As a marketing exercise, we have been asking our clients why they value working with us and what they are looking for when considering a new supplier/design consultancy.

Amongst the answers was – how they can enhance our bid  – from a construction company we have worked with over the years.

So, I thought I would take this point and elaborate on a fairly recent project (I can not name it because of an NDA) where we saved our client and a considerable amount of time, money and frustration with an alternative design from stage three design they’d been given by the client’s design team.

We have written about value engineering in our blog and how we have are not afraid to ask difficult questions, have difficult conversations and spend the time upfront in finding the best solution even if it upsets some people temporarily in the process.

In this case, we were able to enhance our client’s D&B bid by reworking the original stage three design, pre-construction, in a value engineering exercise as the contractor had worked with us before and valued our opinion on the client’s design team’s solution.

What we came up with was a complete redesign for retaining walls and the steel frame for the project.

Having reviewed the information we recommend sheet piled retaining walls over in situ reinforced concrete, and suggested other options such as a composite steel deck with Westok beams over the use of precast concrete planks and slimflor beams.

In the original scheme put forward was a reinforced concrete retaining wall with a temporary sheet piled wall installed behind, which meant that both the access road to the existing buildings and the car park would have to be closed while 100’s of cubic meters of soil was removed to allow for the installation of the retaining wall, as well as additional traffic movements to bring materials in.

Our solution was to move the location of the sheet piles forward and use ground anchors to take out the deflections in the sheet piles meant that both the road and the car park could remain open and traffic movement was significantly reduced. This change in solution saved the client excavation and vehicle movements as well as keeping the car park and access road open. It was estimated this change alone saved the client around £250,000.

Because of our team’s experience in these types of schemes, we could see there was a much more efficient design for the steel frame too.

Originally the solution included a steel frame solution that was very heavy and we could see would have some construction-related issues, such as the swinging in the pre-cast planks through the steel frame. Because the building was heavily serviced the original design had a completely clean soffit to allow for flexibility of services that needed to go in. Our solution was to use lighter, deeper sections of cellular beans with elongated holes.

In an example of how we are prepared to put in the work upfront for the client to save problems later on we worked closely with the M&E contractor to understand their needs so that the holes in the cellular beams could be used effectively to run the services through. There was a fair bit of backward and forwards between us and them; changing plans and making adjustments where needed. We needed to enlarge some of the cells to ensure there was space to run services through. The upfront work meant that when the cellular beams got to the site all the potential problems had been resolved and the services, were installed seamlessly saving time and cost. Money is rapidly lost when there are problems on-site so we not only avoided this but saved time on the programme with the different steel frame solution.

The original scheme would have worked from a structural point of view, so it wasn’t incorrect or impossible, our team could immediately see there were more efficient solutions. To help our client explain this to their clients we modelled all the solutions so all stakeholders could clearly see and understand what we were suggesting and what they were going to get from us.

Often underestimated

We are, compared to some consultancies, a small team but our experience and tools mean that we can deliver solutions and projects way beyond the client’s expectations of a team our size.

We are incredibly efficient in the use of our analysis and modelling software, working with them in tandem to save time, test solutions and present comprehensive solutions to clients.

Our experience and the digital tools we use to model and test solutions and our belief that a difficult conversation is worth having to get an issue resolved and get to the best solution possible – even if it temporarily upsets someone. It is this approach that not only enables us to enhance bids but also builds strong long-term relationships with clients that continue to come back to us for original designs or value engineering.  We are interested in looking after our clients, and their clients, to ensure everyone involved in the design and construction of a project is fully equipped and prepared for an efficient and well-planned build.

To speak to myself or any of the team at SWJ Consulting please call 01993 225 085 or you can email

We have other examples of value engineering on our blog