What is Building CATALYST?

…CATALYST – an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action – to help drive an organization toward measurable process and value improvement.

Building CATALYST brings new forms of (big) data science and technology to drive out waste and risk. Building CATALYST does for building construction, what Moneyball (e.g. Sabermetrics) has done for Major League Baseball – moving an industry from subjective analysis using bad data, toward  objective analysis using good data.

Building CATALYST has been created because construction’s productivity is lower now than it was in the 1960’s. Non-productive work continues to exceed productive work.  For lack of innovation and technology improvement, construction’s dilemma has moved into a new phase – the inability to attract skilled workers from architects to estimators to iron workers.  The result? Today’s construction costs are escalating two to three times higher than the national inflation rate. Owners are becoming fed up with excessive, and accelerating, construction costs.

Starting in the planning stages, Building CATALYST brings powerful knowledge, predictability and objective measurement – essentials for achieving process improvement. It’s not just about cost. CATALYST  predicts and/or analyzes a facility’s space program, design efficiency, and time to deliver. CATALYST gives construction a system of objective knowledge – first to stabilize outcomes – and then to drive out waste. CATALYST takes BIM and Lean to a new level. CATALYST’s three-fold approach: Simplify, Integrate and Automate.


CATALYST applies the Pareto Principle – reducing a facility to the fewest critical attributes that derive the greatest knowledge and ability to impact facility value. There are six groups of critical attributes that define the facility and its purpose: Functions, Constraints, Program, Scope, Schedule and Cost. The first two, Functions and Constraints, represent the good data that construction has been missing. As a result, we’ve never been able to objectively predict or compare (analyze) a facility’s program, design, schedule or costs.

The most important attribute group (Functions), are typically collected within departments.  CATALYST is the only construction technology that pre-defines the key metrics for each function: space program, physical attributes and costs. Figure 1 illustrates the facility program hierarchy, highlighting the Radiation Oncology functions in a Cancer Center:

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Figure 1 – Program Hierarchy

For decades we have tried to predict design, cost and schedule outcomes without the most important attributes that determine outcomes. Construction will remain mired in a state of confusion until it reorganizes everything, based on the facility functions.

The number of functions vary from less than five for a hotel or restaurant, to more than thirty for a general hospital. The other five critical attribute categories described below, include: Constraints (and Standards), Program, Scope (Design Metrics), Schedule and Cost.

Myriads of hundreds of thousands of data entities included in complex projects can be organized and rolled up into one or more of the critical attributes.

Current planning, pre-construction and construction reports provide way too much meaningless detail for building owners, without helpful summarization and comparison of the most critical information. CATALYST brings needed organization and summarization to help owners make decisions and know status of their project.


Construction remains fragmented – not only across organizations, but also within. Builders rarely, if ever, apply consistent data standards from marketing, to planning, to estimating, to procurement, to field operations, to job costing. Few, if any, builders collect and compare actual detailed cost results against estimated costs. Similarly, architects rarely have a credible basis of determining the scope of a building based on the building functions and constraints (i.e. number of floors). The implication is huge – until we can integrate our information/technology systems, we will cannot effectively integrate our processes and people.

CATALYST creates a system – a network of critical interdependent attributes – across all key stakeholders: owner, designer, and building teams. These attributes are networked in relationships of cause and effect. Figure 2 – the Network of Critical Data illustrates this.

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Figure 2 – Network of Critical Data

The Facility Purpose drives the prediction and analysis of the project outcomes: Program, Scope, Schedule and Costs. The critical causes include Functions and Constraints. The critical attribute groups are summarized as follows:

  • Functions (collected in Departments):
    • Functions in Primary Departments (i.e. Radiation Oncology)
    • Functions in Supporting Departments (i.e. Administrative)
  • Constraints:
    • General: Location, time frame, number of levels, owner type, frame type, etc.
    • Standards: Quality class, durability, energy, LEED, security, etc.
  • Program:
    • Departmental Gross Area (based on collection of functions): Primary and supporting
    • Core and Common Area: Lobby, interior circulation, stairs, elevators, MEP, etc.
  • Scope:
    • Key Metrics: Stairs, elevators, parking spaces, etc.
    • Building Massing and Shell: Floor areas/perimeters, height, exterior enclosure, etc.
    • Interiors: Partitions, doors, etc.
    • Site: Parking, roadways, walkways, etc.
  • Schedule:
    • Key preconstruction durations
    • Key construction durations
  • Costs
    • Predictable hard cost (Uniformat levels 1 to 3)
    • Non-predictable hard costs
    • Soft costs

For the first time, a complex building can be known as a complete and virtually integrated system. The impact is profound – multiplying the knowledge needed to make decisions, and measure cause and effect.

CATALYST enables the recording of completed project data across all these interdependent attributes. Organizations that start recording their completed projects are creating a powerful knowledge resource. These organizations are poised to transform their operations through a much-needed systems approach to planning, design and construction.

CATALYST also provides a new form of data processing and technology needed to automate facility planning, comparative analysis, design decision-making, progress-tracking, etc.


The most complex industry, in dire need of advanced planning and management tools, currently relies on MS Excel spreadsheets and simple data tools. These basic tools are keeping us in an archaic, fragmented state. Without CATALYST, there is no consistent end-to-end solution for planning, estimating, measuring or tracking a project. We remain dependent upon the intuitive (biased) guess work of experienced professionals. We have been kept in our own pre-Moneyball world of subjective prediction using bad data.

CATALYST solves this dilemma by simplifying, then integrating and, finally, automating our data systems. It does so as a stand-alone system in the planning stages, when the biggest decisions are needed. Then – as the project definition and design develops – CATALYST serves as an integration/automation center or hub – enabling exchange of data between it and various BIM, estimating, scheduling, accounting and project management applications. This is illustrated in Figure 3 – Technology Integration and Automation System.

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Figure 3 – Technology Integration and Automation System

Please contact us at info@buildingcatalyst.com when you’re ready to transition toward a simple, integrated and automated system. We’re delighted to demo Building CATALYST and/or get you started with a free trial.