Value engineering’s role in Lean design – Lean Tuesday with Todd Hallett

October 10, 2011

Imagine yourself walking into McDonalds and ordering lunch (if you are anything like me this would probably not be a huge stretch). You walk up to the counter and ask the cashier for a Big Mac. During your order you ask her to hold the two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions. She looks at you like you are some kind of freak and hands you a sesame seed bun.

A huge misconception about Lean design is that it is a cleverly packaged disguise for value engineering. The most common thing I hear from builders is that their plans are already Lean. They’ve spent time and effort to value-engineer them, therefore, they are Lean. Value engineering is the bun of Lean design. It is an important component but not the most critical component.

The beef is maximized marketability due to superior aesthetic design, cutting-edge planning, and increased amenities being offered at a cost that makes your competition shudder. Lean design employs a structured collaborative process involving all key members of a building team and a litany of trades and suppliers to ensure that the product (either brand new or revisited) optimizes efficiency and effectiveness to increase sales velocity at the best possible profit margin.

I’m sure there is a lame “where’s the beef” joke lurking here (which I would usually jump on) but today I am going to take the high road and say that when it is time to reevaluate (or develop new) product just remember that man can not live on bread alone.



Todd Hallett, AIA, president of TK Design & Associates has been designing award-winning homes for more than 20 years. He spent 15 of those years working for a $50 million production building company. Todd designed all of its homes but also worked in every other aspect of the company including purchasing, development, land acquisition, product development, and operations, and was president of the company for three years. Equipped with his vast building experience and fueled by his love for architecture he left to form an architecture firm that is second to none in working cohesively with builders. Todd specializes in Lean Design and works, alongside Scott Sedam of TrueNorth Development, in the trenches with builders, suppliers, and trade contractors. Todd welcomes your feedback at or 248.446.1960.


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