How CATALYST works

Building CATALYST is SaaS (Software as a Service) platform hosted by Microsoft Azure. It's a sophisticated data processing solution that simplifies and organizes complex projects. The following provides a step-by-step description and representation of the user experience using CATALYST.

You can get started once you are trial subsciption is approved. Select “Projects” in the upper navigation bar and “Add Project”.


 This will bring you to the first input screen to select “Building Category”. You can also select “Project Counts” to see the number of projects in the database - nationally and from your organization. Then select “Building Type” within the category.

The Program Readiness and Calibration Strength indicators relate to space and cost confidence respectively. Indicators below 50% will display a **WARNING** message. In this case CATALYST still provides a well-organized planning and cost management process – but encourages users to find another similar building to record and use as a benchmark for program, scope, and cost. Without a benchmark project to draw from, you’ll want to draw from your other data resources more intently. In other words, the underlying data trust factor isn’t as strong.

The Project Name, Type (New Building, Renovation, etc.), Location, Construction Start and Floor Counts are key cost drivers and requires selection. The Location selection not only factors cost, but also climate. Minneapolis snow load, frost depth, energy loads, etc. add more significant demands than say, Phoenix.

Building CATALYST provides templates for many building types. The template pre-select most likely downstream attributes and owner’s business case or building purpose organized by functional groups (i.e. departments) and functions. New users should select templates if available.

Selecting “Continue” brings you to the main SET console pages. CATALYST uses Set-Based Planning, Design and Cost analysis to inform decision-making. 



You can edit the Set Name from this Project Set console and input more details, starting with the Attributes Panel.

From the Attributes panel, you can revise Construction Type, and input Target Values.

Building CATALYST’s default predictions are based on the “Market Average” Baseline that has been calibrated from a comprehensive analysis across dozens of projects. It is advisable that the first model prediction be based on the Market Average. Benchmarking moves the basis from an unknown but credible to a known-more-credible standard. You can benchmark from any recorded real-world project in your company’s list, or another subscriber’s project that has been shared with you. We can train you to record projects, or you can pay us to do it for you. The combination of Market Average Baseline and Benchmarking provides remarkable knowledge and insight. Just select a “Building Type” and benchmark project from the drop-down list.

Next, we can open by “Edit” of the detailed Attributes listed on the right hand of the above panel. This brings us to a filtered selection of applicable Attribute Groups. A new building would include Attribute Groups relating to site work. Likewise, a renovation project displays a variety of demolition, renovation, and retrofit-special Attribute Groups.


The Special Services and Systems group is expanded above. As you can see there are a few selections that may or may not be included in the hard cost and can be selected as such. There are special selections, like Nurse Call, Special Medical, and Pneumatic Tube that are displayed for a Medical Center but would display for a High School or Hotel.

There's a tendency for select attributes to back into a desired outcome. That should be avoided. It's better to copy to create additional sets and then revise the parameter and/or cost predictions. 

Purpose to Program

Next, let’s get into the crux of the matter. Again, CATALYST provides construction with its first true systems approach. A system is not a system unless it has a purpose or aim about which all other components to the system exist and derive their meaning. Everything springs from the functions that tie into the owner’s business case – which is the purpose for the facility which is the aim of the system. We enter operating rooms, but not post or pre-op because they are derivative spaces.

From the Project Set Console, select the Program panel. If you selected a template on the “Add Project” page then a pre-defined composite of the more likely departments will appear as shown here. 


The owner’s business case is entered on the left-hand panel (Functional Program). The right-hand Supporting spaces and Core and Common metrics and spaces are calculated, but revisable. From the Program panel, select the Functional Program edit to open its page, and then expand the first applicable department.

Functional groups (i.e., Departments) and their functions can easily be revised, added, or deleted. It’s best to rename the departments based on the owner’s program if available. With each functional group, one or more functions are displayed. The expand carrot allows you to select the functional category (like Surgical in this case) and standard function (like Surgery (Ambulatory) in this case.

Note the tool tips throughout the site that define the CATALYST terms and standards. As you can see, the functions entered under Surgical will calculate the departmental area – which includes the derivative spaces (pre/post-op, nurse station, toilets, waiting, administrative, storage, etc. along with internal circulation). 

There is a strong tendency, especially be estimators, to slip in some functions that are derivative spaces. This should be avoided. The area adjustments should be made at the functional or department area.

The CATALYST predictions for area can be revised at the functional level, but in purposes like health care, multiple functions will share derivative spaces. In such cases you can select the edit symbol and override the total departmental area. CATALYST will then apportion the difference across all the functional areas that are not Locked.

