While it’s probably safe to say that most construction managers have either been involved with a project that used lean construction or at least have heard of lean principles, championed by the Lean Construction Institute, the same can’t be said for target-value design (TV-Design) and target-value delivery (TV-Delivery), even though both have been around for several years and fall under the lean umbrella.
What is target-value design?
According to Bevan Mace, national vice president of operations and lean at Balfour Beatty Construction, TVD — both in design and delivery — has become more prominent as project teams increasingly prioritize customer value rather than cost alone and try to avoid the inefficiencies that come with more siloed approaches.
TV-Design advocates also try to dispel the misperception on the part of some in the industry that lean design equals cheap design and attempts to drive home the difference between value and cost, Mace said.
“You start with what’s valuable to the owner and to the mission of the project," he said, “and then cost and schedule become constraints.”
Naomi Whitesel, director of integrated design at McCarthy Building Cos., told Construction Dive that TVD requires the project team to start with an understanding of what the client is trying to achieve — or what problem they are trying to solve — by building the new structure and then doing some benchmarking studies to determine the project’s budget range.
Maybe the goal is to be environmentally friendly, she said, or something more abstract, like “changing lives.” Regardless, those are the values, and the team works from there.
“Rather than design informing cost,” Mace said, "value informs cost," (or budget) and budget informs design, effectively flipping the traditional design process upside down.
The major steps, he said, of TV-Design are:
- Forming cross-functional teams or clusters, each one focused on design for portions of the project.
- Setting value targets.
- Set-based design, an approach that sees all major design options constantly being evaluated and tested against the target values.
TV-Design saves on the usual rounds of value engineering that come with a more traditional design process, which can entail the architect’s initial vision being whittled down to meet the demands of the budget. “[Value engineering] is one of the things that … nobody really likes,” Mace said. “It creates risk for the designers and the builders.”
TV-Design fits within the bigger boundary, he said, of TV-Delivery, which ensures that the target values are kept at the forefront of decision making and delivered on throughout the lifecycle of the project.
“There’s always a constant feedback loop,” Mace said.
So, do architects and other members of the design team view this alternate type of project development as a threat or a constraint on the creative process?
Maybe at first.
Designers, Whitesel said, might think initially that a process like TV-Design will limit creativity. “It’s 100% the opposite,” she said. “When you see it in action, it’s really easy to buy into.”
When the owner’s target values are established, she said, the project team can become innovative in achieving those goals. “When the design teams really engage in it, they get excited about it,” she added.
Also, as TV-Design brings the team closer to the owner’s target values, it becomes less likely that the design will change, Mace said.
Despite the project revolving around the owner's target values, TVD does not require an inordinate amount of owner commitment.
TVD doesn't have to be requested by the owner, Whitesel said, and the lean principles on which it is based can be applied to most any project delivery method. “It’s just the way we operate,” she said.
For many owners, Mace said, TVD eliminates their role as broker by keeping all major players at the table throughout the project. “A process like this really pulls those parties together,” he said.
TVD also tends to shorten the project schedule because there are typically no big design surprises or changes near the end of the project, which, Mace said, can be as important to the owner as the dollars saved.
“There are still going to be issues that occur. The price of gas or the price of material is going to go up. [Using TVD], we can figure out how to adapt.”
National vice president of operations and lean at Balfour Beatty Construction
However, getting the owner to carve out time and to participate at the very beginning of the project is important, Mace said, and it can be somewhat of a struggle to accommodate everyone’s schedules.
Once that team is set in place, though, everyone must understand decisions are tied to the target values and, perhaps, more importantly, that each member is empowered to speak up to point out situations that might be leading the process off track.
“It's about the team and this whole concept of respect for people — looking out for each other to keep the project in alignment with the target values and minimizing everybody's waste,” Whitesel said.
TVD doesn’t keep a project immune from challenges, however, according to Mace, but the flexibility it creates make them easier to handle.
“There are still going to be issues that occur,” he said. “The price of gas or the price of material is going to go up. [Using TVD], we can figure out how to adapt.”