Monday, Apr 23rd

Last updateSun, 22 Apr 2018 1pm

You are here: Home The Goods Letter to the Editor: Detailed Design Documents are Needed for Greenacres
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop

Letter to the Editor: Detailed Design Documents are Needed for Greenacres

classroomdesignThis is a letter to Scarsdale10583.com from Robert McFarlane, a Greenacres resident and engineer who attended the Greenacres Neighborhood Association meeting on October 19. The meeting brought together members of the school administration, the school board, the architects and construction managers with the community to review plans to renovate Greenacres Elementary School. Here are some thoughts from Mr. McFarlane who posed a question at the meeting about the term, "Value Engineering."

The question I raised at the meeting of 10/19 stems from decades of experience with what happens when project scopes and budgets don't match. The project breadth and depth laid out by the Architect at the information meeting was impressive, and very clearly presented. I would personally have no problem supporting a Bond Issue based on what was shown and described at that meeting.

However, the Construction Manager ("CM" in the vernacular of the trade) said two things in his presentation that, taken together, raise my concern. First is that they will do new budget estimates "when they have the design drawings". Based on the project schedule presented, those won't actually be available until late 2018 if memory serves correct. Second was the large notation on a CM slide that said "Value Engineering", usually just called "VE".

The term "Value Engineering" originally meant that designers reviewed their work to find ways that, in retrospect, could provide the same result, or sometimes better, with less complexity and at lower cost. Virtually all designs were reviewed in this manner before going out, and often Bidders and Contractors submitted suggestions as well. Unfortunately, in this age of "fast, cheap and low bid", the term now causes angina with most designers. It has essentially become a euphemism for Cost Cutting. "Find ways to cut the cost by X percent, by either reducing materials quality, cutting detailing, eliminating useful details that can be left out, or deferring amenities to a future time."

Perhaps the first round of "VE" can be useful in trimming fat, although most public projects today have been reviewed and trimmed significantly before they even go to bid. Normally, as a result of these reviews, a number of things that are wanted, and should probably be included, end up listed in the Bid as "Add Alternates" in the hope they can be bought if the bids come in low enough. Most often, all or most end up gone. If those turn out to be the things that would make this project truly worthwhile, instead of just "Bare Bones", people will wonder what happened, and many will be quite upset.

I have actually worked on public projects that went through as many as seven rounds of what the designers end up calling "Valueless Engineering" as the project was being built. When that happens, the designers lose pride in their work, and the Clients lose the result they expected.

I truly hope the cost estimates being prepared are based on sufficiently complete and detailed design documents that the resulting Bond Issue will include a realistic figure for this important project. However, no real evidence of that was shown at the meeting, and members of the Building Committee raised questions indicating that the project scope presented in that meeting exceeded what they understood would actually be done. If there really is a significant disconnect, property owners could find themselves voting on a important Bond Issue with the expectation that this critical project will include much more than will actually be possible. In a project of this kind, it's quite plausible that "existing Conditions" will be uncovered during construction that eat up contingencies, requiring additional rounds of "Valueless Engineering" in order to make further cuts even as work is going on. I sincerely hope not, but experience tells me to be cautious.

In short, I think it is very important, prior to asking for a taxpayer vote, that the actual Bid Scope be clearly defined for the public, including delineation of what may be listed as "Add Alternates", and that the CM clearly confirm that the budget estimates have been based on that scope.

Robert E. McFarlane
1247 Post Road
Scarsdale

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop