Back to Square One: A Case Study in Value Engineering

Prepared for the 2013 NC AWWA-WEA Annual Conference by Stephanie H. Kellogg, EI, Engineering Intern, McKim & Creed, Inc.; Timothy Baldwin, PE, McKim & Creed, Inc.; Tim Webb, ONWASA

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Too often, value engineering (VE) is used as a buzzword in the water and wastewater infrastructure market, rather than an actual philosophy or process implemented for the betterment of the project. Unfortunately, this means that value engineering practices and principles are not applied until it becomes apparent that the project is not meeting its goals or is approached in a superficial manner. By the time a problem becomes evident, the project is usually in the late design stages, permitting phase, or worse, after bids are received.

Performing such postponed value engineering is an ineffective and painful process for all involved. Resistance to alternative design suggestions is higher during these stages of the project, and acceptance of those ideas is low. True value engineering must be deliberately initiated early in the project and practiced continuously with open-minded and honest evaluation.

McKim & Creed was recently presented with a unique opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of practicing value engineering in its most ideal way through involvement with the Onslow Water and Sewer Authority’s (ONWASA) Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility (NRWRF). ONWASA’s NRWRF is the largest USDA-funded project in North Carolina to date, with a construction budget of approximately $25 million.

McKim & Creed became involved in this project after construction bids were received on a previous design. The project was significantly over the allowed construction budget. Afforded the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, engineers were able to implement a rigorous value engineering program that resulted in an almost completely re-designed and re-bid project that met the construction budget and accelerated timeframe. This allowed ONWASA to maintain the permits previously acquired with a minimum number of modifications, as well as retain the USDA and ARRA funding.

In this presentation, we will discuss how McKim & Creed and ONWASA used a back-to-square-one approach and implemented value engineering practices throughout the project, from concept to final design. We will discuss our methods of evaluation and how categorizing project elements into essential components, valuable items, and aspirations, in combination with realistic cost estimations, resulted in an increased value to the project. We will also discuss how the entire project, including the value engineering effort, was a team effort that actively engaged both technical and management level personnel in the ONWASA organization, and incorporated a significant effort to maintain positive engagement of external regulatory and financial stakeholders.

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