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In Thoughts

By Melville Thomas Architects

What is value engineering?

On 20, Apr 2016 | In Thoughts | By Melville Thomas Architects

Recently a client asked us to update the facade of his historic storefront in Lexington, Virginia. When asked, he indicated that his goal was to upgrade the image of his storefront and bring it in line with the character of the overall historic streetscape. He thought the best way to do this was to demolish the existing clapboard siding and install a new structural backup wall of sufficient strength to support a masonry facade. Nothing about the request was impossible and perhaps, given the availability of historic hand built brick, it would have met his goal. However the cost of this particular approach made us think about other opportunities to satisfy the owner’s goal at a more reasonable cost. The exercise for us represents the difference between “Value Engineering” and “Cost Cutting” where value engineering meets a goal for less cost and cost cutting requires modifying the goal (i.e., reduce the size, cheapen the materials, cut architectural elements). In our experience cost cutting is not value engineering and in most cases cost cutting is perceived by the owner as a “hard pill to swallow.” Don’t forget that we, as Architects, set the expectations for design and contribute in many ways to our clients’ disappoint when the goals are changed for cost cutting reasons. Isn’t it better to give our clients’ what they want for what they can afford? That is what value engineering is all about and what thoughtful Architects bring to the process.


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Before and after of the Lexington storefront.