Dear YouDig?

Dear YouDig?,
I admit it. As an engineer I like to tinker. A few months in to a factory project our team tinkered up a change in the materials and the delivery system that would save the owner a bucket of money for just a little more time. Once we offered to split the savings, the owner claimed it was all a part of our fee … and then departed to the witness protection program. Is that what they call being “ghosted?” Give us a break– great ideas come at their own pace. We get paid to think. Where is the incentive to keep our brains on once the original plans are set? What can we do to create a “win-win” with value engineering?
-Fear of Rip Off

Dear FORO,

How about you tinker on the business deal as much as you tinker on the drawings and specs? Let the owner know up front exactly how much you like to tinker and that you have a case of FORO. Then make sure to include language in the design-build agreement (or the like) to back it up. Make sure it is true tinkering and doesn’t reflect incompetence by being not something that should have been thought of from the beginning. Owners have FORO too!

Owners crave as close to a fixed price and firm schedule as possible. You can bet that owner’s project team fears explaining delays and extra costs in general, let alone those caused by your crazy new ideas.  Owners may not trust engineers as much as engineers would hope.

Be bold and work hard to include value engineering on the front end. Share the savings with the owner. Don’t be greedy and the FORO will go bye-bye. YouDig?

John Swansinger is the author and founder of YouDig?, is a partner in Buckingham, Doolittle & Burrough, LLC‘s real estate and construction practice group and is the Cleveland Office Partner in Charge. He works with contractors, developers and construction owners on construction law issues including construction contracts, commercial agreements, construction litigation, subcontractor issues, insurance liability, breach of contract and more. He can be reached at or 216.615.7356.

YouDig is an online resource that connects the construction community with vital issues affecting the industry and is a component of the business law firm Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLC that is specifically geared toward construction.