Of Note


Strength & Durability

While glitz and glitter describes the hype and ambience at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, what was new this year was the Concrete Masonry backdrop for the Chevy Silverado Truck special edition. A 20’ tall by 20’ wide standard grey CMU wall, sturdy and strong, proudly stood behind this attention-getting truck.

This branding statement speaks to both chevy truck and concrete masonry. displayed together, tough and snazzy, the all new silverado truck, and CMU mean business.

Both bring high performance continuing to raise the bar. unparalleled. the Chevy truck is all about capability: performance, capacity, technology. materials chosen for durability and long life, and ability to stand up to demands of heavy-duty customers. CMU is all about capability, too. Borne of the same desire to be best-in-class for heavy-duty needs and inviting aesthetics, CMU is a perfect complement to the chevy truck.

Industry News



CMU checkoff stresses leveraging all its benefits

The concrete masonry industry continues its efforts to establish a national checkoff program to generate long-term funds for product research, designer education and promotion of block’s unique benefits. The current outreach campaign is asking producers to imagine a world that recognizes the universal benefits of concrete masonry.

“The opportunities are vast, guided by our imagination and willingness to collaborate across the industry,” says Major Ogilvie, CMU Checkoff Campaign Chair. Since 2010, the CEMEX executive has been the driving force and public face of the industry’s eight-year campaign, a campaign he calls a long pull.

“Across this industry, everybody was engaged and provided very candid feedback to optimize the legislation. A lot of folks put their helmets on and came out and played with us, and that made a significant difference,” he recalls.

The industry’s collective effort paid off when the US Senate passed the Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotion Act in October. “With the passage of the legislation, we are now looking forward furthering the industry’s growth, harnessing the innovation and drive we have across the industry to introduce our products to more designers and end users.”


Attending last year’s National Disaster Resilience Conference, Ogilvie found the cost of recovering from recent large-scale disasters sobering. “Total cost of recent wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes in the US exceeded $300 billion. The concrete masonry industry has the ability to lessen the impact of natural disasters on owners and taxpayers.”

Ogilvie feels that while adopting the national checkoff would grow the industry, it would also allow for stronger, safer communities. “We want concrete masonry structures that shelter people from storms, fires and wind. We want to grow the industry through focusing on creating the best structures possible for our families and our communities.”



Another aspect of the national checkoff would center on educating architects, builders and engineers on current technology available to design structures that leverage all the benefits of concrete masonry.

“Over the past eight years we’ve learned numerous times that designers did not and were not using the modern methods of design for CMU,” says Ogilvie. “What that’s doing is elevating the cost. An immediate opportunity is to develop even more advanced design software so designers can optimize the economics of CMU.”


Funds could also be earmarked for research into new uses and product improvements.


Presently, industry representatives are fanning out across the country to reach every block producer. The goal is to ensure each manufacturer is updated on the complex process to put the checkoff into place.

“Producers are proud of what they do to put quality products in the marketplace,” says Ogilvie. “Working together through the checkoff program, we can do even more for our communities.

Learn more about the CMU Checkoff program and progress, at cmucheckoff.com.

Building Information Modeling for Masonry Update


  • IMI – David Sovinski, Mark Swanson, Caryn Halifax
  • IUBAC – James Boland
  • MCAA – Jeff Buczkiewicz, Paul Oldham
  • NCMA – Bob Thomas, Nick Lang

Future BIM-M projects will be considered for funding by the new Executive Committee on a project by project basis. Contact Executive Committee members directly with ideas.

Existing BIM-M activities will be distributed among and administered by organizations within the Executive Committee. These include:

  • BIM-M web site will be maintained by MCAA.
  • BIM Forum contact will be maintained by Mark Swanson, IMI, on behalf of BIM-M.
  • Completion of MUD V2 Jeff Elder with Russell Gentry (BIM-M consultant from Georgia Tech) administering. BIM-M oversight from Nick Lang.
  • MUD V3 will begin once V2 is finalized. 3DiQ was selected as the preferred developer. Nick Lang will manage the project for BIM-M. MUD V3 will be a commercialized version. Manufacturers can decide whether to participate in MUD V3.
  • Mark Swanson will manage the third edition and future improvements of Masonry Wall Library’s REVIT Masonry Content Pack developed by CTC. (free to architects, engineers, users)
  • BIM-M seminars will continue. Funding will be provided by the requesting organization who may contact BIM-M through the web site for opportunities.
  • REVIT to Direct Design introduces interoperability with REVIT and recently released Direct Design with REVIT compatibility completion expected summer 2019.
  • Video available on both bimformasonry.org under Presentations and Youtube.com titled BIM – The Basics with presentation by Ms. Jamie Davis, PE, jdavis@ryanbiggs.com providing an updated explanation of BIM plus BIM-M. Specifically prepared for masonry representatives and technical representatives of masonry companies. Available as a seminar or webinar for companies or organizations.
  • Contractor outreach will be continued by Fred Kinateder, through IMI fred@kinatederconsulting.com.

Executive committee acknowledges contributions of MasonryiQ by 3DiQ, 3diqinc.com, which continues to grow and expand the ability of users to design and build with masonry.

Belden Holding & acquisition Promotes three as 5th generation of Family Leadership

New Fifth Generation Leaders of Beldens, from left, Bradley H Belden, Brian S Belden, Robert T Belden and fourth generation Robert F Belden remains in top position as chair and CEO

The board of directors of Belden Holding & Acquisition, Inc, parent company of The Belden Brick Company, announced three new management promotions of Bradley h Belden, Robert T Belden, and Brian S Belden at Belden Holding & Acquisition, Inc and Belden Aquisition and Holding, Belden Brick Company, LLC, Redland Brick, Inc, and Belcap, Inc, respectively. These changes, effective as of January 1, 2019, were recommended by the company’s Succession Planning Committee as part of the orderly transition to fifth generation leadership.

Bradley H Belden was named President of Belden Holding & Acquisition, and The Belden Brick Company. He has been with The Belden Brick Company since 2004 and became its Vice President of Administrative Services in 2016. Bradley’s first years at Belden Brick were served in the EH&S Department, then his management responsibilities grew to other departments such as Quality, Purchasing and Customer Service. He implemented efficiencies in manufacturing operations as they relate to energy, raw material consumption and additive usage.

Robert T Belden was named President of Redland Brick. Robert will also continue in his current role as Vice President of Operations at The Belden Brick Company, a position he’s held since 2005. Before joining The Belden Brick Company, Robert joined the Peace Corps serving two years in Jamaica, then went on to work for International Paper from 1998 until 2002. In February 2002, he came to work for The Belden Brick Company.

Brian S Belden was named President of Belcap, a subsidiary of Belden Holding & Acquisition, and a joint venture partner with Acell, Ltd in Arcitell, LLC. Brian will also continue in his current roles as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at both The Belden Brick Company and Redland Brick, positions he’s held since 2016. He has been with The Belden Brick Company since 1997 working in various functions of Sales and Marketing, and today continues with company promotion and sales throughout the United States and Canada.

Brad, Robert T and Brian have been named directors of Belden Holding & Acquisition, The Belden Brick Company, and Belcap. They will also maintain their roles as directors of Redland Brick. Robert F Belden will remain as Chairman and CEO of Belden Holding & Acquisition, and subsidiaries, The Belden Brick Company, Redland Brick and Belcap.

“These appointments are a reflection of the confidence the board of directors of Belden Holding & Acquisition, has in these three leaders from the fifth generation of the Belden Family,” said Robert F Belden on behalf of the Belden Holding & Acquisition Board of Directors. “All three have been effective in their primary areas of responsibility and are dedicated to the success of all the companies under the Belden Holding & Acquisition umbrella. The board feels that these appointments give the Company proper structure to meet the immediate challenges it faces.”

“I am confident that you will join me in supporting Brad, Bob and Brian as they accept these new responsibilities,” said Robert F Belden.

Belden Holding & Acquisition is the parent company of The Belden Brick Company, Redland Brick, Belcap, Belden Brick Sales & Service, dba, Belden Tri-State and The Belden Brick Sales Company.

The Belden Brick Company, is a 134-year old enterprise founded in 1885 by Henry S Belden, Sr. Today, The Belden Brick Company is the largest family owned and managed brick company in the United States and is currently managed by the fifth generation of the Belden family. Operating five brick plants and a sawing facility in Sugarcreek, OH, it also operates and maintains over 180 active oil and gas wells in Ohio’s Tuscarawas and Holmes counties.

Belden Tri-State and The Belden Brick Sales Company are distributors of brick and other construction-related products. Belden Tri- State is headquartered in Manhattan with an office in Philadelphia and stocking yards in New Jersey. The Belden Brick Sales Company is located in Fraser, MI, a suburb of Detroit. Redland Brick, purchased by The Belden Brick Company in 1996, has brick operations in four states: Cushwa and Rocky Ridge Plants are in Maryland; the Harmar Plant is in PA; the KF Plant is in CT; Lawrenceville Brick has two plants in Lawrenceville, VA.

