Optimising MEP systems adds value
Value engineering stands to play a critical role
Value engineering stands to play a critical role in getting developers to relook at shelved projects by offering significant cost savings and energy reduction.
VE Solutions founder Arkady Siterman and director of development Eugene Siterman attended Cityscape 2009. The New York based company was established in the UAE in 2008.
The company aims to correct the general misunderstanding around the concept of ‘value engineering’. “We feel the definition has been misunderstood. The first thing one thinks of is a cost-cutting exercise, but this is exactly what it is not.
Our definition – which applies not only to MEP but any form of value engineering – is the art of applying engineering principles to achieve utmost value with the least possible resources,” explains Eugene.
Arkady comments that the total project savings are significant: “What we have seen on all projects is that a 10% to 15% cost saving and a 20 % to 25% energy reduction can be effected in terms of value engineering.”
The biggest scope lies in oversized systems, which present problems in terms of consolidation of equipment and inefficient layout of engineering communications.
Such systems have often not been designed in accordance with the prevailing climatic and market conditions.
“When a system is oversized, you cannot control the humidity level effectively,” explains Arkady. This impacts MEP and architectural and structural aspects as well.
“Oversized systems require more space for mechanical equipment, and more space in the ceiling for ductwork and pi-ping. It impacts on everything.”
Eugene acknowledges that, “in a perfect world, there would be no need for value engineers. Having us as part of the team keeps them on their toes. It is a positive impact.
We are not here to criticise and say you did it wrong. We are not trying to supplant the professional team. We complete the circle, integrating the established design process with cost management.
It is not just about simply estimating the design aspect, but managing this to ensure that the entire project is cost-effective as a result. This is essentially the target of the entire team.”
Eugene says it is crucial to integrate value engineering consultants right from the beginning of the process, so it becomes more ‘harmonious’.
“It is a mindset change. Designers spend a lot of time on a design, and then we tell them to do something different. It is human nature to reject this. However, it is still easy to change when it is pencil and paper. When the job is done and you have to redesign, that is when people start to resist the process.
“The impact of value engineering, if brought to bear at the end, is still significant, but not as maximised if it had been introduced upfront.
Nonetheless, with most of our jobs we are brought in towards the end. We hope this will change as value engineering becomes more acceptable, and when developers start to appreciate the value it adds.
The reality is that at the end of the day the designer simply cannot do everything,” says Eugene.
Arkady says there are two main issues associated with value engineering: design functionality and design constructability. “Basically we co-ordinate both.
We ana-lyse the design and introduce systems that are easily installed and operated, so it improves the final quality. The simpler a system is, the easier it is to install and operate. We cannot control the installation quality itself, but reducing the installation complexity goes a long way to mitigate this.”
The company also recommends suppliers and manufacturers with a reputation for reliability and quality. “This is a big plus for those people who have to maintain the equipment after the construction has been completed,” says Arkady.
Another corollary of value engineering is that it allows developers to be creative and continue to tackle iconic projects, even with the constraints posed by the current market.
“We are of the opinion that the glass tower, and iconic buildings in general, will always be there, as these bring character to a region and a city.
The point is not to avoid glass totally so as to reduce energy consumption, but to respond to the engineering challenges posed, by working with the architects and developers to create materials and high-efficiency systems to overcome the potential negative impacts.
That is how a lot of technology evolves, through the human desire to go beyond and to achieve something more,” concludes Arkady.