BIM-M Technology | Advanced Modeling with Revit Plugin Masonry iQ
INTELLIGENT DESIGN encouraging INTELLIGENT CONSTRUCTION
Tom Cuneio, CAD BLOX LLC
Advanced Modeling with Revit Plugin Masonry iQINTELLIGENT DESIGN encouraging INTELLIGENT CONSTRUCTION
Masonry is participating in the most advanced modeling processes in the industry today. Image at left is a laser scan used to capture existing concrete substrate to verify proper clearance for anchoring and installing precast panels.»
Masonry model married to the scan with precise location and scale. Scan was clashed against the model and several locations were identified where concrete needed to be modified for proper installation. This process allows exact measurements to be made between existing field conditions and modeled elements yet to be installed. Due to the design’s twisting nature, molds for panels were machined directly from the 3D model rather than from traditional fabrication drawings.»
Image at right was taken the day final panels were installed. By harnessing technology now available to masonry, complex designs can be executed without surprises, in real time.»
Puzzles are fascinating. Individual pieces seem insignificant and bear little resemblance to the total picture. But you can appreciate how truly significant each piece is if you’ve ever finshed a puzzle only to find one piece has been lost. If you were to watch a puzzle come together, at first the picture remains a mystery, but there comes a point – a turing point, really – where the whole picture can be understood even though many pieces have yet to be placed.
In the same way, BIM for Masonry (BIM-M) has been working to piece together a modeling solution for masonry. Many key pieces are now in place and the turning point has passed. The final picture is in view, even though several pieces are yet to be placed. It’s an exciting time for masonry, in which real solutions are emerging. A complete BIM solution for masonry is just on the horizon.
The Strength of MUD: Redefining How Masonry Is Modeled
The Masonry Unit Database (MUD) Version 1 released some months ago, represents an essential ingredient to a BIM solution for masonry. The significance of MUD is hard to overstate. It’s like those critical edge pieces that come together first and give the whole puzzle structure. Masonry materials have spent several thousand years innovating and diversifying, which is a strength, but it also can be overwhelming for the designer to navigate. With so many specialty solutions in the market, it can be difficult to know what is available. Need a unit that can be reinforced, has sound absorbing qualities with thermal mass and has a particular architectural finish? It may exist, but what is the value of having the perfect tool for every task if you can’t find it when you need it? BIM-M has drawn upon industry experts to explore several viable solutions. It has arrived at a relational database structure that organizes the immense diversity of masonry products, making them accessible.
MUD allows designers and contractors to browse for masonry products, based on properties that satisfy design requirements
MUD allows designers and contractors to browse for masonry products, based on properties that satisfy design requirements. It also standardizes and organizes masonry so it can be consumed by designers and software developers in an organized digital format. It prepares masonry products for design and construction modeling by serving the right data to each stakeholder. It’s the difference between starting a jigsaw puzzle that has been randomly dumped out on a table versus one that has been turned right side up, sorted by color and shape, and with the edge pieces in a neat little pile.
Custom bond patterns representing a wide range of masonry shapes can now be studied in design models. Corner bonding is accurately represented and models can be analyzed to assess a proper fit for masonry. BIM is delivering tools that are yielding a faster, smarter, more fun experience for all who design with masonry products.»
As Clear as MUD
If you have been following MUD’s development and have been asking yourself what to do with it, you are not alone. To understand how MUD might be used, it will help to discuss how models are currently used in the larger BIM community.
Currently, models used for BIM are divided into two distinct camps. On one hand, you have BIM performed by the design team; on the other, you have BIM performed by the contractors. These two worlds are often isolated from one another and only exchange a minimal amount of information directly. In a perfect world, these two camps and their models will be united. We are working toward that unified goal.
The primary reason for having two separate models has to do with ownership and liability for the information in BIM. It’s rare for a design model to serve as the contract document. If a design model is to serve as the document of record, then many traditional liabilities of the contractor shift back to the design team, weakening the healthy system of checks and balances. Since design models don’t typically become construction models, they are free to evolve in a design-specific space. Similarly, construction models are generally constructed after the design process is complete, so they have also evolved in their own construction-specific space. Since both models have separate authors with very distinct purposes, they have developed over the years on separate software platforms. For MUD to be effective, it needs to serve relevant data to both BIM communities and it is prepared to do just that.
Engineers will look to MUD for unit properties like strength, weight, R-values and unit geometry. MUD also has specific data, like web- and face-shell thickness, which can be used to evaluate thermal bridging. MUD is in the process of gathering manufacturer-specific data, like digital product images that architects will use to render masonry elevations and generate specifications. There is also space in MUD for proprietary products like ICMU, custom brick shapes, cast stone and others. MUD is a rich environment for designers to mine for all the masonry data they need.
BIM for construction will also find MUD to be a great resource. For starters, 3D unit geometry for masonry can be directly exported from the database in several file types. These units can form the basis of LOD 400 digital mock ups when coordinating critical regions of a structure. MUD contains bond beams, open end units and brick of all shapes and sizes. A host of different core configurations are available, allowing internal coordination issues, like confirming space for in-wall utilities, to be verified in the model. The data in MUD is growning and it should attract applications that will leverage its data to make masonry much more BIM friendly.
Those who supply materials for construction have been working for some time to serve their products into BIM workflows. Some products lend themselves well to BIM adoption. Simple components like steel beams are easy to model and populate with data and, as such, have been available to BIM for years. Steel shapes are relatively limited and have been standardized. Concrete is essentially data only since the geometry is produced entirely in the design model. Other components are more complex, like an HVAC compressor or a door assembly. Some work by the manufacturer is required to develop the geometry and data, but once that is done, they are easily brought into BIM. They generally occur in low quantities and can be dropped into the model.
