Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Value? Engineering?

'Value engineering' is a misleading term used to describe the process of taking a project that has been painstakingly designed and specified - and because someone (or many someones) involved with the project can't comprehend the concept of 'budgets' - attempting to swap out low-cost 'equivalents' for various materials and equipment.

Sometimes this is due to money that the client thought they had not coming through - and so they are simply going to have to make do with less fancy light fixtures, wall treatments, etc. - although a lot of time it is because you handed someone a half-assed set of software, and had them waste inordinate amounts of time modeling it - only to find out that (way too late) that the thing they've been spending so much time nitpicking every detail of can't actually be built based on the budget set out at the beginning of a project.

I can't count the number of times that I have had a Reviteer come to me - over and over - wasting time working out every detail of some feature on a building, only to find out later that the feature wasn't even actually intended to be part of the design. 

Fortunately for my part, all I have to do is slap together some schematics, tweak them as they make endless changes, and then toss it off to the side (or save it into my detail library - I rarely throw anything away). 

On their part they have modeled it, remodeled it, fought Revit at every turn, figured out workarounds, and then... had to toss it.  Feasibly hours and hours of work - all because nobody was actually communicating, because they all had their collective heads up their asses playing with Revit.

This is most commonly a problem with less experienced architect interns or designers/drafters - and the result is immediately noticeable in the massive files that they generate - despite important information (like all of the walls or ceilings) missing or entered incorrectly.

A more talented and experienced architect with Revit will develop a different type of model - stripped back, fast, and most important of all - accurate. 

They know what is important to get everybody working and coordinating - and only worrying about pretty details, finishes, and lighting effects to make the model look like a rendering AFTER the important information has been put in place (if at all).

I have a theory that it's because the inexperienced ones are more concerned about LOOKING like they are doing something rather than actually doing it.  These will be the ones that have tracked down Revit families of chairs, desks, computers, phones, etc. to put in their model, but two days before the project is due, you come to find out that they don't have a single wall in the right place, the wrong kind of ceilings in most of the spaces (if any at all), and that they have made some fundamental errors at the beginning of the project that are now making it necessary to figure out workarounds for every single change they make.

Even if I'm not in Revit, this fucks me over, because they have to be to a fairly certain degree of completion before I (and other engineering disciplines - regardless of software) can be finished.  If I was chasing them around in Revit, they would get punched twice instead of only once.

Then I rush, get done, only to find out that all of the fixtures that I have carefully selected (in order to properly light areas - and know that they are of a certain quality - and have decent warranties) are going to be replaced with sub-standard fixtures that will not properly light areas (although - this won't stop them from coming back and complaining to me about the poor results).

Basically - if the design was the focus, and worrying about modeling everything to perfection was not - then the times we have to crank back the project in order to meet a budget would be reduced.  We often like to comment that they want to swap out lights, hvac, etc - but architects never want to give up their pretty windows, or other features that they have spent days getting 'just right'.


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