Be a part of something really BIG

Darrell W McMillian and David T Biggs

Contractor input wanted for advanced BIM-M, the next phase of masonry

Growth of Building InformationModeling (BIM) appears to be reaching exponential levels. Each day yields a new crop of webinars and sales presentations touting the benefits of going BIM. The sheer volume and change able nature of the information can be mind boggling, leaving potential BIM users wondering how and where they fit into the process. One such group is mason contractors and the craftworkers they employ. Increasingly they are being asked to comply with, and participate in, BIM construction processes. But, to date, this has been done without considering specific information and tools the mason contractor needs to do this successfully and without seeking their input as to how the BIM processes being brought to them could be improved. This is now changing.

Following the roadmap The Building Information Modeling for Masonry (BIM-M) initiative, which began Phase I in 2012, developed a roadmap, in conjunction with the Georgia Tech Digital Building Laboratory, that details how the industry should best proceed within the BIM environment. Phase II is now under way with numerous key projects, as defined by the roadmap, already in progress. Each project is designed to expand participation of one or more masonry industry segments in all BIM processes. Projects are listed on the BIM-M web site ( New information regarding the progress of each project is added as it becomes available.

Contractor Input One of the Phase II efforts is Project 4, also known as Contractor Input. This seeks direct contractor input regarding current and possible future BIM-assisted masonry construction processes. The roadmap outlines seven tasks which can be summarized by the following goals:

• Solicit input from general contractors and construction managers regarding their views on BIM-enabled masonry construction.

• Prepare detailed Scenarios of Use in areas of safety, planning, material procurement, quantity take off, cost estimating, wall bracing, etc, that can be used to gauge the potential for BIM implementation.

• Identify best practices of BIM use in non-masonry subcontractor areas.

Once collected, Contractor Input Project information is to be documented in a final report submitted to the BIM-M Executive Committee for subsequent use by initiative projects and phases. The need for contractor input will continue and expand with Phase III as actual specifications for masonry-related BIM processes are developed.

Implementation process While we have discussed the importance of obtaining mason contractor input and range of input desired in the BIM-M roadmap, implementation is still in progress. Among questions to be addressed are:

What is the particular nature of this input? What is its actual depth and breadth? How is it to be collected and summarized?

Implementation falls to the project manager and those contractors willing to contribute and analyze the input being sought. To date, project planning and efforts have established:

• Contractor Input Work Group (CIWG): Initial group of mason contractors who have indicated willingness to contribute. Individuals have been identified through email blasts, mason contractor functions such as World of Masonry and Mason Contractor Association of America (MCAA) meetings.

• Membership goal of this group is to adequately represent mason contractor companies of all sizes and locations. (Figure 1)

• Website developed to facilitate online discussions and surveys. (Figure 2)

• Project Stages and Processes: Key masonry project stages and processes related to each have been identified to serve as a framework for gathering contrac tor input. A Contractor Input Matrix has been created to answer questions for key masonry construction processes: What are current issues?

What software is currently being used? What is the nature of construction-related information being exchanged? (Figures 3 & 4)

Going forward, the CIWG will vet masonry project stages and processes as currently identified. Are the stages correct? Have associated processes been adequately captured? Following this, the group will attempt to narrow stages and processes to those considered key in terms of critical issues, software use and information flow. Related input gathered will be used to populate the Contractor Input Matrix and serve as back – ground information for Scenarios of Use development, one of the project’s main goals. Vehicles to be utilized for gathering input to include email and online discussions, online surveys, conference calls and face to face meetings when possible. Throughout the process, the CIWG will incorporate and offer feedback to any masonry work flows identified by the Bench – mark Project. This is another Phase II project managed directly by Georgia Tech with input from the University of Pennsylvania to develop case studies of actual masonry projects with regard to BIM and masonry work flows.

Collaborative Symposium – April The initiative is currently planning a BIM-M 2015 Symposium for April 9-10, 2015 in St Louis MO. Phase II projects will report and submit all data to date. It will bring together BIM users, soft ware vendors, material suppliers, mason contractors, construction managers and others to demonstrate current BIM masonry technology and provide forecasts of future developments. More information regarding the symposium will become available on the BIM-M website.

Current Contractor Input Project will continue into Phase III. It is likely that this is when the final Scenarios of Usewill be develop ed. The project may also look at the anticipated Level of Response (LOR) by the mason contractors to future BIM-M tools.

Just as mason contractor companies vary in construction volume, market niche, project size and digital capabilities, it is expect ed that their response to implementing future BIM-M tools will also vary. During Phase III, the project may be able to develop LOR in terms of identifying minimal, medium and high BIM-M integration by mason contractors.