NCMA TEK Note 7-1D Fire Resistance Ratings for Concrete Masonry is Updated

In addition to prescriptive details and tables, this updated TEK is based on calculated fire resistance procedure. It has a spreadsheet calculator for fire resistance ratings so users can determine fire ratings of specific assemblies, including concrete masonry walls, columns, lintels, beams and concrete masonry protection for steel columns. Also included are assemblies composed of concrete masonry and other components, including plaster and gypsum wallboard finishes and multi-wythe masonry components including clay or shale masonry units. TEK is available in the Solutions Center at ncma.org

Darryl winegar

Darryl winegar is NCMA’S 2019 Chairman of the Board

The NCMA Board of Directors has approved Darryl Winegar to be NCMA Chairman of the Board 2019. As President of Midwest Block and Brick, producer and distributor throughout the Midwest, Winegar has been an active member of NCMA and the industry for many years. He has served on many NCMA committees, including chair of the Sustainability Subcommittee and member of the Convention Committee, Membership Recruitment Committee, SRW Committee and many others. Winegar was first chair of NCMA’s Young Professionals Group, establishing that group as the place for new and younger members of the industry to become involved and grow their professional careers. He looks forward to a productive year as Chair, continuing to move NCMA’s strategic initiatives forward. 573.635.7119 | dwinegar@midwestblock.com

James Cain

James Cain appointed next Executive Director of SCMA

Kirk Edens, Chairman of the Southeast Concrete Masonry Association (SCMA) has announced that James Cain, as Executive Director of SCMA, brings more than 20 years experience in sales and market promotion with companies in the aggregate industry, including CEMEX and Titan America. A graduate of Appalachian State University, he is a volunteer with the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and other charitable organizations. 704.352.6831 | jcain@scmaonline.com

Oldcastle APG Acquires Allied Concrete Products / Eagle Bay Hardscapes

Oldcastle APG has announced the acquisition of Allied Concrete Products. Since 1945, Allied has been an established leader in hardscapes under the Eagle Bay® brand, along with Allied concrete masonry and lightweight aggregates in the Richmond/Tidewater VA region.

In addition to expanding product offerings, the acquisition strengthens Oldcastle APG’s ability to service mid-Atlantic hardscape and masonry installers with a full line of quality masonry paver and wall system products. The acquisition adds two locations to APG’s footprint: a state-of-the-art paver and concrete masonry manufacturing facility in Richmond and a concrete masonry manufacturing facility in Chesapeake. oldcastleapg.com

General Shale Purchases Watsontown Brick

Through its US subsidiary General Shale, the Wienerberger Group recently acquired Pennsylvania-based Watsontown Brick. With this move, Wienerberger broadens its market footprint in the Northeastern US regions of New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as in Canada.

Heimo Scheuch, Wienerberger CEO says, “Watsontown Brick, a leading supplier of high-quality facing bricks, is a perfect fit for us. Moreover, this acquisition strengthens our business in the urban construction market in major agglomerations. By swiftly integrating Watsontown Brick into our existing US platform, we will drive the optimization of the company’s performance in terms of costs and products.”

According to Wienerberger, the 110-year-old Watsontown Brick operates a modern and highly efficient production site with four manufacturing lines and a production capacity of 92 million standard brick units.

Harley Ellis Devereaux announced its merger with Integrated Design Group

National design firm Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED) (Southfield, MI) (ENR #185) announced its merger with data center designer Integrated Design Group (Boston, MA).

According to Peter Devereaux, FAIA, Chairman of HED, this is a natural step for the firm. “We are committed to strategic growth that increases the firm’s ability to create positive impacts for our clients and their stakeholders,” he says. “Bringing the ID team into the HED family is a step on our journey toward expanding our expertise and enabling a greater impact for our clients. It also allows us to reach new audiences — both in this new market sector for HED and in all the sectors we serve in the regions surrounding Boston and Dallas.”

Plan to Attend the 13th NA Masonry Conference June 16 – 19, Salt Lake City UT

Tour one of the largest brick plants in the world and carve a brick. Over 150 presentations of accepted technical papers. 10 to 15 innovative technology topics. Two excellent keynote presentations. tmsmeetings@masonrysociety.org


Joe Bonifate

Joe Bonifate, president of operations, Arch Masonry & Restoration, Pittsburgh PA, is licensed to work in PA and WV. Value and integrity-based service bring a balance of safety, quality and production. Tech savvy and progressive, second generation mason Bonifate leads the industry in looking for better ways to achieve goals. He embraces old-world craftsmanship and the most current technology, benefiting from the most advanced new products and systems optimizing performance, robots and drones as well as BIM-M software tools optimizing efficiencies. MCAA Region A Vice President, Bonifate is heavily involved in legislative affairs, keeping the voice of masonry heard in Washington DC. 412.564.5733 jbonifate@archmasonryinc.com

Tom Cuneio

Tom Cuneio has been developing computer modeling solutions for masonry since 2004. His companies, CAD BLOX LLC and 3DiQ Inc provide leading edge solutions for BIM-M in both design and construction. He is actively developing software and methods to help the masonry industry capitalize on the benefits and efficiencies of BIM technology. Cuneio is an honors graduate of the Mechanical and Aerospace program from the University of Missouri. tom@3diQinc.com | 719.232.5570

Fred Dunand

Fred Dunand, began his career across the pond in France in the Ceramics Industry. Since then, his career has taken him to four countries and 13 states. His most recent adventure has Fred using his 19 years’ experience to innovate the concrete masonry industry with his company Saturn Materials. Opened in 2017, Saturn Materials and Fred have embraced continuous innovation daily. Using a high content of fly ash in its product line, Saturn Materials pushes the green envelope in its production of highly-specialized products within the masonry industry. He is currently an active member in NCMA, mentor to the Mississippi State Architectural School, a proud Mississippi resident and Business owner. Dunand is active in many local business and charitable organizations in the Columbus MS area. fdunand@saturnmaterials.com | 662.798.4797

Associations Teach

Jenny Stephenson

Iowa State engineering students pose by their finished bricklaying project.

Field Days Expand University Curricula

Masonry Institute of Iowa Gives Three Decades of Architectural Students Hands-On Experience

It was an idea the Masonry Institute of Iowa (MII) Board of Directors had 33 years ago – a hands-on experience to teach and engage architectural students about masonry. Their idea came to fruition with the help of Iowa State University (ISU) lecturer Bruce Bassler. In 1985, MII hosted its first Student Field Day in Masonry.

Since day one, MII has kept essentially the same agenda: tour a masonry building under construction and a finished masonry building, tour a block plant, a brick plant and participate in a bricklaying demonstration. It is an all-day event as part of the Materials and Method (Arch 240) class curriculum for second-year architectural students.

Students are divided into small groups to conceptually design a project. Once on site, students have about an hour and a half to build their designs with brick. Over the years, students have been given various projects, such as walls and benches, but some years were more challenging. Creative animals or a brick outhouse were among past projects. In 2001, students built World Trade Center memorials.

Former ISU Instructor Bruce Bassler was a part of the Student Field Day in Masonry for 29 years before retiring. He noted the creativity of the projects over the years. “One year the project was to design and build backyard grills. I had a group of students bring a grate and charcoal for their grill,” he recalls.

The friendly bricklaying competition emphasizes the thought and effort that goes into each project

Projects are judged by MII members and the course instructor and evaluated on both their creative design and technical bricklaying. Several bricklayers are on hand to demonstrate and instruct students on bricklaying techniques. The winning team receives MII sweatshirts.

Each year, students also have the opportunity to carve an unfired brick prior to the annual trip. Brick are fired during the visit and students keep them as a memento or incorporate them into their bricklaying designs. The friendly bricklaying competition increases the competitive spirit and it emphasizes the thought and effort that goes into each project.

This Past Year

In 2018, 85 architectural and 30 engineering students attended the masonry field day. It was an all-day tour starting before the sun rose. Students loaded onto three charter busses and headed toward the four venues in Des Moines.

ISU architectural students carve unfired (green) brick which are fired at the brick plant

At the construction masonry job site, MII invited the architect, general contractor, masonry suppliers and mason contractor to meet with students and to be available for questions. Over the years, the job site tour has included apartment buildings, grocery stores, commercial space and more. This year, students toured a Bondurant-Farrar Community School District school addition.

At the finished masonry building site, Vintage Cooperatives, a mixed commercial purpose area in Ankeny, the mason contractor, general contractor, architect and owner representatives spoke about their contribution to the construction process and showed students many masonry features on the structure. This hour-long tour allows for masonry structural and aesthetic features to be examined and discussed.

The next stop was the block plant, Rhino Materials, in West Des Moines. Two brick plants take turns hosting from year to year – Sioux City Brick and Glen-Gery Brick – where students tour the brick plant and participate in the bricklaying demonstration.

Students pose by their bricklaying project – a depiction of the college’s CyRide transit system bus.

“This is an invaluable learning experience for students. They will be more interested in using a material they’ve had exposure to. Understanding how masonry is made and installed in a building is great hands-on experience,” said Bassler.

Students benefit from getting out of the classroom and being able to not only see where these materials come from, but how they are installed

Expanding the Reach

About 12 years ago, MII invited the Iowa State University construction engineering program to join the architectural students in this masonry day of learning. Engineering students visit the construction job site as well as the brick and block plants. Each year, students are given 90 minutes to work together in small groups to build campaniles, or bell towers, as a tribute to ISU’s campus campanile. These are judged on structural capacity, design and bricklaying technique.

“Our students benefit from getting out of the classroom, being able to not only see where these materials come from, but how they are installed. They also have the opportunity to speak with industry experts who can answer questions from experience, instead of just reading about them,” said Brad Perkins, instructor for the Construction Engineering 241: Construction Materials and Methods.

This brick hot dog with mustard looks good enough to eat!

Overview of the bricklaying portion of a recent ISU student field day.

We want students to have an appreciation for masonry and the best way to do this is to let them experience it hands-on

MII has taken the success of ISU’s student field day in masonry and applied it to other Iowa universities and community colleges, reaching 300+ students in 2018. University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) Construction Management and Hawkeye Community College’s Construction Technology programs now participate in their own student field day in masonry. Each fall, students experience masonry job sites, a block plant tour and a bricklaying demonstration. This year, UNI had its third masonry field day.

Exposing as many students as possible to masonry is our goal at MII. We want students to have an appreciation for masonry and the best way to do this is to let them experience it hands-on. It is something they will remember throughout their careers.

The entire industry comes together for the Student Field Day in Masonry. MII is a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting masonry construction throughout Iowa. MII relies on membership, from all aspects of the industry, to support initiatives such as this one. All projects visited are built by MII-member mason contractors. Members donate time, materials and resources each year to make these student field days a success.

