Navigating Value Engineering: Substituting Without Sacrificing Design

Posted by Guest Contributor on Aug 16, 2018

We cringe when we hear the term “value engineering (VE)” because, typically for interiors, VE has become synonymous with splicing, dicing and eliminating beautiful design details and finishes which make our projects special and unique. VE typically happens after the design has been approved, which leads to heartbreak and frustration not only for the designers, but for the client as well. For months, my team and I have been participating in VE conversations for a greenfield hospital, and through research and pricing exercises with our Construction Manager, we’ve learned which products will help the bottom line in the most significant ways without sacrificing design intent.

Eliminating upper cabinets. We are finally entering a period where most facilities are paperless, so be wary when asked for a lot of upper cabinets. During planning, don’t hesitate to ask what will be stored in them because you and your client may realize those uppers will be sitting empty. Generally, upper cabinets will need to be maintained in medication and clean rooms but are not always needed in administrative areas and patient rooms. Producing a leaner millwork package and eliminating extensive wall blocking to support upper cabinets will significantly decrease the budget. 

Have wall reveals? Consider projection molding instead. Reveals are labor intensive and drywall installers typically assign them a high price tag. Additionally, painting around them is tricky and at the end of the day your expensive brushed aluminum reveals may be covered in paint. Exchanging reveals for projection molding decreases labor costs because the molding is applied to the wall and not tapped and spackled in the wall. Plus, the finished top cap can be snapped on after painting is complete, so they will always look perfect.Projection Molding in wall Reveals

Decorative Glass Film at Array ArchitectsSwitching from decorative glazing to film. Depending on the style and/or pattern of your decorative glass, this may not be an even trade. However, in instances where you have solid colored glazing, a small etched pattern or texture or a gradient fade, you may want to consider specifying clear tempered glass with a field applied film. Manufacturers such as 3M and Solyx have come a long way with their product offerings and are adding more patterns every year. Just remember to specify the exact height you need to cover the full vertical expanse of glass.

Integral BasePreformed integral base. While the product itself may not be less expensive, time and labor will decrease dramatically making this swap worth it. As an added bonus, you get perfect inside and outside corners, and who doesn’t love that?

Drywall Grid System. Suspended drywall grid systems are up to three times faster to install than traditional track and channel framing.  You can curve them, form light coves with them and transition easily to adjacent acoustical ceilings. Grid profiles are much slimmer than traditional framing so that saves plenum space too!Suspended drywall grid system in healthcare facility

Green wall finish in atrium Wall Finish. This VE process has taught me to be more discerning when asking for a level 5 wall finish. It’s true that some specialty finishes require it, and if you have spaces along a curtainwall that are being washed in sunlight, then this level of finish can’t be avoided as natural daylight exposes wall imperfections. But, you don’t need it everywhere. Consider downgrading to a level 4 in less focal areas such as interdepartmental waiting rooms and spaces not exposed to a lot of daylight. You’ll be surprised how much money this will shave off the budget.

The items above are great ways to achieve the same design aesthetic for less time and money and utilizing these features in lieu of their more expensive counterparts will stretch the budget so “wish-list” finish items are more attainable. Specifying products that are easier to install, like preformed integral base, will always result in cleaner and more polished details which your contractor and client will thank you for. Being proactive in developing a list of VE items will help make the entire process less daunting and scary. Happy Value Engineering, visit our Videos link below for insights into some of our recent designs! 

Array Architects' Video Page

Topics: Interior Design, value engineering

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