“…construction appears to be stuck in a time warp. In the United States since 1945, productivity in manufacturing… has grown by as much as 1,500 percent; productivity in construction has barely increased at all.”
So says the McKinsey Global Institute in their study: Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity. McKinsey's is a more recent study in a long quest to solve construction's performance and productivity stagnation. A variety of advancements - like BIM, IPD, Lean and prefabrication – try to help. But because they are added on top of – rather than replacing – a fragmented and archaic structure, their impact is only a shadow of their potential. As a result – prior to Covid-related impacts - construction escalation grew two to three times faster than the rest of the economy. Furthermore - notwithstanding BIM, Lean et al - buildings take far too long to design and delivery. Covid-related supply chain and labor shortages are only making things worse.
Construction's long standing siloed approach must be replaced with a systems approach.
Considering McKinsey’s 1945 reference, it's important realize that construction is broken beyond repair even before the first shovel is turned. We know that fragmentation is the problem, but its hard to understand its severity until the alternative is understood. These ten linear preconstruction silos are the same today as they were in 1945. Any hope for real construction improvement starts with planning, then programing, and so on.
Spreadsheets, BIM, and a variety of other tools have helped since 1945. But since these only benefit their particular silos, they are actually a detriment, rather than a benefit, to the whole system. That is proven by the continued excessive cost and time it takes to produce buildings.
Construction's solution has the same root as manufacturing's - the development of a system. Construction must replace its siloed approach with a “Systems Approach”. Three integrated technologies make the Systems Approach possible: Building Catalyst, dRofus Data Management and Autodesk Revit, as shown here.
Building CATALYST provides a cloud-based solution that enables all data, information and supporting technologies to work within a system. A true system is a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the “aim of the system” – or in the case of buildings – “the owner’s business case”. CATALYST provides construction with it’s first Knowledge System – a self-contained planning and management approach to predict, analyze and track a facility’s program, scope, schedule and cost outcomes. CATALYST also provides the ontological framework and standards that enable dRofus and Revit to effectively operate within a system. CATALYST replaces a variety of Excel spreadsheets, quantity take off, estimating, milestone planning/scheduling and procurement processes.
dRofus Data Management provides a cloud-based database solution that replaces a variety of Excel spreadsheets and other disconnected information sources including MasterSpec. More than that, it enables a system of integrated templates, standards, content and links to manufacturers, products, design models, etc. No more re-inventing the wheel project after project.
Again, today’s Autodesk Revit design system provides only a shadow of its potential. The CATALYST and dRofus platform frees up the trapped information that currently has to be conditionally absorbed throughout the rest of the design, estimating, procurement and construction processes. This conditioning requires so much effort that it's hardly worth it. That's why most downstream users - builders, trades, suppliers still resort to manual means.
The Systems Approach standardizes, integrates and automates the building process – starting with a powerful and dynamic preconstruction platform. The Systems Approach is to construction, what the iPhone is to circa 1945 disparate amalgamation of the rotary dial phone, Rolodex, Rand McNally Atlas, wall calendar, US Postal Service…and so on.
Today, any significant healthcare, educational or commercial project will achieve a positive return on investment and effort by applying this Systems Approach. The second project will exceed a 5 to 1 return. Ultimately, the Systems Approach return will be more than 10 to 1 - and this claim will be empirically provable with a sufficient sampling of data.
The Systems Approach rolls out in three stages:
Stage 1 - Planning as a System
CATALYST provides a self-contained statistical modeling and analysis solution to predict a project’s program, design parameters, schedule and cost. It provides a powerful decision-making resource based on the owner’s business case and other key attributes that impact outcomes. Owners access Building Catalyst through its services arm, Agile Integrated Solutions (AKA Agilis) to help in the planning process and provide cost certainty. Learn more
Stage 2 - Programming and Design as a System
The above-described CATALYST/dRofus/Revit platform standardizes, integrates and automate the entire preconstruction process - enabling projects to be programmed and designed in a fraction of the time that conventional siloed processes take. Implementation of this requires a partnership between Agilis and the designer or design-builder. Learn more
Stage 3 - Supply and Construction as a System
CATALYST enables builders to think and operate like manufacturers – moving from the one-off mindset to a high production system. We “build the plant” and then we “produce the product”. CATALYST-based standards, libraries and content are prototyped at the functional, space and elemental object levels - rather than at the whole-building level. This enables buildings to be a customized assembly of standard “kits-of-parts”. CATALYST then provides impartial analysis, which is essential to objectively measuring and managing improvement. Learn more
Owners frustrated with the cost and time it takes to build will benefit significantly. Likewise, designers and builders frustrated with low return on effort will be energized, motivated and equipped to innovate. The Systems Approach helps solve another dilemma - the struggle to attract and compensate the best talent.
The Systems Approach is for innovative leaders who understand that something more radical is needed – a new management philosophy. W. Edwards Deming is the physicist and statistician that led Japan’s industrial reconstruction and the development of the Toyota Production System and today’s lean process improvement. He developed a management philosophy grounded in systems theory. Deming puts it this way, “A change in philosophy requires unlearning industrial thinking evident in departmentalization (i.e., silos, fragmentation), scarcity of knowledge and information competitiveness”. Leaders must emerge that are willing to tackle the building process as a "whole system" - planning, programming, design, supply and production. This starts by acquiring knowledge that abounds because of Building Catalyst... and is just waiting to be mined.
Again, Deming defines a system as, "a network of interdependent components working togther to accomplish the aim of the system." The aim of a building system is synonomous with the owner's business case. Building systems are organized by groupings of functional components (Exam Rooms, Classrooms, King Guest Rooms, etc.), typically organized by departments. The owner's business case ties directly to the functional components. Process improvement must be applied across the "whole system" to be affective. For real improvement to be achieved it must be measurable against objective (impartial) standards. Since every custom building is a unique composition of functional components - the only way to effectively measure improvement is at the functional component level. Catalyst - because it is based on this Deming system - provides the only scientific means to measure improvement. Since measurable improvement is only possible at the functional component level; and since Catalyst provides the only function-based measurement capability; therefore Catalyst provides the only platform from which to attain measurable improvement. Non-measurable improvement is just an opinion or an experience.
It all starts with Deming’s system of profound knowledge. This article describes how this Deming's system applies to construction: Reinventing Construction.
Why Building Catalyst? Because it enables a Systems Approach needed to achieve measurable improvement.