In Defense of Value Analysis

Editor's note: Numerous readers objected to C.C. Sullivan's December editorial, "Value(-free) Engineering," while others supported the editor's position. Several letters mentioned the International Society of Value EngineersThe editorial is totally inaccurate and does a gross disservice to the construction industry. Please consider the following facts: DONALD E. PARKER, P.E., CVS McClean, Va.

By Staff February 1, 2001

Life-Cycle Cost Missing

The editorial is totally inaccurate and does a gross disservice to the construction industry. Please consider the following facts:

  • Value engineering [VE] is performed by a team. If an engineering subject is being studied, every team I have been on includes licensed engineers.

  • Life-cycle cost [LCC] is the economic measure of value. Engineers rarely consider system value because they don’t know the LCC of the systems they design.

  • The value of something is determined by the user, not the engineer.


McClean, Va.

P.E.s Only, Please

The professional VE process considers all aspects of sustainability, LCC, energy efficiency, technical feasibility, quality maintainability and other parameters… [Value] is often a subjective issue that is not readily identified during the normal design process …

I agree that VE done without professional engineers is a disservice. We find a true VE exercise that uses the original design professional as part of the solution to be a productive and cost-effective exercise for all …

Finally, professional VE has a stained image due to the fact that many nonprofessionals attempt to hang their cost-cutting or cheapening activity under the VE name.


Edwards and Kelcey

Morristown, N.J.

Born in the U.S.A.

I find [the editorial] very disturbing … [the writer] seems to have no familiarity with the discipline …

The value methodology is an (invented in the U.S.A.) problem-solving tool that has been instrumental in making significant savings in industry, manufacturing, government, construction and organizations … It is actually a people-oriented methodology to provide a major tool to structured problem-solving by clearly identifying the “problem” to the multidisciplined [sic] team.


Tucson, Ariz.

Qualifications Count

The editorial hits on a real problem in the VE business these days: That of unqualified individuals conducting cost-cutting in the name of VE and giving VE a bad name.

Larry Miles, the founder of this process referred to it as Value Analysis, which I believe is a much better term. VE has nothing to do with “engineering” or “architecture”; it is a method to maximize value while maintaining equivalent function and reducing cost (life-cycle cost).


Robinson, Stafford & Rude Inc.

Overland Park, Kansas

The Merits of VE

While I applaud your defense of the engineering profession, I take issue with the assumption that VE exercises are without merit…

It has been my experience that, while engineers ought to be concerned with such issues as internal rate of return, LCC, initial capital outlay, operating costs and similar issues which truly govern the feasibility of a project, they seldom are. Often, another of the professions has to explain to the engineer exactly what those concepts are…

In the meantime, when I am next invited to participate in a “value engineering” exercise … I shall be quick to suggest the exercise be called “value analysis” so as to avoid injuring the sensibilities of the engineers … participating.


Merit CM Corp.

On the Other Hand …

Thanks for your Editor’s Viewpoint … One of my first reactions was remembering a project we’d designed that was then value-engineered by others. When we arrived at the verbal presentation of the structural reviewers, I asked, “Is this the part where you suggest we lay up 8-inch concrete-block walls, in lieu of the 18-inch-thick reinforced concrete we designed?” My senior structural engineer was sitting [beside] me and, for the safety of the reviewers, I had to keep him on a very short leash. The reviews of his-as well as the reviews of every other discipline on the project-were predictable. At the end, the VE company proudly announced it had found ways to save the client about a bazillion [sic] dollars.

Then we were given a chance to respond. After reading both the VE report and our response, the client decided to implement not even one of the recommended cost-saving measures.

We don’t pretend that VE always goes this way, but it bothered me that my client paid for “we-could-have-told-you-those-were-bad-ideas” advice. What also irks me: There is little doubt in my mind that the VE firm then added about a bazillion dollars to the total it boasts it has “saved” its clients.


Hyder Consulting Inc., Lancaster, Pa.

NSPE Promotes Licensing

Regarding “NSPE Promotes Licensing” (Home Page, December, 2000) … I am a licensed professional engineer. The reason I declined [to join NSPE] is probably for the same reason that only one in five engineers are registered as P.E.s. The article [implies] that the test format along with work experience is related to the delinquency in licensure among engineers. This is so far off point and along the lines of treating the symptom, and not the ailment. In fact, the reason is more about “what the NSPE and licensure will do for the individual and profession.”

Until the NSPE promotes licensure as seriously as does the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association, this trend will continue. Until a lawyer or doctor gets a license their degree is meaningless; getting your P.E. should have the same effect.

As far as the licensing process goes … the P.E. Board should scrutinize candidates’ work experience more closely. The exam should require that a design be submitted. There are too many P.E.s that have “just passed an exam” with no real design-related experience.

Bottom line: Belonging to the NSPE and being a P.E. should mean something … that you are an expert in your field and posses the knowledge to uphold the public’s health, welfare and safety.


Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners

Newark, N.J.

Darker Skies Ahead?

Regarding “Taking Exterior Illumination to Task,” (Specifier’s Notebook, December 2000): In the past, lighting around buildings hasn’t performed well when it comes to light pollution, trespass, and illumination quality. But, now, poor exterior lighting is also being recognized as an energy-efficiency issue, with the understanding that wasted light is wasted energy as well.

The article also states that “there is an estimated $1 billion in wasted outdoor-lighting electricity every year.” There’s been discussion … that $1 billion might be low. The International Dark-Sky Association should update this number as soon as there is agreement on a better-i.e., higher-number, since this number is starting to appear in articles all over!

Overall, a great short article which will have gone into the hands of many specifying engineers.


BPLW Architects & Engineers Inc.

Albuquerque, N.M.

What do you think? Please forward letters to Barbara Horwitz at , or in care of this magazine.