John Tocci is serious about his self-anointed title. He calls himself the chief enabling officer of Tocci Building Cos., Woburn, Mass. Others say he enables a lot more than his company, especially in his role as chairman of the Associated General Contractors BIM Forum. Tocci started the building information modeling forum, which meets three times a year, about three years ago. He had been inspired to do something related to BIM beyond his own firm by a presentation on a BIM-enabled project for Lucasfilm in San Francisco. It was given by Tom Brady, Lucasfilm’s in-house construction manager. “The presentation was so compelling it sucked the air out of the room,” says Tocci.

Tocci is campaigning for BIM-enabled integrated project delivery.
Photo: Tocci Building Cos
Tocci is campaigning for BIM-enabled integrated project delivery.

The intent of the BIM forum is to increase collaboration among all parties to a building project and to break down traditional silos between designers and constructors. “John has shown an extraordinary ability to unite an extremely diverse group of professionals representing the full spectrum of parties involved in design, construction and building ownership in seeking practical solutions to improving the industry,” says E. Davis Chauviere, a principal of HKS Inc., Dallas, and chair of the forum’s designers subforum.

The forum includes seven subforums covering academia, constructors, designers, lawyers and insurers, software suppliers, owners and subcontractors. It is wildly popular because it provides a place for “conversations that never happened before,” says Tocci. Membership, which is free and not limited to AGC members, has grown to 1,600.

“Rather than taking stereotypical adversarial positions, under John’s leadership the evolving membership has sought mutually beneficial approaches, shared project successes and failures, and delivered significant content to advance” both BIM and integrated project delivery (IPD), says Chauviere.

The forum started out as an AGC task force to study the implications of the technology. Tocci was invited to lead it. He engaged help from his son, John Jr., who currently works for Gilbane Building Co.

The Toccis have a strong family tradition. CEO Tocci’s grandfather started Tocci Building in 1922 as a general contractor-masonry subcontractor. Tocci took over the operation from his own father in 1981. “I grew up in the company,” he says. “When I was one and a half years old, my father would put me in the sand pile at the jobsite.”

Tocci is now on a crusade for “complete process transformation” through BIM-enabled integrated project delivery. His firm is involved in three IPD jobs. “We’re going to do this; we’re not going to be caged as we have been for 20 years,” he promises, inviting others to join him on the IPD “dance floor.”

Under IPD, the designer and contractor share risk and reward through a single contractual agreement with the owner. IPD “shakes the paradigm to its core,” Tocci says.

“John’s been a real pioneer in applying BIM technology and the principles of IPD to the design and construction process,” says Scott Simpson, managing director of the Cambridge, Mass., office of KlingStubbins and Tocci’s design partner on an IPD project for software vendor Autodesk Inc. “His enthusiasm is infectious. John’s a visionary. He sees a different path that can truly transform the industry.”

As leader of the Associated General Contractors BIM Forum, Tocci has united diverse groups seeking common solutions.

For Tocci, IPD gives each party the opportunity to question the status quo. “We think the economic crisis is a tremendous opportunity for us and other contractors to eradicate waste” using IPD, green construction, BIM and virtual design and construction, he says.

Tocci, an open-shop regional contractor with most projects ranging from $10 million to $150 million, has a formula: OS + IPD + VDC + Green = Lean. “If you do all those things right, you can deliver 30% to 40% savings on a project,” he says.

Jan Reinhardt, a principal at ADEPT Project Delivery LLC, Pittsburgh, and the chair of the constructor subforum, says, “John masters the art of being an out-of-the-box thinker who allows ample room for innovation and exploration on the one hand, and on the other hand is very focused in his mission. He truly is the chief enabling officer of the BIM Forum.”