The Laborers 144, local laborers union, also brings area high school students, who are part of a high school pre-apprentice program, to help tender for the day.

“MII is passionate about getting the students involved,” added Bassler. “They have taken a proactive role in demonstrating what the industry can do to build better masonry buildings.” Today, ISU lecturer Bo-Suk Hur has taken over Bruce Bassler’s spot in teaching Architectural 240 class. Hur was a part of the MII’s student field day as a second year architecture student in early 2000s. He still remembers the student field day he attended and is excited to pass on this experience to his students.

University of Northern Iowa students appreciate this hands-on experience with a day of masonry

“Iowa State University has a long relationship with the Masonry Institute of Iowa. Students have an excellent opportunity to have practical experience. They can expand their expertise beyond the textbook, lecture notes, and a computer screen. I think this trip has a significant pedagogical opportunity to understand the masonry material, fabrication/construction process, and manufacturer/contractor’s viewpoints in the real world,” said Hur.

MII continues to build its relationships on the UNI and ISU campus by working with the student organizations providing speakers and sponsoring events. Each winter, MII also hosts NCMA’s Unit Design Competition with the third-year architectural students at Iowa State University. The past two years, ISU has taken 2nd place (2018) and 1st place (2017).

Since 1975, MII has worked to forward its mission of promoting masonry throughout the state of Iowa – including the education of young architects and engineers about the sustainability and longevity of masonry.

“It is very rewarding to see the excitement the students have when they get a trowel full of mortar in one hand and a brick in the other, then combine these to create a project of their own design. This hands-on experience stays with them throughout their entire design career and opens their eyes to the skill needed to build with masonry and satisfaction one gets from a job well done,” said MII President Scott Ellingson.

Jenny Stephenson

Jenny Stephenson is the association director of the Masonry Institute of Iowa – the only nonprofit association for promoting masonry within the state. MII is committed to providing masonry education to students, architects and engineering, as well as introducing students to bricklaying as a career. She has worked in association management for more than ten years and at MII since 2016. Stephenson is a graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Drake University with a Master’s in Public Administration. 515.979.8235 | jstephenson@masonryinstituteofiowa.org

Knowledge Edge

Corey Zussman


Each project has a traditional mock-up to verify assumptions about the design and a constructability mock-up to provide a detailed review of the installation.

As a general contractor, Pepper Construction depends on a team atmosphere for success. We pride ourselves on a low project rework rate of 0.35% versus the industry average of 3%-12%. To achieve this type of success, we work extensively with subcontractors to make sure that expectations and groups grasp of project requirements are well understood from the beginning.

I love masonry. As a young architect, I was trained initially to work with masonry and to understand the material. Infinite possibilities of the material with limitless and unbelievable talent of tradespeople have always made masonry a desirable material over many others.

In my almost 30-year career, I have been fortunate to work with masonry in many applications. As an architect, I designed churches, schools and other buildings that utilized masonry as a main component. As a quality director for a large masonry restoration construction company, I learned the unique trade of masonry restoration and preservation. This extremely talented team of tradesmen taught me what it took to truly detail a building more than a 100 years-old. Moreover, now, as a quality director for a large construction company in Chicago, I am privileged to work with many talented and dedicated tradesmen throughout the industry. From what I have learned over the years, I developed the current Quality Program based on that experience and understanding the importance of clearly setting expectations for the project.

Gaining buy-in on ways to install products is key to overall success

As part of this process, both the architect and owner are provided with their traditional mock-up as specified for their use. One or two steps are taken further through the use of preplanning and mock-ups to verify assumptions about the design and construction.

Preinstallation Meeting

Setting expectations early provides for a successful and profitable project. This process begins with a very detailed preinstallation meeting where drawings, specifications, building envelope trade preinstallation meeting minutes, product installation instructions, compatibility confirmation and an extensive lessons-learned library of construction for masonry are reviewed. At this meeting, design assumptions are reviewed and confirmed and RFIs for the architect are produced to clearly detail or to clear up conflicts in the drawings. During these meetings, adjacent materials are reviewed and confirmed, so the mason understands their role in the entire building and not just the façade or the structural system and the façade. These meetings typically take three hours. The project’s level of expectation related to craftsmanship is very clearly set, with the participation of the mason foreman.

Virtual Mock-up

In the preinstallation meeting, the possibility of working with a virtual mock-up is discussed. Virtual mock-ups are implemented on projects that may need more attention to sequencing with other trades that require extremely intricate detailing that would benefit from building it on the computer first, or when the detailing is new and the team would benefit from detailing many trials. A virtual mock-up is typically followed up with a traditional mockup to confirm the assumptions.

Constructability Mock-up

Once parameters are set, a physical mock-up is designed, which is the most important tool in setting expectations early for tradespeople. At Pepper Construction, we specify what we call a constructability mock-up. The constructability mock-up is designed to provide the mason with a detailed review of the installation and to produce a document that the team can easily pass down to other tradespeople.

Virtual mock-ups are implemented on projects that may need more attention to sequencing with other trades.

Once parameters are set, physical mock-up is designed, which is the most important tool in setting expectations early for tradespeople

A constructability mock-up is systematically deconstructed so that it can be analyzed to confirm compliance with expectations and preinstallation decisions.

The constructability mock-up is not an in-place mock-up. It is built by the mason’s project team with the understanding that it will be taken apart and analyzed to confirm detailing and their understanding of the preinstallation decisions. The constructability mock-up incorporates most of the significant elements about detailing, not general appearance. It is essential that the flashing is properly installed, that the masonry anchors are properly detailed to the air/vapor barrier, and basic masonry practices are properly followed. Proper masonry backup is included as part of the constructability mock-up. This mock-up is key to getting the tradespeople comfortable with different materials they will be working up against and will need to maintain.

Air/vapor barriers on the substrate, are now standard practice to build up against and understanding that their continuity is important for the entire project’s success. However, there are many different types of systems, and they all have special detailing the mason must understand. The constructability mock-up allows the trades person to essentially practice before actually working on the building. Doing this type of mock-up allows for real-time feedback and discussion, ensuring the mason is able to confidently work with the specified products.

Once the constructability mock-up has been designed and built, the team comes together to review installation procedures. This team will generally include the masonry superintendent, foreman and trades person who worked on the mock-up, as well as the architect, owner, general contracting team, including the quality department. I then proceed to break the constructability mock-up apart in a systematic way to determine compliance with project expectations, reviewing each item and confirming proper installation.

Constructability mock-ups and collaboration are used to update lessons learned for more efficient preinstallation meetings

Mock-up Items Reviewed

Several items are specifically reviewed:

  • Proper masonry coursing/joints
  • Mortar tooling (slight concave, raked, beaded, etc)
  • Full head and bed joints
  • Clean cavities and mortar collection device installation
  • Flashing installation, including primer, overlapping, joint finishing and sealant installation
  • Inside and outside corner flashing
  • How the stainless-steel drip edge or other is overlapped, detailed at the corners and sealed to the substrate
  • Masonry anchor placement and proper installation, detailing at the air/vapor barrier and fastener installation
  • Installation and detailing of insulation, including at floor lines
  • Window sill flashing and end dams
  • Window lintel flashing and end dams
  • Shelf angle detailing, including proper gaps below the shelf angle
  • Proper parapet detailing
  • Proper masonry movement joint detailing
  • Tuckpointing
  • Proper masonry cleaning

Shared Plan

Details listed above and more are carefully reviewed with the team at the mock-up review. Gaining buy-in on different ways to install products is key to overall success. Working together, to review conditions along with installation instructions and building documents before construction, builds a positive team relationship rather than potentially negatively reviewing work in place later. It can be typically determined if the condition is a one-time concern or if it happens throughout the mock-up. Behaviors are able to be modified with shared understanding before work is started on the building.

Once all these items, and others, are exposed and evaluated, a full color document is produced for the masonry team to distribute and keep with them at the area of construction. Both correct and incorrect installations are identified, ensuring that each component is discussed and answered. The report is typically laminated and placed on a ring in the corner for convenient access whether on a stage, platform or scaffold. The intent is for the entire team to be able to review the mock-up, even if all were not involved. This document helps achieve consistent results, even with multiple masonry teams on site.

The constructability mock-up remains on site for most of the duration for masons and entire construction team to reference.


Constructability mock-ups and on-site collaboration are used to constantly update lessons learned in the preinstallation meeting, making these meetings more efficient and useful. With information learned, Pepper Construction has worked with the local International Masonry Institute (IMI) staff to identify masonry installation trends and potential learning opportunities for the industry.

This course of review and verification has proven greatly successful for more than six years. Masonry re-work has gone from 1.5% of the construction cost to less than 0.20%. This results in a savings to the mason and helps the schedule stay on track. The mason’s overall involvement has increased project after project as they have become a consistent trade that our construction team can rely on to stay on track and even ahead of schedule.

I am extremely proud of the masonry tradespeople whom I have worked with over the years for wanting to improve their installations. We work to keep masons on our projects now and we will into the future.

Corey Zussman

Corey Zussman AIA, NCARB, ALA, RBEC, REWC, RWC, CQM, CxA+BE, LEED® AP BD+C, Director of Quality Assurance for Pepper Construction in Chicago, is a registered architect in several states, practicing for almost 30 years, specializing in building envelope, restoration, preservation and life safety. Zussman works on 50-75 projects a year, including constructability reviews, conducting pre-installation meetings, conducting comprehensive envelope meetings, construction observation and providing education throughout the industry. He is a frequent speaker and instructor and has been promoting the company’s Quality Program for more than seven years. Zussman holds his Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Quality Management and his Bachelor of Architecture with minors in Construction Management and Business Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology. czussman@pepperconstruction.com 847.620.4061

Observation | Recommendations

A – Masonry head joints are properly being installed full.

B – AVB is installed at proper thickness of 40 mil dry.

