We bet you can’t remember the last project that you worked on that didn’t get value engineered by the contractor. Neither can we. Everyone understands that this is commonplace in the construction industry and that projects have budgets that must be maintained. However, it is the way projects get value engineered that needs to be reevaluated.
It has never made sense to us why an owner will hire a design team, pay good money to spend months to design a project, only to allow general contractors and subcontractors to value engineer the design; however, this has become standard operating procedure for construction projects.
There is a poster that hangs on the studio wall of one of our notable colleagues that reads “Value Engineering Adds Neither”. The lighting on the project is usually one of the first items on the VE list. As a lighting designer, this has always been frustrating. Lighting is so important to the successful outcome of a design. Yet, we allow electrical contractors who were not involved in the design process to change the design (move and/or eliminate necessary light fixtures) and freely make wholesale substitutions with little consideration for performance and application.
There is a solution to this problem: why not let the independent lighting designer lead the VE effort when the budget needs to be trimmed? After all, he or she knows why each fixture was selected. The lighting designer was the one who engaged in meetings when concepts were discussed and knows how spaces are to be used, and also vetted the samples and prepared the mockups.
Lighting should not be treated as a commodity like conduit or wire.
I know what you’re thinking: “The electrical contractor is going to VE the lighting anyway.” In a business where the low price wins the project, VEs offer opportunities for contractors to increase their margins after the project has been awarded. This usually results in broad-brushed substitutions of lesser quality fixtures and/or fixture reductions that result in problems that are not revealed until well into construction, causing delays and cost overruns.
Since we know the VE is commonplace, the impact can be minimized by taking these steps:
On a recent project that required cost reductions, we were able to provide the savings the owner required by revising only 3 fixture types. The independent lighting designer will approach the VE effort from the perspective of maintaining the design integrity. Cost reduction of lighting should be approached on a fixture by fixture basis and not from a package standpoint. When each fixture is evaluated independently, the impact of any substitutions to the overall design can be minimized. When led by the design team, fewer substitutions are necessary.
In our next article, we will discuss our method of collaboration and how it affects you. If you would like to find a better way to light your projects, give us a call at 615.596.3001, or reach out to us at email@example.com
Danny Streit, IALD, IES, LC is Design Principal of DHS Lighting Design in Nashville, TN, and has over 20 years’ experience in architectural lighting design and lighting control systems. He has successfully completed over 1300 designs in his career and has a history of providing innovative, functional, and sustainable lighting solutions for any design application. firstname.lastname@example.org