CAD BLOX was recently contracted to model a particularly challenging masonry layout for the Museum of Prairiefire in Overland Park, Kansas. Verner Johnson Inc. designed the building using a complex blend of stone veneer products that did not lend itself to standard BIM masonry modeling techniques. The intent was to create a gradient of color and texture moving vertically up the wall. To accomplish this effect over the 46′ high cavity wall, 32 separate horizontal zones were established each containing a unique mix of material, color and texture with variable blends. 5 colors of Cordova Stone (formerly Prairie Stone) and 4 colors of natural limestone in two different textures were used to compose the blend with each band varying proportions of product. In addition to the variation of product and color, unit height varied and unit lengths were randomly mixed. As you can see from the model of one of two structures, the veneer envelope was also uniquely shaped. All these variables converged to present a very challenging modeling proposition.
Due to the number of variables and the desire for a random effect in the distribution of stone lengths, it was not realistic to create an exact stone model with individual unit placement. While it was possible to build such a model, the drawings and order produced by such a model would be far to constraining to use for construction. Instead, CAD BLOX opted to create a custom modeling approach that allowed for flexibility in the unit placement while preserving the accuracy of unit counts to produce an accurate order. This also allowed the mason, D&D Masonry, the freedom to blend the product in an efficient way with proper proportions for each band coming directly from the model. This hybrid modeling solution preserved the integrity of the order, was specific enough to yield useful data for each band, yet freed the mason to practice their craft in a cost effective manner.
The other interesting aspect of this project was the timing of CAD BLOX’s involvement. CAD BLOX was contracted prior to bid which allowed for an accurate bidding process as well as early interaction with the architect to manage the complexity of the design from the standpoint of cost. The ability to have an accurate picture of cost as well as a basic strategy for construction provided very useful feedback for budgeting and the impact of design changes to the stone. The information generated from the model provided a basis for controlling costs by adapting the masonry materials and layout while still preserving the design intent. The Museum of Prairiefire illustrates how the use of BIM masonry modeling techniques can help preserve a complex masonry design through the bidding and construction process to make creative designs affordable and buildable realities.