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Middle East District Sets New Standards in Value Engineering

Published May 7, 2020
99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron maintainers prepare a U-2 Dragon Lady pilot for a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Mar. 15, 2019. Commonly referred to as the most difficult aircraft to fly in the world, the U-2 Dragon Lady has been host to less than fifteen-hundred pilots since the first flight in 1955. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron maintainers prepare a U-2 Dragon Lady pilot for a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Mar. 15, 2019. Commonly referred to as the most difficult aircraft to fly in the world, the U-2 Dragon Lady has been host to less than fifteen-hundred pilots since the first flight in 1955. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

Middle East District Sets New Standards in Value Engineering

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District was recently recognized with a Value Engineering Achievement Award for their value engineering efforts as part of a 1.4 billion dollar program to build new facilities and infrastructure at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

The value engineering effort, augmented by USACE’s Walla Walla and Huntington districts, is believed to be one of the largest and most comprehensive applications of value methodology worldwide.

According to the Society of American Value Engineering, value methodology is a process that analyzes the different parts of a project, product or process to ensure an optimal balance among factors such as cost, time and safety.

“A lot of times, people hear ’value’ and think money,” Mandy Bianchini, TAM’s value engineering program manager. “But that’s a myth we’re trying to dispel. People sometimes think of it as cost cutting but it’s really about trying to get more function for the resources you have. That can mean doing more for the same amount of resources or the same amount using fewer resources. And when we say resources that could mean time, amount of effort or several other factors, not just money.”

Bianchini said that another misconception she wanted to dispel was that because the Middle East District works primarily outside the U.S., they were exempt from USACE value engineering regulations which stipulate the value engineering process should be used on any projects over $2 million.

“One of the things that makes this award so special to me is that this is a project that many people might think we didn't need to perform VE on, because it's not fully funded by the U.S. Government and we won’t be awarding or managing the construction contract.  But this is a value-added service that's part of our project management business process that benefits our mission partners, whether they be U.S. or our allies.  This project is proof that the process works and that it can work for any customer,” she said.

For the Al Dhafra project, TAM contracted with Strategic Value Solutions, Inc. (SVS), a value management company to provide value engineering services that resulted in significant cost savings and qualitative improvements to the project. During the FY19 the period the award covers, USACE and SVS worked with the U.S. and UAE Air Forces to complete value studies on over $330 million worth of construction projects. The studies involved over 40 individual subject matter experts and were broken out to cover individual aspects of the overall project.

Mark Brodesser, a civil engineer assigned to the Northwestern Division and one of the judges who reviewed the awards package, attributed the overall success of the effort to incorporating VE early in the process.

"These studies were conducted immediately following the initial planning charrette for each design package. In doing so, this became a collaborative effort from all parties involved to ensure that Value Engineering concepts were properly integrated throughout the design process, from immediately following the charrette to completion of the designs,” Brodesser explained.

Jerry Vance, a project manager with the Middle East District who also participated in the effort, also said it was important to consider value engineering early on as it made it easier to adapt the process to changing circumstances.

“As we progress through different design packages in this program, it’s become clear that there are various ways to conduct the value engineering effort.  One defined approach doesn't necessarily fit all.  Depending on the size, complexity, and schedule of the project, there are different methods to integrate the value engineering effort.  It's important for the PDT to develop a plan ahead of time that takes into consideration the specifics of each project and the flexibility to deal with constraints that may arise, for example, the current worldwide pandemic.

One successful example of the role value engineering played in the project was on an aircraft hangar build. The original specifications called for a clearance of 8.1 meters, however after a review of the facilities code, and working in conjunction with their mission partners, the team determined they could have the same functionality with only a 3 meter clearance. This not only resulted in cost savings on the construction itself but also on operations and maintenance savings over the life of the building.

Ultimately, 173 ideas were developed and included in the final VE report with detailed explanations of advantages and disadvantages, drawings, and cost implications (both savings and cost increases). Sixty-seven of those ideas were ultimately accepted by TAM’s mission partners and incorporated into the design packages resulting in $6.7 million in operations and maintenance cost savings for U.S. taxpayers, and $9.7 million in savings to the United Arab Emirates.