From Practice to Mindset: Weaving Value Methodology into the Fabric of Benesch

By implementing Value Methodology processes and principles into our work, we’ve helped countless clients identify innovative solutions for their biggest engineering challenges while shortening construction schedules, strengthening stakeholder acceptance and saving anywhere from a few thousand to a few million dollars on projects of all sizes.

At the time of our founding in 1946, Value Analysis (as it was called at the time) was still a new concept and had only been used to analyze projects that had already been built.

Three decades later, a new generation of Benesch engineers would take an interest in the study of Value Engineering and, over time, we would come to differentiate ourselves as a firm fully invested in value-focused solutions.



“It was our president at the time, Harold Sandberg, that had been interested in sending someone to take the required training for Value Engineering,” recalls former Benesch president Michael Goodkind. “Kasi was selected, and he took to it like a duck to water.”

Muthiah Kasi, an internationally recognized VE expert and Benesch’s former COO, describes Value Engineering as a communication tool and a critical thinking process at its core.

It’s a logical, strategical, organized way to approach anything, from small to more complex projects – you understand, analyze, strategize, document and communicate, that’s what the VE sequence is.

Muthiah Kasi, PE, SE, CVS | Former Benesch COO & VM Expert

While the sequence itself is straight forward, Kasi, Michael and Mr. Sandberg saw Value Engineering as a critical opportunity to explore problems from every angle. Former Benesch COO & VM Expert

“You’re looking at a project and you’re going from Point A to B—you know there are different paths to get there, but each path presents a different way to solve the same problem. For me, VE was problem solving,” Michael said.

aerial view of the I-94 and M-39 interchange in Michigan

An Industry First in 1984

Benesch conducted the first value planning study of a transportation project for constructability and maintenance of traffic. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of the I-94/M-39 interchange comprised 17 bridges in one interchange, posing several constructability challenges.

At the end of the week-long value planning study, Benesch was able to recommend a solution that drastically reduced the overall construction time and saved MDOT $2 million. The firm’s relationship with MDOT only continued to strengthen after that initial study—eventually Benesch would help establish MDOT’s own VE program.

Historic photo of the O'Hare CTA station in Chicago, showing trains pulling into the platforms underground

Cost-Saving Structural Design Solutions

Benesch’s success in VE continued in the 1980s with projects like the Chicago Transit Authority’s light rail line station at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. The commuter line had to be extended down the median of the Kennedy Expressway to a terminal at the airport, and to do this, the station had to be constructed beneath an existing five-story parking garage and a tunnel system had to be created to connect passengers directly from the station to the various concourses.

Benesch’s VE study identified cost and time saving opportunities while simplifying the required excavation activities under the existing garage and providing for increased ceiling heights in the new station. When completed, the project was awarded the Presidential Design Excellence Award by Ronald Reagan.

By 1989 Benesch’s leadership team believed that an investment in Value Engineering would be what set the firm apart—if they could find a way to infuse the practice into something that was uniquely Benesch. And so, Benesch’s Total Quality Engineering approach, TQE™, was borne to guide the quality of the company’s engineering services.

In 1991, the company took a major step–Benesch’s board of directors went through VE Module I and II trainings to show their commitment to the program and how valuable a more formal approach to planning can be, not only to engineering, but to other facets of the company as well, including finance and operations.

Division managers John Carrato and Jack Kweder, later CEO and COO of Benesch from 2009-2020, saw the value in training their engineers in VE early on and required their project managers to go through the training–something no other company was requiring at the time.

By the 2000s, VE was being applied more frequently to the firm’s most challenging projects.

image of the Murray Baker Bridge after the truss had been shortened

Solving Unprecedented Problems

In Peoria, Illinois, a value planning study provided an invaluable solution to an unprecedented problem: an existing truss bridge stood in the way of reconfiguring a sub-standard interchange. The obvious solution was to replace the bridge at a cost of approximately $50 million. The innovative solution, which cost the Illinois DOT just $3 million, was to shorten the existing truss.

Benesch worked alongside the contractor to determine the length of truss to be removed and how to do it. A custom-designed load transfer device was developed specifically for this project, allowing the contractor to maintain balance within the suspended spans of the bridge and safely cut the truss. It was, at the time, an engineering first, and would come to be a signature success for the company.

No matter the size of the project or the engineer who worked on it, a value-focused approach to problem solving became common practice across the company.

VE has been a transformational part of our history. It allowed us to build relationships at a higher level with our clients; it forced us to look at all the opportunities right at the beginning of a job to find the best solution.”

John Carrato, PE, SE | Former CEO

“Participating in VE studies, applying that to our projects, and then training all of our people to think about each project a certain way has been absolutely invaluable,” John says. “It’s truly become part of the fabric of our approach to providing quality work and better solutions to our clients.”

Not Just a Practice–It’s a Mindset

Value Engineering—now known more broadly as Value Methodology—is a core component of Benesch. Over the last three decades, we’ve applied those principles to projects large and small, and even helped clients implement Value Methodology programs of their own.

Today, the firm’s Value Methodology program is run by Chuck Bartlett, who is focused on cultivating the next generation of creative problem solvers at Benesch.

“At Benesch we like to say that Value Methodology is more than just a practice—it’s a mindset,” says Chuck. “And we really mean it.”

Chuck’s perception of VE is that it’s not just a useful tool for clients to save money—it also liberates engineers from their traditionally linear paths to problem-solving. During in-house training sessions, he senses a genuine excitement for diving into old case study projects to explore the ways other engineers had identified unconventional solutions, and how they might do something differently.

There’s something really gratifying as an engineer when you embrace Value Methodology. Going through the training is such a great learning opportunity—we tell our engineers to have courage, to not hold back, to throw their ideas out there and see what sticks. We tell them: don’t be afraid to cut the truss.

Chuck Bartlett, PE, CVS | Director of Value Methodology


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