Creating BIM-M: Building Information Modeling for Masonry

Words: David BiggsCreating BIM-M: Building Information Modeling for Masonry
By David T. Biggs, P.E., S.E

Hopefully, by now, you have heard of the national initiative to develop Building Information Modeling (BIM) for everyone in the masonry industry. As an industry, we have to recognize that:

a) BIM is being used by the construction industry

b) BIM is being adopted by owners and construction managers at an accelerating pace

c) The masonry industry is not ready for BIM

d) Without BIM capabilities, masons and mason contractors will lose work or find their contracts being back charged for not providing BIM services

e) Everyone who embraces BIM for masonry could benefit.

As previously reported, an association of masonry groups has combined to create the National BIM for Masonry Initiative (BIM-M). See “Masonry and BIM: The Next Level,” Masonry, January 2013, for the background. Since that article was published, the momentum has continued to build. Significant activity has occurred on many fronts.

One significant milestone recently was achieved, with the completion of an industry Roadmap to guide us on this multi-year, multi-project venture. The roadmap was developed with industry input by the Digital Building Laboratory of Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), led by Professors Chuck Eastman (the Father of BIM) and Russell Gentry.

The entire roadmap text is available online at However, we’ll highlight some of the major results here, and provide some insight to where we are going.

The Roadmap preparation was officially Phase I of our journey. Going forward, the Roadmap includes Phase II – Preparation, Phase III – Specification, and Phase IV – Implementation.

Phase II has just started and is scheduled to run through 2014. Phase III begins January 2015 and runs through May 2016. Phase IV begins June 2016 and runs through January 2018. The dates are optimistic and highly dependent upon industry funding; cooperation of volunteers and industry groups; and the willingness of software vendors to participate.

SUBHEAD: Phase II comprises four projects:

Project 1 - Masonry Unit Model Definition

Project 2 - BIM-M Benchmark

Project 3 - Masonry Wall Model Definition

Project 4 - BIM-M Contractor Input

Project 1 includes a major industry effort to develop guidelines and a format for suppliers to specify their materials in a common digital format. The primary emphasis will be to include masonry unit information and, subsequently, will be extended to include accessories. Jeff Elder, P.E., of Interstate Brick will lead this effort for the masonry industry. Georgia Tech will be the prime consultant and will work with volunteers from the Material Suppliers Working Group.

Project 2 will be conducted by Georgia Tech. It includes inviting the major software vendors to create BIM models of actual masonry buildings using their current software. The goal is to highlight how BIM-M is underrepresented by current software and to open a dialog with the vendors for further development.

Project 3 involves yet another major effort on the masonry design side by the Architectural Modeling Working Group and the Structural Modeling Working Group. This effort is led by Ms. Jamie Davis, P.E., Ryan-Biggs Associates. These groups are tasked, in 2013, with researching, developing and detailing 10 masonry wall types that represent commonly used systems throughout the United States. Once completed, Georgia Tech will take the information, develop a digital representation of the systems, interface it with the materials information from Project 1, and feed it to software vendors.

Together, Projects 1 through 3 develop and document the knowledge required for the “front end” of BIM-M, so that architects and engineers can produce BIM models that embed substantial, actionable information about masonry into the design deliverables.

Project 4 is the first major project that directly addresses the needs of the mason, the mason contractor, the construction manager and general contractor. We feel that mason and contractor involvement are so critical to the success of BIM-M that one-third of all the projects in the Roadmap are dedicated to educating masons and improving masonry construction processes. BIM-M can be a tool that raises the bar for all who embrace it.

Tasks within Project 4 involve surveying the contractor community for input on critical issues such as defining best practices and improvement through the use of BIM-M. In addition, such topics as construction safety, project planning, material procurement, quantity take off, cost estimating, wall bracing, and more will be reviewed for possible inclusion in BIM-M software and can help the mason contractor.

The Construction Activities Working Group will be asked to investigate new delivery methods for putting the software tools into the hands of the mason and the contractor. Today, these tools are smartphones, laptops and tablets. On the horizon are hands-free headsets and whatever else the imagination can create.

Another significant aspect of Project 4 is the mason and contractor education program. A task is underway to develop educational programs to introduce masons and contractors to increasing complex digital tools and software, so they will be prepared to use the coming BIM-M software, once it moves to implementation. The industry is partnering with the Association of General Contracting to leverage their educational programs on BIM, and developing additional programs directly targeted to masons and contractors. Art Theusch of Collaborative Consulting Inc. is the lead consultant on this task.

Once Phase II is completed, Phase III will see Georgia Tech take the information developed and prepare proposals for software vendors to include more masonry capabilities into their products. Design and construction workflows will be included. Software vendors will be asked to respond with new or modified products specifically for the masonry industry.

Then the wait begins: How long will it take for the software vendors to respond to our needs? It will be a function of the degree of partnering developed throughout the process by the Executive Committee, the working groups and with our consultants at Georgia Tech.

Phase IV will begin with the implementation of a new era of software for the masonry industry. What follows will be the forever updating and improvements that accompany any software and technological advances.

There is much to be done, and opportunities exist for those willing to volunteer.

David Biggs is masonry industry coordinator for BIM-M. You can contact him at

Update: Funding for BIM for Masonry

The national groups behind the BIM for Masonry (BIM-M) project are working to raise dollars to help cover the costs of the BIM-M program. One part of the contractor side of this equation is working through the established charitable foundation, “The Masonry Foundation,” a recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

All contributions made to the foundation that are designated “BIM” will be used exclusively for BIM development. Any contributions to the Masonry Foundation are tax deductible as a charitable gift, so donors will get the best available tax advantage permitted by the IRS.

The project is estimated, preliminarily, to cost about $2 million. While that sounds like a lot of money – and it is, our industry is a large industry, which means a lot of small contributions can go a very long way. If half the people who receive this magazine committed to give just $50 a year for five years, we would raise nearly $1 million for the effort.

We ask that you consider giving to this effort today. We truly feel that without a robust BIM plan, our industry will lose market share instead of gain it. You can contribute using credit cards online at You also may give over the phone, by calling 800-536-2225 during regular business hours. Thank you in advance for your support.

~ Jeff Buczkiewicz
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