Training News

IMI Moves to Maximize Marketing for More BAC Jobs

Journal: Issue 4 - 2011
David Sovinski, IMI's National Director of Industry Development, discusses the High Performing Masonry Building Envelope in Kansas City.

The continued decline in construction activity has made marketing Union masonry construction more important than ever,” said IU President and IMI Co-Chair James Boland. “It’s not enough to have the best-trained workforce if there are no jobs for them. That’s why it is essential that we step up our marketing efforts in these tough times.”

The International Masonry Institute was one of the first labor-management cooperation funds established in the 1970s to combine marketing and training as a way to promote union masonry construction in the most comprehensive way possible. IMI’s revenue comes from a cents-per-hour contribution providing funds to run market development and training programs throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada. The annual budget is developed in consultation with Local Union and contractor input based on local/regional and national needs and is primarily divided into marketing and training expenditures.

In the past few years, almost two-thirds of the IMI budget was devoted to training expenditures. Now, with construction activity continuing at extremely low levels, there is an increasing need to intensify the marketing efforts and more effectively utilize IMI marketing talent and tools. One of the new approaches to be used in 2012 will be regional marketing efforts which will expand the types of marketing and technical services offered in most key markets.

“We would love to tell you that we have a secret weapon to deploy to assure that every future building will be union masonry,” said IMI President Joan Calambokidis. “But the truth is that almost every project requires a layered approach that begins with a staff of masonry experts who can show owners, architects, engineers and construction managers the economic and structural advantages of Union masonry.”

How does that multilayered approach work?

“We lay the ground work with our ongoing educational programs for architects, engineers, CMs and other decision makers on the benefits of union masonry,” said IMI National Director of Market Development David Sovinski. “The key, however, is using the contacts that we develop in those groups to get involved very early in the planning and design stages on significant projects to make sure we get maximum utilization of masonry, and that typically involves multiple approaches and staff expertise.”

A good example is Fort Drum in Watertown, New York, where in 2009, the Army began to trend away from loadbearing masonry in favor of brick veneer in a misguided effort to save money. IMI, working with Local 2 New York/Vermont, met several times with decision makers at the base and presented several educational programs including “Life Cycle Costing” and “Sustainable Masonry Design.” After a concerted effort, a new Operational Readiness Training Complex – a four-story training barracks – has been designed with an all-masonry solution.

In fact, getting masonry back into the structural game is crucial to maximizing BAC work hours, which is what the IMI Structural Initiative does. During a visit to a major engineering firm in Indiana recently, IMI Area Director Dave Collins and Director of Engineering Diane Throop discovered the software they were using was causing them to “over engineer” their masonry building designs. IMI provided new software and the project was redesigned, sent out to bid and awarded to BAC signatory contractor Purdy Masonry, Inc.

Very often IMI is able to increase the use of masonry by working with owners, whether it’s a private corporation or a public entity. IMI and Area Director Tom Nagy have had a long relationship with the Ohio School Facility Commission (OSFC) through design seminars, visits to IMI training centers, demonstrations, design consultations and regular meetings. Through these efforts, OSFC abandoned a competing product and returned to concrete masonry for all standard designs of foundation walls and in their latest design manual, deleted vinyl composition (VCT) as an acceptable floor finish, creating more work hours for BAC tile and terrazzo workers.

IMI PCC Instructor Andrew Kwiecien discusses proper tuckpointing techniques with Chicago area architects and engineers.

At Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, IMI Area Director Scott Conwell worked extensively with Chicago-based Legat Architects in the design of a new Enrollment Center and a Science and Health Building as part of a $68.5 million five-year master plan. IMI provided technical services, blueprint review and detailing assistance in support of gaining a masonry solution for these buildings.
In New England, IMI Regional Director Steve Bolognese met with the design teams for two upcoming projects at UMASS to review the design and details. Bolognese provided each with a list of signatory contractors resulting in the award of both projects including the Amherst New Laboratory Science Building.

Many of IMI’s project leads and relationships come through technical presentations such as a recent presentation by Director of Sustainability and Program Development Maria Viteri on High Performing Masonry Wall Systems to university facility managers in Pennsylvania. As a result, Slippery Rock University wants to work with IMI on campus projects. Center Point Engineering scheduled follow up meetings to learn more about designing with cost effective structural masonry. Eckles Architecture and Engineering, a leader in school design, scheduled bi-monthly meetings with IMI to review their projects.

In New York City, a presentation by David Sovinski and Area Director John Bachenski with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to discuss masonry construction led to a series of meetings with IMI, focusing on a single source solution for all masonry systems under one bid package. Currently too many accessories and control layers are bid to other trades. HUD executives were impressed by this approach and agreed to work with IMI in rewriting the master specifications. IMI is also working with HUD to add requirements for apprenticeship programs in the specification, giving BAC signatory contractors an advantage.

In addition to plan reviews, other major account, such as Target Corporation, use IMI’s Technology Briefs in their specifications for construction, and the New Jersey School Development Authority specifically calls out IMI details in their specifications as well.

In fact, the IMI grout certification program for craftworkers has made its way into the specifications of many leading architectural firms, including Fanning Howey Associates, HHSDR, URS, Glaserworks, SFA Architects and Hays Large Architects, LLC.

The state of Indiana now incorporates IMI’s grout certification language in their master specification for sound barrier walls. The Indiana Department of Transportation recently announced the Governor’s decision to work with local suppliers and contactors and will allow contractors to bid a separate system from the road builders for sound barrier walls. Contractors can build the wall, erect or set the panels and do all of the landscaping around the walls. The restriction to connect to panels of different materials has been lifted and the state has also asked IMI to work with them on decorative walls that will create thousands of work hours under this multi-year plan.

“The benefit of IMI providing marketing and technical services is that they are seen as an honest and credible broker of masonry information,” IU President Boland points out. “These are architects and engineers talking to their peers, not a Union official or contractor trying to get on a job.”

In 2011 alone, more than 10,000 architects attended IMI programs which enjoy a strong following in the architectural community. A good illustration is the Chicago and Northern Illinois chapters of the American Institute of Architects designating IMI’s Annual Masonry Restoration Workshop as an official event for their members. The jump in attendance from top designers gave IMI the opportunity to offer a second session to accommodate over 100 architects, representing the General Services Administration (GSA), the Archdiocese of Chicago, Abbott Laboratories, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University and other top owners and builders. IMI’s Maria Viteri served as the keynote speaker discussing Sustainable Masonry Retrofit and Renovation.

The design team of Wilson Architects views a 33-foot mockup built for the project.

These are just a few examples of IMI marketing programs making a difference for BAC members. For more information on these or other programs, contact Elena Johnson at 410-280-1305 or


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