What Is It? What Do I Do With It?
James Keanu Ho opens a big exciting present on his 4th birthday. What is it? What do I do with it? could be his questions. Perhaps the same questions you may have about the new Building Information Modeling (BIM) Masonry Unit Database (MUD) concepted by Interstate Brick’s engineer Jeff Elder and software producer by masonryiQ’s Tom Cuneio. Perhaps you will find this software to be as useful and efficient as a crane in lifting. Be sure to check it out and let us know what a great gift this has become. James can help explain it to you. Really Simple to Use.
Giving gifts is one of the great pleasures in life. It’s especially fun as a parent. Most of us have witnessed a small child opening a gift with great enthusiasm, showering the giver with gratitude, and then asking this hilarious question: “What is it?” BIM-M has offered a gift to the masonry industry called MUD (Masonry Unit Database). It’s a great gift and has been received with enthusiasm, but it has also left many people asking, “What is it?” and more importantly, “What do I do with it?”
What Is It?
The “What is it?” question has been addressed in previous articles, so I’ll summarize for our purpose. MUD is a digital product library of materials and shapes from masonry producers. Anyone looking for information about masonry units can browse the MUD and download unit geometry and properties. MUD has been created to supply masonry content to the emerging BIM universe. With this working definition in hand, I’d like to focus on the “What do I do with it?” question.
Before we can answer that, it’s important to understand MUD and its relationship to BIM. A BIM (Building Information Model) is composed of a variety of content. It’s a mixture of original content created by designers and component information that is provided by various producers. For large components, like air handling units or revolving doors, it makes sense for the manufacturers of those components to provide 3D geometric assemblies and properties that can be placed in the model. This can be manually done since the quantities of such items are relatively low in BIM. Drag, drop, done. But using this approach for a masonry model will never work due to the sheer volume of content.
It’s not unusual for a proper masonry BIM to contain a few hundred thousand components. Drag and drop is like a MUD drip – it cannot handle the volume of data required. It will only be useful for small digital mockups. We need something more like a MUD slide that will allow content from MUD to flow into models.
The second important dimension of MUD as it relates to BIM is unit diversity. Masonry usually exists as a complex array of specialized units that serve a variety of design and structural purposes. Components in a masonry assembly might have the same shape, but vary in color or texture to accomplish an aesthetic design. On the other hand, there may be no variation in material, color or texture but significant variation in shape. A wall that appears uniform from the outside is likely composed of a variety of specialized shapes with a range of internal geometry. Theses shapes serve functional purposes like accommodating vertical and horizontal steel, properly closing out jambs and lintels, enclosing shelf angles or maintaining bond at corners. It is not unusual for a masonry order to have 50 or more unique combinations of mold shape, color and texture to properly assemble a masonry wall. For MUD to reach its potential, there must be support to assist BIM modelers with guiding content from MUD to appropriate locations in BIM.
The power of the BIM concept is that a unified platform can merge knowledge from each stakeholder and make it accessible to the team. What the contractor knows can be served to the design team. What the producer knows becomes available to the engineer
Intelligent Management Tool
In order to support both size and complexity of masonry BIM, we need an intelligent management tool to distribute MUD content into masonry models. This tool, linking MUD to BIM authors, has to combine input from a variety of stakeholders. Consider selection of a single unit of masonry in a wall. An architect may select color, texture and pattern that indicates the characteristics of the face. An engineer may specify bed depth based on structural requirements as well and the required reinforcing steel. A mason contractor may evaluate steel requirements and determine that a double-open-end bond beam shape is required for constructability. Producers may present options or impose limitations on available units to achieve the design. The power of the BIM concept is that a unified platform can merge knowledge from each stakeholder and make it accessible to the team. What the contractor knows can be served to the design team. What the producer knows becomes available to the engineer.
MUD is an investment in the future of the masonry industry. It’s a down payment intended to secure the future of masonry in tomorrow’s design process.
We are discussing emerging solutions and a future state of BIM, but it is by no means a distant future. Much of this support has either recently become available, or will be in the market yet this year. There are opportunities to explore masonry at a level that has previously been impractical. One example is the ability of MUD to inform U-factor calculations. U-factor is a property of a wall assembly that describes heat transfer rates. It depends upon several properties and can be difficult to accurately calculate. In a masonry wall, the type of material, the cross-sectional area of the webs and the location of vertical grouted cells all affect the U-factor. This means that the architect, the producer, the contractor and the engineer all make decisions that can alter the U-factor. As with most complex variables, it’s often easier to make conservative assumptions than to put the effort into direct evaluation. This leads to overdesign.
MUD is a data resource that makes it easy to serve unit geometry and material properties to the BIM. Recent advances in rebar modeling are improving access to grouted cell locations. It is now possible to get more accurate U-factors from masonry walls since the information from each stakeholder can be easily represented in the model. This will lead to less overdesign, greater conservation of resources, better buildings and less design effort to deliver these optimizations.
Another design diagnostic feature of MUD is the ability to assess adequate rebar cover. Code requires a minimum cover of grout around rebar to ensure proper structural performance. Minimum cover depends on cell geometry of the unit installed and the size and quantity of rebar that is structurally mandated. Most producers offer a variety of units with a range of cell geometries. Having access to specific unit configurations during design opens the door to perform minimum cover checks.
Consider a design that calls for acoustic masonry units or proprietary ICMU units. With accurate unit geometry from MUD, BIM can now combine input from the architect, engineer and producer. The value of being notified of a conflict by your design tool rather than by a code official on a job site punctuates the power of investing in BIM.
There is a design productivity aspect of using MUD data in BIM as well. By specifying unit geometry in the design model, proper details can be automatically drawn in the design documents. Section and plan views can be detailed directly from the masonry BIM rather than manually produced in a disconnected work flow. Units like solid bottom u-lintels, double open end bond beams or even proprietary shapes for energy requirements can be detailed from the model. 75% solid units, for example, which are indicated in the model can be drawn in the contract documents. Proper detailing reduces contractor errors, reduces time spent by all on RFIs and ensures that the intended aesthetic and performance qualities are delivered to the owner. Most importantly, when component-level information is represented in BIM, editing the model and details that flow from the model is greatly simplified.
Life Safety | Thermal Mass | Acoustic Isolation | Endurance | Aesthetic Glory
Masonry is called upon to provide life safety, thermal mass, acoustic isolation, aesthetic glory, endurance and so much more for communities around the world. Masonry is the intersection of art and science that has anchored and defined civilizations for thousands of years. **Recent advances in BIM are changing the way everything in the built environment is accomplished. Masonry is quickly adapting to the opportunities that BIM presents.**MUD is an investment in the future of the masonry industry. It’s a down payment intended to secure the future of masonry in tomorrow’s design process. I remain convinced that the emerging solution of BIM for masonry will showcase the power of BIM better than any other building system.
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 construction and design. He is actively developing software and methods to help the masonry industry capitalize on benefits and efficiencies of BIM technology. As a GREAT MIND of the Editorial Advisory Board of SMART |dynamicsofmasonry, Cuneio will bring another dimension of exciting efficiencies to readers allowing them to be among those first to grasp the incredible efficiencies of BIM-M. Cuneio is an honors graduate of the Mechanical and Aerospace program from the University of Missouri. tom@3DiQinc.com | 719-232 5570