True Value Engineering



Taking a truly value engineered approach can help deliver long-term benefits, not just short-term cost reduction, when specifying building technologies such as lighting controls and energy metering and monitoring. Ian Smith, Marketing and Support Services Manager from Hager explains more.

Value engineering in its widest sense concerns problem solving and identifying and eliminating unwanted costs, while improving functionality and quality. In essence, it aims to increase the value of product solutions and satisfy performance requirements at the lowest possible cost.

But, while a focus on cost can dominate when it comes to applying a value engineering approach, it is also important to view it from a wider perspective, so delivered solutions not only improve efficiency and processes but, also deliver better results and, ultimately, help future-proof specifications.

In product areas such as lighting controls and energy metering, there is a degree of mis-understanding and a lack of awareness about the long-term benefits to be achieved. Such market place confusion contributes to a number of specifications missing out on the advantageous impact of whole lifecycle costs, performance criteria and protection against obsolescence.

While many in the supply chain prefer to stick to ‘tried and tested’ solutions and continue to respecify options they are familiar with, there are many instances where better education and knowledge around the concept of value engineering would be welcome. The continual promotion of a full lifecycle perspective; one that also takes into account details such as warranties and the cost of total installation for lighting controls for example, enables the calculation of a long-tem, accurate return on investment. 

Resisting the urge to merely complete the project as quickly and as cheaply as possible should be advocated and, instead, highly appropriate, long-term, benefit-driven systems can be designed and installed. This will contrast the norm of a rush towards a short-term, cost-driven system that has its origins in ‘spec-busting’.

Looking at two important areas: lighting control systems and energy monitoring, what are some of the key considerations for value engineering to achieve better, longer-lasting results?

Lighting controls

Ensuring flexibility - when specifying a lighting control system, the ability of that system to control a wide range of luminaires can prove essential if the luminaires are changed at the last minute for cost saving, end customer preference or supply chain issues.

Product availability - when installing dedicated systems expected to perform effectively and efficiently for the life of the installation, consideration has to be given to the availability of spare parts and, with more complex installations, the availability of ongoing technical support. 

Unfortunately, it is commonplace for companies to quote on replacing relatively new lighting systems which are only three to five years old because, the building owner can no longer justify to their clients a building where the lighting control does not meet their needs, and there is no support available to allow them to update or modify the system.

Think about functionality - a control system needs to be able to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing luminaire market. An example of note is dimmable fluorescents. Some manufacturers state in their instructions that the lamps need to be run at full output for the first set number of hours of their life. Failure to do this will invalidate the warranty for the lamp life. When a customer then complains about lamp life performance, they are often told it is not the manufacturer’s fault as the customer did not follow the instructions provided. 

As a result, manufacturers have built a functionality into current lighting controls so, following a lamp change, the facility manager or installer can set a built-in timer to ensure the first hours of the lamp’s use is spent at full brightness.

Energy metering and monitoring

Energy managers have long appreciated the value of metered data. With recent advances in energy metering and information systems resulting in increased funct ionality at lower costs, obtaining data in a cost-effective manner is now a standard practice. 

Whether trying to comply with legislated and mandated metering requirements, or looking to apply accepted building management best practices, such as utility bill verification or benchmarking, today’s metering technologies can provide the information needed to meet energy goals, improve building operations, and save money.

Metering of energy utilities has undergone an increase in interest, application, and technology advancement in both the private and public sectors. One significant driver of this heightened interest is the ongoing modernisation of the nation’s electric infrastructure with the move towards the smart grid and smart meters. Another significant driver, specific to the public sector, includes the legislative mandates for metering of public buildings.

Increasing meter functionality, the declining costs of meters, and a growing recognition of the value of metered data, are contributing to the expanded use of energy metering. For example, the smart grid provides electrical energy from suppliers to consumers accompanied by two-way digital communication. It is this communication ability that gives the grid its intelligence. While there are many potential applications for the smart grid, the near-term relevance is in the form of economic pricing of the commodity through ‘real-time pricing’ programs and the potential for demand limiting (also known as demand response) activities.

The application of meters to individual buildings and energy-intensive equipment provides facility managers and operators with real-time information on how much energy has been or is being used. This type of information can be used to assist in optimising building and equipment operations, in utility procurements, and building energy budget planning and tracking. 

It is important to keep in mind that meters are not an energy efficiency/energy conservation technology per se; instead, meters and their supporting systems are resources that provide building owners and operators with data that can be used to reduce energy use and costs, improve overall building operations, as well as equipment operations.

Metering options will change in response to new material, electronic, and sensor development, as well as new and additional requirements for real-time data information. Future expansion of a metering system should be considered, as well as the introduction of new metering and sensor technologies, based on the best available information.

This is where a value engineered approach can help select and specify the most appropriate long-term metering solution; one that actively supports the changing nature of a building’s energy use over time, without the need to reinvest once more in a whole new solution.

It is clear that a truly value engineered approach can deliver tangible, long-term benefits but, for this to happen, an holistic view of specifications needs to be taken with all parties moving away from a focus on cost.