A roadmap for BIM for masonry

Masonry industry tired of lost project opportunities

There are lots of changes happening in the construction products industry this year. With the new version of LEED set to reward projects that use products that have Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), the industry is changing fast. Alongside the changes in LEED, the industry is also adapting to changes in how decision makers access information on building materials. You may have heard about BIM – it stands for Building Information Modeling. Essentially BIM is a computerized representation of a building that contains all of the materials that are required to construct the building. BIM allows for information about the building to be shared with project proponents early on in the project cycle – from conceptual design phase through to design, construction, the use phase, and eventually demolition. BIM objects represent the items that are used to build the building.

A recent article featured in Masonry Magazine lays out how BIM is expected to impact the masonry sector, and a report released this week sets out the plan of attack by the masonry industry to make BIM widespread within the industry: “A Roadmap for Developing and Deploying Building Information Modeling (BIM) for the Masonry Industry”. The report outlines the steps that need to be taken by the masonry industry through 2017.

If you’re a construction product manufacturer, this is important since, according to a recent McGraw Hill publication – “The Business Value of BIM in North America”, 71% of architects, engineers, contractors and owners say that they’re using BIM on their projects. McGraw Hill’s research estimates that by 2014, 75% of architects, 43% of engineers, 55% of contractors and 44% of owners will use BIM on more than 60% of their building projects.

Patrick MacLeamy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HOK, a global architecture and engineering firm that was ranked as the top International Design Firm by Engineering News-Record, says that one of the most important changes that need to take place for BIM is the engagement of product manufacturers. “People who make the products that we put into our building are becoming quite interested in highly filtered searches online that identify the right product for the right use in a model with all the technical details. We’re at the beginnings of that, but it could really take off”.

So how is the masonry industry responding to the increased use of BIM from end users? Masonry Magazine reports that the industry is putting a high priority on developing BIM for masonry, and has outlined the challenges faced by the industry with respect to developing BIM. To date, the masonry industry is falling behind, as masonry products are not often listed in BIM software, whereas other materials such as steel or precast concrete are listed. This translates into lost opportunities to get masonry products incorporated into building projects. If masonry products are at the fingertips of designers using BIM software, the designer will be more inclined to include masonry products in the project.

Luckily, the industry sees the missed opportunities, and is making efforts to ensure BIM objects are available for masonry. According to Masonry Magazine, several organizations including the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA), the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), Western States Clay Products Association, the International Masonry Institute (IMI) and The Masonry Society (TMS), have committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure the masonry industry doesn’t get left behind in the design process. The group of organizations has collaborated to develop a roadmap to get masonry products listed on BIM databases. Once manufacturers have developed BIM objects for their products, they can often list them on databases free of charge. The return on investment can actually be quite favourable if the manufacturer can list their products on multiple databases. First movers can also benefit from being the only product in a particular category to have a manufacturer-specific listing on the database. For the masonry industry, any aspect of differentiation should be explored; BIM is simply one of the latest avenues a manufacturer can pursue to gain a competitive edge.

CarbonCure sees the value in developing BIM objects, and has committed to working with its partners to develop them so they can take advantage of the growing trend toward using BIM. However, the industry will need to work together to resolve some of the challenges that may arise, including the “multitude and complexity of masonry types” that the roadmap identifies.

Moving forward, with product environmental information readily available through tools such as BIM and EPDs, the environmental impacts of products can serve as an additional screening criteria when decision makers evaluate products. Cost, performance, durability, aesthetic, and now environmental impacts can all be factors when making decisions about which products to use in a building project. Hopefully with BIM objects and EPDs in hand, more decisions will be in masonry’s favor.

Source: Masonry Magazine, January 2013.

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