Taking Technology to Schematic Design

As one of the oldest American-owned construction companies with offices nationally, McCarthy has built projects in nearly every state, with projects ranging in size from $1 million to well over $500 million in a wide variety of markets including healthcare, university, laboratory & science, K-12 education, commercial, government, renewable energy, and heavy/civil.

Touchplan is the closest thing I have used that compares to using actual sticky notes. I don’t know how we could have done what we’re doing right now, without the technology we have with Touchplan.

Naomi Whitesel - Director, Integrated Design

McCarthy Building Companies has been charged with constructing a new 900,000 SF hospital building for the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. When complete, the “California Tower,” as it is currently named, will be 13 floors of new hospital space to include a variety of functions including acuity adaptable patient rooms, imaging, lab support, a burn unit, and operating rooms.

The project slated to break ground in the spring of 2022 and have patients moved in by 2030, is currently in the Design Development phase of the design. A leader in collaborative project delivery, McCarthy saw it as essential to use a product like Touchplan from the project’s early stages to coordinate the multiple phases, increments, and groups involved in this project.

“We have been using Touchplan heavily for more than a year now on the California Tower project, said Naomi Whitesel, Director of Integrated Design at McCarthy Building Companies. “We went through a Program Validation phase, a full year of Schematic Design, and will soon break the project into increments leading to a full year in Design Development while some packages accelerate into Construction Documents, all in Touchplan. We pull plan on all of our design-build jobs, but this project is one of the most challenging due to its size and complexity. Touchplan is a very effective way to track all the moving parts and pieces to stay organized around key decisions and design challenges.”

Involvement from The Literal Beginning

The new hospital tower at UC Davis Medical Center is being constructed via a process known as Progressive Design-Build, wherein the contractor (McCarthy in this case) is involved really early.

“We got involved in the project at the program validation phase,” said Whitesel. “There are many good reasons for that – as contractors we bring expertise in cost, constructability, schedule and quality to the table. We can bring that expertise forward in the design, so we’re feeding information to the Owner and Design Team in real time as the design progresses.”

Managing design is challenging. The design-build process brings the General Contractor and trade partners to the table early enough to support the design team as they pull design issues related to cost, schedule, constructability/quality sooner into the design process to mitigate its impact as early as possible.

Whitesel added, “The designers are now in a position where they need to be able to introduce the detail of their workflow so we can find key opportunities to engage with them. That is where Touchplan and Last-Planner System is a potent tool because it does exactly that. It exposes the workflow; we can see what everyone is working on and when, and we can find those moments and time to connect and bring our relevant expertise forward.”

Everyone is Using It

A shovel has not hit the ground just yet, and still, everyone involved in the project is working in Touchplan. If you look at the project on the screen, what you see is hundreds of tags. Each role in Touchplan represents a company, and the colors represent all of the disciplines – all of the design disciplines, code consultants, the owner team, McCarthy, everybody’s in it.

“We’re using Touchplan to organize all the work that is happening on the project,” said Whitesel. “There is a lot of activity occurring for the development of the design for the building. We also have functional teams for things like technology, estimating and scheduling. All of these and the associated support services, they’re all using Touchplan so we can see how the whole picture is coming together. The team is fully engaged in Touchplan, and it’s completely embedded in our team’s workflow and culture.”

Additionally, by utilizing Touchplan this early in the project, the entire team is better prepared when shovels start going into the ground. The work now is setting the team up for success when they begin executing in the field.

For someone who previously not been a heavy user of technology for the purposes of Last-Planner System before this project and is a first-time user of Touchplan, Whitesel has become a believer.

“Touchplan is the closest thing I have used that compares to using actual sticky notes,” said Whitesel. “I don’t know how we could have done what we’re doing right now, without the technology we have with Touchplan.”

While there remains a lot of work to be done to complete the California Tower at the UC Davis Medical Center, Touchplan is excited to support these early efforts. We can’t wait to check back in down the road as construction progresses.

Our relationship with McCarthy has produced some mutually beneficial results, Including:

  • Easily coordinate multiple phases, increments and groups involved with the project
  • Communicate with owner and design team in real-time
  • Have all teams better prepared for when construction work begins
Download case study