Understanding the Value of Value Engineering
For more than four decades, value engineering has been part of the concept development and design phases of Federal-aid transportation projects. Although the value engineering process itself essentially has remained the same during this time, its importance has never been more significant than it is today, according to Jeffrey Zaharewicz, former value engineering program manager in the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Program Administration. With FHWA's focus on enhancing safety, shortening project delivery time, deploying technology and innovation, and protecting the environment, value engineering is more relevant than ever before. At its core, value engineering aims to reduce costs while improving project quality and function.
To help transportation professionals put value engineering into practice, the National Highway Institute (NHI) recently updated its Value Engineering Workshop (FHWA-NHI-134005), a 3-day course in which participants learn how to serve as members of a value engineering team and conduct the related analyses. Host organizations also have the option to request longer versions of the course (4 or 5 days), depending on their needs.
"Within the project development process, value engineering is a way for transportation professionals to review project details in a collaborative setting and really assess plans to ensure cost-effective and high-quality work," Zaharewicz says. "NHI's training will prepare participants to be effective members of future value engineering analysis teams."
Getting the Most Out of Transportation Projects
Value engineering is a systematic process for reviewing and analyzing a transportation project during the concept and design phases. After a project is selected for analysis, the value engineering process involves six phases: (1) investigate and analyze the design of an existing project, (2) analyze project functions and costs, (3) creatively speculate on alternative ways to perform the various functions, (4) evaluate the best and/or least life-cycle cost alternatives, (5) develop acceptable alternatives into fully supported recommendations, and (6) present the recommendations to management.
Value engineering analysis teams are made up of multidisciplinary professionals who are not directly involved in developing the project they are reviewing. State agencies can use in-house staff or gather team members from engineering firms or FHWA division offices. Team members' areas of expertise depend on the scope of the project being analyzed.
According to FHWA's Fiscal Year 2009 Value Engineering Accomplishment Report, more than 420 value engineering analyses were performed in 2009. From these analyses, teams proposed more than 3,290 recommendations. The analyses and approved recommendations resulted in more than $1.7 billion in savings on transportation projects nationwide.
Updating the Training Course
Traditionally, the Value Engineering Workshop was a 5-day course, requiring a major time commitment for participants. To address State agencies' requests for more flexibility, NHI and a group of subject matter experts recently redesigned the course to offer various session lengths.
States now can choose from 3-day, 4-day (FHWA-NHI-134005B), and 5-day (FHWA-NHI-134005C) formats. Participants are exposed to the same content and activities in each version, but the longer versions have more time for in-class exercises. Organizations interested in hosting a session should consult with the instructor or the FHWA technical contact to determine the appropriate course length.
The update includes a Web-based training prerequisite, Introduction to Value Engineering (FHWA-NHI-134005A), which covers basic value engineering concepts before participants attend the in-person workshop. "The Web-based training establishes a baseline understanding of value engineering... prior to attending the instructor-led portion of the class. The change in the course design enabled NHI to focus classroom time on interactive workshop activities, and also offer a shorter version of the course for State highway agencies requesting that option," says Marty Ross, NHI training program manager. The Web-based training, available on the NHI Web site, also may be taken as standalone training.
During the classroom training, participants work in teams to complete exercises that follow the phases of value engineering. Each team works on a real-world project selected by the host agency and executes the activities done during each of the phases. In the final phase, the teams present their recommendations to fellow participants and, when possible, to host agency project leaders and decisionmakers.
For full course descriptions, visit www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.
Alicia Sindlinger is a contributing editor for Public Roads.