commitment for zero defects on conclusion to be embraced. The use of resident engineers or M&E clerk of the works can be invaluable too. From inception to practical completion, the application of value engineering in the different phases of the scheme should result in the delivery of a project which satisfies aspirations of the various parties and does not rely on compromising quality, reliability and energy performance to achieve cost savings. Jim Harrison is a director at hurleypalmerflatt.
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