This post explores the basic elements that building professionals assume are readily available and upon which their building designs are based. 


What is the Basis of Design (BoD)? This question has continued to evolve over the past few years along as innovation in the building industry has continued to accelerate. Any complete definition of BoD should include at least two main elements:  

  1. Industry accepted standards (e.g., codes and regulatory compliance, or Industry Best Practices, Rules, and Assemblies required to meet manufacturer warrantees) and  
  1. Standard products are created and stocked by the building material industry and utilized as primary materials to design and construct buildings.  

Simply put, BoD refers to all the materials that are specified and utilized in developing designs and details. These materials include studs, insulation, windows, doors, bricks, mortar, stairs, elevators, concrete, nails, adhesives, and more.  Of course, many custom materials are developed for unique conditions or situations, but for today’s discussion this topic will be left to the side. 

This blog will outline the history of the BoD and then explain its role in the current building marketplace.  

Prior to the 18th century, the concept of BoD did not exist. If someone was building a structure of almost any scale, – be it a log cabin, gothic church, small building of commerce, or castle – once the core idea was sketched out, workers immediately began extracting raw materials from the earth, transporting them to a place to be processed, and processing them to create usable products. The repository of raw materials included mining stones, clay, metals, silicas, logging trees, etc. Once processed, these materials would be shaped into unique one-off building products for that specific project. Most projects utilized custom doors, windows, logs, and stonework that were created under unique conditions based on the resources available to that project team. The process was inefficient and often poorly executed, but people accomplished their tasks and completed the project, still.  

On a larger project, say a gothic church, both the project’s size and temporal scale allowed standardized elements to be defined and then repeated over and over. In that way, standard arches, windows, and stonework were initially defined by the master architect and tradesman in each specialty. Then, to complete the project, generations of tradesmen executed these standards repeatedly for decades and sometimes centuries.  High levels of quality were achieved because royalty or the church leadership were footing the bill with money, resources, and time provided by their constituents. During the Industrial Revolution, more and more building products were standardized and offered to the market with a combination of lower cost, easier availability, and more consistent quality.  Architects and builders began to rely on standard products as their BoD. In other words, architects would design their buildings with these standard products in mind and builders would execute the designs using these standard products. Over time, standardization made the building process simpler and quicker, and improved the quality of the final products. 

In the 19th and 20th centuries, this process accelerated. All of us who practiced in the past 50-75 years have experienced an environment where most of our design and construction decisions are based on wide availability and low cost of standard products. Air handling units, VAV boxes, studs (wood or metal), windows, doors, floor finishes… in brief, almost everything that is currently offered as a building product has been standardized to make it easier for A/E/C’s to find the material and integrate it into a design that is compliant with regulations and meets the needs of the client.   

The historical progression from raw materials extracted from the earth to standard building elements constructed on site into compliant assemblies will continue to unfold as building enters a new era.  Over the next two decades, a growing number of Construction Assembly Modules (CAMs) will be defined. They will be larger assemblies that incorporate elements from multiple trades into distinct packages that are manufactured off-site and then transported and assembled on site.  When moving from raw material extraction and custom one-off products to the current standard building elements (BoD), builders realized significant gains in efficiency and value. Similar gains will be realized in the transition to CAMs. CAMs will be developed in multiple formats including but not limited to: 

  • Panels
  • Racks
  • Boxes or pods 
  • Kit of Parts 
  • Groups  
  • Connections 

Each of these formats are represented in the graphic below. The market is currently developing multiple CAM solutions and testing which solutions will have staying power.   

The custom, one-off nature of building projects means that people build the same things slightly differently every single time. This lack of standardization often leads to inconsistency, disagreement, lost time, and lost money. BUSA’s Construction Assembly Modules (CAMs) standardize the design and installation of complex units such as rooms, panels, and racks. BuildUSA is taking a strategic approach to the development of an entire ecosystem of modules that will support Optimized Building. 

In creating a new Optimized Building design, BUSA believes that it’s critical to work with existing manufacturer/distribution networks who understand the changing nature of Building and who have deep reach and relationships in the existing marketplace. They too are seeking to position themselves for new developing markets, and BUSA believes that their interests align with BUSA’s mission and goals, and that they will make strong strategic partners.  

BUSA is actively developing commercial relationships with manufacturers/distributors for specific module types that will support a growing ecosystem of CAMs and Optimized buildings. If you are a building material manufacturer or distributor and represent products that may align with BUSA’s CAM and Optimized Building program, please reach out. We are definitely interested in having a conversation.