Does Value-Engineering Also Cut Occupant Productivity?

  June 13, 2017

By Greg Zimmerman

When you think about it, it’s pretty silly how when we make value-engineering or cost- cutting decisions, we’re having really limited impact on the actual bottom line of the full cost of a building. “Value-engineering” is aptly named, one industry expert is fond of saying, because all you’re doing is engineering out the value.

Indeed, cutting out a few thousand dollars during construction or a renovation might only be about 0.0001 percent of the total cost of ownership of the building. And the impacts may be much more detrimental. Let’s say, for instance, you decided to go from a slightly more expensive low-VOC finish to a cheaper finish that off-gasses like crazy. Yes, you reduce the bottom line a tad, but what is the total cost impact, and can you put that cost in terms of how it affects the people in that space?

A big topic of discussion the recent High-Performance Buildings and Workplaces show was occupant health and well being in general, but specifically the Harvard School of Health Study (and several other organizations) titled “The Impact of Green Buildings On Cognitive Function.” This multi-phase study is attempting to show that green buildings really do have a demonstrable and measurable effect on worker productivity.

The first phase of the study, released in late 2015, showed that occupants in green buildings had scores on cognitive tests 61 percent higher in green buildings and 101 percent higher in “enhanced” green buildings. The second phase of the study, released in fall 2016, showed real-world results that productivity improved 21 percent in green certified buildings. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of showing definitive evidence of green building’s affect on worker’s performance.

We already know that 90 percent of the cost over the life of a building to an organization is people and salaries — only 10 percent is construction, maintenance, and operations. So the point here should be obvious: Cutting materials, resources, or other sustainable and high-performance strategies to save a few bucks at the start of the project can really be short-sighted

This Quick Read was submitted by Greg Zimmerman, executive editor, Building Operating Management. Read his cover story profiling the University of Arizona’s Chris Kopach and his data initiatives.


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