The firm's VDC department, now up to 11 people, focuses on improving the company's processes with increased training and new technologies. The department uses a host of software, including Meridian Systems' Prolog, to compile metrics across the company from current and historical projects. Everything from internal BIM usage data and training effectiveness to pounds per sq ft of waste on project sites is being tracked in hopes of isolating improvement opportunities.

"We try to quantify everything we do. If you can't measure it, then you can't improve it. If you can measure it, you can manage it," says Bud LaRosa, Tocci's chief business performance officer.

Handler adds that the goal of the department is to become "obsolete" and "achieve the level of BIM adoption, knowledge and capability that centralized resources for VDC are no longer necessary."

With Boston's unemployment rate hovering around 5.5%, well below the national average, corporate office space, both inside and outside the city, is a potential growth market, LaRosa says. "Life sciences, medical and medical office space has become red hot, and we expect to see more of that in 2013 and beyond," he adds.

Currently, the company is acting as the program manager and VDC enabler for four development projects at Alexandria Center Kendall Square, an 11-acre science and biotechnology campus in Cambridge, Mass.

"We're about halfway through construction of the first building, and I can count on one hand the number of field-generated RFIs [requests for information] we've had. I think we're getting a better product because Tocci has the expertise to push the contractors to use BIM effectively to achieve the best results," says Andy Reinach, assistant vice president, development and construction, Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

Being ahead of the industry curve helped Tocci maintain a strong balance sheet during the four-year economic downturn. "Unlike other firms, our margins did not deteriorate from 2008 to 2012. In fact our margins outperformed during 2009 and 2010," LaRosa says. "We were able to maintain margins primarily due to efficiencies utilizing BIM and other collaborative technologies. Reduced subcontracting pricing due to the economy helped as well."

The company also expanded its business in 2009 with consulting services. Tocci's VDC department took on a second identity with the launch of Q5, a company within the company that specializes in VDC and IPD consultations. For the past year, the firm has been consulting with Harvard's planning and project management group on the university's implementation of BIM. Tocci's team, led by Handler, developed a 10-year BIM road map as well as an algorithm-based software to determine if BIM is appropriate for specific projects.

After cutting 40% of its 100 workers during the recession, the firm's payrolls have climbed back to 75. With most projects ranging from $10 million to $120 million, the privately held company is at the same revenue level today as before the recession, with 25% fewer people, primarily due to efficiencies, La Rosa says.

Beyond the company, John Tocci started the Associated General Contractors of America's BIM Forum to study the implications of BIM industry-wide. His reputation as a BIM pioneer takes him to speaking engagements all over the country as well as overseas.

Though Tocci is more optimistic about the industry these days, he has no plans to slow down. "We're seeing a level of culpability, responsibility and planning that we haven't seen in this industry in several decades, but we still have a long road ahead of us," he says.