By Kerry Bowden, Senior Associate
Los Angeles Office

Let’s take a look at the definition of value engineering as defined by Wikipedia:

Value engineering (VE) is a systematic method to improve the “value” of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost.  Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost. It is a primary tenet of value engineering that basic functions be preserved and not be reduced as a consequence of pursuing value improvements.

Hmmm…. to me this doesn’t sound like value engineering in actual practice today. More often than not the VE exercise is a reaction to budgetary constraints and too often the up-front cost dominates with too little consideration placed on the long term operating savings.

As foodservice design consultants, we can begin VE – up-front – by examining function and selecting energy efficient equipment to increase the ROI for our clients through lowering energy consumption.

California leads the country in energy conservation, so it is no surprise that here in California we are always expected to provide the best solutions for energy efficiency in our designs – and we see a trend that this is becoming the norm in projects, not only around the rest of the country, but around the globe as well.

Our standard approach when designing new facilities, or in projects with existing facilities, is to steer towards possible savings in energy/water usage.  Primary areas of focus include ventilation, ware washing, refrigeration systems equipment specification, and even lighting. These big-ticket items can become big energy savers … or wasters if not thoughtfully specified or operated.

A good source of reference is the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) located in the San Francisco Bay Area, a research and educational resource sponsored by the local utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). California energy users fund FSTC; everyone pays a small surtax on energy use on each monthly bill to fund the California Energy Commission which in turn encourages and supports energy savings in many critical areas, including foodservice. This program sets standards, enacts equipment rebate programs, and most importantly, acts to stimulate the green economy and encourage energy efficiency and growth in California.

Together with the Energy Commission, the PG&E FSTC has developed educational resources and useful tools for restaurant designers and consultants. Lists of tested, energy efficient equipment by category are available on the FSTC website: www.fishnick.com. Also available on the website are sample energy calculators to allow straightforward comparison of various equipment items. FSTC hosts specialized seminars on topics such as kitchen ventilation systems, restaurant energy audits, restaurant lighting and more. Individualized consultation is also available, including review of design plans and specifications, which has been a marvelous added benefit to our clients.

Using EPA rated Energy Star appliances for reach-in refrigerators as well as heated holding cabinets is now the law in California.  The current Energy Star levels for commercial reach-in refrigerators and freezers will be the National standard this year. Many states, particularly in the South Eastern US do not currently have any such Energy Star requirements, nor do they have the opportunity to benefit from the equipment rebate programs.

Of course, another area of focus in design is on correct sizing of equipment for the application, which is extremely important in energy use. When unnecessary preheat times, idling energy usage, and increased ventilation requirements are considered, oversized equipment can be a huge energy drain. Thus it is essential for designers and operators to size the productive capacity to match the production demands.

In any foodservice design there are many other very simple low cost opportunities for savings such as waste reducing systems, replacing pre-rinse faucets with low flow units, suggesting LED or CFL lighting, etc. 

While foodservice equipment is only one part of VE, it is a high-ticket area.  By showing our clients how their up-front investment in the right energy efficient equipment, yields faster ROI, it’s clear that the long term savings far outweigh the up-front costs. From front to back of house, whenever we can, we are offering this added value to our clients

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