03 December 2018

Picture this

You’re a designer in construction, and you work for months designing a facility; spending time not only making sure that every element is considered but how they all work together. You can only do this using the knowledge and information you have for that stage of the project, but you’re confident that you and the other designers have a good all-round solution.

Then, someone comes along and tells you to change parts of it because they can get it cheaper. Ok, so they may be able to get it at a lower price, but changing parts of the design affects other parts and, before you know it, it’s created a snowball effect of different impacts.

Think of the design as a well-oiled machine. If you start swapping out parts, it may not work properly or achieve the same output as required

It would be fine if you had the time to go back and reconsider the whole design, but you’ve only got two weeks until it’s on site. You feel like you’ve just gone back 20 steps, and all of that thought process and design methodology is quickly being unravelled. This is in addition to all the extra time spent redesigning when you should be looking at other things.

When you view the change holistically, its wider impact actually means its reducing value, not to mention increasing the risk of something going wrong either on site or, worse still, during use. Inevitably, these type of changes create delays to programme and increases costs.

This is modern day value engineering.

Originally, the intention of value engineering was to increase value by reducing cost while maintaining function. However, over the years, the process has become more about buying cheap, cutting corners and reducing quality. That, together with the increased complexity of construction facilities, means that this approach no longer achieves what it sets out to do. If you think about it, with contracts like Design and Build we’re designing things multiple times. Where’s the common sense in that?

By allowing the facility to drift away from its original purpose and need, value engineering actually perpetuates a performance gap. To reduce that gap in the facilities we hand over, we need to think more about outcomes and purposes.

We need to rethink construction projects so that we can make this additional process redundant.

Exploring new methods of procurement like Insurance Backed Alliancing allows the right people with the right knowledge and skills to be on board from the start. This means the facility can be confidently designed once to meet the outcomes of the project. Surely, this is a much better approach that really does provide better value for the client.

Changing procurement and contracts should be one of the top priorities for the industry. We desperately need a framework in place that works with all the great ideas, new ways of working and initiatives for change rather than against them. Without it, we will never realise the full benefits from them and we will never escape the shackles of inefficiency and unproductive.

If you would like to understand more about why we need to change procurement and the basics of Insurance Backed Alliancing please see my short presentation The Never Ending Story of Construction.