Continuing Education

Heath Holdaway, John Kunz

Generates Myriad Efficiencies, Saves Budget Before Construction Begins at Vanderbilt University Residence College A

During IMS Masonry’s interview for Vanderbilt University’s Residence College A (RCA) with General Contractor Layton/Mathews, questions about the masonry design details arose. Schematic design was complete, but construction documents were only about 70% when the masonry contract was awarded in October 2018. That began several months of IMS President Heath Holdaway and Senior Project Manager John Kunz traveling back and forth from Utah to Nashville to meet with architects Schwarz and Hastings and general contractors Layton and RC Mathews to discuss challenges and opportunities to increase efficiencies, tighten schedule, reduce budget, bring details up to speed and eliminate future need for requests for information (RFI). A Design Assist fee was agreed upon and IMS Masonry was brought on as a collaborator with the team completing masonry detailing. Results more than covered this expenditure.

CMU was Value Engineered IN at the top of the level eight octagon of the smaller tower to assist with the flexibility of stone anchorage.

Strategy of Design Assist

Page by page, with elevations projected on a screen, we talked through the masonry, making decisions on the spot. We worked from the face of the wall enclosure back, discussing jointing, substrates, backups, connection theory and other options meeting the architect’s intention while being feasible to fabricate and install. The architect then took the marked-up documents to complete the contract documents.

Design Intent

RCA is the second of four residential colleges the University is constructing to transform the campus’ West End and to create a living-learning environment where students and faculty reside, learn and socialize in a manner traditional to English Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, now gaining favor at many American universities.

Vanderbilt is taking care to ensure that growth of the campus aligns with the academic mission of promoting excellence in research and scholarship in an inclusive and stimulating environment, while also reflecting the broader character of Nashville. First of the four, E Bronson Ingram College opened in 2018 in a Collegiate Gothic style to be replicated in the subsequent three, though each has its own unique attributes.

The second college, yet unnamed so referred to as RCA, is scheduled to open in Fall 2020. It features a 22-story tower, two interior courtyards, performance spaces, art gallery, library, community spaces and dining facilities in addition to residential space for 300 students, apartments for visiting faculty and guests as well as educational spaces.

Planning and Evaluating Masonry Details

David M Schwartz Architects designed the Master Plan, recreating the University’s residence halls from traditional dormitories to residential colleges in phases. The firm, with Hastings, also designed the first four colleges to be complementary, but to each have a unique architectural identity. RC Mathews was the GC on the first college and teamed with Layton Construction in a joint venture for the second. Because IMS Masonry had provided crews toward the end of Ingram, we and Mathews had prior experience from which to draw in planning and executing the construction of RCA. We knew what challenges had arisen and were able to plan accordingly to eliminate those challenges before they potentially arose again on RCA. We were also able to take a lessons-learned opportunity to add efficiencies where possible.

RCA is designed as a composite structure – steel, concrete and CMU used at various locations throughout. CMU was originally in the plan for the basement and just below grade at the perimeter. This saved cost of having finish sandstone below grade. Featuring a red brick blend, the exterior is in keeping with the Collegiate Gothic style.

CMU were Value Engineered INat the top of the level eight octagon of the smaller tower, exterior pilasters, starter course for all the masonry, the high tower levels 19 through 21 to reduce weight and cost. Native Tennessee Crab Orchard sandstone was used below the water table and was also sprinkled throughout the brick veneer. Indiana limestone was used for opening surrounds, at water tables, to adorn towers, chimneys and to become accents.

Masonry Knowledge Adds Unparalleled Value

During Design Assist meetings, details about each element were discussed for cost, constructability and sequencing issues. Having a mason contractor as part of the Design Assist team during the construction document phase adds considerable knowledge and value. In this case, IMS Masonry was brought onto the team primarily for our extensive national and international experience with intricate stone design and anchoring. Knowledge of material sourcing as well as knowledge of specified stone properties, how the stone can be used and what attachment systems work best saved significant time and money. IMS approached the attachment system as hybrid while reducing cost and adding engineering value. This helped ensure a distinguished building of quality that will last and perform as expected for generations to come.

Worthy Expertise

Sequence building the building with focus on procurement of materials. One of the learning experiences from Ingram was completing the masonry at the roof lines ahead of the roofer so the dry-in can be complete. This involved a roof scaffold plan in sequence.

Create an overall masonry installation schedule, separated into 27 sequences. This allows a controlled measurement for monitoring workflow. The 22-story tower was broken into three sequences based on the amount of drafting in each area and releasing limestone for fabrication to meet a schedule. Courtyards were broken out into six sequences so they can also be easily managed with release of shop drawings and fabrication of stone. For best efficiency, some sequences could be accomplished ahead of masonry, but others, masonry would drive.

