by Gregory Knoop
How do we know we’re on track with our work? Why does our project deserve an award? Is there evidence to support our design decisions?
I’ve been working in the healthcare and federal government realms for more than four decades and have sought answers to the questions posed above through peer review methods targeted to evaluation of function and through testing how designs are meeting that function. On the front end of a project, we have value engineering (VE) services. Also of vital importance is that we build a body of knowledge on the back end of projects through post occupancy evaluation services (POE).
Bookend 1: Value Engineering
A VE team often goes beyond evaluating the work of a designer to assess the owner’s priorities, industry trends, and the behavioral patterns of building occupants. The proper value process is not just about cutting costs; it’s about increasing the function and quality related to the dollars spent. So, the common method is to have a third party team of relevant experts perform a study in a sequestered process to free the VE team of biases by the owners, designers and the history of the project to date.
What are the goals of value studies? A common misunderstanding is that value engineering is only about cutting costs. Rather, the goal is to provide specific consulting expertise that will put a project on a trajectory to be a value asset to the owner/user. SAVE summarizes that as: Value = Function/Expenditure. In addition, the summary below lists additional goals important in creating a value oriented design:
- Decreasing costs
- Increasing profits
- Improving quality
- Saving time
- Using resources more effectively
- Solving problems
A standard VE study takes place over a few weeks. A study can have many variations and can range in magnitude and scope, but usually involves information gathering, function analysis, creativity, evaluation, development, and implementation.
Bookend 2: Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE)
The POE process looks at a building that is built and occupied to discover the successes and challenges for both corrective action and to establish best practices information for future projects. The general findings of a POE study focus on evaluating the following issues in newly occupied facilities:
- Building integrity
- Customer satisfaction
- Compliance with codes, guidelines, legislation, and regulation
The POE process is a similar to VE in that it’s a third-party review that usually occurs over a several weeks and involves information gathering, review function, site visit and surveys, performance analysis, report submittal, and, where applicable, database building. In most cases, we’re looking to confirm a project’s success in achieving our Value = Function/Expenditure formula.
The growing potential here is that real results from a POE analysis of a project or a portfolio of projects can be used to inspire more informed value studies using recent data.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs, The Department of State OBO, and the General Services Administration are all examples of government are examples of agencies that have been using POE extensively and have been engaged in value engineering as well.
I’ve, we’ve worked on more than a hundred value studies and dozens of post occupancy evaluations with National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) and many top value engineering teams. Groups like NIBS have built databases recording the finding for the post occupancy evaluations that offer a wealth of information that can be used on future projects.
With the POE database in place, the VE teams have access to real information regarding successes of constructed projects and can pursue value alternatives to improve facilities. This then creates positive change for clients with a growing portfolio of buildings.
There is a future for post occupancy evaluation case studies in providing invaluable state-of-the-industry findings for designers. In parallel, value engineering can be an important peer review process that could lend a transformative guiding hand to projects in development. Both can create and support an evidence-based approach to facilitate value-oriented, functionally superior projects in our industry.