Best Practices for Value Engineering AV

Elisabeth Kelson

There comes a time in almost every architectural project when budgets have to be re-evaluated. The process of budget alignment, known as value engineering, tends to hit “optional” items first, a category that frequently includes audiovisual (AV) technology.

So how can an architect or owner make smart decisions about how to reduce the cost of AV design? What are some best practices?


The Elements of Value Engineering

Every project budget is impacted by two elements: quality and scope.

When the budget needs to be cut, either quality or scope will take a hit. The key is understanding how that triangle of factors (quality, scope, budget) pulls on one another and which are the most important aspects of the project.

What’s in Your Budget?

Some of the pain of value engineering can be avoided by engaging an AV  consultant at the planning stages of your project to develop an Opinion of Probable Construction Cost (OPCC). The OPCC clearly defines the project’s budget based on programmatic requirements. This tool ultimately serves as a critical reference point throughout the duration of a project and ensures the budget stays on track.

All too often, project teams lump AV costs into a general “technology” pool. Breaking out the costs specifically for AV allows your AV designer to assess how realistic the budget is, and to design for client needs to match those numbers. It’s also a helpful way for the client to prioritize AV wants versus needs.

If value still needs to be found, here are some general best practices:

  1. Scale back on build-out, not infrastructure. Your AV design consultant has created a blueprint for your organization based on programmatic requirements, but this doesn’t mean that the funds are available for the required systems. By building in the infrastructure — the conduit and back boxes — you have the pieces in place to expand when you have the funds to do so. 
  2. Consider software-based video conferencing versus hardware-based. Software-based video conferencing provides lower quality than hardware-based, but it also requires less outlay for equipment, set-up, and maintenance. In smaller meeting spaces, software-based solutions may make the most sense. 
  3. Reduce the quality of AV systems. AV consultants design systems for user-friendliness and longevity, so we don’t like to recommend downgrading quality. However, for value engineering purposes we can help you find adequate substitutions. For example, you could replace a touch panel system with a TV remote. 
  4. Large flat-panel displays vs projection. AV design usually recommends displays for smaller rooms and projectors for larger rooms, but projection is typically more costly. As flat panels have evolved to be higher and higher resolution, large displays can replace projection, and at a significantly lower cost point.

Final Takeaway

Get consultant input for your AV value engineering. Making decisions about systems without expert evaluation and input can have unforeseen consequences. You want to make sure you’re not getting rid of something that’s going to have further implications down the line. For example, adding back that room you removed may be more expensive down the line than building the room now with infrastructure only.

Read Next: Why Isn’t the Audiovisual System Done Yet?


Elisabeth Kelson
Elisabeth Kelson, Principal, Senior Consultant

While studying engineering and music in college, Elisabeth discovered audiovisual and acoustical consulting and knew it was the career for her. Consulting combines Elisabeth’s technical acumen and strength of communication in a way that appeals to her puzzle-solving nature. She enjoys working on projects that challenge her to innovate, which makes her a perfect fit for TEECOM’s creative clients.