Uncontrolled value engineering ‘one of biggest risks’ to built environment

London high-rise buildings (Image: Dreamstime/Luke Sanderson)

Uncontrolled value engineering and poor workmanship present the biggest risks to the built environment, an industry consultation on higher-risk residential buildings (HRRBs) conducted by the British Board of Agrément has revealed.

The BBA collected 10,000 viewpoints over 15 weeks as part of the consultation and described the “strength of feeling” shown during the exercise as a “surprise”.

It found that poor workmanship and uncontrolled value engineering were seen as an even bigger risk to the sector than facade fires.

The initiative was launched to gather feedback on the role that building product certification plays in the safe construction and refurbishment of HRRBs. The consultation took in views from product manufacturers and BBA certificate user groups representing architects, specifiers, warranty providers, insurers, construction managers, funders, building control, and regulators.

It follows the BBA’s proposal to create an ‘Agrément Plus’ certification scheme, which would have seen products with an Agrément Plus certificate attested as fit for use in HRRBs, while products with an Agrément certificate would not be. 

But the BBA is now set to go back to the drawing board after consultees said a two-tier certification approach was not an appropriate way forward.

BBA technical director Prof Bill Hewlett said: “The preference was that the format of the Agrément certificates should be developed so that fitness (or lack of it) for use in HRRBs is clearly identified. We feel a modular style of certificate can achieve this.”

He added: “Risks from poor workmanship and unchecked value engineering were on our radar to investigate. But the strength of feeling about them came as a surprise and is an important finding.”

Consultees also told the BBA that they were shouldering their responsibilities but expressed concerns for the domestic RMI sector, pointing out that onsite control is often not practical to independently verify and that design detailing needs close attention. “These questions of workmanship control and uncontrolled value engineering warrant industry leadership attention, and clearly a focus on domestic RMI is called for,” added Prof Hewlett. 

Speaking about the consultation, which opened in February, he added: "The norm is to test ideas across stakeholders with regards to Agrément certification. But a much wider demographic was engaged during this consultation, with a clear mandate to consult with the entire supply chain focusing on the role that building product certification has to play and how it can assist in meeting the higher safety standards required for HRRBs as identified in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report Building a Safer Future.

“We are incredibly thankful to the wider industry for engaging with us and providing valuable, honest feedback on the BBA and how it can become even more efficient in building a safer, more sustainable industry.”

The BBA said it would take five key actions following the consultation:

  • Further systemisation of BBA processes
  • Strengthened testing regimes
  • Digitisation of BBA processes and certificates
  • A spotlight on sustainability and ethical sourcing
  • Greater collaboration with industry leadership and certificate users

The BBA’s next step is to consider forming an industry liaison group of certificate users to move forward key discussion points and formalise ideas. 

For an executive summary or full report of Consultation to the Industry: Construction Product Assessment relating to Higher Risk Buildings visit:

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  1. To state the obvious Value Engineering should mean obtaining the best long term benefit or the client be they corporate or domestic.
    Too often it is engineering the price down to the clients budget.
    We do need to ensure it contains full consideration of what we used to call Cost in use, or Lifetime costing.
    Also it need to ensure that we have enough fully trained people to actually construct the project to a good standards, and are able to recognise actual or potential defects which arise.

  2. As a Clerk of Works, I always question “WHY” so many times it has been value engineered, always downwards.
    If it has been designed by a competent person, then please get another “competent” person look at it not some one who just wants to see a better end figure, you accepted the price in the first place, then make savings by being better!

  3. I believe that Value Engineering has a role to play in construction. However, it should be performed as a full design team exercise, and not as a pure cost cutting exercise. The Client is entitled to see value for money in his project whilst at the same time few individual building professionals have all the answers. By coming together as a design team, the real value (or negative value) of a design solution is exposed, alternatives considered all to the overall improvement of the project against all competing design solutions and components.

  4. Value Engineering that does not sustain or even improve function and performance is by definition NOT value engineering!

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