C – AVB at openings are properly being installed with full primer and rolled… Joints must be sealed with sealant (Dow 758 or similar) with at least 1/8″ thickness,

D – ABV must go back about 3″ (to front side of pre-punched holes) coordinate with window installer.

E – Mortar net is properly being installed full in the cavity.

F – Cavity is properly being installed with a clear cavity.



Energy Modeling Compliance Path


In v3.2, W Mark McGinley, PhD, PE, FASTM, explains how increasing energy code’s prescriptive (R-value tables) continuous insulation requirements does not have to exclude single wythe masonry as an option for cost-effective and energy efficient design for certain building types.

Energy Demand & Building Code

For most US climates, prescriptive building envelope requirements in energy code [ASHRAE 90.1-2010] mandate single wythe exterior masonry walls to have continuous insulation with R-values varying from 5.7 sf•°F•h/BTU to over 15 sf•°F•h/BTU. Although prescriptive thermal transmittance values (U-values) do not require continuous insulation, they do produce similar effective envelope R-value requirements and, thus, require external insulation of varying amounts. Even though masonry walls do not need to be covered to provide finish or protection, external insulation must be protected and thus covered. These coverings impact the cost of wall systems, are less durable than masonry and will produce higher maintenance costs.

Every increasing prescriptive insulation requirement often leads designers to falsely assume that building envelope high R-values are needed for the building to be considered energy efficient. Yet, increasing envelope insulation levels may have only a minimal effect on the overall building energy performance, especially for walls with a high thermal mass. Higher mass walls act to impede thermal movement through the building envelope when there are temperature fluctuations. Studies on building energy use have shown that improving efficiency of lighting, heating and cooling systems can result in a much greater reduction in energy consumption than simply increasing envelope thermal resistance, depending on building occupancy, operating schedules and climate zone.

Energy Budget Method

Energy codes allow alternatives to the prescriptive path code compliance methods. The energy budget is one such method. This method more accurately predicts the impact of high thermal mass of exterior masonry walls and was used to develop more cost-effective design alternatives to simple prescriptive solutions for several building archetypes commonly constructed with single wythe concrete masonry unit (CMU) exterior wall systems.

For code compliance, the energy cost budget method requires that whole building simulations be used to verify that alternative building designs produce yearly energy costs no more than equivalent buildings configured to meet prescriptive code requirements modeled in the same cities, with the same set points, schedules, etc.

McGinley’s research found that for the building types studied—warehouse, supermarket and big box retail—holistic energy analysis and the energy budget code compliance paths produced alternative designs that did not require external insulation. They were more cost effective and energy efficient than designs developed from code prescriptive requirement configurations.

For details about the research and achieving code compliance with single wythe masonry in all climate zones, read more on pages 32-35 in SMART | dynamics of masonry v3.2 or online at dynamicsofmasonry.com/archives.

Exterior Masonry Walls

In some climate zones, code-prescribed exterior wall configurations require face insulation, but alternative building configurations were able to meet compliance with 8" medium weight CMU walls, grouted and reinforced vertically at 4'oc with foam insulation injected into ungrouted CMU cores.

Live help

Smart | Focus

Elizabeth Young

Stand A Little Taller

The BIM for Masonry initiative began six years ago, bringing the industry’s best together under the leadership of David Biggs, PE, FTMS, FASTM, pooling talent, connections and resources to insert masonry more effectively into the digital design movement.

In this time, the tools and techniques developed, directly or indirectly, have truly been revolutionary. It’s not happening overnight, but there is a real difference in how designers and contractors are using masonry and communicating on projects. Biggs shares the current tools and resources and future plans, as the initiative transitions to a new phase in Significant Strategic Strides in BIM-M and Building Information Modeling for Masonry Update.

Software Developer Tom Cuneio writes further about how digital tools provide data to allow project teams to eliminate transactions, making job sites more efficient in his article Making Masonry Efficient.

During the same period, concrete masonry industry leaders worked with Congress on legislation enacting a CMU checkoff program. The program was passed and signed into law by President Trump in October 2018. Construction Association of Michigan’s CAM Magazine Editor Mary Kremposky McArdle explains the plans for research, promotion and education to support concrete masonry products and regain market share from competitors in Got Block?

The result of so much attention and innovation has led to numerous dynamic projects. Mason Contractor Joe Bonifate explains how Arch Masonry & Restoration is using drones for more accurate and efficient façade inspections in Drones Add Efficiency for Historic Restoration.

Cover story, 187 Franklin Street, NYC, designed by System Architects, written by Bob Belden, Chairman and CEO of The Belden Brick Company, is most unusual with its undulating masonry façade and interior. Belden takes us to the beehive kiln to learn how color intensity varies in the kiln, then units are beautifully blended and stacked by hand to ensure aesthetic efficiency. The St Mary Mercy Hospital Chapel in Livonia MI is another award-winning example of what’s possible with masonry when technology and communication are maximized. The design and construction story of this curvaceous space is told by both the PLY+Architects Bill Carpenter, Craig Borum and Jen Maigret, and Mike Piazza, on-site supervisor at Davenport Masonry. Both teams shared their models to be able to execute the building in the most exacting and efficient way possible. Read Modeling Every Brick in the Wall and iPads & String to learn how they made it happen.

As we learn more about building buildings that are strong, safe and high performing, construction techniques are scrutinized for quality. That requires that each element of a system is installed as intended and that each system works with every other system. Pepper Construction’s Director of Quality Assurance Corey Zussman shares how his company reduces rework (saving time, materials and costs) and assures quality through constructability mock-up walls in Mock-Up Sets Expectations.

And, for all the great things going on, the masonry industry couldn’t evolve and grow without the enthusiastic commitment from associations. The Masonry Institute of Iowa’s Executive Director Jenny Stephenson shares how members host Masonry Days for architectural and engineering students, stimulating enthusiasm in the next generation to continue masonry’s legacy.

Be inspired!

Elizabeth Young

Elizabeth Young Managing Editor, Associate Publisher

In the Next Issue

AESTHETIC & STRUCTURAL DESIGN ADAPTIVE REUSE HISTORIC RESTORATION Design Assist Delegated Design Gathering Spaces Structural Brick CMU Shear Walls Carry the Load Clever Masonry Objets d’Art Glazed Brick Texture Speaks Direct Design Put to Use


Joe Bonifate


Old World Craftsmanship with Modern Technology

Drones Add Efficiency for Historic Restoration

Drones allow building owners, architects, engineers, contractors and other team members to view and inspect areas otherwise too high or hidden to easily access and assess. Technology continues to improve the means and methods of building construction and maintenance, improving buildings’ performance and extending their useful life. Sometimes, that technology can also improve work flow of the team, saving time, money and reducing risk of injury to crew members. The introduction of drone or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology to the field of masonry restoration does all of this.

Designed by the military for their own use, drones were quickly adopted for other applications, including recreational, scientific, agricultural and construction. Drone photography is becoming an industry in and of itself, requiring high quality equipment that takes high resolution images in durable casings that can be controlled with accuracy and in tight and/or congested spaces. As popularity grows, technology advances as quickly as possible. We are now even seeing industry-specific hardware and software advancements that aid in the collection, management, processing and storage of drone-captured data. The model we currently use on job sites is about 16”x16” and weighs approximately 3 lbs. It has about a three-mile flight range and can stay in flight for nearly half an hour. The 4K camera feature ensures professional-quality images, raising expectations on what’s possible for existing building repair and restoration.

Facade Inspections

Masonry is the material that built our cities. Even with the advent of steel-framed skyscrapers in the early 20th century, buildings were clad in masonry: stone, brick and terra cotta. Occasionally, a decorative piece of terra cotta or another element adorning those nearly century-old buildings falls off, potentially placing people and property below at risk. Because of this, many cities require that buildings undergo periodic façade inspections to try to ensure the integrity of the cladding units and safety of occupants and visitors. Change in ownership may trigger a required façade inspection.

Introducing drones to the façade inspection process is a game changer for large buildings. Now, a mason contractor’s drone operator can take 2000 photos in three days, then spend a few days labeling and corresponding photos to locations all over a building. Photos showing things like missing mortar, spalled, broken or missing masonry units, cracked masonry or caulk joints, displaced masonry, corroded or swelling steel or corrosion staining give masons and engineers enough information to estimate many repairs and identify areas that may need further (human) inspection.

Further inspections may include sounding, or tapping a unit to listen for hollowness, which may indicate internal cracks, or making an exploratory hole to inspect condition of anchors and other internal components, find causes of damage and to determine severity. Actual time, number of crew members, materials and equipment on-site are greatly reduced, all resulting in lower costs from the outset, while providing owners more accurate and thorough assessments than ever possible before. Owners may be presented with the façade assessment, a prioritized list of repairs, quotes for completing the work and photographs highlighting the areas that need work for their records.

Without the use of drones, façade inspections of high-rise buildings are labor intensive, requiring a structural engineer or registered architect (usually in conjunction with a mason contractor) to perform the inspection. Mason contractors typically submit a proposal just to do an inspection, depending on the building, may take a three-person team two- to three-months and cost $100,000 to $200,000. Permits must be applied for and granted, scaffolding would have to be erected, with consideration for the needs of swing scaffold, repelling, sidewalk protection and/or aerial lifts.


Taking advantage of drone photography could increase the safety of the public and mason contractor crews because there is less time on site working. Even if the drone photos identify areas that require human inspection, there is likely less scaffolding that needs to be erected and/or reduced need for swing stages or suspended scaffolding, which reduces a potential accident or injury to the crew. It also reduces the time pedestrian walkways may be closed. Because inspection can be accomplished so much more quickly, the time to inspect the job, estimate repairs, award contracts and begin work repairing loose or damaged units reduces the risk of further failure or pieces falling to the ground below.

