McCarthy embraces an Integrated Virtual Builder approach, winning mega-projects across its 5 regions, each worth $350,000,000 or more

by Shane Vella, Customer Success Manager and Heather Howe, Marketing Editor on November 04, 2019

Image above: The new campus for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in north St. Louis was awarded to the design-build team of McCarthy HITT with Black & Veatch Gensler JV and Akima, LLC. The roughly $1.7 billion project includes McCarthy HITT’s $711.7 million contract, land procurement, post-construction outfitting of the building, and small business set-aside construction projects.


Striving to become “the best builder in America” requires continual growth. McCarthy Building Companies knows this well, as the nation’s oldest and largest privately held general contractor with more than 150 years of experience in the field. To continue to meet and exceed that standard of excellence, the company aims to stay ahead of the game in 2019 and beyond – looking for strategic opportunities that continue to position itself as a best-in-class builder among the nation’s leaders.

Leveraging its strategic partnership with Autodesk is a key component of McCarthy's execution of its latest initiative. Through an Enterprise Business Agreement (EBA), McCarthy has enthusiastically adopted a wide array of BIM-enabled solutions, adapting them to current projects and training users along the way. Its past initiative of creating a “BIM-Enabled Workforce” was successful. But McCarthy recognized that a more strategic approach could take their goals to greater heights.

In recent years, its relationship with Autodesk grew from an efficient resource for product delivery to a highly strategic business partnership. Through this evolution, McCarthy’s VDC Leadership began a shift from the “BIM-Enabled Workforce” to the “Integrated Virtual Builder” – a change in mindset that took a holistic, lifecycle approach to project planning. By beginning with the end in mind, McCarthy is now positioning itself early with key technology partners such as Autodesk and promoting this strategy across all five of its regions.


The “BIM-Enabled Workforce” initiative that brought McCarthy early success needed a reboot. In its previous state, the program was focused on tools and technology. By leveraging the EBA with Autodesk, McCarthy could access the appropriate BIM tools on an as-need basis, training users along the way. This was working well, improving project workflows, giving employees on the job training and bringing leading technologies to the jobsite while allowing project stakeholders to see quick results and positive impacts to cost, quality and schedule. But the success brought on through this approach was limited.

Though McCarthy embraced Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) approaches on some projects, functions like 3D constructability and 3D coordination were not formally embraced. The concept of integrating VDC capabilities with BIM solutions often seemed separate and even distant. McCarthy not only wanted a way to better integrate VDC and BIM, but also wanted to start thinking digitally from the beginning of a project. The company needed an initiative that would take these workflows to the next level.

“IVB is the evolution of going from a BIM-centric execution of our EBA to a process and business-focused execution of the EBA. I think that's probably one of the biggest roles that Autodesk has played in this new retooled, rebranded initiative. We shifted from being focused on the tools and started to become focused on process and outcomes.”

Alex Belkofer, CM-BIM | Virtual Design and Construction Director, McCarthy Building Companies


McCarthy realized that this kind of change could not happen overnight. Achieving a “beginning with the end in mind” approach would require a holistic shift in the entire company. McCarthy decided to leverage its EBA with Autodesk to find a solution that went beyond technology adoption.

Autodesk assembled a strategic team to work closely with McCarthy’s VDC Leadership, reenergizing the partnership thinking about strategy, process, and outcomes. The key was to identify what McCarthy’s long-term goals were as a business, then work backward developing a technology-based solution that could help them get there. By focusing closely on process and outcomes, the team developed the IVB initiative—a new mindset and approach to beginning all projects with the entire project lifecycle in mind.

Planning out a technology strategy from the outset changes the kinds of conversations McCarthy is having with its clients and project stakeholders from the outset of a project. Once the project is in hand, the conversation is now centered around the unique technology solutions McCarthy can bring to the table. The client can now see a deeper and more detailed picture of what the process will be like from the planning phase to the final handover. Taking an IVB approach means beginning with the client’s goals from day one and aligning all project stakeholders around a client-focused delivery model.

The IVB initiative is an ongoing development and mindset change for McCarthy and its partners. To maintain momentum, regular quarterly business review (QBR) meetings with Autodesk now go beyond statistical updates. In-depth workshops and process-oriented conversations have helped grow the IVB initiative into something that will carry McCarthy’s business forward.

“We have to be able to come to the table and say, ‘our processes and technologies are working together to execute the most effective project delivery possible.’ Our focus has to be the early alignment of goals, expectations and a value-added delivery process to drive successful business outcomes. Driving the business outcomes is driving both the technology solutions and the approach from day one. Our conversations with clients are much more detailed now than ever before to ensure a successful end product.”

Alex Belkofer, CM-BIM | Virtual Design and Construction Director, McCarthy Building Companies


Taking an IVB approach recently brought huge wins for McCarthy. The company is currently working on a mega-project—worth $350,000,000 or more—in all five regions across the United States. In 2019, McCarthy made company history when the five US regions secured these mega-projects simultaneously. The mega-projects—including the Raider’s Stadium in Las Vegas and the Next NGA West Headquarters in St. Louis—are just a few examples of how the IVB strategy better communicates to clients McCarthy’s different approach. Through the implementation of the IVB initiative, McCarthy now focuses on the early alignment of project planning using technology integration to communicate its unique approach to each client’s needs. These mega-projects are only the beginning.

The Allegiant Stadium will be the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders home for the team’s 2020 relocation, and will also host UNLV Football and a variety of other events. The domed structure is a $1.9 billion Mortenson | McCarthy joint venture featuring 65,000 seats, a retractable natural turf field, large walls that open to views of the Las Vegas Strip, premium spaces on all levels, tailgating amenities onsite, parking accommodations, and mixed-use commercial development.

The company is saving more than they are spending across the board. With executive leadership supporting the move, new project wins and additional growth is expected. In many ways, the true success of the initiative is unmeasurable.

Taking this approach to IVB meant McCarthy had to accept that not all the answers would be found at once. Embracing the evolution of the project, starting small, and letting it grow was key to scalability. Taking a new approach to the adoption of construction technology meant embracing change and being honest and clear about goals and the desired outcomes. The McCarthy and Autodesk team can now say those goals are being reached and have only just begun.

“Delivering projects with teams in silos is yesterday's news. We just cannot deliver projects like this anymore and claim to be best-in-class. VDC is inherently a lean process, and we must leverage this with all our project partners to usher in a new era of integration and execution – with all project stakeholders aligned from the start. When we talk about technology, quality, safety, or anything else, it always has to focus on everybody involved. It’s all about being on the boat together, rowing in the same direction. Everybody is evolving, which can be a challenge. But if you don't evolve, then you're going to get left behind. And if we are truly striving to be the ‘best builder in America’, we must evolve to push the industry forward.”

Alex Belkofer, CM-BIM | Virtual Design and Construction Director, McCarthy Building Companies

Images courtesy McCarthy Building Companies

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