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Why Perform Value Engineering Reviews?

Highway agencies have been designing and constructing roads for decades. They have taken us from the old narrow dirt trails, to paved roads, and on to the super freeways of today. Designing and constructing our modern Interstate System is something that everyone in the highway industry can look at with pride.

Highway designers can be proud of the fact that our modern highways are the best in the world. However, if we are to maintain this position, we cannot simply sit back and design highways the "old fashion way." We need to constantly strive to improve our standards, methods, and philosophy of highway design. One way we can do his is to apply the Value Engineering (VE) process to our highway designs.

The goal of a VE study is to achieve design excellence. Its objectives are to improve quality, minimize total ownership costs, reduce construction time, make the project easier to construct, insure safe operations, and assure environmental and ecological goals. The VE team is looking for the optimum blend of scheduling, performance, constructability, maintainability, environmental awareness, safety, and cost consciousness.

The VE process is not meant to criticize today's designs or insinuate that the regular highway design process is not providing acceptable designs. This is not the case. The designs being prepared today are good designs, they can be built, and they will function as intended. Highway designers do not deliberately design poor value into a project; yet, it happens. This section illustrates many of the reasons that poor quality finds its way into our highway designs.

Lack of Information

  • Failure to get sufficient facts before starting.
  • Lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of the full requirements of the original project plan.
  • Decisions based on "educated guesses."

Wrong beliefs

  • Erroneous interpretations or conclusions of the facts.
  • Unfortunate experiences with past applications of materials, etc.
  • Bias against proven technology.

Habitual Thinking

  • Doing things the same way we've always done them.
  • Tendency to re-use what worked the last time.
  • Copying standards of other agencies.
  • Lack of attention to the current state-of-the-art.

Risk of Personal Loss

  • Anything done over and over again minimizes risk through trial and error.
  • Risk associated with trying something that you have not tried before.
  • Decisions based on "nearly related" data, rather than the actual case.

Reluctance to Ask for Advice

  • Designers are often very reluctant to seek advice from others in their field.
  • Failure to admit that they might not know all the answers.

Time pressures

  • Need to provide a project design as quickly as humanly possible, sometimes even quicker.
  • Pressure becomes so great that anything with a reasonable chance of working is designed into the project.
  • Acceptance of the first workable solution in order to complete the design on time.
  • No time to sit and contemplate.
  • No time to sit and think up alternative approaches.

Negative Attitudes

  • Some people are reluctant to consider a change of any type regardless of its merit.
  • Most designers feel they always provide the best, the first time, regardless of how much time they spend developing the design.

Rapidly changing technology

  • Rapid strides taking place in the development of processes, products, and materials.
  • Technology is constantly changing.
  • No one person can be expected to be completely current in any field.

Strict Adherence to "Requirements"

  • Requirements are often unrelated to required performance, materials, safety or procedures.
  • Assumed requirement when not specifically specified.
  • Concentration on the development of a reliable system which exceeds all known and assumed requirements.
  • Each unnecessary requirement which is met in a design costs money, but worse still, increases the chance of failure of the overall system.

Poor Human Relations

  • Poor communications.
  • Misunderstandings.
  • Jealousy.
  • Normal friction between human beings.

The VE review process overcomes these concerns because it uses a team of individuals representing different disciplines who do not have a vested interest in the project. Value Engineering reviews are successful because they use multi-disciplined teams to break down a project into its basic functions and then use creativity to find different ways to perform these functions.

The following steps are used in every VE review:

  • to identify the major elements of a project,
  • to analyze the functions these project elements perform,
  • to use brainstorming to develop several design alternatives to perform those functions,
  • to evaluate the alternatives to insure they do not degrade the project,
  • to assign costs (including life-cycle cost) to each of the most promising alternatives, and
  • to develop the promising alternatives into acceptable recommendations.

Value Engineering teams should provide management with as many recommendations as practicable. The recommendations should then be evaluated by staff offices whose specialty areas are impacted by the proposed recommendation. Management must then decide, based on all available information, whether or not to approve the recommendation.

Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000