Use of drones may increase safety as the substantially lower cost may interest some building owners who, although not required by law, would like to have inspection done for liability reasons. Sometimes when inspections are not required by law and it is not necessary for an engineer to sign off, they are attempted with binoculars from the ground and may not be completely accurate. Accurate inspections allow owners and property managers to make maintenance and repair decisions with knowledge about actual and/or potential property damage risks as well as risks to occupants or passers-by.

Using photos captured by the drone, dimensions are estimated by counting masonry units and taking specific field measurements to create a model of the building in Autodesk Revit 3D software detailing all required work. Models clearly and concisely convey the scope, scale and detail of the work. And Historic train station now apartment building, the Pennsylvanian.

Becoming a Drone Operator and Accounting for Liability

Incorporating drones into construction isn’t as simple as simply purchasing equipment and letting it fly. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a mandatory online registration system for all UAS weighing more than 0.55 lbs and less than 55 lbs in 2015. According to the FAA, 110,000 UAS were registered by the end of 2017 and their prediction is that there will be more than 450,000 commercially-operated drones by 2022. As the number grows, requirements will surely change to accommodate needs.

Even today, the FAA regulates drone operator certification. The test for certification includes components on reading aerial maps, identifying safety zones, establishing flight patterns, knowing when and why one may need to communicate with air traffic controllers. FAA guidelines also mandate that drones only operate within the controller’s line of sight and that a drone can fly only up to 400′ above the level that the operator is located, even though drones are capable of flying miles high. This is like remaining within posted highway speed limits, even though your vehicle is capable of driving much faster.

Insurance Standards

In addition to FAA rules and regulations, the insurance industry has standards regarding drone operation for contractors. Typically, contractors waive aircraft coverage in their insurance policies. However, it would need to be added when using drones or the company is exposed to liability associated with any damages or injuries resulting from a drone crash. Additionally, contractors should develop and provide employee training programs for all drone operators to minimize risk and liability. Everyone considering commercially operating a drone should check with their insurance agent for coverage to suit their needs.

In densely-populated urban areas, cell phones, telecom and Wi-Fi signals may interfere with drones’ GPS signals making drone operation a bit risky. Wind and narrow spaces between buildings may be obstacles to smooth drone operation. However, benefits usually outweigh the risks.

A mason contractor’s drone operator can take 2000 photos in just three days

Modeling and Archiving

Using photographs captured by the drone, dimensions are estimated by counting masonry units and taking specific field measurements during survey. A model of the building is created in Autodesk Revit 3D software and all required work can be detailed. Models clearly and concisely convey scope, scale and detail of work to owners and foremen, taking guesswork out of the equation.

Drones can reach great heights quickly and easily to capture photographs. During the facade inspection of train station-turned-apartments The Pennsylvanian, it was determined that repair and restoration should include repointing mortar joints, repair and/or replacing broken terra cotta pieces and roof drain replacement to prevent future water damage.

Arch Masonry prepared a 44-slide presentation with more than 75 drone photographs showing areas of concern.

Built in 1903, the Beaux-Arts Union Station train station, designed by Daniel Burnham and considered one of Pittsburgh’s most architecturally-significant buildings, was adaptively repurposed into apartments in early 2018. As part of the process, Arch Masonry conducted an inspection of the rotunda and apartment tower to determine what masonry repairs were necessary. It was determined that the decorative terra cotta cornices, medallions, accent pieces and arches needed to have mortar joints repointed and pieces of the terra cotta needed to be repaired or replaced in order to prevent water from entering the structure. Other items identified included roof drain repairs, structural steel anchor repair or replacement as necessary along with cleaning and painting rusted columns, beams, plates and girders. Arch Masonry prepared a 44-slide presentation with more than 75 drone photographs showing areas of concern. Working with a fixed budget, the owner opted to prioritize the work and create a schedule of repairs to complete as budget allows and/or need increases.

Arch was subsequently awarded the contract to repair all the masonry required to meet the engineer’s specifications per the inspection and additional repair work to the property, allowing the project to proceed as scheduled.

Close-up drone photos can help identify quantity and severity of cracking and other damage. They can also identify places that might require further inspection by a human to investigate potential unseen damage.

Ultimately, use of the drone brings value to the client

For Arch Masonry, Our Lady of the Angels Bell Tower restoration was the project that best demonstrates the value of a drone for inspection and estimating purposes. This project is an example of one where no inspection was required by law and previous inspections of the 100′ tall bell towers had been performed by using binoculars and photos from the ground. The height of twin towers and their steep roofs make access difficult. Though it was clear restoration work was necessary, this project was bid several times, but the church’s financial body did not approve the work.

However, once we provided drone footage and trustees could see the damage up close and realize the serious nature and risk of masonry failing at the top of the bell tower, work was quickly approved. CAD drawings detailed restoration areas and work to be performed. Restoration included cutting out and repointing mortar, resetting loose brick units, recaulking at stone sills and epoxy crack injections at stone ledges and columns.

Though inspection was not required at Our Lady of the Angels, trustees were concerned about the possibility of broken elements falling to the ground. Drone footage was able to capture images that couldn’t be seen with binoculars from the sidewalk and less expensive and less costly than erecting scaffolding for the inspection.

The brick church building was designed by John Comes and completed in 1901. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh had been through a consolidation in 1993 and is undergoing another consolidation now, reducing the total number of parishes by about two-thirds. In order for Our Lady of the Angels to maintain viability and vitality and survive the consolidation process, it must be structurally sound and have a long-life expectancy. Resolving existing problems before they become bigger problems eliminates the risk of more extensive property damage and puts the building in a better position to last another century as a home to its parishioners.

Other Opportunities for Drones

Drones are changing the way Arch Masonry is approaching masonry restoration and clients are onboard. We look forward to increasing the opportunities in which we can use this technology to aid our clients by improving our access to and transmission of information. Time will tell how we continue to integrate drone photographic capability into restoration and new construction projects.

Elsewhere in construction, contractors are using drones for excavating and site work, determining area and volume of earth to move to or from an area. Drone photography footage is great for promotional images of finished projects, but also useful for process photos for craftsmanship quality control as well as to analyze where and the way space is used for staging materials, for example. Making simple improvements along the way makes the job more efficient. There are many ways that using drone photography improves the efficiency of the mason contractor, but ultimately, use of the drone brings value to the client.

Joe Bonifate

Joe Bonifate president of operations, Arch Masonry & Restoration, Pittsburgh PA, is licensed to work in PA and WV. Value and integrity based service brings a balance of production, quality and safety. Tech savvy and progressive, Bonifate leads the industry in looking for better ways to achieve goals. He embraces old world craftsmanship and the most current technology, benefiting from the most advanced new products and systems optimizing performance, with robots and drones as well as BIM-M software tools optimizing efficiencies. As a GREAT MIND of the Editorial Advisory Board of SMART | dynamics of masonry, Bonifate shares his eagerness to take advantage of every effort to make masonry the cost competitive wall system and building enclosure. MCAA Region A Vice President, Bonifate is heavily involved in legislative affairs, keeping the voice of masonry heard in Washington DC. jbonifate@archmasonryinc.com | 412.564.6733

Got Block?

Mary Kremposky McArdle

Reprinted with the permission of CAM Magazine, monthly publication of the Construction Association of Michigan


Who can forget the iconic Got Milk? commercials and those now-famous milk moustaches on celebrities, real and imagined, including Lady Gaga, Batman and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock? California’s largest milk processors voted to contribute 3 cents for every gallon of milk the companies processed to the creation of a collective fund, according to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Educational Foundation website. Those 3 cents turned into a pool of $23 million annually used to fund the Got Milk? marketing campaign originally through the California Milk Processor Board. The national Milk Processor Education Program added the milk moustache. The rest is marketing and dairy history.

Today, Dairy Management Inc (DMI) manages the national dairy checkoff program, working in partnership with state and regional promotional organizations. Checkoff programs work on the same principle described above: Assessing a token fee per unit, amassing a funding pool, and using the funds to promote an industry. According to DMI’s website, “Dairy farmers pay 15 cents and dairy importers pay 7.5 cents for every 100 lbs of milk they sell or import into a generic dairy product promotion. That money – with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversight – is used to fund programs aimed at promoting dairy consumption and protecting the good image of dairy farmers, dairy products and the dairy industry.”

What does milk have to do with concrete masonry? Plenty. The concrete masonry unit (CMU) industry has worked for nine years to pass legislation authorizing the industry’s development of a national concrete masonry checkoff program. At long last for its supporters, the Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotion Act became law on October 5, 2018. Under the program, “concrete masonry units are defined as any man-made masonry unit having an actual width of three inches or greater manufactured from dry-cast concrete using a block machine,” according to cmucheckoff.com.

CMU manufacturers across the country now have to vote on whether or not to authorize a mandatory self-assessment of 1 cent for every block produced and sold in the US. A simple majority of those manufacturers voting affirmative (provided that they also represent a majority of the production capacity) in a national referendum vote is now required to activate the program. Jim Gendron, architectural sales for Fendt Builder’s Supply based in Farmington Hills MI, hopes the vote will take place before the end of 2019.

Gendron has been working with other industry representatives on the concrete masonry checkoff initiative at key junctures for the past nine years. Currently, this 32-year veteran of the industry is traveling throughout Michigan with the Masonry Institute of Michigan (MIM), meeting with the state’s manufacturers to encourage passage of the referendum in conjunction with support from local associations, including the Mason Contractors Association (MCA), the Michigan Mason Contractors Association (MMCA) and the Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers, Local 2. Others like Gendron are promoting the checkoff opportunity through their own regional associations as well as national organizations such as the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA), the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers (IUBAC).

Under the CMU checkoff program, every unit produced and sold becomes an investment in the future.

According to Gendron, the funding gained through the checkoff program would initially generate approximately $10 million based on the one-cent-per-unit assessment and the estimated current production of a billion concrete masonry units nationally. The funding level would rise as the program matures and generates increasingly higher levels of CMU demand and production.

