Many people enter the construction and design industries after falling in love with the idea of creating sun-drenched arboreturms and sculpted facades – the glamorous skin of the buildings they work on. Laura Handler, director of design and strategy for Tocci Building Cos., has always been a student of the bones.
After earning a degree in civil engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Handler took her passion for virtual design and construction into a career at Tocci. Her special passions are virtual design and building information modeling, using computer models to come up with new ways to visualize and lay out building infrastructure, allowing buildings to be constructed much more efficiently. Her signature thrill when coming up with a new design isn’t so much sketching out a striking atrium as figuring out where the drywall seems and cuts will need to be before construction even begins, thus allowing for teams of electricians and finishers to work simultaneously on a project.
Her projects have included working with Harvard University on the $500 million, 1.73-million-square-foot redesign of the Alexandria Center at Kendall Square (ACKS) campus in Cambridge, as well as creating the 60,000-square-foot, LEED platinum Autodesk AEC headquarters in Waltham. Autodesk, itself one of the leading providers of design software for the construction industry, was in some ways a dream client for Handler – but also, inevitably, a demanding one. Handler was up to the challenge; her plans for the headquarters received more than 14 awards, including the AIA Technology in Practice Award, for its ground-breaking use of integrated project delivery.
Her design skills have netted her a shelf of industry awards, and she’s a popular speaker at industry events. But her ambitions extended further. After acquiring her MBA at Bentley College in 2011, Handler took a place on Tocci’s executive committee last year.
On The Same Page
But her lust for increasing efficiency and productivity continues to inspire in her new executive role.
Handler has “an uncanny ability to take a large amount of data and synthesize it very quickly into something that’s discernible to those of us who don’t have that uncanny ability,” said Bud LaRosa, chief financial officer of Tocci, a quality that makes her an invaluable bridge between Tocci and its clients. She’s also taken the lead in helping to improve communication between the firm’s internal department, creating protocols to help new keep track of projects and contact so that initial contact with a new client by the sales team smoothly flows into a formal proposal and marketing plan.
Her latest project for Tocci involves helping clients determine their medium- and long-term construction needs and better articulate their design goals ahead of time, allowing for more fruitful and innovative collaboration between the clients and Tocci’s teams of designers and engineers, and helping to prevent costly delays and redesigns once construction is underway on a project.
“It’s so much easier to be productive when everyone’s on the same page,” Handler said.