Training News

Designing a Bigger Future for Masonry

New IMI Software Boosts Structural Masonry’s Popularity

Journal: Issue 2 - 2009

Ann Arbor’s 128,000-square-foot Zaragon Place project is one of many loadbearing masonry mid-rise buildings made possible by the new software. Zaragon’s engineer calls it “a powerful tool.”

Structural masonry is universally acknowledged to offer a more efficient and cost effective system, but until now, engineers and architects lacked the tools to make it a practical choice over steel and concrete, which had easy-to-use design software. Designers loved masonry, but simply could not afford the time it took to design, particularly for larger projects.

All that has changed, thanks to new software developed for IMI and some industry partners by construction software leader Bentley Systems, Inc. Since three-fourths of structural engineers use Bentley software to design concrete and steel, adding a masonry option offered a clear path for expanding the structural masonry market.

The Total Masonry Design software taps into that market by providing a quicker solution for all masonry loadbearing buildings, plus a hybrid option where masonry can work with a steel frame. It capitalizes on the fact that structural masonry offers cheaper, faster and more energy-efficient solutions—all strong selling points in an uncertain economy that values sustainability.

IMI software seminars, like this one conducted by National Director of Market Development & Technical Services David Sovinski, make designers enthusiastic about structural masonry.

“It has made a huge difference for everyone,” says IMI National Director of Market Development & Technical Services David Sovinski, who spearheaded the Bentley project. “Designers shrink their design time dramatically from weeks to days, while masonry contractors and construction managers save real time using readily available CMUs that let construction start 12 to14 weeks ahead of steel.”

“Most importantly, BAC members get more work.”

Like any new software, training is the key to getting people comfortable and able to use it properly. IMI educates designers through both a well-attended seminar series and personal visits, like the “Indiana Blitz,” where eight technical directors called on 70 firms in two days.

That personal approach is paying off in scores of new loadbearing projects, particularly in the mid-rise market sector. For one Detroit middle school project facing nearly two months’ delay due to steel shortages, the new software let the engineer quickly redesign the whole project as loadbearing, and keep on schedule.

The end result, according to Local 9 Michigan President Nelson McMath, is that where masonry used to be value engineered ‘out’ of a project, “now we are seeing it value engineered ‘in’.”

To learn more about IMI’s Total Masonry Design software, go to


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