Value Engineering Your Interior Design Project

As and Interior Designer it is my job to give you great ideas for your buildings' interiors. We do the design presentation and everyone is excited about how the project is going to look. We start construction, we do some renderings and marketing, and then you receive the dreaded call that in construction they ran into a change order from the GC or contractor, and we must “Value Engineer”.

This call then typically means getting rid of all the nice stuff that was presented in the Interior Design package to the client. Right away everyone wants to find cheaper flooring materials, delete the wall-covering accents, decrease the artwork, and find furniture that looks the same but for 50% less. This usually happens in a rush, so construction is not delayed, and everyone reacts fast. I’m here to tell you what you should do and not do when you face this same situation. Reacting fast is not the answer and may get you a building that looks nothing like you signed off to have built. I have been too many site visits where projects have been “Value Engineered” and the interior designer was not involved. Yes- Disaster. Follow the simple steps below.

1. Contact your Interior Designer, Architect, and GC and set up a meeting to discuss the following. Give the Interior Designer a week to prepare to discuss the other items below.

2. The Interior Designer should contact all their sales representatives and see if there is anyway to get finish products that were specified for less. This may mean doing the same carpet with a different backing or yarn system, but you can keep quality and the look. At the same time the GC should be working with all the sub-contractors to see if they can tighten their labor bids. Another option when it comes to finishes is to go simple and less expensive in non-common areas. Keep in mind flooring is the foundation of the design, and usually is the one material that stays in a building the longest, so you want to keep quality flooring in key areas.

3. Have the interior designer go over the quality difference on items such as vinyl plank, vinyl tile, and sheet vinyl. Sometime terminology on these items can be confusing and you need to make sure they are going to last in the environment they are specified. An easy switch to make it vinyl tile that looks like stone –VS- porcelain tile. This can save a lot of money. If tile is required per code in your state then do the plumbing walls only in designated spaces as needed.

4. Paint can be fun and decorative, so it is ok to delete some of the wall-covering accents. I suggest us fun paint accents, and to keep textured wall-covering accents only in a lobby or reception area.

5. Plastic laminate is ok to be used on work surfaces and is available in some fun inexpensive patterns. Use granite and engineered stone only on transaction counters and areas where food equipment may require a harder material. Never let anyone talk you into cultured marble or plastic laminate for food service areas, it will not last a year. There are new cultured marbles on the market that look like granite and natural stone that can be used on vanity tops for half the cost.

6. See if there is millwork in the project that is not necessary in areas that will not be seen by the general public. This can be hidden money when you need $ to keep items in your lobby and reception areas. See if there is a cheaper wood in your area. By using a species that is more abundant in your area you may be able to save money. Look at options of pre-finished doors and millwork that may be less. Also look at the price difference for painted wood –VS- stained wood. Also is there a space that the cabinetry can be replaced with a furniture piece for less, a perfect example of this would be a hospitality station could be a console server –VS- cabinets with a countertop.

7. Artwork is important, so look at changing out the framing with your designer and art consultant, or going with less matting, or different glass. Buy only stock prints –VS- originals or expensive prints. If you still have to decrease the budget, work with your designer to designate an area for resident artwork, or local artists to display work. Recently my daughter’s school did pieces and they took the top 5 in each class and had them framed and installed at a local medical building. The staff said they got more comments on that art than the old art prints they use to display. It also can be beneficial to work with the local historical society to see if they would like to display pieces and work and change it out monthly.

8. Look at less expensive signage that still goes with your design and brand.

9. Lighting is important to any project, and I suggest you keep the decorative fixtures, but ask your lighting consultant to make suggestions for areas like the units, storage, closets, secondary spaces, and areas the public does not see. One thing to keep in mind, do not value engineer the over-bed light in the units, this can be an eyesore to a great design.

10. Furniture can be the most tricky when trying to cut dollars. My advice is make sure the replacement is still ergonomically correct for seniors. Stay with a protective finish such as Crypton with a less expensive pattern. Find ways to keep the best fabric in each space, and re-select the accent pieces or the actual manufacturer of the furniture to get the same vision.

11. Window treatments can also be tricky. Simple sophisticated valances can be a nice replacement for drapery. Sheers in common areas are going to be less than faux wood blinds or solar shades.

Most of all work with your design and construction team as a group, when these items are looked at together, the outcome is sure to be one you are happy with.