…and I have a suggestion.

Arguably, the real adoption of BIM in the design and construction profession began on a similar 100 degree heat wave 17 years ago this week at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis (2005) when 12 representatives of design and construction firms convened to create the BIMForum. The term ‘BIM’ was hardly known before this. And, the acronym for virtual design and construction (VDC) was not yet invented (by Stanford’s CIFE). While temperatures rose we worked several hours at a time in windowless rooms.  It later became known as the meeting of the Twelve Angry men (after the great 1957 movie). 

Despite the discomfort, passion was high around a vision that architects, builders and trade contractors could embrace a common set of powerful digital tools that held the possibility of radical improvement in conveying design intent and transferring the designer’s vision through stunning 3D models and really clear instructions. Our unifying hope was an end to the growing waste of rework, avoidable change orders and litigation.

Thus, the AGC and AIA came together and we formed the BIMForum – a unique long term partnership to dramatically improve how both sides of the largest industry in the US work. So why move on when so much improvement has been made? Contract Documents regularly include axonometric views of complex details providing improved clarity.  Building ‘fly-throughs’ are easy-peasy – every self-respecting BIM guy or gal is a good “flyer”. Off-shore render farms crank out near-photographic images of buildings.  

3D coordination of MEP systems has become an entire ecosystem for the elimination of “clashes”. And, what peaceable owner wouldn’t want a “clash-free” building? Yes, without a doubt this BIM stuff, this single tool(s) has reached across professional silos drawing hands together like nothing else since the Master Builder (architect as contractor) of the late 1800’s. But, has the sociological benefits of data sharing between thinkers and makers now exceeded its practical economic value?

Major projects can have high 6 figure VDC budgets (or more) and dozens of BIM folk spending huge hours passing files, coordinating origins, formats and redrawing. But to what end? Is the final product getting any better, more buildable, more precise? Are we giving the field and factory the real information they need any faster? or at all? 

I fear we have lost our way… or at least our trajectory.


May I suggest a major part of the answer is DfMA, the Design for Manufacturing and Assembly methodology. We all believe the standard of care for the final digital model should go beyond having systems able to occupy the same space somewhere in a building. It should be worthy of at least four basic criteria. 

1. Reliable direct ordering, it should be countable;

2. Direct (or near-direct) from model fabrication, with a goal of 75% off-site manufacture;

3. Reasonable, safe assembly by people with normal-size hands and bodies and;

4. Serviceable by similar-sized folk – with reasonable access and moderate training.

In pursuit of this goal this summer, TOCCI launched an exciting affiliate company, Prefix DfMA. Over the past 11 years, this team coordinated and polished over 5 billion dollars of complex projects. They join us as partners in this exciting next stage of our mission.

Snapshot of Prefix DfMA flyer

In future insights we will share more about who Prefix DfMA is and how they work. TOCCI joins with other progressive CMs in the UK and US to urge us upward and onward in our mutual quest for better buildings faster and with peace.

Your comments and advice are welcomed as always.

John Tocci, Sr.