flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
catfish1 - bottom
Currently Reading

8 tips for perfecting co-location

BIM and Information Technology

8 tips for perfecting co-location

Experts share tips and tricks for maximizing cross-team collaboration.


By David Barista, Editorial Director | September 15, 2016

Members of the Building Team for the 700,000-sf addition to the Banner University Medical Center Tucson meet at the co-location office in Tucson, Ariz. Pictured (l. to r.): Kristian Watkins, Project Manager, Banner Health; Dan Dupaix, Director of Facilities, Banner Health; Alison Rainey, AIA, Director, Shepley Bulfinch; Elizabeth Spelman, AIA, RA, LEED AP, Senior Architect, Shepley Bulfinch; and Mark Barkenbush, Senior Project Executive, Banner Health. Photo: © 2016 Kat Nania Kendon / Shepley Bulfinch.

The big room. The hub. Central operations. Whatever they’re called, project team co-location ventures are popping up in increasing numbers as Building Teams face ever-complex projects with tighter schedules and budgets.  

The rise of BIM-driven projects, prefabrication, and highly collaborative project delivery methods—such as design-assist and integrated project delivery—have accelerated the demand for in-person, cross-team collaboration. 

Successful co-location ventures are not as simple as locking the team in a room for 12-18 months. They require a careful balance of risk sharing, trust, accountability, and scope sharing, as well as a commitment to collaboration.

BD+C reached out to several co-location experts for tips and tricks on maximizing these setups. They offered the following advice:

Hold a “PEP” rally. Experts agree that a kickoff event—with all key stakeholders in the room—is absolutely critical both for building a spirit of camaraderie and for aligning the expectations and objectives for the project. 

“We’re finding in co-location environments, the best practitioners in the business are spending a lot of time thinking about high-performance teaming and the sociology behind working together,” says John Tocci, Sr., CEO of Tocci Building Cos., whose firm regularly organizes co-location ventures. 

On larger projects, Tocci kicks off co-locations with a day-and-a-half PEP (project execution planning) session facilitated by a process expert and former DuPont chemical engineer. Senior management meets for a half day to sync expectations and objectives for the project. On the second day, the entire team (upwards of 60 people) meets to confirm and prioritize the project objectives, unearth potential pitfalls, and formulate a roadmap for meeting the project goals.  

“The whole team, within a few days, tears the project apart,” says Tocci. “People start bearing their professional souls about what it is they’re concerned about when coming on board.” 

Make sure all doers are present. On a recent co-location venture for a healthcare client, architect Shepley Bulfinch quickly learned that while all levels of its team were prepared, other firms were not. The biggest issue: firms only sent their team leaders to the co-location collaboration sessions; the professionals doing the actual work stayed back at the home office.     

“This was difficult for our staff when they realized that the other parties weren’t sending those doing the work and, therefore, work was not getting done,” says Cathleen Lange, AIA, LEED AP, Principal with Shepley Bulfinch. 

Create spaces that are conducive to collaboration. Large, open, flexible spaces are a must so that teams can quickly reconfigure when needed. Tocci recommends plenty of whiteboards, tack-up boards, and blank wall space for pull planning and other Lean process exercises. Also important are creature comforts like clean bathrooms and phone booths so people can duck out to take a personal call. 

Offer a mix of meeting room sizes and breakout spaces. “People need spaces so that when a problem arises, a team can go off into an area and start whiteboarding to see what to do with it,” says Tocci.

Be very specific when laying the groundwork for the co-location. You’ll need to have solid answers for the following questions:

• Who’s paying for the space, equipment, technology? The owner? Contractor? Shared cost structure?

• Who’s required to attend? How are they being compensated for their time away from the home office? 

• What are the requirements for digital information transfer, responsibilities, and governances?

Strip all branding. “The most successful co-location ventures we’ve had have been completely unbranded, where you don’t see campfires or tribes within the facility,” says Tocci. “That defeats the whole purpose. The goal is total integration, silo-less stationing.”

“Subs” don’t exist in co-location ventures. A healthy co-location culture is one that breaks down the traditional silos. That means ditching the term “subcontractor” in favor of “trade partner,” says Tocci. “It’s not just a warm and fuzzy name,” he says. “They are true partners in the process.”

Master the trust triangle. Building trust across all levels and disciplines is the secret sauce to successful co-location projects. Tocci recommends reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (http://amzn.to/2buPW16) to help break down silos and strengthen trust and accountability among project team members. 

“Establishing trust among all parties in the co-location room is essential,” adds Lange. “All it takes is one skeptical person to bring the whole room down.”

Incorporate visual cues to maintain accountability. Whether using large-screen monitors or simple signage, presenting real-time performance metrics—burn rates on cash, performance on budget, KPIs, etc.—will help maintain accountability across the team. Even simple traffic lights for tracking major indices like budget and schedule are helpful. “Someone can walk in, look around the room, and within a few minutes they’ll have a sense of the health and vitality of the project,” says Tocci.

Related Stories

AEC Tech | Jan 24, 2024

4 ways AEC firms can benefit from digital transformation

While going digital might seem like a playground solely for industry giants, the truth is that any company can benefit from the power of technology.

AEC Tech | Jan 8, 2024

What's driving the surge of digital transformation in AEC today?

For centuries, the AEC industry has clung to traditional methods and legacy processes—seated patterns that have bred resistance to change. This has made the adoption of new technologies a slow and hesitant process.

Digital Twin | Jul 31, 2023

Creating the foundation for a Digital Twin

Aligning the BIM model with the owner’s asset management system is the crucial first step in creating a Digital Twin. By following these guidelines, organizations can harness the power of Digital Twins to optimize facility management, maintenance planning, and decision-making throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Digital Twin | Jul 17, 2023

Unlocking the power of digital twins: Maximizing success with OKRs

To effectively capitalize on digital twin technology, owners can align their efforts using objectives and key results (OKRs).

Office Buildings | Jun 5, 2023

Office design in the era of Gen Z, AI, and the metaverse

HOK workplace and interior design experts Kay Sargent and Tom Polucci share how the hybrid office is evolving in the era of artificial intelligence, Gen Z, and the metaverse.

AEC Tech | May 9, 2023

4 insights on building product manufacturers getting ‘smart’

Overall, half of building product manufacturers plan to invest in one or more areas of technology in the next three years.

BIM and Information Technology | May 8, 2023

BIM Council seeks public comments on BIM Standard-US Version 4

The Building Information Management (BIM) Council is seeking public comment on an updated national BIM standard. NBIMS-US V4 has been three years in the making and is scheduled to be released this fall.

Digital Twin | May 8, 2023

What AEC professionals should know about digital twins

A growing number of AEC firms and building owners are finding value in implementing digital twins to unify design, construction, and operational data.

BIM and Information Technology | May 8, 2023

3 ways computational tools empower better decision-making

NBBJ explores three opportunities for the use of computational tools in urban planning projects.

Sustainability | May 1, 2023

Increased focus on sustainability is good for business and attracting employees

A recent study, 2023 State of Design & Make by software developer Autodesk, contains some interesting takeaways for the design and construction industry. Respondents to a survey of industry leaders from the architecture, engineering, construction, product design, manufacturing, and entertainment spheres strongly support the idea that improving their organization’s sustainability practices is good for business.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category



Digital Twin

Creating the foundation for a Digital Twin

Aligning the BIM model with the owner’s asset management system is the crucial first step in creating a Digital Twin. By following these guidelines, organizations can harness the power of Digital Twins to optimize facility management, maintenance planning, and decision-making throughout the building’s lifecycle.


halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021