Advancing The Mason Contractor’s Role With Delegated Design

Mike Harman, Brad Maurer

Cost effective cast stone with faux joints and great longevity was selected for the exterior of the upscale Birmingham MI boutique Daxton hotel

Simplifying the wall system takes advantage of masonry’s intrinsic benefits

Mason contractors have the ability to be collaborators, influencing design of the entire exterior building envelope during the design phase. Through years of experience, they know the building enclosure system better than anyone. Often, a project with a high level of design is filled with details cumbersome and costly to execute. In these situations, multiple trades are required to build a wall section that could easily be replaced with one simple masonry system, expediting schedule and greatly enhancing wall system performance permanently. Simply select a mason contractor who knows how to help Design Masonry for ALL It’s Worth.

Value Engineering Masonry IN Saves Schedule and Budget

Overlapping of multiple systems can bog down a project schedule and inflate prices. An experienced mason contractor may know a simpler way to achieve the same goal and elevate wall performance as well. But by traditional project delivery, the level of design and project schedule would not allow time to propose major changes. This causes higher than necessary estimates at bid time and, therefore, masonry is subject to being value engineered out of the project due to being over budget. Owners and construction managers are then forced to look outside the masonry industry to achieve alternate design goals. Simplicity of a masonry wall system that can provide structure, enclosure and finish all in one always brings cost savings.

Headquarters building at Berkshire eSupply features a 2" thick, 4' x 4' Jerusalem stone veneer, essentially a very dense limestone, over metal stud backup on a large radius. Redesigned by Leidal & Hart to eliminate over-design from continuous anchoring with individual stainless steel brackets located in every upper corner. To the right is the fulfillment center featuring Dolomite brick.

It is the mason contractor who needs to propose early in the concept stage how value engineering masonry IN to a job can actually lower construction costs and improve schedule by allowing masonry to multi-task. The mason can bring both efficiency and practicality to the design and eliminate construction trade conflicts that negatively impact schedule.

History Repeats Itself

Centuries ago, the highest construction executive was the master mason. Carpenters, glaziers and others all yielded to the mason. Under the masons’ tutelage, many magnificent structures, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, Roman Coliseum and Duomo Florence cathedral, were built to perfection and still stand today, hundreds, even thousands of years later.

Complexity of medieval designs of European cathedrals was in the finer details. Stone carvings, bearing arches and the shear mass of structures tested the masons’ ability. Yet, many proved themselves as capable contractors. While the complexities of today are much different, the mason is still capable of much more than simply laying one on top of two.

Greater Efficiency

Once again, the mason contractor has the opportunity to confidently speak up and take on more responsibility while adding efficiency and practicality to the entire envelope system. Over time and along with many technological changes, the perception of the mason has changed from master builder to one of a number of subcontractors. However, like our forefathers, the experienced mason contractor is capable of creative execution, meeting aggressive schedules and completing entire exterior envelopes.

Added Scope of Work

Air barriers, insulation, flashings, caulking and damp proofing have crept into the masonry scope in recent years and have been eagerly accepted by many experienced masons. Self-performing items of added scope requires a new level of training and possibly complete reinvention for many masons. As building projects become more complex with tighter schedules and budgets, it’s important for designers to realize that masons can be allies in bringing a design vision to reality and can be true assets to the project team from conception to completion.

Cut with precision, the 4' x 4' imported Jerusalem limestone creates an elegant concave and convex shape on the headquarters building.

Designers Reach Out to Masons

For any number of reasons today, it isn’t unheard of to see bid packages only 60% complete. As such, final decisions are increasingly being made by contractors, with designers understanding. Decisions may be made based on availability or familiarity rather than design intent, performance or longevity.

Delegated Design is the transfer of design responsibility of certain aspects of the project from the architect. A key strength of the astute mason contractor today is his ability to accomplish Delegated Design. The mason can take a concept and, through practical experience, create a detail that meets design intent which best suits all parties involved.

While this type of feedback and communication is expected of any good mason contractor during the construction phase, what makes this different is the early and open communication between the design team and the mason contractor about a masonry concern or issue before trying to solve it themselves. Perhaps in the design or construction documents phase.

