HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Sept 28, 2018) – Like a woodsman sharpening an axe before chopping down a tree, a project manager must devote time to the planning phase of a construction project before a single cubic yard of concrete is poured into the foundation.
If a project is the axe, then a project team can use Value Engineering in the planning phase as the sharpening tool.
“Value Engineering uses a multidisciplinary team to analyze a function of a project or a program to see if there’s any way to improve it,” said Tiffany Torres, Value Engineering officer and value program manager. “It’s not necessarily cost-cutting, but just trying to figure out if there’s any way to increase the function and/or limit the resources – just get a better value for your project.”
Torres said one of the best illustrations of the Value Engineering process was a workshop in March to examine the construction of the Army’s proposed Soldier Physical Readiness Centers, or SPRCs (pronounced like “sparks”).
The SPRCs are slated to be a piece of the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness initiative, which the Army Center for Initial Military Training is spearheading.
The H2F initiative has a suite of other proposed measures within it, including the planned six-event Army Combat Fitness Test and a revised physical training regimen. The five pillars of the initiative are governance, personnel, facilities and equipment, programs, and leader education.
Developing a solution for the facilities and equipment pillar is where the Corps of Engineers enters the picture, and it’s the reason members of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command traveled to Huntsville Center for the Value Engineering workshop.
“We’re looking at more than a fitness facility and more than a gym; it’s a place where all of the personnel and staff who work on Holistic Health and Fitness can come together to provide training and care for Soldiers,” said Dr. Whitfield B. East, a research physiologist from the Army’s Center of Initial Military Training.
The SPRCs would be separate from Army’s MWR fitness facilities, East said, which are usually shared with families and civilian employees and help fulfill MWR’s broader mission. SPRCs, on the other hand, would be dedicated for Soldiers’ fitness and physical recovery needs and would be located in the footprints of brigades or battalions.
“It’s going to be a measured, iterative process to bring these facilities up to full operational capability,” said East, who added that the plan is to first offer them to maneuver brigade combat teams and then branch out from there to the entire force – including Reserve and National Guard units.
The workshop gave the visiting team a chance to examine their own project plans through Value Engineering’s own lenses of performance, safety and cost in a systematic way.
Torres said the visiting team came to Huntsville Center for the workshop at the perfect time: before the design stage but after they already established a clear vision of the intent of the facility and its functions.
An issue both sides discussed was foot traffic flow.
“The whole time we were thinking they were going to move 250 people through a double front door, and an hour later they were going to move them out,” said Vernon Petty, project manager for costs with the Center of Standardization at Huntsville Center. “Then they started talking about coming in from all four sides and using each quadrant separately – which is a great idea, but we didn’t know that.
“So, we were on one train of thought, and they were on another, and as soon as they went that route, we put awnings on and concrete slabs on,” Petty said. “We’ve made changes based on what we now understand the real use is, and I think they’ve made changes based on the reality of construction.”
The VE team also provided the visiting team with a list of options for outdoor amenities such as basketball courts and running tracks – something they had not given their full attention to before the workshop.
Petty said shaving costs off this project wasn’t the goal of the VE study since there wasn’t a firm dollar amount at the time of the March workshop.
“I think when all is said and done, though, by sheer accident we’re probably going to get it at a cheaper cost – and a much more functional building,” he said.
Torres said she hopes more stakeholders come to view Value Engineering as the advantage it is, rather than simply another requirement.
“A lot of times people feel that VE is a barrier or an obstacle: ‘You’re making me do this. You’re making me meet this requirement. You’re just trying to hold up me awarding my project.’ But really,” Torres said, “if you plan it at the right time, this can be such a benefit to your project.”
“It’s the only meeting that brings you together only to make sure you’re doing it the best way you can,” Petty said. “Every other meeting you’re going in to review a product. You get in those other meetings and you can’t do this because it’s too late. This is really the only time you can go in with a customer and say, ‘Did we think of everything?’”
Do you want to get the most out of the Value Engineering process? Read the accompanying story on how to do it here: www.hnc.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Stories/Article/1648490.