Lighting Projects and Value Engineering

Office design

Most projects start as concepts with beautifully crafted 3D rendering showing stunning architecture and interior design concepts. They receive the input of a capable professional lighting designer from the very beginning or at a later stage once renderings are finalised depending on the involvement of the lighting consultancy company.

The lighting designer gives input on all design stages, presenting the lighting concept portrayed in the renderings to the client and design team, following up with the proper specifications in schedules and lighting layouts, taking responsibility for the lighting design during all design stages.

And in the beginning all is well.

Creativity, expertise and technology come together with the knowledge of the consultant to create the best project possible following the design brief and client’s requirements.

After the design comes the Quantity Surveyor consultant. The QS should be considered an ally. But for them to actually be an ally they need to be fully briefed with all the specifications of the project in hand before they can truly assess the real costs, following the quality parameters first proposed during fixture selection and presented to the client, with fixture quantities comprising all necessary accessories.

This information, however, is usually often available only at the stage when the QS has already made their initial assessments. Also, unfortunately sometimes the QS bases their cost estimate budget in generic specifications or very low fixtures’ costs taken from projects which may not necessarily relate to the project in hand.

Value engineering exercises can be crippling for the design, often proving to be one of our greatest challenges.

However it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most clients today are already considering value engineering exercises from the contractual agreement, but they often don’t consider the relationship it has with quality. Today value engineering exercises tend to be focused on saving costs which ends up making the project cheap and with a quality standard that is in extreme contrast to what had been originally envisioned. So how do clients expect a quality finished project if they allow cheap products?

What is not understood during the proposal of alternatives for cost exercises is that the fixture selection already goes through a criteria to address several points including the performance of the fixture, its efficacy/efficiency, lumen output, visual appearance, maintainability and if it’s fit for purpose and suitable for the harsh environment of the UAE.

When the QS or contractor recommends a budget, which is a fraction of the cost of the light fixtures, we have to question what it is based on. What fixtures are they considering for substitution considering they are not lighting experts? More often than not they will make assumptions based on cost and neglect the value aspect of the term value engineering, which should try to retain quality.

If I have two fixtures that perform the same, I am naturally going to compare their specs and performances, testing and comparing their working samples, and then recommend or accept the least expensive fixture. Because we always work for the benefit of the client.

By Regina Santos, Associate Lighting Designer