Collaborating when the design issue originally occurs and talking through it before it goes through the many layers of construction management is not only a less expensive method, but will ultimately speed up the project during construction. Further, it gives the GC/CM accurate bid numbers that won’t change with added costs from clarifying RFIs or bulletins – keeping the project within its expected budget.

Cost of Business as Usual

Many university architecture and engineering programs have limited masonry education components, therefore new designers gain experience from designing systems for real-world applications. Regardless of professional experience, however, early collaboration of the design team and mason contractor during the design phase can help ensure design detail efficiency and constructability, saving materials, time and money from slowdowns and changes that may otherwise arise in later project phases.

Nobody wants to see a design get produced, reach the bid market, and force value engineering because the designer has it way over engineered, or the details are complicated and costly. We want to see the design reach the market complete, from both a cost and execution standpoint. This is what will make the project a success and this is where the contractor will avoid losing money. However, if masonry doesn’t make sense, who better to tell you and explain why or how to fix it?

Nobody wants to see a design get produced, reach the bid market, and force value engineering because it is over engineered, or the details are complicated and costly. We want to see the design reach the market complete, from both a cost and execution standpoint

Two projects currently under construction are worthy examples

Berkshire eSupply, 18,380 sf headquarters and 193,230 sf two-story, state-of-the-art e-commerce fulfillment center, benefits in both cost and schedule from early recommendation of the mason contractor.

The owner’s design objective was for the facilities to be attractive with a visual prominence from the nearby major highway. From the beginning, the material palette included limestone veneer on the headquarters for its richness.

General Contractor Oliver/Hatcher superintendent Dan Antishun, realized early that this was an intricate project. Veneer and backup system were causing budget concerns. Because of the owner’s desire to use this particular stone veneer, value engineering to a less expensive material was not an option. Instead, they looked to mason contractor Leidal & Hart for efficient solutions. Wall system was designed with 2″ thick, 4′ x 4′ very dense Jerusalem limestone over metal stud backup on a large radius.

Grey cast stone with faux joints became the solution to keeping the cast stone aesthetic with larger pieces for efficient constructability to keep this job within budget. Meticulous masonry craftsmanship is as precise as the faux joints. Stone pieces ranging in size from 4-5' wide x 6-8' tall, weighing from 1000–1500 lb are being transported in 30 truckloads from manufacturer to job-site. Real joints are indicated by red rules. Stone sits atop black cast stone band resting on black granite base. Energy-efficient wall system incorporates these systems from Carlisle Coatings & Waterproofing: 705 VP breathable engineered fabric air and water resistive barrier fully-adhered to the exterior sheathing, 2" of R2+ MATTE coated-glass-faced polyiso foam insulation (R-12.1), CCW-705 TWF adhered sheet through-wall flashing with tough 8-mil facer. The adhered continuous air barrier and continuous high-R foam insulation provide high energy performance, exceeding requirements for Climate Zone 5. Adhered flashing and breathable sheet membrane provide effective moisture management by deflecting and draining exterior moisture while allowing interior moisture to dry.

Daxton Hotel, also benefiting from early collaboration is the five-story, 159,000 sf luxury mixed-use facility. With 126 rooms and 17 residential units, it is primarily cast stone exterior over metal stud with CMU in lower levels and parking garage areas. Don Rogers from Clark Constructionwas looking for construction input from qualified masons from the onset.

Marshall Butler and Dru Furbee from Booth Hansen bring ideas to reality while maintaining efficiency for project schedule as well as its restrictive ½ acre site. Leidal & Hart was hired to perform all CMU, cast stone veneer, insulation, air barrier and caulk work. Air barrier and caulk were subcontracted to waterproofing specialist Dixon Inc.


Original designs at Berkshire eSupply called for continuous stainless steel angles attached to concrete backup below level one and stud backup above level one at every bed joint (24″). As one could expect, this is a lot of linear footage of stainless steel angle iron. Approximately 2800 feet needing to be properly installed and flashed. This is a great deal of work to execute in the field.