Under the CMU checkoff program, every unit produced and sold becomes an investment in the future. “The participation of all producers ensures a broader funding base, lowering costs for all involved,” according to cmucheckoff.com.

The investment of any given company is pennies on the dollar, but the end result is a thriving business climate for each individual company and for the concrete masonry block industry as a whole. “One cent per block is miniscule,” said Gendron. “A typical job is 10,000 block, so that means a hundred bucks. It means almost nothing to any company, but it means everything to their ultimate survival.”

Got Wood?

According to Gendron, the first checkoff programs emerged during the Reagan administration. “Certain industries, such as beef and dairy, were struggling and they needed to figure out how they could get their industry to grow,” said Gendron. “They applied to place an assessment on their particular industry. The money came back to the industry in the form of a national committee that allocates the money for the purpose of advertising, promotion, research, training, education, and similar activities.”

Today, Gendron believes a checkoff program could boost the CMU business. “Block production has fallen from a high of four billion to a current level of one billion annually in the United States,” said Gendron. “We’ve lost three billion block, despite being a product providing modern solutions.”

The softwood lumber industry has a checkoff program through the USDA, and uses the North American Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) to promote its products. According to the Wood Business website, the SLB’s mission is to increase market demand for softwood lumber by supporting pro-wood communications (Think Wood and Wood, Naturally), code and standards expansion (American Wood Council), educating and assisting architects, engineers and construction specifiers (Wood Works), and supporting innovative new applications and markets for softwood lumber products.

“The wood industry’s checkoff program has been extremely successful,” said Gendron. “They started it five years ago, and that is why you are seeing a lot of wood structures today. They pull in $14 million a year. They are spending that money to get more business, and it is working. They have always been big in residential, but they are just going to town right now even in commercial. A case in point is the wood-frame modular apartments being built on Trumbull and Michigan Avenue in downtown Detroit on part of the former Detroit Tiger’s stadium site.”

The SLB’s website lists some key statistics in its 2017 impact report: Since its inception in 2012, the SLB has created more than 3.6 billion board feet of new demand and resulted in an incremental $1.33 billion of revenue. The SLB has delivered a total return on investment of $19.74 in incremental revenue for every $1 spent since 2012.

Fairway at Gig Harbor WA shopping complex. Sandstone CMU ground-face with charcoal split face and charcoal ground face accents.

The checkoff program will bear much-needed fruit in the form of pooled funding applied to promotion, education and research

Got It: Collective Funding = Greater Growth

The existing 20 different checkoff programs through the USDA range from softwood lumber to Christmas trees and from avocados to watermelons. CMU manufacturers, however, are the very first industry authorized to create a checkoff program through the US Department of Commerce.

As Gendron travels across Michigan visiting CMU manufacturers large and small, he describes how the checkoff program will bear much-needed fruit for the industry in the form of pooled funding applied to promotion, education and research.

Ground face 8" and 12" in blend of Sandstone, Castle White and Wintersky Structural CMU at Parkrose Middle School, Portland OR

PROMOTION: The checkoff program would dramatically expand the ability of the CMU industry to promote demand for concrete masonry. According to Gendron, promotion could include webinars, social media campaigns, conventional media advertising campaigns, and direct meetings with potential block users ranging from local architects to large national accounts with facilities scattered across the country.

Gendron offers an example of how he convinces even small manufacturers of the checkoff program’s value: In traveling to a family-owned and operated manufacturer in southwestern Michigan, “I told them, ‘You make the block, your children drive the trucks, and your spouse sends the bill, but who sells the job? Let’s suppose a Holiday Inn comes into town and the new hotel is made out of wood. How do you sell that job?’ And he said, ‘I don’t.’ And I said, ‘You are absolutely right. With a checkoff program, we could meet with national accounts, such as Holiday Inn. Next time, they will be more likely to build out of block – and your penny paid for it.’”

“Block has great qualities that are easy to sell, including greater sound absorption, lower vibration transmission and the fact that block is non-combustible and easy to insulate,” said Gendron. “It sells particularly well in Florida, because block is insect-proof, mold-resistant, and weather-protected from everything from tornadoes to hurricanes.”


The checkoff program could help ease the labor shortages now rampant throughout the construction industry and in the masonry trade. Gendron and other proponents worked with the MCAA and the International Masonry Institute (IMI) on the initiative. “We can sell like crazy, but we need the installers,” said Gendron. “With the checkoff program, we would have the funding to spend on recruiting installers, as well as expanding the installers’ training and education. The unions are behind this one hundred percent. It will produce more work for them, plus the checkoff program will expand funding for more extensive training programs.”

As a labor-intensive industry, masonry can help generate strong economic growth. “Masonry doesn’t employ robots,” said Gendron. “Masonry employs people, and people get paid. They can then spend money on new cars, housing and vacations, helping to stimulate and boost the economy.” This increased level of spending accelerates the velocity of money, a term referring to the rate at which money is exchanged in an economy.

The concrete masonry checkoff program would expose design professionals and others to the value of CMU. According to cmucheckoff.comA concrete masonry checkoff program can provide resources to support the continuing education of engineers, architects, contractors, inspectors, building officials and more regarding best practices for use of concrete masonry products. For future designers and industry professionals who are now making their way through school and college, increasing their educational exposure to concrete masonry construction will make them more comfortable with using it once they become practicing professionals.

RESEARCH: Checkoff funds will offer research opportunities into new block applications. “The wood industry is looking into wood high rises,” said Gendron. “We will be able to research the panelization of prefabricated block.”

According to cmucheckoff.com, “Building codes and standards have a significant impact on how concrete masonry products are used. Research is needed to document the performance of concrete masonry to support code changes that will open additional markets, reduce unnecessary conservatism, and make concrete masonry more market competitive. Additionally, research needs for concrete masonry abound in areas related to sustainability, fire-resistance, structural performance in seismic and wind events, recycled materials, manufacturing improvements, energy, and more.”

New Kid on the Block

Given the checkoff program’s benefits, “I would be surprised if it doesn’t get voted in,” said Gendron. “I think that there is a very good chance for passage of the referendum. We know the checkoff program will be successful.”

At publication time in February, Gendron and other proponents were preparing for the referendum and establishing details on creating a vehicle for funding distribution and program administration. Distribution-wise, the government does not collect nor hold at any time the checkoff funds, according to cmucheckoff.comCollections and management of funds is the responsibility of the checkoff board, composed of industry representatives.

Administration-wise, legislation calls for five Regional Advisory Committees (RAC) made up of groups of states, according to cmucheckoff.comThese RAC will each have a representative on the board, and they will recommend programs and initiatives for funding that will have the greatest impact for their region. The Board will also consider programs that have industry-wide impact and/or programs recommended by RACs. The Board has the fiduciary responsibility of reviewing and approving the programs.

Cocoa CMU in ground face and smooth face, Echo Ridge cultures stone, Columbus Red Mission textured face brick at Century Theatre at Point Ruston, Tacoma WA

Michigan is in Region 3, along with North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The regions are broken down into districts, Michigan being in District 8 headed by Gendron and composed of Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. “The block manufacturers essentially make up the committee that approves or disapproves programs, based on cost, type of program, and the proposed program’s projected increase in block demand,” said Gendron. “They are examining the other successful checkoff programs to see how it could apply to block.”

After a decade of work, the referendum should be voted on late this year. The website cmucheckoff.com explains the beginnings of the referendum process: Based on industry recommendations, the Department of Commerce will develop an order that provides guidelines for running a compliant program and the process for a referendum. The industry will have an opportunity to provide public comment to the order prior to the referendum.

Once the referendum is passed, the checkoff program takes about five years to fully mature and produce the envisioned results. “Once you start collecting funds and establishing programs, the industry will really take off,” said Gendron.

After five years, Gendron predicts a growth in production to at least two-and-a-half billion annually. “That’s bigger than the current one billion annually, but hopefully we can get block production back to four billion and increase from that point,” said Gendron.

Once the referendum is passes, checkoff takes about five years to fully mature and produce the envisioned results

Those who fought for almost a decade to secure authorization of this program are as tough and durable as CMU itself. After the program’s passage in October 2018, Major Ogilvie of Ready Mix USA, a CEMEX company, and national chair of the concrete masonry checkoff initiative since 2010, said in a NCMA press release, “This is a great day for our industry. We demonstrated a level of perseverance on this initiative that is only matched by the resilience of the products that we manufacture. By standing together, we will not only strengthen our industry, but our communities. We applaud the members of Congress for recognizing that the small businesses in our industry can accomplish even greater things together if we can more effectively pool our resources to promote ourselves.”

Mary Kremposky McArdle

Mary Kremposky McArdle, is the associate editor at CAM Magazine. As associate editor, she has been writing articles for CAM Magazine for more than 25 years. She appreciates the opportunity to tour wonderfully crafted and beautifully designed spaces, and feels that learning about sustainability, urban restoration efforts and other vital trends is yet another bonus of working for the design and construction industry. Kremposky graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. kremposky@buildwithcam.com | 248.972.1000

Signature Brick Blend

Bob Belden

Complex geometry by System Architects produces some of contemporary architecture’s most striking designs. Dark Range brick blend used on interior walls complements the family’s furnishings, with Medium Range blend on the exterior. Deeply recessed and angled windows transcend multiple stories to provide an abundance of natural light and privacy.


Complex Geometric Designs and Digital Technology Minimize Constructability Challenges and Costs

187 Franklin Street lies near the center of the Tribeca West Historic District. Jeremy Edmiston, principal of System Architects, was engaged to convert a three-story commercial structure on a site which had originally served as a livery stable in the 1800s, into a distinctive residential space for a family of four.