Again, as the functional groups and functions are entered, the Supporting Program and Core and Common spaces are calculated. The whole space program can is displayed here on the Functional Program page.

From the Program Panel, you can then edit the Supporting Program Area line to display those spaces. Public/Administrative and Building Services apply to almost all building types. Other supporting spaces are generated by internal functions.

In this case, a caf? was included in the functional program, so CATALYST added Commercial Kitchen and calculated the area here. Likewise, Central Sterile was added because of the surgery functions.

CATALYST applies various attributes like building type, number of floors, and HVAC approach to calculate the core elements and core and common areas, as shown below. This eliminates the need for grossing factors, which are right about twice a day – like a broken clock. 


Per usual, you can select revise to actual information as it becomes available, like the number of elevators and stops. CATALYST recalculates all downstream program, parameter, and cost results, accordingly.

This brings us back to the Project Set console page, where we can see the outcomes expressed at a high-level range. 


Next, we can open the Parameters panel for review and updating. The left-hand panel is most useful for a mixture of renovations, new building and/or fit out. The right-hand panel displays high-level parameters. Select “edit” to see all parameters.


This brings to the Parameters page. The first section is Key Shell Parameters that measure the building massing. The Key Building Quantities further define the project scope. CATALYST predicts and displays the mean and range values in the reports. Here, the mean values are displayed for revision as applicable. Revising a Key Shell Parameter will update all downstream parameters.

Note, again, the tooltips that display the parameter definition or standard. It’s important that users operate with the same definition of terms.

The third section is for Key Site Parameters and Quantities. Parking is a major driver for site development. CATALYST applies attributes like building type and location type. Dense Urban, for example, would zero out the Site Car Spaces.

If parking is included inside the building, then those spaces are deducted from the calculation of the site spaces.


Construction Cost

Finally, we are ready for cost. We include Schedule, but don’t emphasize it because there isn’t a great deal of data. This will be important as we apply CATALYST to improve production.

Again, from the Project Set console page, we open the Cost Panel. The left-hand panel enables you to access Direct Hard Cost predictions for review and revision. The Special Hard Cost panel is user-defined. This applies best to things like off-site construction. Similarly, the Soft Cost can be added manually as shown on the right-hand panel. We plan to add automated modeling of Soft Cost.

Open the Direct Hard Cost for by selecting edit.

CATALYST applies the Uniformat Cost Code Standard. Uniformat enables an end-to-end data system – from early planning to project completion. Uniformat Level 2 (3-digit) is not granular enough in many cases. It’s important, for example, to model and manage at the Partitions and Doors level. Uniformat Level 3 (5-digit) is to granular for some Substructure and Services. We’ve settled on a 4-digit or hybrid Uniformat Level 2.5.

CSI Masterformat is unsuitable for cost modeling and management prior to design and material selection, but is often the standard applied to detailed estimating and procurement. Fortunately, Masterformat can be mapped into a Uniformat data structure, so data conditioning are recording are possible. 

Each Uniformat 2.5 Cost line item has its own page to define and display information and model predictions and to transition from modeling to estimating. Here we select edit to open C203 – Floor Finishes. The top section displays the standard included and excluded scope, as applicable.

The next Cost Assembly section enables you to (a) add line-item adjustments to the CATALYST prediction, (b) manually create your own custom estimate, (c) import a pre-priced Cost Catalog, or (d) a combination of a and c.

The next section enables you to (a) manually increase or decrease the CATALYST prediction. (b) apply the Assembly cost to increase or decrease the CATALYST prediction, (c) manually replace the total CATALYST prediction, or (d) app the Assembly cost to replace the CATALYST prediction.

The Cost Prediction Panel shows how much detail is provided with CATALYST. The Floor Finishes are calculated for every Core and Common, Supporting Program, and Department/Functional Group and Item.

Based on this information you can determine if any of the above adjustments or replacements to predicted costs are needed. If so, open up to add a cost line item as shown here. 

Note all of the information available to build a detailed estimate – including the MasterFormat assignments. The What (Displays and Reports) page we will show how outputs can be sliced and diced and reported in a variety of ways.

Here you can see how the Upgrade Lobby Floor Finishes flows into the Cost. 

Finally, CATALYST does not calibrate or factor the Indirect Cost. It’s up to you to either revise the CATALYST default percentages or go into Details to build an estimate or adjust the prediction.

 Now you can see how CATALYST works for Project Sets.