The Role of Masonry in BIM


Building Information Modeling

The construction industry is searching for ways to increase efficiency, and many are turning to Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Technology is improving by leaps and bounds, and it doesn’t show signs, currently, of slowing down. Even though some resistance has been shown to BIM, it is proving to have valid use. Just as drafting boards and T-squares were replaced by CPUs, monitors, keyboards digitizers and drafting software, the latter is being replaced by even more advanced software that benefits the complete design-build team, including the product manufacturers. The construction industry is being dazzled by the ability to make parametric changes that update prints, schedules and even photo-realistic renderings. BIM undoubtedly will be a great benefit to construction, and masonry has an excellent opportunity to take advantage of what likely will become the norm, or even the standard.

The biggest roadblock will be convincing everyone to get on board.  Most will encounter what I feel are common questions asked about BIM, “Do we really need to do this?” and “Is this just a gimmick?”

The answer is “Yes, and no.” Masonry, as with many other products, must be involved or be left behind. As for being a gimmick, it is conceivable that BIM can save the masonry industry time and money, benefits that other construction products are already realizing. This is why Endicott Clay Products Co. is pushing forward to provide information models.

The information BIM can provide is vast. As a part of a brick manufacturing team, I find it imperative to provide all information possible on our product. I have conducted research on what is needed for the models provided, and I always come to the same conclusion: There is no cut-and-dried standard on what should be included. Thus, I provide everything I can, and then I listen. I listen to the architects, specifiers, general contractors and even the owners to decide what additional information should be included. The information that can be provided in a model can help everyone on the design-build team.


Changing Materials is done quickly and is automatically corrected throughout the project.

Models can include information on quantity, which gives the design-build team the ability to obtain more accurate quantity take offs. It can be negative if too many masonry units are ordered, but it can be disastrous if too few are ordered. The color, texture, standards and specifications can be provided as parametric information, which allows changes made to the project to be reflected in all locations in the design. This greatly reduces change orders and mistakes, which could become costly and time consuming, possibly delaying construction for months. Much of the information included on a particular product is centered on construction specifications, but the beauty of BIM is that it continues to provide information even after construction has finished and the project is in service. Many owners find themselves using BIM to facilitate the maintenance and efficiency of the structure for years into the future.

Some models may provide information on fire ratings, suggested cleaning methods, and proper care and maintenance of the products. Some building owners are having their older buildings recreated with BIM models, so they can benefit from the maintenance and efficiency tools that BIM models offer. Countless information parameters can be added to ease the design and construction process. The key is making relevant information accessible; and this must come from a reliable source. The most reliable source is the product manufacturer.

The “I” in BIM stands for information, and while I feel that this is probably the most important part of BIM, I don’t dismiss the effect that rendering has on design. I actually believe that the renderings created by BIM software are truly informational. Set aside the fact that the renderings produced by the software can look just like a photograph, giving the owner the opportunity to see the final project months, even years, before the project is completed. They also provide the option to catch aesthetic mistakes in the beginning of the design process. Brick blends and patterns can be created and added to the project model, thus providing the ability to estimate the proper quantity of each type of brick in the blend. This also becomes helpful for the mason, with parametric views that show the layout of the blend or pattern, thus reducing confusion. The software’s rendering engines can take some time to render a full model, but the use of preliminary mockups take far less time and could pay for themselves in the end. But then again, rendering is only one form of information that should be provided by a manufacturer’s model. BIM opens doors that sometimes have been difficult to open in the past.

Renderings can show patterning layout to eliminate confusion.

In conclusion, it is important for everyone to at least familiarize themselves with the BIM process and try to discover how it can benefit them. I would suggest going beyond that. Learn how it can benefit the entire project. As manufacturers delve into the preparation of models, they need to determine the exact needs of the end-users of their models and strive to meet those needs. The models need to include accurate information, and when products change, the change needs to be made to the model. A model with only the manufacturer name and contact information is not enough, and as BIM grows, informational input will evolve.

We at Endicott Clay Products Co. are diligently working and listening to expand the use of BIM. Open communication and information exchange between manufacturers and the design team is essential. The masonry industry should strive to make creative suggestions on the information included in BIM models; some masonry associations have initiated discussion on creating information standards that will best suit the industry. The masonry industry can use the models to facilitate design and construction efficiencies in the process.

John Ragland, CSI, is director of marketing and technical services for Endicott Clay Products Co.

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