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

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In the photo above, a bricklayer installs mechanical duct sleeves at precise locations per the BIM model, as he constructs the masonry.
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As the concrete masonry wall was constructed, the bricklayers installed 468 sleeves for fire protection, 231 sleeves for plumbing, 343 sleeves for water, and 10 miscellaneous sleeves. There was a total of 1537 sleeves.

Where BIM-M goes from here
Starting with the realization BIM is not a fad, but rather a new way of both designing and delivering construction services, the masonry industry remains coordinated and firmly behind the financial support of the project. In fact, this is the largest cooperative masonry industry effort ever undertaken.

There is a growing relationship with BIM Forum, integrating BIM-M with broader industry advancements, and the aforementioned Best Practices Guide. A roadmap posted online lists the many activities and final goals of the project, targeting December 2017 as the symbolic end of Generation 1 of the initiative.3 These goals include:

  • 
masonry unit database accessible to all BIM users;
  • 
masonry wall definitions for LOD 350 with standard details;
  • 
software upgrades that achieve LOD 350 or greater for design;
  • 
software that allows contractors to achieve LOD 400 or greater for construction purposes and 
can detect clashes with specific masonry features 
(e.g. bond beams, grouted cells, shelf angles, etc.);
  • 
software upgrades that operate with other masonry-specific software;
  • 
improved design tools (e.g. software upgrades, add-ins, plugs-ins) using Autodesk Revit that provide for modularity, early project pricing, and masonry detailing;
  • 
improved contractor tools (e.g. software upgrades, apps for mobile devices, hardware-specific for field use) for contractors to improve project efficiency and utilize developing BIM tools; and
  • 
beginning of development of new software specific to construction by third-party vendors.

Case study
A recent healthcare research lab project in Chicago illustrates how building information modeling improves masonry trade coordination and helps 
a project run more smoothly.4

The intricate construction of CMU walls laden with structural requirements and mechanical penetrations for this project was greatly aided through the use of BIM by providing the mason contractor advance input and notice of the various mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) requirements (Figure 2).

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Figure 2: The coordination model in the top image shows MEP pipes and ducts passing through the masonry walls. In the lower image, a plan view of the composite model shows some of the MEP penetrations. Light green is mechanical, dark green is water, yellow is electrical, red is fire protection, blue is HVAC, and cyan is plumbing/domestic water vent.
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