While developing stone modulation, we also sat down with EMC Structural Engineer and Picco Engineering to work through a backup system for the attachments. In many cases, steel hollow structural section (HSS) framing was intended, but we sized members and located them based upon configuration of the stone. Once the stone profile was agreed upon, the stone fabricator could truly make the stone profile. We then looked in plan view and positioned steel framing to support the stone. HSS steel framing was developed to carry the loads of stone arches with metal stud as infill. Some arches carried a steel plate above the spring line of the arch in order to achieve the ability to place a stone anchor anywhere within the arch. Predominately, arches had HSS backup with stud infill.

Level 22, which consists of the crown and pilasters combined, is also backed up in fully-grouted CMU. If field framed, the substrate would have consisted of multiple components and would have been bulky and pricey. CMU backup saved money and will prove to save time in construction.

Single stone window surrounds yellow highlight represents HSS steel framing for stone backup system.

Managed by Sequence

At time of Design Assist, IMS sat down with Layton/Mathews and discussed sequencing. IMS took the lead and developed 27 sequences base upon many factors. We looked at each wall with the intention of running from inside to outside corners or breaking walls at vertical control joints, whichever was best for constructability.

Hand-laid brick chimneys were prefabricated on the ground and lifted into place by crane so as to not delay roofing construction. Safety, productivity and quality craftsmanship were also enhanced as a result.

We looked at this as having 27 jobs which could be managed by sequence. We used this approach for releasing shop drawings as well. Once we did this, we approached each sequence with the thought of how many masons can be positioned on each wall. IMS did the math to figure out the overall man days to see if it would fall within the allotted time schedule. We also determined how many linear feet of wall a mason can be working on.

Hydraulic scaffold plans were developed internally to see how much equipment would be needed per sequence and how often it will need to be moved in sequence.

Each sequence required developing both a duration and allotted number of masonry crew members to be inserted into the overall schedule. Once the sequences were broken out, a plan was developed to see how many masons would be needed on each sequence. Knowing we would work on four to six sequences at a time, the job would require as many as 30 masons. IMS teamed with Nashville-based mason contractor WASCO. The two owners sat down and talked through the roles needed to complete the project. IMS is managing the project and supplying a management team in the field. Wasco is providing 80% of the field manpower on a day-to-day basis.

Masons lower prefabricated chimney into designated place at roof level as scheduled.

Once sequences were developed, we talked with Layton/Mathews about their lessons learned from the Ingram building regarding dry in at the roof lines as delays in getting the roof on in a timely manner had been an issue. We developed guidelines, which are proving to be helpful to both of us. Any masonry that extends beyond the eave by less than 6′ is being completed within the sequence.

Secondly, any roof line extending beyond the 6′, IMS scaffolds from the floor on which the roof line is developed. In some cases, we are having to jump out of sequence to install masonry first so structural steel can then box the area for closing in. This approach took several renditions to resolve which areas are needed for the building to be closed in on schedule.

Prefabricated Chimneys

The delay in getting the roof on Ingram in a timely manner was due to the chimney construction. On that project, chimneys were built in place and were labor intensive with intricate brick patterning. IMS approached the five chimneys for RCA by building these on the ground on steel frames and hoisting them into place. They were a high priority so they could be completed prior to roof install. It took great up-front coordination to figure where CMU was positioned on the frame coming above the roof line and creating the proper stair step for step flashing at proper elevations prior to brick, limestone and sandstone being installed.

IMS had worked with Layton Construction early on during the design stage to know where cranes were going to be positioned and their weight capacity. Knowing this, IMS was able to separate frames by weight and where best suited at the limestone, which can then be married on top of each other. Prefabricating chimneys on the ground benefitted the masons from safety, quality and productivity standpoints, as materials and assistance were readily available nearby without having to be raised to roof height.

CMU Backup Added to 300′ Tower

Stone detailing was a major area of Design Assist focus. Particularly unique to RCA is the 22-story tower which extends 300′. At level 16, the team decided to use a CMU backup at the intricate pilasters. It was friendlier to come up with the different planes with masonry than originally designed steel and field framing with a substrate horizontal system to provide backup. Level 22, which consists of the crown and pilasters combined, was also backed up in fully-grouted CMU. If field framed, the substrate would have consisted of multiple components and would have been bulky and pricey. CMU backup saved money and will prove to save time in construction.

Forty-five different brick patterns were mocked up for review. 16 were ultimately selected for color, blend and coursing layout to use in various locations of the exterior facade.

The northwest tower has four octagonal corners near the top. These were also changed to CMU backup in lieu of steel as a cost savings. The steel package was already designed. The team was simply finding ways to reduce budget and incorporate cost savings by introducing CMU in key areas to which the mason can attach veneer stone directly to grouted CMU.

Stone Connection Design

Working with renowned drafting and engineering firm Picco Engineering during Design Assist, we were able to use the present design in modulating stone to correspond to brick coursing as well as show proper jointing of pieces, knowing that later we both will work to come up with connection design. Each stone has its own individual anchor, which was custom designed by Picco. Each stone, therefore, has its own cutting ticket to be fabricated with unique anchorage slots prepped. In review of stone arches, both Picco and IMS Masonry reviewed which direction we wanted to install the stone arches knowing there were two options. Option 1 was to install with a load-bearing arch form bearing the entire arch on the form keying the arch by setting the last stone. This traditional method option has proved to be more expensive in arch forms.

