When David Biggs was asked to help develop Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology for masonry, he jumped at the opportunity. As an engineer, he knew masonry was underrepresented in BIM systems.
Although he is one of many committed to the effort, Biggs is a uniquely qualified, impartial coordinator of the Building Information Modeling for Masonry Initiative, known as BIM-M. The structural engineer co-founded Ryan-Biggs Associates in 1978, later founded Biggs Consulting Engineering in 2010, and is technical director for Constructive LLC, a masonry systems development company.
As an expert in forensic engineering, masonry design, and restoration, Biggs lectures internationally. He consults on high-profile jobs, including the restoration of 8th and 9th century B.C. structures in Turkey, and structural investigation at the World Trade Center collapse.
Biggs was named a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2005, Honorary Member of The Masonry Society in 2008, and Fellow of both the Structural Engineering Institute and ACI in 2012.
However, Biggs is humble about his role in what he considers “a very positive unifying project for the masonry industry.” As the BIM-M masonry industry coordinator, he is the link between the Executive Committee and affiliated sponsors, consultants, project managers, and funding organizations. Biggs credits the early success of BIM-M to the Executive Committee’s support and cooperation.
“Industry leaders understand the importance of working together in this effort,” he says. With new BIM software still under development, “we’re in a great position to get masonry in the mix.”
Providing a road map
The group formed in 2012 to secure a spot for masonry in the world of BIM. The plan involves a series of projects that will prepare the technical (software) foundation for BIM, as well as tools to implement BIM processes.
With the Georgia Institute of Technology as the lead consultant, the first phase, “A Roadmap for Developing and Deploying Building Information Modeling,” was completed in January. The plan covers BIM development in five areas: architectural modeling, structural modeling and analysis, masonry construction, construction management, and masonry materials.
Students at Georgia Institute of Technology’s Digital Building Laboratory (DBL) will conduct most of the legwork in carrying out each phase. Their work will be led by Russell Gentry, associate professor at the School of Architecture, and Charles Eastman, professor and DBL director. Eastman is known as the Father of BIM for his work since the 1970s, and is chief author of the BIM Handbook.
The initiative’s second phase is gathering input from masonry contractors and producers. Contractors share pain points, from product selection and bidding to project execution. Brick, block, cast stone, and natural stone producers provide product information, including sizes, shapes, properties, and colors.
Biggs envisions creating an online database that links to BIM software, into which manufacturers can upload product information. “This will be where the new generation of designers get their product information,” he says. “If you don’t give it to them digitally, you may be kept out of the design process.”
In Phase III, BIM software developers implement the masonry-specific information into their programs. Phase IV involves software specification, contractor training, and the beginning phases of masonry architectural design to make BIM for masonry a reality. The Executive Committee hopes to complete the first generation of the project in 2017.
Biggs encourages producers to get involved. “We want everyone to have a voice, and make sure their needs are represented in the final product,” he says.