Due to project history, Leidal & Hart has a reputation well beyond Michigan for being creative and having capacity to execute complicated designs. Architect, GC & mason contractor met to discuss options with both design and budget in mind.

At Daxton, the tight site and aggressive schedule required out-of-the-box thinking. Leidal & Hart was asked their opinion on how to achieve logistical demands of the site and still meet required dates. Panelizing stone veneer into larger pieces included false joints to achieve the original design aesthetic.

Partnering with the cast stone supplier, a mock-up of the panelization was built to alleviate any concerns that the building would look too manufactured and to be sure it wouldn’t lose its desired boutique charm. After reviewing, the cast stone piece count was reduced from 4800 to 1800, greatly reducing the schedule impact on the masonry scope.


In early stages of Berkshire eSupply, there was discussion about changing the backup system to CMU but due to structural steel being pre-purchased, it was decided to keep the stud wall system due to large openings on exterior walls. A large expense was the continuous stainless steel angle irons. After further discussion, the question was asked: Can these be eliminated? The building simply was not designed to support the entire load of stone without relief. However, there really wasn’t anything requiring angle irons to be continuous.

The question was asked: Can independent support angles carry the load? This would eliminate much of the linear footage of stainless steel and flashing requirements creating an easier installation process, translating to savings of $22,000.

This concept would put an independent angle iron at the corner of each stone panel, eliminating the continuous angle iron for 870 independent connections. Several variables demanded consideration for this option. Would the Jerusalem stone perform well without continuous support angle? There were concerns that anchoring only the corners would cause stress cracks and point loading. We operated on the simplest design being the best design concept. Another concern was tight tolerances for stone against the larger acceptable tolerances for steel.

For the Daxton Hotel project, once the decision to panelize the stone was accepted, there was an intricate shop drawing process that fleshed out the new details, many of which were conceptualized by Leidal & Hart. Anchor analysis was sent to Walkowicz Consulting Engineering (WCE) and through collaboration with the metal stud contractor and its engineer, a small number of stud were added along with some horizontal backing to support larger pieces of cast stone. While there was a small upcharge in stone manufacturing, it was minimal compared to schedule and labor increases required to lay smaller pieces. Overall, panelization saved the project around 5% of the total masonry package costs.

Over Design

Berkshire eSupply was originally drawn with the safe bet, the maximum amount of steel support within reason. In our discussions with the GC and architects, we pushed for the minimum amount of support to perform the work safely. We looked for things that were difficult to execute and tried to simplify them. As mason contractors, we know how crews see and perform work in the field. In general the simpler the design, the better the execution.

Black cast stone to resemble granite are used as accents punctuating the space between windows at the luxury Daxton hotel.

Through the Delegated Design process, Leidal & Hart hired its masonry engineering expert to perform site-specific engineering calculations on this stone and its anchoring system. Additional metal stud was required to allow for support at head joint locations of stone panels. 3/4″ steel plates were welded to stud to disperse the load. Stainless steel brackets were then welded to plates to support 6″ wide, 3½” x 3½” stainless steel support brackets. Top corners of the Jerusalem stone were notched during fabrication to allow brackets to expand, much like a lip stretcher with brick veneer.

In this particular example, Delegated Design was included in the general conditions of the contract, where Leidal & Hart acted as the middleman between our design engineer and the architect / engineer of record. This process allowed us to provide as little or as much input as required to achieve what was sought by the owner and GC when we were originally contracted to create simple details and save project budget. WCE worked with the metal stud contractor as necessary to achieve optimal results. While CMU backup would have made the engineering much easier, due to large storefront openings, it was determined by the design team that metal stud was a better fit.

Delegated Design gives the GC/CM accurate bid numbers that won’t change with added costs from clarifying RFIs or bulletins – keeping the project within its expected budget.

The New Normal

The construction industry as a whole is constantly changing. If Designers, Construction Managers and Mason Contractors don’t collaborate and change with it, masonry will be underutilized and over priced. The experienced proactive and knowledgeable mason contractor who keeps up with industry advancements and efficiencies can be a huge asset to the design team when involved very early in a project’s design and is allowed input.

