Not long after John Tocci took the helm of the family business from his father in 1985, he saw an unsavory shift in the industry that made him consider the unthinkable: walking away from the company his grandfather had founded in 1922, Tocci & Sons, now Tocci Building Cos., Woburn, Mass.
"I never imagined the day would come that I would discourage my three sons from following in my footsteps, but somewhere after 1994, I had become completely disheartened by the lack of collaboration and how litigious the building process had become. I felt the industry had lost all its nobility, and I wanted no part of it for me or my sons," Tocci says.
Rather than turn his back on the industry he loved, Tocci set out to change the decades-old status quo. He embraced innovation and collaboration to transform the construction process and worked with his team to build a legacy that honors his father, grandfather and future generations. The impact of Tocci Building Cos. extends far beyond its Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets. Over the past decade, the regional contractor has established itself as a national leader in building information modeling, virtual construction and integrated project delivery.
"John is regularly visited by the heads of the top U.S. construction companies. Those guys are constantly knocking on his door, wanting to know what he's doing and what he's thinking," says Phillip Bernstein, vice president, industry strategy and relations, Autodesk AEC Solutions, Waltham, Mass. "He's a little mid-market contractor, but he has that kind of presence on the national scene."
In 2001, Tocci began advocating for the use of BIM to reduce the waste created by change orders and improve the overall construction process. "I was ready, but the industry was not," he says. By 2005, designers had warmed up to the idea, and Tocci moved forward with his plan to implement BIM. He hired Laura Handler, a young engineer fresh from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, to establish the company's virtual design and construction department—which in the early days consisted of Handler and one other person.
Tocci says that Handler, who had studied BIM in industrial manufacturing for product design, brought an understanding of the technology that few others on staff had. To assist with the transition, Tocci also brought his son John Jr. in as a consultant; John Jr., despite his father's warning, ended up in construction management, currently for Gilbane Building Co.
"We just jumped in and figured it out as we went along," Handler says. Tocci Building's first BIM project in 2006—two prototype Aloft and Element hotels for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in Lexington, Mass.—finished on time, earned LEED-Gold certification and achieved a return on investment of 2:1.
As the company's understanding of BIM improved, so did its average project return on investment, climbing to 6:1. The firm quickly moved beyond the basics of clash detection and quantity extraction and now specializes in high-performance building analysis and rapid prototyping. Tocci Building's growing expertise in BIM allowed it to take its next step in its process transformation and shift its focus from traditional delivery to BIM-enabled integrated project delivery.
In 2008 the company cemented its reputation as an innovator with the $12-million Waltham, Mass., headquarters for software maker Autodesk Inc. As construction manager, Tocci Building worked alongside the architectural firm KlingStubbins, Cambridge, Mass., to build the 61,000-sq-ft facility—the first IPD project in the Northeast.
"John embraced the new approach. He jumped right in and put the interest of the project first. He saw progress as taking the best thinking no matter where it came from. I've never seen a builder behave that way before," Bernstein says.
"BIM is an industry standard now. Whereas others have come to the table reluctantly, Tocci was absolutely an early adopter and a believer from the very beginning," says Scott Simpson, senior director at KlingStubbins, who worked with Tocci on the Autodesk project.
The firm continues to break new ground in IPD with the 14,000-sq-ft, $12.7-million cancer treatment wing at Marlborough Hospital Oncology Center in Marlborough, Mass. The pavilion is the first health care project in New England to be completed under an IPD contract.