Moneyball captivated us with the small-market, under-financed Oakland A’s storied rise to a league championship. Bigger and better data discoveries using the scientific method made them winners. Following the A’s lead, soon Red Sox and then even Cubs fans were celebrating their own world championships. Decades of disappointment ended…science had transformed baseball.
Appleton, Wisconsin is home to The Boldt Company. This small-market builder has become a nationally recognized innovator – a leader in lean project delivery and a pioneer in an emerging production system movement. Committed to BoldThinking®, their search for knowledge and process improvement led them to better data using the scientific method. (1)
Boldt preconstruction executive, Scott Morton, exemplified BoldThinking® before the term was coined (2). In 2005, Boldt faced what we’ve all faced – a budget crisis. In this case, it was a cancer center. Out of necessity, Scott broke from convention to find a more reliable means of predicting project outcomes – starting in pre-design. Scott proved what most of us know intuitively: the composition of occupancies (or functions) throughout the facility drives program, then design, then cost. Figure 1 illustrates how dramatically the costs vary from function to function. And yet, traditional estimating processes rarely account for the facility’s functions — the most important attributes that determine outcomes!
Figure 1 – Cost Comparison by Function
Scott transformed Boldt’s estimating by focusing on the building’s functions in order to more reliably predict, estimate and manageable outcomes. In doing so, however, he couldn’t lose the conventional, building element-based, estimating and reporting. Conventional estimate tracking, and steering the design to the desired results, remained essential. So, to meet this need, he painstakingly assembled building element modelsfor each function. Figure 2 shows the Uniformat level 2 building element costs associated with three of the above functions: infusion, procedure and linear accelerator. These too, show dramatic variation from function to function.
Figure 2 – Cost Comparison by Building Element
Pulling off both function-based and element-based estimating in the same tool required a comprehensive systems approach. Integrating the facility’s functions, design parameters and building costs was the first order of business for Boldt’s system. That wasn’t all though. Other attributes determining facility outcomes needed to be reckoned with too. These attributes, sometimes referred to as KPI’s (key performance indicators), included quality level, construction type, location/site conditions, seismic, LEED certification, and many more. Fine tuning base data, algorithms and KPI factors improved prediction reliability. By comparing iterative generations of predictions to real world results – and adjusting accordingly (e.g. applying the scientific method) – Boldt accomplished what they needed.
Quick, reliable estimates benefited the entire project team. Most affected were the early planning stages (i.e. pre-design to conceptual design) when the information was minimal, but decisions had their greatest impact. Instantly, feedback for decisions on scope, program and/or design options was available. Outcomes relating directly to owner’s business case (like patient throughput) was reported. Figure 3 illustrates facility cost expressed in dollars per unit of the various functions.
Figure 3 – Reporting by Department and Function
Here’s the deal! Whether healthcare, or any other type of building, a systems approach delivers three major breakthroughs. First: more reliable prediction, estimating and control of facility outcomes. Second: reporting and managing those outcomes based on the owner’s business case. Third, and next up, taking process improvement to the next level through big data analysis.
Taking Process Improvement to the Next Level
Jayme Couchene exemplifies a new generation of BoldThinking®. When Jayme discovered a new technology that combined Boldt’s systems approach with advanced forms of data science – he was willing to give it try it. This technology, Building Catalyst, enabled Jayme to experience the power of big data analysis.
Not only is Jayme enjoying the greater speed and ease in predicting and estimatingproject outcomes – he’s finding that big data analyzes production performance andconstruction cost effectiveness. Most profoundly, however, Jayme’s discovering that it’s the program and design efficiency that impacts project results the most on healthcare projects.
Big data enables ready comparison of current projects against past project experiences – not just to Boldt’s past projects, but also across the broader “market”. Comparative analysis applies to detailed program and building element metrics, as well as whole-facility cost results. Jayme’s experiencing what A’s manager Billy Beane and lean manufacturer’s have — impartial analysis from outside of the organization provides objective knowledge. Objective knowledge is essential to process improvement.
In Jayme’s own words, “this technology is addicting”. Rapidly trying out and comparing different combinations of scope, design concepts, benchmarks, etc. is addicting! Once you experience it, the effect of this kind of knowledge and insight creates a curiosity that flips the switch. You’re hooked. You’ve experienced a paradigm shift. You have a new, powerful means of prototyping and analyzing multiple options that you know will lead to a more valuable total solution. You’ve far exceeded your client’s expectations.
Catalyst allows Jayme to prototype and compare multiple concept-to-cost models in a fraction of the time it would normally take to create just one. Similar time savings are found when performing cost validation studies. Freed from most of the tedious and time consuming estimating efforts Jayme’s able to redirect his time to more strategic and high risk/opportunity areas. As a sophisticated, cloud-based technology, Catalyst takes impartial modeling and analyst far beyond internal Excel-based tools.
Jayme knows Catalyst is not the be-all and end-all for Boldt. Rather, Catalyst is becoming an integral tool working together with Boldt’s other more detailed estimating, VDC and management tools and processes.
Standing alone or as part of a comprehensive system, Catalyst offers several benefits across dozens of building types – helping users to:
1. Reliably predict or estimate outcomes starting from project inception
2. Optimize outcomes, especially early in the project, when highest impact decisions are made
3. Report outcomes in terms directly related to owner’s business case
4. Compare customer’s specific project to past projects and the “market average”
5. Steer outcomes to agreed upon targets
6. Avoid unnecessary costs and delay to re-design
7. Enhance the impact of BIM, VDC, Lean/IPD, and other process improvements
Learn more at www.buildingcatalyst.com or contact us at email@example.com.
(1) Visit www.boldt.com to learn more about BoldThinking®
(2) Scott Morton has since formed Vision to Value, a consulting group that works with Boldt and other organizations to improve the planning and estimating processes.