Option 2 was to create an arch form profile, much smaller than a load-bearing arch. The purpose was to mimic the arch radius. Option 2 arch was an approach where each individual stone will be bearing back to the wall and each stone be self-supported. This method proved that brick masonry can cross over each arch without having to wait for proper cure time of a traditional arch. Option 2 was agreed upon in the setting of all stone arches.

Each stone has its own individual custom designed anchor. Each stone, then, has its own cutting ticket to be fabricated with unique anchorage slots prepped.

Brick Patterning

Another area where IMS was able to make a favorable cost saving impact during Design Assist was with 16 different brick coursing patterns. Limestone is incorporated into several patterns. Besides evaluating the pattern complexity, each was reviewed to determine how they lay out within an overall wall and to establish termination points. In an effort to minimize cost, IMS offered a square foot cost for different brick options. Architects reviewed the entire project and reworked different patterns that created the desired look, while keeping in mind the cost savings by using patterns which worked best. Forty-five different patterns were mocked up to review and approve based on different color blends and patterns. We also created brick mockup panels for all patterns, so they had a visual for each. Mockups were also useful in selecting brick colors to achieve the blend desired.

Vanderbilt University-RCA, Courtyard 1 showing Gothic Architecture Style, Brick Niches

Forty-five panels, 4′-0″ x 4′-0″, showed most patterns consisting of 3-brick blends with some mix of polychrome brickwork accents replicating the gothic revival of the 1860s, used to highlight architectural features.

As another cost saving measure, the team considered replacing some limestone with precast, but determined the impact on schedule of having to change crews for the different material would not create enough financial benefit.

From left, Kabir Sandhu, PE, Layon / Mathews; mason contractor Andy Sneed, President of WASCO; TN Congressman Jim Cooper and John Kunz, senior project manager, IMS Masonry. After many visits through the years to lobby for Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) issues to Congressmen Jim Cooper’s office in DC, he accepted an invitation to visit our high tech job site at Vanderbilt University where we have implemented some of the newest innovations in the industry. We toured the job, met field workers and shared issues and achievements first hand with Congressman Cooper who was eager to know more about our masonry industry. He was most helpful as a leader to champion our pursuit in NCMA’s CMU CHECKOFF. TN Congressman (D) Cooper was a cosponsor of H 1046 Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotions Act of 2017, passed into law October 2018.


Presently, the project is 60% complete. Extensive pre-planning is paying off. IMS Masonry, WASCO masonry and the rest of the construction team have gone through a learning curve but are also seeing that everything was thought out in advance.

There are still daily challenges, but the team is seeing pre-planning benefits. Each morning, daily task planning is developed for daily goals. The project is on schedule and production momentum rising. Coordination with subcontractors has been efficient with IMS managing teams and priorities to maintain overall efficiency. Additionally, careful and thorough estimating has resulted in accurate masonry material quantities within 1-2%.

Heath Holdaway

Heath Holdaway is President and owner of IMS Masonry, based in Utah and the CEO of Sutter Masonry, LLC. based in Arizona. He has nearly 30 years of experience in commercial, residential and industrial masonry construction. Holdaway believes that success is attributed to the strength and dedication of the entire team: employees, customers and trade partners. With his years of experience and his entrepreneurial spirit he helps lead both companies by striving to give customers the excellence they have come to expect – Safety, Quality and Production. | 801.796.8420

John Kunz

John Kunz is a senior project manager at IMS Masonry in Lindon UT. IMS is one of the biggest mason contractors in the western US. With more than 40 years in the industry, Kunz has a broad range of experience including assisting in design development for multiple high-end commercial projects and designing exterior skin anchor systems. He was named Marble Institute of America’s Craftsman of the Year in 2013. | 801.735.4012

Residence College A Vanderbilt University | Nashville TN

Design Architect David M Schwarz Architects | Washington DC

Architect of Record Hastings Architecture | Nashville

General Contractor | Joint Venture Layton Construction | UT RC Mathews Contractor | Nashville

Structural Engineer EMC Structural Engineers | Nashville

Stone Engineering Consultant Picco Engineering | Toronto ON

Mason Contractors IMS Masonry | Lindon UT WASCO | Nashville

Masonry Materials Alley Cassetty | Better Block | Bybee Limestone Care Supply | Endicott Clay | Glen-Gery Brick Hohmann & Barnard | Kerr Supply | Rite Crete Silvara Crab Orchard Sandstone Solomon Colors | Woodruff Supply Insulation

600,000 sf | $400 million project budget 725,000 Brick | 75,000 CMU 19,000 Limestone pieces 20,000 sf Sandstone pieces

Completion Expected Fall 2020 with Tower Spring 2021


Upon reading the article you will be able to:

1 Define Design Assist

2 Distinguish Design Assist from other project delivery methods

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

4 Identify roles and responsibilities to manage risk and liability