One of the major trends that has spread through the industry in recent decades is cost cutting under the guise of 'value management'.

Value management, as described in the Australian Standard for Value Management (AS 4183:2007) is "intended to nurture learning, collaboration and understanding about value factors, current proposals and the context within which an entity is being considered so that stakeholder groups can work collaboratively in developing alternative ways to achieve best value and value for money". It is therefore the ability to document, detail, and construct a project with cost efficiency to achieve the desired outcome.

Value management should not mean the cutting of costs through reduced workmanship, lower quality of materials and design specifications, or utilising non-compliant products, for the purpose of generating a greater profit for the developer, or more often the contractor. Developers and contractors who value manage as a legitimate and appropriate methodology to deliver a project are able to create a product where everyone, including the end user, has a positive outcome.

In recent decades, through Design and Construct (D&C) contracts, and novation of consultants to a contractor, the scope and responsibility of Value Management has been removed from the design professional (Architect), and decisions are made by others with limited knowledge and alternate motivations.

Substituting poor quality fixtures, fittings, and finishes in place of recognised and conforming products leads to on-going defects and problems for the end-user. These issues will not only persist after the builder has moved on, they will often get worse.

Poor quality cladding systems, that have since found to be unsafe and not meet Australian Standards, were a common substitute for specified and recognised products, leading to safety concerns for building inhabitants, such as the Grenfell tragedy in the UK, and the Lacrosse Apartments fire in Melbourne’s Docklands.

Incomplete or compromised designs (particularly structural), lack of involvement of consultants during construction, and poor quality supervision and control, have led to issues of building integrity and unsafe conditions for the end user, as seen recently with the Opal Tower Apartments and Mascot Towers in Sydney.

Value management, in its true form, is something that should occur on all projects as part of the Design Development phase, rather than as a reason for the more common, simplistic, ignorant, and inexperienced method of cost cutting.

The list of opportunities to add value to a project is extensive, and can only be investigated through a structured, and collaborative process that is co-ordinated by knowledgeable professionals. Alternative methods of structure and construction, alternative finishes and products of comparable quality, and understanding of correct procedures, standards and regulations, can all lead to time and cost savings when implemented correctly, without an impact to quality, compliance, and safety. Modularity, glazing designs to improve solar efficiencies, material selections for improved thermal performance, structural design that complements and works with the architectural design intent are all aspects of a building that should be investigated with a view to adding value.

The inherent education, knowledge, and experience of an Architect prepares them as the expert most competent to co-ordinate and perform Value Management, but in an environment where costs are prioritised, and greater control is given to contractors and Project Managers, the Architects role has eroded to limit their involvement in the design and delivery of a project, and therefore impeding their ability to offer valuable, alternative solutions.