Being involved in helping the design team detail per code is different from simply providing a budget for a project with general contractors or construction managers. Problem solving difficult areas on a drawing can help A/Es achieve the building they want the first time around, rather than having the project going out for bid, being over-budget, and then decreased to a fraction of the designers original vision. Early mason contractor involvement can help keep the designers’ vision and the owners budget as intended. Always leading to successful finished projects.

The Win | Win | Win!

Albert Kahn Associates Pankaj Patel, Project Architect, commented that Leidal & Hart and their masonry engineer’s Delegated Design innovation brought an effective, more cost efficient solution by using individual anchors in every corner rather than industry standard continuous angle irons to attach the beautiful Jerusalem limestone cladding.

White Executive and Dolomite brick clad separate areas of the eSupply Fulfillment Center, assisting in distinguishing between the two wings with color, shape and size variation.

Mike Harman

Mike Harman started as an apprentice in 1974, graduating from the apprenticeship program in 1977. He worked as a bricklayer foreman/supervisor for Leidal & Hart Mason Contractors from 1982 until late 1988 when he opted to get more involved with the management of the company. In 2000, Harman became part owner and president of Leidal & Hart. He has served as a board member for the Masonry Institute of Michigan (MIM) and very active in Masonry Alternate Design projects with the MIM suggesting CMU backup to always reduce cost and increase value of a wall system. He has been a leader in enlarging the contractor’s scope of the role of the mason, including innovation for achieving efficient solutions. Branch offices were opened in South Bend IN and Delaware OH as Leidal & Hart began working at University of Notre Dame, Ohio University, and The Ohio State University. | 734.522.2400

Brad Maurer

Brad Maurer is General Superintendent for mason Leidal & Hart in Livonia MI. He began immediately after graduation from Fowlerville High School as a bricklayer apprentice and quickly elevated to project foreman after becoming a journeyman mason. He ran large projects for more than 12 years before taking on his current role in July of 2015, running all field operations including site logistics, scheduling and manpower. Maurer is currently on the Board of Trustees for the Masonry Institute of Michigan and Michigan Mason Contractors Association, is a voting and corresponding member to several committees of The Masonry Society (TMS), is an Architecture Construction Engineering (ACE) Mentor and sits on the Apprenticeship Board for Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Local 2 MI. Maurer is also a certified structural masonry inspector. His passion is for industry creativity, leadership development and elevating the perception of our industry. | 734.522.2400


Upon reading the article you will be able to:

1 Define Delegated Design

2 Distinguish Delegated Design from other project delivery methods

3 Give examples of ways Delegated Design may improve a masonry project

4 Identify roles and responsibilities to manage risk and liability

Berkshire eSupply Commerce Township MI

Architect / Engineer Albert Kahn Associates | Detroit

General Contractor Oliver/Hatcher Construction | Novi

Civil Engineer Mannik Smith Group | Canton

Structural Masonry Engineering Consultant Walkowicz Consulting Engineers | East Lansing

Mason Contractor Leidal & Hart Mason Contractors | Livonia

Caulk Contractor Dixon Inc | Detroit

Masonry Materials Best Block | Brick Tec | Dow | Fero Glen-Gery Brick | Grand Blanc Cement Masonpro | MasonryiQ | NCFI Pro Net | Quikrete | Stony Creek Services Thermafiber | Wirebond | York Building Products

$45 Million Project Budget $2 Million Masonry Budget 49,000 CMU | 45,000 Brick | 650 Stone Pieces 211,610 total sq

Daxton Hotel Birmingham MI

Architect Booth Hansen | Chicago

General Contractor Clark Construction | Aurburn Hills

Structural Engineer Good Friend Magruder Structure | Chicago

Consulting Engineer Walkowicz Consulting Engineers | East Lansing

Mason Contractor Leidal & Hart Mason Contractors | Livonia

Waterproofing Sub Contractor Dixon Inc | Detroit

Masonry Materials Carlisle | Coldspring | Edwards Cast Stone Fendt | Fero | Hunter | Masonpro Pronet | Quikrete | Thermafiber

$55 Million Project Budget $4 Million Masonry Budget | 159,000 sf