New Masonry Design Tools And New Opportunities

Words: Dan Kamys

Technology | BIM-M

By David Sovinski,
National Director of Industry Development for the International Masonry Institute
and Executive Committee member of BIM-M.

All images courtesy of IMI.

Wall system design example: Adhered stone veneer over CMU backup, sheathing, and Z channels.
Wall system design example: Adhered stone veneer over CMU backup, sheathing, and Z channels.

Leaders from every facet of the masonry industry have been working together over the past few years to incorporate a better selection of masonry materials and systems into BIM software. BIM for Masonry, or BIM-M is a broad-based industry group with several main funders: the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the International Masonry Institute (IMI), the Mason Contractors Association of America and the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Western States Clay Products Association and the Brick Industry Association who all serve on the Executive Committee which steers the goals and activities of BIM-M. The complete list of supporters, as well as more information on BIM for Masonry can be found at The BIM-M Committee at The Masonry Society also helps with much of the program and content development.

Internal efforts within each organization, as well as outreach to software developers, has resulted in many more design tools that will make it much easier for designers to use masonry. Here are just a few of the offerings for designers and contractors.

Modeling masonry buildings in Autodesk Revit

This best practice guide for BIM Masonry Modeling in Revit is now available via free download. This guide will highlight ways to improve your masonry modeling using the Autodesk Revit software. Many architects and engineers create “work-arounds” to show masonry properly in Revit Models because masonry is not fully developed in the Revit software. This guide provides two separate, but complementary, approaches to modeling masonry in the Revit software. The guide covers everything from recommended Level of Development (LOD) for masonry, to how to model rebar in a masonry wall. In addition, using wall parts and modeling bond beams that appear during a clash detection are among the many elements that are addressed in this guide. Example Revit files of the two approaches also are available for download. While every firm approaches BIM and Revit within their own unique framework, this guide should assist in addressing best practice approaches to modeling masonry in Revit models. Readers will be able to use this information to create their own “best practice” approach.

BIM-M video channel (

Demonstrating advanced modeling techniques and teaching designers how to incorporate masonry into software, BIM–M commissioned a series of videos. Thanks to development by Integrus Architecture, the first video is now online on YouTube and the BIM-M website. Several additional videos also are in production. Integrus’ first video demonstrates hatching patterns for coursing representation for masonry that follows the Modeling Masonry Buildings in Autodesk Revit guide previously mentioned. Don’t have time to go through the whole guide? Take 10 minutes to view a video on selected topics.

BIM-M REVIT Content – 2D CMU Shapes
BIM-M REVIT Content – 2D CMU Shapes

Future videos will include demonstrating coursing in building wall sections, approaches for showing how masonry elements are modeled between architects and engineers, bond beam modeling to show them correctly in section cuts and in use for clash detection, and modeling vertical reinforcing and grout.

Revit content library, phase III

Currently in Beta testing, BIM-M has been working with CTC, an Autodesk developer, to create a plug-in with quality BIM Masonry content for the Autodesk Revit software. The purpose of creating generic masonry Revit content is to immediately place BIM Masonry Content at the fingertips of the design team so that they have access to masonry content and are choosing masonry easily within the software. The immediate targeted audience is architects and structural engineers, with an eye downstream to general contractors and masonry subcontractors. The goal is to give access to useful generic masonry content within the Revit software platform for use in the design and construction documents of building projects. The deliverable is a generic Revit Masonry Content Library with a Plugin for Revit. The content library can be added to existing firms’ libraries or accessed through a free plugin that provides a visual browser and drag-and-drop capabilities. The free plugin and masonry library content will be posted for download on several industry websites later in 2016.

3D models in SketchUp

Designers and contractors have free access to details and masonry content available on SketchUp 3D Warehouse, at and then search for masonry.

When contractors begin modeling in masonry they will find these beneficial since it is a library of accepted industry content, saving them the time and cost of developing this themselves. Architects can use this content to produce details as well.

Wall Systems Library (WSL)

Currently, IMI, with industry input, is standardizing a Wall Systems Library (WSL) informed by a taxonomy of wall assemblies and materials. Besides providing an organized classification system for masonry walls, this taxonomy will enable designers to clearly and consistently define the purpose and expectations of their wall system based upon its component parts. The WSL is based on the premise that every masonry wall system can be described in just seven or fewer sub-systems, or assemblies. Those wall assemblies are (from the inside out):

  • Structural assembly
    Sheathing assembly
    Air/Moisture Barrier assembly
    Insulation assembly
    Drainage assembly
    Anchorage assembly
    Cladding assembly

IMI is using SketchUp to delineate what could amount to hundreds of wall systems; however, the real utility of the WSL will stem from how the walls are organized and identified. The goal of the WSL is to standardize the naming and numbering conventions of masonry wall systems and their component parts so they are consistent from BIM platform to BIM platform, from office to office, and from project to project.

The Masonry unit database

The BIM for Masonry Executive Committee just approved proceeding with the development of a generic masonry unit database that can be used by designers and contractors. Software developers also will have access to the database so as to incorporate masonry into their programs. Details on the database will be released starting in fall 2016.

Deliverables guide for masonry contractors

This first edition is available for free download online at the BIM-M website. It introduces BIM through 3D modeling with SketchUp. Case studies show how various mason contractors improve communications, planning, and information flow by utilizing BIM concepts. These contractors, as shown in the case studies, emphasize cost savings through the benefits of BIM. Organizations can request a seminar or webinar that introduces BIM through 3D modeling with SketchUp.

BIM-M REVIT Content – Arch
BIM-M REVIT Content – Arch

This guide is popular with mason contractors who are beginning to use the BIM capabilities with in-house staff to increase their efficiencies. The second edition of the guide is under development and will highlight further case studies using advanced SketchUp, Revit, and Tekla. Release is anticipated in late 2016 and will be available at the World of Masonry trade show in Las Vegas next year.

How to work in a BIM environment

Criss-crossing the country with education for architects and contractors, both Fred Kinateder, Kinateder Consulting, a consultant to BIM-M; and Mark Swanson, AIA, IMI director of industry development, are finding receptive audiences to the BIM-M message. Kinateder is meeting with contractor groups to showcase BIM-M and how it benefits their business operations. Swanson has spoken to architectural and construction groups in nearly a dozen major metropolitan areas with his popular program, “Operating in a BIM Environment.” This program also was a successful webinar, and is currently being recorded for on-demand use. Contact BIM-M through our website to arrange one of these programs for your firm or group.

BIM-M REVIT Content – Brick wall hatches
BIM-M REVIT Content – Brick wall hatches


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