Out this way, "Value Engineering" usually means that the architect has specified lighting fixture/switchgear packages that will shoot the bid price to the Moon. Generally, alternate package prices can be sent to the GC, along with submittals for the architect's approval. (Maybe just standard devices instead of decorator)
GC's love these deals because they've got more wiggle room
Value engineering can be a little broader than gear and lights.
We've cut 12% off of a job by relocating the service to the electrical side of the building. Not much of a stretch for us to make the observation and save a hundred feet of underground. Saved the customer over $10,000.
Some engineers don't know, and some don't care about keeping costs down. Consultants (engineers) spec higher priced stuff and unreasonable standard because it helps justify their fees. They'd rather put down a Holophane light than a Daybrite, same effort for them, runs job costs up. (Don't spam me on the light mfr's, it's just an example).
Being the professional, sometimes we can look at a project and see area's where money can be saved. We "build" and "install" this on a day-by-day basis. We know what itemms cost more or less and what items don't.
I agree we should be compensated for our time and effort in helping save money. You don't have to give back all the money saved. You are entitled to a portion for doing the extra work in "re-designing" the work or changing brands on some of the products.
I VE almost 80% of all my jobs, its standard practice to offer VE on all my quotes.
Few if any engineers have any field experience, more often than not use a canned spec their office produced 10 year ago, did not even visit the job site prior to producing a set of drawings, and may not know your local building criteria.
Service relocation, alternate fixture packages, MC in lieu of EMT, AL feeders, are all popular VE options.
The way you get paid for your engineering is only offer about 75% back.
As an engineer, I generally design with some excess capacity for future loads. I also go with the higher end on commodity products like conduit fittings.
I only get grumpy when the VE items do stuff like eliminate provisions for future loads, reduce receptacle counts to the point that plugstrips end up all over the place, Service sizes get cut to "Code minimum" and when price gets all the attention and quality gets none.
Please note that the seriously ridiculous light fixtures usually end up on my jobs because the (stereotypical) Architect generally selects them by appearance and sole sources their selection.
I had 1 job where the fixture package was $3 million; the ones that the Contractor was directed not to touch in any way during the VE exercise was $2.6 million.
When I hear the phrase 'Value Engineering" come up late in the game I have flashbacks to a project where the VE involved downsizing the Switchboard (within the Code) and ending up too small to support the building addition that was tagged "future" on the drawings.
I've also had bad experiences with Contractors who figured VE in their original price and want an extra to provide what is clearly in the job.
VE is a wonderful thing, it's saved millions on my jobs over the years, but it would be nice if the playing field was level between the good guys and the crumbs.
When it's done wrong it leaves folks with a bad taste in their mouth.
BTW, every job that I do the lighting gets substituted for a heck of a lot less than the original package. I love it when the greedier lighting reps get their comeuppance.