August 31, 2016
Get to know George Obaranec, a Senior Certified Value Specialist at Michael Baker International
What is your role at Michael Baker?
George Obaranec, Senior Certified Value Specialist (CVS), Alexandria, VA.
As our firm’s only CVS, I spearhead our Value Engineering (VE) Services within the Cost Management Division (CMD) of the Professional Services practice.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Spreading the word about value engineering and its benefits, not just within Michael Baker but throughout the engineering and infrastructure community. A VE study is a proven process that yields a 200:1 Return on Investment as reported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and averages about eight to 10 percent project savings. What else can we say delivers these types of returns? We have this incredibly useful tool that adds project value, but unfortunately, we are reluctant and hesitant to use it. Informing the users, project managers and our clients that we should use it more often and overcoming the reluctance as well as instilling a feeling that it benefits the project is a challenge.
What has been the most rewarding project you've worked on at Michael Baker?
I recently completed a VE study for the advance bridge replacements of I-94 through downtown Detroit for the Michigan Department of Transportation. This project was the replacement of eight bridges spanning Detroit’s downtown interstate in advance of their major interstate widening and improvements, a 20-plus-year project that is not yet fully funded. For this study, we had an all-star Michael Baker team that included Kirsten Bowen, Jeff Broadwater, Ralph Eberhardt, Jim Katsafanas and Frank Russo. We developed numerous recommendations that were accepted for further study by the owner, and we also proposed some innovative approaches to construct and install tied-arch structures in place, rather than using Self-Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMT). In addition to successfully conducting the study and finalizing the report, it was good to get to know the team members on a more personal level.
What does a day on the job look like for you?
During a VE study, it’s trying to get a team of bright individuals to develop innovative ideas to improve our clients’ projects. During non-study time, it’s responding to opportunities to conduct studies, trying to convince the world we need more VE practices, and supporting our cost-management efforts.
What made you want to pursue this career field?
About 15 years ago, I had an opportunity and started out as a team member/Subject Matter Expert (SME) on a VE study and liked the approach of incorporating creativity and innovation. At first, I was only interested in working on a study as an SME, but the more I became exposed to and familiar with the VE methodology, the more I appreciated and became interested in it. As roadway/transportation/bridge designers, especially for state transportation agencies, our creativity is often constrained by having to use what was previously done and conform to allowable guidelines and standards. While we need to follow rules, the VE process allows and requires us to question everything and use our creativity to find solutions and improvements to our clients’ goals of successful project delivery.
Favorite TV show?
Reruns of The Big Bang Theory. I don’t think I ever watched an episode in its network time slot.
Last book you read?
“An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut who was commander of the International Space Station for five months. He had a lot of lessons about being prepared for anything that might come up in life, both expected and unforeseen and interesting observations about what effects extended durations of zero gravity have on your body.
What is one accomplishment that you're most proud of?
Marrying up in life, way over my head.
As far as the professional side, serving on the SAVE International Board as VP of Conferences and recently successfully organizing our first co-sponsored conference with the Canadian society in Niagara Falls. Work is already underway for next year’s conference, where we will celebrate 70 years of VE in historic Philadelphia.
What is the number one thing on your bucket list?
To always have something on my bucket list. I never want to be able to say I’m done with it. Also, I’m 6 states shy of travelling to all 50.
What’s one thing people might not know about you?
I met my wife of 15 years at a beer festival.