According to the New York Historic Districts Council, there are 53 neighborhoods in Manhattan and 139 historic districts comprised of more than 34,000 buildings. Tribeca West is one of those historic districts. The Historic Districts Council says, functional, yet decorative buildings found in this district were designed in vernacular and popular period styles of the last half of the 1800s. Granite slab sidewalks and Belgian-block street pavers complete the area’s 19th century commercial feeling.

According to the Tribeca West Historic District Designation Report of 5.7.1991, Franklin Street was transformed by the spread of commerce from downtown around the mid-nineteenth century. The district features many store-and-loft buildings of Italianate and Romanesque Revival design.

Delirious Architecture

In addition to the small living space of the simple lot’s 938 sf footprint, owners were concerned about the lack of privacy with large, street-facing windows on a narrow street. Edmiston’s answer to those concerns was to add two stories, making the building the same height as its immediate neighbors, with 3500 sf to accommodate a family of four, and to reinvent the façade with windows deeply recessed and angled 30° to views up and down the street rather than straight ahead.

Although not Italianate nor Romanesque Revival, the attention to detail and sculptural quality of the design is a nod to the centuryold neighboring buildings.

Edmiston chose brick for the façade because it was a material common to the neighborhood, it maintained the mercantile feel of the historic neighborhood, and it would be favored by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In the end, the Commission approved the design unanimously. “We should celebrate this project,” Commissioner Frederick Bland said at the time. “Everything is familiar and yet nothing is familiar. This is smart architecture as well as delirious architecture.”

System Architects, a small firm based in New York City with a Sydney Australia office, is known for its dynamic, complex geometric designs and use of digital technology to minimize constructability challenges and costs. 187 Franklin Street is no different. Edmiston was intimately involved in the design and construction of the home at every step. He appreciated brick’s ability to match the “tough, busy, urban environment with a sensibility of something strong, indestructible, while also responding like fabric, feeling light and responsive, even playful in a residential setting.”

Coding for Iteration Efficiency

Production drawings were digitally designed using a coding operation rather than modeling. A mathematical formula to generate coursing gave the architect control over each of the 41,288 brick. In fact, they went through more than 100 iterations of patterning to come up with what was finally used: a coursing pattern based on a Dutch bond, the 4.5 floors of rotating corbeled façade, with each corbel different, sometimes 1/16 of an inch. Once the coding design was determined, physical models were created. These models were effective in cutting down constructability issues and other surprises during construction.

Three of seven floor plans show the kitchen as well as work and living spaces in relation to the thickness of the brick street wall. Balconies at each floor extend these living spaces through the brick façade. The floor transitions from wood to concrete to meet the geometry of the interior brick.

Architect Edmiston and General Contractor Richard Wilson of NYC’s JD Wilson Construction worked closely through early design phases and on site to determine methodologies. They had to invent a way to lay modular units into twisting, curving walls.

The brick took on a life of its own

Each course is straight, but has a bend or a fold in it somewhere. The multi-wythe brick wall incorporated rigid foam that had been CNC-milled with horizontal coursing and every vertical joint etched onto it as a guide for masons. Each fold in the brickwork created a pocket behind the exterior face, which was filled with #5 rebar and grouted to serve as anchors for the façade. These acted as piers, spaced about 4′ apart along the façade, which Wilson says looked like a boa constrictor running up and down the wall, are structurally sound, and follow the subtle wall gradations.

Section drawing cut through brick façade and balconies shows continuity of the façade and its relationship to the interior

Façade Development

Edmiston says it was interesting to go through the façade development, determining whether it would be a thick or thin wall. “The brick took on a life of its own,” he says. The wall is thick, but a zoning regulation worked in the project’s favor as it met certain thermal conditions in Climate Zone 4, per NYCECC. Additionally, the thick street-facing wall also plays a role in removing street noise from the interior spaces.

Zeal of Brick Selection

Choosing the brick was important to Edmiston. He wanted to have a new brick that would complement the century-old units adorning neighboring buildings. He visited The Belden Brick Company in Sugarcreek OH to learn more about their periodic kiln system. This particular brick plant consists of 20 individual beehive kilns operating since the 1920s. Edmiston appreciated the fact that these kilns had been in continuous operation for more than 90 years and appreciated the accrued knowledge of the brickmakers over that time. Many ironspot blends are produced there. 187 Franklin features a #470-479 Dark-Range Blend used on the interior and #470-479 Medium-Range Blend on the exterior.

Reducing Atmosphere

Both Medium and Dark Ranges have 15-20 distinct shades ranging from brown to orange to green. This number of shades developing from the same raw material is a function of the seven-day firing cycle of the beehive kilns and the reducing atmosphere created in the kilns to which brick are subjected. The advantage of a periodic beehive kiln is the greater amount of time available at maximum firing temperatures enabling colors to be fully developed and for changes in the kiln atmosphere to be extended well beyond what is possible in most tunnel kilns.

The luscious signature Belden blends begin with firing up to 90,000 to 105,000 modular units, depending upon configuration in the 40' diameter beehive kiln where all brick are encircled by two wythes of 8" brick plus an insulated fire brick that lines the interior wall. Kilns are gas heated for six to nine hours at temperatures of over 2,000°F. Where brick are closer to the heat source, they become flashed. This process produces compatible color variation including very dark accents. Exquisite exterior façade detail at a typical window head showcases the pattern of both stretchers and headers. The variety of brick colors, reflections of sunlight and shadows created by the folding brick all amplify the depth and character of the façade.

Aerial photo of 20 beehive kilns in a row servicing Plant 4 have an annual capacity of 20-22 million brick equivalent per year, which is nearly 10% of Belden’s annual capacity. Entrance to kiln is secured for safety so no one can enter while kiln is in service.

In creating this wide range of colors in both dark and medium range ironspot, brick units are subjected to a reducing atmosphere or flashing. A reducing atmosphere is an atmospheric condition in which oxidation is altered by removal of oxygen and other oxidizing gases. For the 470-479 Dark Range, the gas flashing time is six to nine hours; for the 470-479 Medium Range, it is two to four hours. Neither time is practical in a normal tunnel kiln where cars loaded with brick typically move into and out of each firing zone in less than two hours. This variable range of flashing time for each style of brick is truly what makes brick manufacturing as much art as science.

Unfired brick are loaded in beehive kiln where they are heated and allowed to completely cool.

Kerfing during production ensures clean cuts at exact locations to perfectly fit the design plan.

Bill Merritt of Belden Tri-State Building Materials, distributor, brought Edmiston to Belden Brick’s Plant 4 in Sugarcreek. Merritt and Edmiston met with Mark Britko, Manager of Strategic Markets, and Tom VanFossen, Plant 4 Superintendent, to discuss the architect’s vision and how The Belden Brick Company could help him make that vision a reality. After reviewing different ironspot ranges available, Edmiston selected the 470-479 Dark and Medium Ranges with green brick omitted.

Atmospheric reduction prevents oxidation by removal of oxygen and other oxidizing gases, causing flashing/ color variations most efficient in beehive kilns. 470-479 Dark Range brick showing color variation is being sorted onto pallets at Belden Brick in Sugarcreek OH, ready to be blended into packages for most efficient laying of the perfect blend on-site.

Because ironspot brick are fired in beehive kilns, which hold anywhere from 90,000 to 105,000 modular brick, depending on their configuration, manual unloading of kilns enables sorting of brick as they are drawn from the kiln, so green units were easily removed from the blend before they were sent to the packaging area.

Kerfing for Efficiency

The project was set for modular size brick, but nearly half the units were kerfed, or scored, brick that could be broken in the field to create that design. Kerfing during production ensures clean cuts at exact locations to perfectly fit the design plan. It also helps minimize dust and debris and maintains schedule, eliminating extra labor. In addition to kerfed stretcher units, there were over 2,000 special shapes, many also kerfed.

Belden cartoned and labeled all the special shapes so they could be easily identified by masons on site. Remaining brick were packaged in cubes after blending.

Belden true ironspot brick are a unique blend of shale, fireclay and iron burned to vitrification in periodic kilns resulting in a range of colors unmatched by any other kiln-fired brick. Ironspot brick have long been a favorite of architects because the smooth surface with raised iron and subtle variations in color reflects the light differently over time periods measured in hours, days and even months. The iron drawn to the nearly glassy surface of the brick by intense heat gives the ironspot brick a look that varies with the natural atmospheric conditions of the surrounding environment.

Brick masons at work on the exterior façade, setting sections of brick one course at a time with offset tools and brick course reference drawings. Brick course drawings produced by the architect have color-coded brick sizes to further streamline construction. Underside of the balcony floor structure projects through the brick facade at each floor level.

Mason Efficiencies

Belden brick are blended before palletizing so masons or robots can simply pick up and lay the next brick. Laying the wall was a slower-than-typical process because of the curves and special shapes. As much preplanning as possible resolved questions and concerns in advance to keep productivity as high as possible.

An example of two-brick offset tools being used to check an outside fold of the exterior brick façade. Structural strategy for exterior brick was thought of as a series of brick piers which follow the façade geometry. Steel reinforced piers were filled with grout to tie brick to the building structure.

Offset tools made for bricklayers are used to project the face of the foam template to the face of the finish brick.

The crew worked diligently to maintain cavity spacing exactly, as to not disrupt flow of the coursings. They also had to be meticulous with mortar batching to match color and strength throughout. Because brick install ation was slow, they used small batches of mortar for consistency, rather than adding water to keep one larger batch elastic over time.

In creating this wide range of colors in both dark and medium range ironspot, brick units are subjected to a reducing atmosphere or flashing.

Communication Efficiency

Not every brick order receives this degree of personal attention, but every order is important to The Belden Brick Company and the more information provided, the better the solution we can achieve for the end user. Archiving of information for future matches also brings efficiencies. Each plant keeps a sample of large projects especially when there are special blends like the green brick omitted here so that future matches will be correctly manufactured.