Units can form the basis of LOD 400 digital mock ups when coordinating critical regions of a structure
Masonry products don’t enjoy these advantages. They don’t have standardized geometry like steel. They have complex modular elements, so they are not simple like concrete and they typically occur in large quantities -- often very large quantities. Suppliers are tasked with developing geometry and data, and modelers tasked with assembling the data into models. Beyond that, many properties important to designers are not even unit properties, so MUD isn’t the whole story. Unit properties must often be used in context with rebar schedules, mortar properties, bond configurations and grout locations to develop the wall properties necessary for design.
Complex masonry models are finding a very productive place in today’s coordination models. Accurate unit-based models deliver exact cell locations allowing for rebar and other in-wall elements to be fully coordinated. Bond beam locations can be clashed against mechanical penetrations. Complex interactions with steel, imbeds, beam pockets and other structural elements can be studied. These models produce very precise orders and are earning new-found respect for masonry on the job site and in the office.»
Despite the challenges of bringing masonry into BIM, its likely that BIM will be the best thing that could have happened to this industry. Challenges are real, but they are being overcome. Masonry is incredibly diverse; MUD is making it accessible. Wall properties and energy performance for masonry have many variables; masonry models combine those variables intelligently. Bond patterns and layout may be challenging; smart modeling tools are performing analysis on the fly. Challenges are often the driver for innovation and this is true with BIM for masonry.
Connecting MUD data to design models is an indirect path. Since design models must be more flexible, they can’t carry the load of details that masonry demands. Design models generally represent walls as a simplified system – an average of sorts – that is easy to construct and edit. MUD contains unit properties and unit geometry which do not translate directly to masonry wall properties or wall geometry. They are related, but only indirectly. Experienced designers who know what to do with unit data benefit from MUD as a resource, but the path to generate wall geometry and wall properties directly from MUD involves additional steps. What we need is a solution that can generate the desired wall data from the unit data in MUD.
Better Design Tools
MUD is being adopted into masonry software and improving intelligence, speed and efficiency of modeling. Masonry iQ by 3DiQ Inc just on the market is MUD compatible (3DiQinc.com). Now designers and contractors can create custom bond patterns from MUD unit geometry and generate those patterns quickly. Not only that, but Masonry iQ patterns perform a 3D analysis of the walls and adapt those patterns intelligently around penetrations and corners, providing accurate layout with field cuts. Wall sections are drawn correct to bond patterns with bond beam locations noted. Custom shapes and manufacturer’s specific units are being added to MUD, which will further enhance this tool.
Integration of MUD with Masonry iQ provides functionality previously unavailable. Ability to study modularity during design is a huge leap forward. Wall geometry that is not modular requires field cuts during installation to make up the difference in bonding. These cuts affect wall aesthetics, generate material waste, slow production, produce airborne silica and can be the root of workmanship issues -- even wall performance issues when small plugs are introduced. Field cuts are part of almost all masonry installations since the tools to study layout didn’t exist before. This type of analysis can now be performed on any design, including complicated cavity walls where interior and exterior patterns are analyzed independently.
Design models monitor their own geometry and auditing compatibility with custom
Exciting Time for Masonry
MUD is opening doors to more advanced and creative masonry solutions in both design and construction models. Tools like Masonry iQ represent first generation intelligent design support for masonry. Design models are monitoring their own geometry and auditing compatibility with custom patterns, providing critical feedback early in the design process. Coupled with better data from MUD, complex masonry wall properties for thermal and structural analysis will be more accessible. Until now, the industry has handed designers a limited set of patterns and stock wallpaper images of typical elevations. Now, the full range of patterns can be explored and rendered with a growing database of producer images. The challenges of working with a material that is so diverse are being overcome with the power of BIM.
On the construction side, automated model generation is in advanced stages. Accurate Level of Development (LOD) 350 masonry models are having significant impact on the market and will soon be the new norm. These models can be populated with units from MUD and are ideal for coordination with HVAC, mechanical, steel and other trades. Masonry job sites supported by these advanced models have much smoother installations and lower costs. Field cutting is reduced, eliminated or understood well enough and early enough to be done off site. Bond beam and grout locations are known and penetrations can be planned accordingly. Orders are extremely accurate, which brings down the overall cost of materials.
Masonry models for construction are active today in the most advanced BIM workflows like laser scanning. This has proven particularly effective when adjusting layout in veneers to fit an existing structure. Complex cast shapes are being fabricated directly from models. Coordinating masonry models can be experienced in virtual reality, allowing BIM to be explored in breathtaking ways. These are not wishes, these are practical applications that are providing real value on projects today.
There are a lot of so many exciting developments are underway in BIM-M. With progress being made on both ends of the spectrum, intelligent design models are behaving more like construction models and automated construction models are becoming more flexible and easy to generate. The day is coming when lines will blur and a single model will serve both purposes. That day will be another leap forward in construction efficiency. Although masonry has lagged behind in BIM adoption due to its complexity, the solutions that are being developed to overcome masonry’s challenges could lead the way toward the next big step forward in BIM solutions.
Tom Cuneio, has been developing modeling solutions for masonry for more than 10 years. His company, CAD BLOX LLC has provided models, orders, layout drawings and other BIM related services for more than 600 commercial jobs. He is actively developing software and methods to help the masonry industry capitalize on the benefits of BIM technology. He is an honors graduate of the Mechanical and Aerospace program from the University of Missouri. 719.232.5570 | tom@3DiQinc.com