Stage 2 - Design

Programming and Design Integration and Automation

Today's programming and design (preconstruction) takes two to three times longer than is necessary on most projects. Through the Systems Approach, with much of the project componentry pre-programmed and pre-designed, and with the power of automation across core technologies - the entire preconstruction process can be significantly compressed.

Stages 2 and 3 of the Systems Approach can be led by the Design-Builder or by Building CATALYST Services. If Design-Builder-led, Agilis' role is mostly behind the scenes, providing, setting up, and maintaining the Catalyst Platform and global content. 

The Systems Approach is made possible through a Catalyst Platform includes technologies, along with the development and maintainance of the global code standards, templates, and content. CATALYST's continual research adds, updates and improves computing processes and content based on information and data analysis from other owners and design/build teams. 

The Catalyst Platform integrates core technologies: Building CATALYST, dRofus Data Management and Autodesk Revit. 3rd party estimating and/or cost management applications can also be part of the Catalyst Platform. Until now these great tools have provided only a shadow of their potential. They've operated within their silos without effective connection to a system to give them context. 

The Systems Approach transitions preconstruction from a one-off, manually-based, process to one that is highly automated – accomplishing key milestones in hours or days what normally takes weeks or months. This matrix compares our current fragmented and siloed conventional approaches to the Systems Approach – moving construction from its old industrial management era to the digital age.

Conventional vs. Systems Approach
Data CategoryCurrent Conventional ApproachSystems Approach
Space Planning and ProgrammingApplies flat, one-off Excel spread sheets with ill-informed grossing factors. No reliable data sources or comparative references to guide decision making.Applies dynamic data-driven models based on the owner's business case and key attributes to reliably predict the space program. Applies ready comparative reference to guide space development and decision making.
Owner FFE and TechnologyApplies flat, one-off Excel spread sheets requiring manual information exchange with design, cost management procurement and FM resources. No reliable or comparative references to guide decision makingIntegrates FFE and technology with program, design, cost management, procurement and (ultimately) FM systems. Facilitate's group purchasing and other supply advancements.
Design DataApplies inconsistent, non-structured component families and types that prohibit team use or make it impractical in most cases. Disconnected to owner's business case, schedule and cost managementIntegrates design components with upstream planning, programming and owner FFE/Tech and downstream scheduling and cost estimating and management tools. Applies pre-designed, pre-priced kit of parts.
Cost EstimatingApplies biased pricing and inconsistent quantity development in pre-design. Applies flat, one-off, manual quantity extraction and static (ill-informed) unit pricing. No reliable comparative references to check or guide.Automatically applies program and design quantities into a cost estimating system. Applies dynamic unit costing based on program and attribute selections. Applies ready comparative reference data analysis.
Actual Cost DataNo known systematic way to collect cost data with any reliable context.Enables actual procured and/or final cost data to be entered into a structured cost management system. Enables ready use of actual detailed cost for modeling current or future costs.
SchedulingNo known systematic way to collect schedule data with any reliable context.Enables actual schedule milestone data to be entered into a structured schedule management system of algorithms. Enables ready use of actual milestone data for modeling current or future schedules.


Another way to look at the Systems Approach is through the lens of Toyota's 5S strategy - loosely translated: Sort, Set in Order or Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain – to eliminate most of the project-specific clutter/noise.

Figure 2 shows the primary data/technology configuration for the Systems Approach. 

Figure 2 – Example Primary Technology System (iTwoCostX example)

The Figure 3 snapshot illustrates CATALYST-based dRofus and Revit templates and data standards from the owner’s business case (Patient Room function) to building elements (Wall Finishes and Flooring). Custom buildings are produced from mostly standardized rooms and elements that are pre-programmed, pre-designed and pre-spec’d, and pre-priced.

Figure 3 – CATALYST-based templates and data standards in Revit and dRofus

Furthermore, with the detailed program, design, and cost data properly structured and in compliance with well-defined standards, most projects can become part of a global data/knowledge system. This is essential to impartial model predictions and analysis. Impartial analysis enables objective measurement – which is vital to process improvement. We will never be able to measure improvement without an objective measurement system. A Systems Approach to preconstruction makes objective measurement possible – for implementation in the construction phase.

Success with the SYSTEMS APPROACH depends on owners demanding higher value in cost and time - and the upper management among builders and designers committed to integration and automation. This essay: Reinventing Construction describes how process improvement pioneer, W. Edwards Deming would apply his system theory to design and construction.