How to Make Innovative Ideas Happen

Value Engineering (VE) is a term that is frequently tossed about in design and construction meetings, but what does it mean what “value” might it offer? A dictionary definition of Value Engineering is:

Value engineering is a systematic method to improve the 'value' of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost.

The goal of VE is not to eliminate the quality of work, but rather to change to materials or processes that will enhance the work and provide value for the owner. VE may affect the design or scope of the project, but does not jeopardize its integrity at the outcome. VE is a creative, organized effort that analyzes the requirements of a project, for the purpose of achieving the essential functions at the lowest total costs over the life of the project.

This analysis requires an experienced and diverse group to study alternate design concepts, materials, and methods without compromising the functional and value objectives of the owner. Ellis uses a team approach to the VE process involving estimators, project managers, principal-in-charge, owner and project architect in order to research cost and present value engineering options. The estimator coordinates and guides the study, collaborating with the VE team and pulling in others with specialized knowledge, including material suppliers and subcontractors, as needed.

Value Engineering Success Story

Ellis estimator Brandon Kohls was on the team for the St. Paul Catholic Church of Mosinee project — an AGC BUILD Wisconsin Award winning facility. The church project analysis revealed many VE options. The accepted VE options included removing some of the wood trim, changing the style of pews, using different light fixtures in some locations, and taking out the drive-through canopy. Overall, the accepted VE options saved more than $750,000 on the project from the bid price without diminishing the facility’s usefulness or aesthetics.


Safety Attitude

Construction work can be a dangerous job whether it’s doing a project around the house or building a 100,000 square-foot building. To make a construction job as safe as possible starts with attitude – a safety attitude that extends to the onsite superintendent, jobsite helpers and site visitors. A safety-first attitude doesn’t just happen; it requires work, diligence, and training.

At Ellis, we spend a lot of time training for and promoting safety because we care about people. But there is a side to safety that affects our clients beyond the well-being of workers and visitors to a jobsite. Developing a good attitude about safety improves our service and impacts the cost of a project. Ellis has maintained a very low accident record since cutting its first stone.

What are effective ways to develop a good safety attitude?

  • Focus: A great attitude means avoiding distractions and maintaining attention on the task at hand.
  • Time: A good attitude means taking the time to do the job right, because saving a few minutes by using a shortcut is not worth the risk of a painful or debilitating injury.
  • Discipline: A good attitude means being disciplined always to act professionally, even if others encourage you to take shortcuts or fool around.
  • Responsibility: A good attitude means taking responsibility for the work environment, even when a certain task “isn’t my job.” For example, cleaning a spill on the floor before someone finds it the hard way.
  • Risk: There is no way to avoid all risk. Simply getting into a car is taking some risk. A good attitude means avoiding taking risks whenever possible.

We can think of excuses for not acting with safety in mind – time is short or “I’ve always done it this way.” But ultimately, it makes a lot more sense to have a safety attitude about the job. This attitude affects the safety of everyone, whether you are at work or home.