Smorgasbord of Courses One additional task assigned by the BIM-M roadmap to Project 4 of Phase II involves contractor education to expand the use of digital tools by the masonry industry. In preparation for the future use of BIM tools by contractors, BIM-M has embarked on an education program to assist masons, supervisors, office staff and owners. Overall philosophy of the education program is to offer a smorgasbord of courses where one can jump in at the level he finds useful. Courses include education on computer basics, mobile apps and devices, current BIM options and introduction to BIM.

The entry level online course is an self-directed Introduction to Computers. This resource’s content is not unique and is readily available to anyone interested in making a search of training programs online. To save time and effort of potential new computer users, BIM-M has performed many searches and consolidated efforts to identify both free and paid online training programs for individuals not familiar with using computers.

It is preferable for individuals to take a computer training class at a local library or school. BIM-M’s first recommendation is to take a live course and supplement it with online programs. A live course allows for instructors to assist with questions and provide guidance on actual computers. Taking a live course might not be possible for everyone. There fore, BIM-M has assembled a basic list of online instruction that can be taken at the speed and times convenient to anyone. Free courses generally have no live instruction or help lines, whereas paid programs often link to help instructors.

Course content includes computer basics, introduction to Windows and Micro soft Office (Word, Excel, One Note, Power Point, Access, Lync, Project, Publisher, Share Point and Visio). Most information can be applied to either Windows or OS-based computing.

While this resource was developed for the masonry industry, any new user will benefit.

Apps A second course that can pay dividends now is Introduction to Mobile Devices in Construction. This recently-released program was developed for BIM-M by Art Theusch of Collaborative Consulting Group, with the premise that:

• there are mobile applications available right now that can be used to improve efficiency of operations, and

• using mobile devices and apps is a good way of transitioning into BIM-M tools.

Users of smartphones and tablets have apps they use regularly. This course assembles applications of several contractors and construction managers, thereby saving the mason and contractor time in finding good tools. BIM updates as new apps come to market, if you have a favorite, please email the name and information to

In developing this course, it has been recognized that there are few masonry specific apps on the market. A future BIM-M endeavor will be to identify apps that would be useful to masons and contractors. Until masonry apps are developed, apps presented in this course will be generally useful to most businesses.

The course will also present information on mobile devices and cloud computing. Workbook and a PowerPoint presentation are available electronically at no cost. The course will be available in several formats:

  1. – PowerPoint and hand book download for independent study.
  2. will have video segments for individuals or groups.
  3. Groups and organizations can contract for a live presentation by contacting Collaborative Consulting Group, directly. BIM-M will provide assistance in announcing local programs.
  4. Webinars are developed through MCAA. Check and for dates and times.

BIM-related processes are here to stay. The BIM-M initiative is critical to the future success of the masonry industry within the BIM arena. Input and overall participation of mason contractors and craftworkers is critical. The BIM-M initiative recognizes this and is devoting significant resources to include them in the process. Effectiveness of future BIM-M development relies heavily on the know ledge of the industry’s field experts. At the end of the day, the rubber meets the road with contractors and their craft – workers. Their input is greatly needed.

Anyone wishing to join the effort is encouraged to contact the authors directly, or use the Contact page at, or the Join In page at

Darrell W McMillian, PE, represents The Masonry Society at the BIM-M Executive Committee and serves as BIM-M Contractor Input Project manager. He is a registered professional engineer with the state of Missouri and is a past St Louis chapter president of the Structural Engineers Association of Kansas and Missouri. McMillian is a member of The Masonry Society (TMS) technical advisory committee and currently serves as TMS Vice President. He also holds memberships with the American Society of Civil Engineers, Structural Engineering Institute, American Society of Testing and Materials, TMS 402/602 Main Committee and the Masonry Alliance for Codes and Standards. McMillian has served as the technical director for the Masonry Institute of St Louis since 2001. 314.645.5888 |

David T Biggs, PE, SE, DIST M ASCE, HTMS, is principal of Biggs Consulting Engineering in Saratoga Springs NY and the Program Coordinator for the BIM-M Initiative. He specializes in structural forensic engineering, masonry design and historic restoration. He lectures, is involved with research projects and provides consulting for the development of new masonry products. He is a Distinguished Member of ASCE, an Honorary Member of The Masonry Society, a lecturer for the University of Pennsylvania School of Design-Historic Preservation and a member of the TMS 402/602 Main Committee. Biggs is also a GREAT MIND of the Editorial Advisory Board of SMART |dynamicsof masonry and a partner of Constructive LLC, prefabricated masonry wall system. 518.495.5739 |

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