November 2008: News from IMI

Words: Dan KamysNovember 2008

IMI New Products Expo

IMI New Products Expo

With a seemingly endless stream of advertising for new products, how do building professionals decide which are right for their businesses?

The International Masonry Institute's (IMI) "New Products Expo" was held in September, providing hundreds of architects, engineers, contractors and construction managers the opportunity to see promising products and systems up close, and to ask plenty of questions.

The expo was held at The Flynn Center, the training and education campus of the IMI and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC). The IMI is a strategic alliance of BAC and union contractors.

For this inaugural event, the IMI invited a select group of product representatives that included terra cotta, ceramic and stone fa??ade systems, flowable terrazzo, concrete flooring, insulated concrete forms, autoclaved aerated concrete coatings, and grout products.

The products reflect the variety of skills represented by the BAC and are in keeping with the IMI's emphasis on sustainability. Some of the products are already being installed by BAC contractors in larger metropolitan areas, and the IMI is helping to spread the word elsewhere.

The training setting was intentional, since a key part of taking a chance on a new product is having confidence that it will be properly installed. The unusual format, where product vendors and IMI training experts walked through each product's installation process, appealed to both designers and contractors.

"The program material was very specific and informative," says architect John Lopeman, AIA, from Ethos Three Architecture in Las Vegas.

It worked well for contractors as well, says Fred Kinateder of Kinateder Masonry Inc. in Wisconsin and co-chair of the IMI. "Putting mockups and materials in a training setting is the best way to get contractors comfortable," he says.

Increased confidence in both products and proper training inspires contractors to seek new opportunities that can help the masonry industry compete with other materials, says IMI Co-Chair and BAC President John J. Flynn. "'Business as usual' is not an option any longer," he says.

William McConnell, president of Architectural Paving & Stone Inc. in Massachusetts, agrees, "You need to be ready to leap at new opportunities, and IMI is there to make it happen"

IMI New Products Expo

The IMI helps prepare contractors and BAC members in three ways: through research, training and education. Having those capabilities allows the IMI to work with manufacturers, trade associations, researchers and others to identify the most promising materials or systems, and then match those with specific markets.

The crucial next step is assuring BAC members and contractors have the right training and education. Often, the IMI will work with manufacturers to develop specialized training and even contractor certification.

"The knowledge and technical capacity offered by IMI is truly an asset to our industry," says Michael Kuhn, VP of Jendoco Construction Corp. in Pittsburgh. "I particularly appreciated the live demonstrations of the products, coupled with the chance to discuss the products at length. I am impressed by the forward thinking."

Architects and engineers attending the expo got the added benefit of a seminar on new structural masonry design software collaboratively developed by the IMI, the National Concrete Masonry Association, Bentley Systems and Ryan Biggs Associates.

The masonry design software's "whole building" approach, as opposed to traditional analysis of individual components, offers easier and faster engineering design of masonry buildings that cuts design time from weeks to days. The software performs efficient analysis of both load-bearing masonry buildings and the "hybrid" concept of masonry/steel design. It includes irregular configurations, wall openings, multi-story structures and structural infill panels in structural steel frames. The sponsoring groups have launched a national seminar series offering professional education credits.

Contractors visiting The Flynn Center for the expo enjoyed a special session of Contractor College that included classes on sustainable masonry, codes and standards, and industry updates. A slideshow from the New Products Expo is available at

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