By Morten Lund, July 2015
In 2019 when Copenhagen’s upcoming M4 metro line starts servicing the neighbourhood of Nordhavn – a new harbour district with 40,000 inhabitants – the tracks will not run underground. Instead the metro system will be elevated, leaving room for a bicycle section beneath the railway construction.
Designed by Ramboll and architectural firm COBE, this solution provides liveability and is considerably cheaper than an underground one. As such, it perfectly sums up Ramboll’s vision for value-adding engineering, says Ib Enevoldsen, Executive Director of Transport at Ramboll.
- Value engineering encompasses everything from ensuring the mobility and continued development of our society to making sure you choose the right bolt for a structure, so the entire structure won’t have to be replaced in 20 years but rather in 50. Value engineering is big thoughts as well as common sense. At the end of the day, it depends on the context of the solution.
An essential feature in a resource-scarce world
In a world increasingly impacted by resource scarcity, getting the most out of those precious resources is key.
Creating smart, innovative engineering designs is one means to this end. They add extra value without inflating costs – and without compromising performance or quality. For instance, the solution could be as simple as designing slimmer structures, thus reducing the amount of materials used and in turn the fuel consumed by trucks to transport those materials.
With today’s resource agenda, value engineering should never be viewed as an extra service, emphasizes Lars Riemann, Group Director of Buildings at Ramboll:
- Value engineering is not a science or a service. It’s an essential feature of all engineering projects today, he says, adding that one must always consider the costs over an entire lifecycle.
- If you save too much money in the construction phase, it might increase running costs later on. So, we as consulting engineers should always engage in a dialogue about lifecycle costs to ensure maximum value for the client, says Lars Riemann and adds:
- Everything today is about getting more out of less. There is nowhere in society that is not trying to add value without adding more costs. That’s what we’re doing in our engineering designs as well.
According to William Howard, Executive Vice President, CDM Smith, and member of FIDIC's executive committee, value engineering often results in identifying modifications that reduce cost, save time and improve quality - sometimes all three or two of the three.
Another benefit of value engineering is the development of an improved understanding of the project by the entire project team before the expensive construction process begins.
- Traditionally, the most used value engineering efforts are the 2nd opinions on design with regards to material use e.g. ccm of concrete, tons of reinforcement steel or structural steel. But more recently value engineering has more turned into other areas such as choosing a design, and thus an implementation method minimizing the carbon footprint for the project or a method which is more suitable for the use of local suppliers and materials than being shipped from far, says William Howard.
“Some excellent engineering”
According to Ib Enevoldsen, value engineering – in all its guises – is an important part of creating liveable cities. In general, a poorly laid out connecting road or bridge can easily wind up decreasing a community’s mobility if poorly designed renovations have to be done before the life cycle of the structure is projected to end.
- It’s our obligation to use our expertise to provide value engineering and thus help develop society. As consulting engineers, we must constantly think in new solutions and new technologies. No doubt about it. When traffic planners or maintenance personnel inspect structures 30 years from now, I would like to hear them say ‘that is some excellent engineering’.
Lightweight wood reduces foundation costs
One way that Ramboll is approaching value engineering in the construction sector is to use more cross-laminated timber (CLT) – engineered, multi-layered wood that can be used in place of traditional concrete structures in new buildings.
Although CLT costs about the same as concrete, it is three times lighter – a fact that saves a great deal on foundation costs, as the foundation only has to support a third of the weight. To this can be added that CLT is quicker to mount than concrete, thus shaving installation costs.
Image: CLT put to use at William Perkin High School, UK (Credit: Kier Buildings)