BIM for Masonry: The bricks and mortar industry enters the digital age

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For this project, the bricklayers worked alongside the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) trades to install pipe sleeves through the masonry walls as they were constructed, per the BIM model.

The increasing sophistication of BIM models gives masonry subcontractors the opportunity to provide project information much earlier in the planning. Without BIM, a mason contractor rarely has the information needed to fit masonry tasks within the overall schedule or sequence of trades. With this limitation, a schedule is simply durations of tasks or walls based on typical crew sizes and assumptions about site access. With BIM-M, mason contractors can see how their tasks fit within the master schedule, which enables them to make more accurate predictions about task duration and labor needs.

Another contractor benefit is easier site layout and stocking plans. Instead of fighting other trades for precious space on a jobsite to store materials, the master BIM model allows a mason contractor to coordinate through better communication to avoid site conflict and moving materials multiple times. This benefit applies to scaffolding and other equipment needs. Contractors also benefit from a 3D visualization that provides a digital representation of the building, allowing for greater accuracy in planning and construction.

Advanced software creates quantity takeoffs, directs fabrication, and performs energy analysis. Additionally, there is the classic BIM benefit of clash detection. A case study later in this article provides an excellent example of the schedule and cost savings by trade coordination using this aspect of cooperative work.

Furthering the discussion
A key milestone for the BIM-M effort occurred in April 2015 when more than 120 architects, engineers, contractors, manufacturers, and software providers met in St. Louis, Missouri, for a symposium. An opening presentation from Will Ikerd (Ikerd Consulting) on the 2014 Level of Development Specifications from BIMForum, noting the relationship of masonry to the larger BIM picture was very informative. It showed Division 04 is well-represented through the efforts stimulated by BIM-M and the actions of the TMS BIM Committee. (In fact, masonry is represented on the cover of BIMForum’s LOD document.)

The session for designers highlighted progress on the masonry unit database. Mark Unak of Codifyd (a product-content technology firm from Chicago) demonstrated a search engine for masonry products. BIM-M will be moving forward with a unified database where manufacturers can choose which products and attributes to include in the database. This greatly enhances the ability of architects and engineers to search for masonry unit options and include them 
in their BIM models.

The ‘designers’ session also included presentations from Mike Adams, Morgan Wiese, and Clint Bailey of Integrus Architecture (a Seattle architectural/engineering firm), and Shawn Zirbes of CAD Technology Center (one of the largest Autodesk partners in the United States). Both companies are BIM-M consultants who demonstrated tips and aids for users of Autodesk Revit to model masonry more efficiently. These will be included in the upcoming Best Practices Guide for Modeling of Masonry in Autodesk Revit, which includes actual models and text. (It will be available online for all to use.)

Sleeve Elevation
This partial elevation view of the composite model locates the MEP sleeve penetrations for the bricklayers. Each sleeve has a unique number and is color-coded per trade, as outlined in the caption to Figure 2.

The symposium’s ‘contractors’ session had several highlights. IMI’s Mark Swanson presented an overview of BIM and digital technologies expanding throughout the construction industry. Jim Schrader of Power Construction (Chicago) gave the general contractor perspective on what BIM services masonry contractors need to provide as part of the overall project—a model that can be useful with clash detection is essential. Adrian Siverson of R&D Masonry (Marysville, Washington) and Peter Sindic of Richards & Weyer Construction (Lyons, Illinois) gave two perspectives of BIM services masonry contractors are doing on projects. The mason contractors found efficiencies and economy from using some level of BIM on projects, even when they are not mandated to use it on the overall project.

Each speaker emphasized having BIM capability is a necessity, but the required degree of BIM services varies depending on the demands of each project. The key is to only do as much modeling as is useful to accomplish the project—just because one can model to great detail, does not mean it is always needed.

Attendees were also exposed to various software examples from Tradesmens Software, Autodesk Revit, Sketchup, and Cad Blox. “Mobile Apps for Construction” was the title of a presentation that will be available through BIM-M.

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