We are always happy to have architects and contractors visit our operations and speak directly with plant personnel. Because satisfying the owner is the main objective of all parties involved in construction of a building, Edmiston is quick to remind that this is a family home and they were working within a family budget. “It’s hard to build in New York City and make it feel domestic – not like a hotel or commercial building. Brick was an ally in that challenge.”

Bob Belden

Bob Belden, chairman and CEO of Belden Holding and Acquisition, The Belden Brick Company, Redland Brick & Belcap in Canton OH represents the fourth generation of the family brick manu – facturer established in 1885, now with 13 Belden and Redland Brick plants in five states. Belden has served many terms on the board of directors of the Brick Industry Association and is active in many civic and philanthropic organizations. As a GREAT MIND of the editorial advisory board of SMART | dynamics of masonry, Belden shares his vast knowledge and mastery of the art and craft of state-of-the-art brick making for more nearly 135 years, Belden’s plant 2 was the first to hire robots for the cubing of brick nearly 20 years ago. He holds a BS from University of Notre Dame and a MBA from University of Michigan. bob.belden@beldenbrick.com | 330.451.2031

Live help

iPads & String

Mike Piazza


Key Modeling Tools to Craft Brick Rotation and Joint Spacing at St Mary Mercy Hospital Chapel

Mostly brick veneer over an air barrier on studs, this contemporary chapel addition to a half-century-old hospital facility is nearly all raked and radial with a conical feature, brick lintels and a cast stone cap that resembles a roller coaster. Meeting with PLY+ in Ann Arbor design studio, elements such as control and expansion joints, integrating masonry with glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) and executing specialty brick patterns detailed within were on the agenda. Tools for discussion included a 3D model and an actual wooden model of the NW brick feature.

Infant Step into BIM

Material selected includes 2000 CMU, 35,000 brick and 135 pieces of cast stone coping. While not a sizeable project, what it lacks in mass is made up for in technical difficulty. It also turned out to be an infant step into the realm of BIM, demonstrating potential to coordinate all the exterior systems into a single 3D, editable document to be updated for producing as-builts as well as integrating digitally into systems for building management. One example could be managing and tracking activity in the fire alarm systems, sprinklers, egress and even real-time tracking for firefighters within the building on a live 3D model. This model created in the design phases of construction, executed properly, would include all of the updates for an accurate digital as-built. Exciting stuff!

Logistically Frustrating

Soil condition on the site was the worst I’ve seen in many years, a product of deep underground installations at the building’s perimeter. Greasy clay and cold wet conditions were rectified by a couple truckloads of mats for building temporary roads supplied by construction manager Granger Construction. Working through upfront formalities and a few unexpected obstacles finally allowed us to begin construction with loadbearing CMU backup replacing the existing stairwell, making it compliant with new construction. Normal weight CMU, heavily reinforced, supports its own roof.

Exterior systems were coordinated into a single 3D editable document to be updated for producing as-builts as well as integrating digitally into systems for building management

Modeling Simplified Complexities


Moving to the east side of the project, we began working at the garden wall with 12″ CMU very heavily reinforced vertically and horizontally, including structural masonry lintels with brick veneer and cast stone cap. This screen wall encompasses a courtyard with a series of windows 8″ wide x 4′ in height, allowing light to spill onto a section of existing brickwork throughout morning hours. At the top of each window is a brick lintel assembled with stainless steel threaded rods and epoxy. Each lintel laid out dry on plywood patterned for the correct size, marked and slotted for rods, was assembled wit h mortar and allowed to set. Lastly, rods were embedded into epoxy filled slots. Lintels were then installed as one-piece units, slid in above brick jambs and under CMU bond beam, already in place.


Courtyard side of the wall is lined with green glazed thin brick. Two walls are straight in plane; a sloped top is covered by cast stone with soft joints typical. At the top of the second rake, the long radial slope to the north begins with a compound miter in three dimensions and a radius of 36’4″. As stone shop drawings were produced in a 2D environment, the corners for cast stone coping had to be modeled on site and with limited digital resources. Polystyrene insulation was used to make a full-scale mockup of each corner. Pictures of each were utilized to markup for creation of new shop tickets in 3D.

Lintels were installed as one-piece units, slid in above brick jambs and under CMU bond beam already in place.


Wall assembly is brick veneer over extruded polystyrene, over air barrier, on a metal stud backup system. After completing one large radius at the courtyard, another pair at 3′ each was next, incorporating a brick pattern that rotates each brick on an axis centered on the brick itself, then flattening out again. The degree of rotation is increased from nothing at the point of tangency to the maximum of about 22° at the apex, in each case. Brick are rotated and reversed on alternating courses creating a texture seldom seen on any unit masonry projects of the day. Keeping the bond pattern lined up, true and plumb, mason line was used as a guide. Each string jack line was laid out with a laser before being anchored above. A mockup for each of the specialty patterns was built in place, looking for feedback on rotation and tooling.


Water penetration is always a potential concern with raked joints. The concern at the specialty brick patterns was with its reduced bed depth. The first attempt at this mockup didn’t pass inspection with a cut flush tooled edge. A new mockup was built with raked joints around every piece. Approved.

Polystyrene insulation was used to make a full-scale mockup, of custom cast stone sloped caps of each corner. Pictures of each were utilized to markup for creation of new shop tickets in 3D.

Next, is a section of wall in a straight line (sigh) for little more than 30′. At the end of this stretch, another radius brick wall with individual brick rotations, differing from the first two round corners only by the radius point increasing to 9’2″. It’s much easier to layout and stay on bond with the larger radius. Brick rotate gradually, increasingly needing more of the wall per brick in length. This little detail wasn’t part of the equation until after the first three courses were installed in running bond fashion to facilitate flashing installation. Trying to squeeze this pattern in place on 8″ centers simply was not possible. Some creativity was required here to catch the running bond pattern around the corner without stacking the first course over the flashing on the north elevation.

Brick are rotated and reversed on alternating courses creating a texture seldom seen

Brick rotates gradually, increasingly needing more of the wall per brick in length. This detail wasn’t part of the equation until after the first three courses were installed in running bond fashion to facilitate flashing installation


After the layout was established, first and second course, vertical jack lines were located by laser and anchored to the hard ceiling, keeping the lines true. Tooling raked joints takes the thumbprint hard method and cranks it up a notch: set long enough that the mortar falls away clean when tooled. Using a skate for this type of joint finishing seems like the ideal choice however, not on these rotated patterns. A tuck pointer or similar-type square-edged trowel better reaches into the niche that is created at each head joint. The top course is smooth to simplify the transition to the hard surface at the soffit. Directly above the 9’2″ radius, structural steel cantilevers beyond, out to the east elevation, carrying brick to the corner then switching to GFRC.


Viewed from a northern perspective, a colorful reflection from the dichroic glass on the west elevation is displayed over brick and more vividly onto the GFRC. The theme of radial, sloped walls continues with more complex angle corners and another bump or two in the plan. With juggling bond patterns becoming second nature for a bricklayer, adjusting window locations to accommodate structural steel has only added to the challenge.

Viewed from a northern perspective, a colorful reflection from the dichroic glass on the west elevation is displayed over brick and more vividly onto the GFRC.

Modeling was Mandatory

This final area to dissect begins with a square corner that transforms into a round corner, where the radius gets larger with every new course. Essentially, there is a cone embedded into the corner. Add in the specialty brick pattern with rotation, resulting in the bond being pushed ever further around the corner as the wall gets taller. This, in turn, means fewer brick per course, sequentially.

A view from above during construction illustrates its complexity and how it resembles a weave. To lay this out, use of the model was mandatory. Transferring the coordinates to their real 1:1 scale location with some primitive tools such as a laser for height and vertical alignment, in comparison to the most modern devices that use GPS, was a bit tricky. Pinpointing locations for control lines would have been much more difficult without the use of software as well as the input from PLY+.

Directly above the 9'2" radius, structural steel cantilevers beyond, out to the east elevation, carrying brick to the corner then switching to GFRC

This final area to dissect begins with a square corner that transforms into a round corner, where the radius gets larger with every new course. Essentially, there is a cone embedded into the corner. Add in the specialty brick pattern with rotation, resulting in the bond being pushed ever further around the corner as the wall gets taller.


It is obvious that this project is personal. Architect PLY+was on site every day to make sure we were on track and everything was looking smooth. This sort of collaboration works well at the time of execution as well as pre-construction, for follow up and to work through design issues that could not be seen in the design process. One thing that had to be resolved was the fact that the vertical plane of this wall was not vertical. At least not plumb. It is believed, if it’s not plumb, exposing itself to the sky, then it is a roof. The stud framing behind the veneer leans back as well, making this an excellent place to collect water. Water penetrating this area would be especially troublesome as it is adjacent to the altar.

The vertical plane of this wall was not vertical. At least not plumb. It is believed, if it’s not plumb, exposing itself to the sky, then it is a roof.

Special care was taken to ensure water would not enter the building with the use of 100% solid brick with all head joints 100% full. The joints are minimally raked as well as not penetrating the air barrier at its most vulnerable locations. The air barrier did the rest.

Can you even imagine constructing this project without being able to model it first to be sure it would work? We embraced the opportunity and appreciate the attention the architect provided.

Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza is an on-site supervisor for Davenport Masonry, Holt MI. He has been with DMI for 23 years, managing work from the field and the office as well. Structural masonry, historic recreation, stone veneer and otherwise challenging brick projects are among his specialties. The railroad roundhouse at The Henry Ford, the Milliken State Park Lighthouse, and St Mary Mercy Hospital Chapel are among his most interesting and challenging projects. Piazza is an active member of the Masonry Institute of Michigan’s Generic Wall Design Committee. 517.699.4279 | mpiazza@davenportmasonry.com


Upon reading the article you will be able to:

1 Demonstrate benefits to sharing digital models of exterior systems with all teams

2 Evaluate details of installation that help ensure performance expectations, including water-tightness

3 Explore ways to use low-tech on-site tools with high-tech digital tools for best outcomes