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Accelerated masonry construction: Review and future prospects

Article  in  Progress in Structural Engineering and Materials · January 2004


DOI: 10.1002/pse.162

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Ramamurthy K E. K. Kunhanandan Nambiar


Indian Institute of Technology Madras NSS College of Engineering
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Structural Masonry

Accelerated masonry construction:


review and future prospects
K Ramamurthy and E K Kunhanandan Nambiar
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India

Summary
The limitations of conventional masonry cited adopted in practice. The accelerated mortarless
quite often with respect to constructional, masonry constructions developed or being used in
structural and functional performances are different countries and by various researchers
summarized, along with attempts to overcome vary in material, geometry and interlocking
these limitations through different methods of mechanism. A classification of interlocking block
accelerating masonry construction (increasing masonry systems is made, along with a review on
size of masonry units, elimination of bedding the behaviour of some of these systems. The
mortar through adoption of: (i) conventional issues to be addressed by researchers in order to
blocks using surface bonding or partial grouting; achieve a ‘High-performance masonry’ are
and (ii) interlocking blocks using dry-stacking, or highlighted.
surface bonding) developed and proof-tested or

Key words: masonry; interlocking block; mortarless masonry; productivity; structural performance; accelerated
construction

Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9 (DOI: 10.1002/pse.162)

Introduction problems of improper drying and nonuniform


burning, the size of burnt-clay bricks has been
In the developing world masonry is still the most standardized. Smaller bricks lead to a large number of
important material for housing, while in the mortar joints in masonry, thereby imposing
developed world it has attracted a renewed interest[1] restrictions on the height of construction in a day, to
that has helped in transforming masonry into an avoid out-of-plumb masonry caused by uneven
engineered material with a variety of structural squeezing out of freshly laid mortar due to the self-
applications. Masonry performs simultaneous weight of the masonry.
functions of carrying load and enclosing space, while
possessing good degree of fire resistance, thermal and
sound insulation as well as exposure protection. STRUCTURAL PERFORMANCE
Hence masonry is considered as a cost-effective and Behaviour of masonry under compression is greatly
low-energy alternative when designed appropriately. influenced by the presence of mortar bed joints. The
The limitations of masonry cited quite often are efficiency factor (masonry strength/ brick strength) is
summarized first in this paper. The attempts made very low, i.e. around 0.3–0.4. In addition,
constantly to overcome these limitations, i.e. methods uninspected/unskilled workmanship may result in
of accelerating masonry construction developed and incompletely filled bed joints, deeply furrowed bed
proof-tested or adopted in practice are outlined. joints, thicker mortar layers and deviations from
Finally, a detailed classification of interlocking block plumb, which further reduce the strength of
masonry systems is presented, along with a brief masonry[2].
review on the studies reported on the behaviour of
some of these systems.
FUNCTIONAL PERFORMANCE
It has been observed[3,4] that in conventional masonry,
Limitations of conventional masonry most leakage occurs at the mortar joints. The mortar
joints in masonry (even in the case of inspected
CONSTRUCTIONAL PERFORMANCE workmanship) because of its porous nature, serve as
The main shortcoming is that the construction is capillary wicks and become a source of moisture
slower and labour intensive. Owing to manufacturing penetration[5].
Published online 16 January 2004
Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
2 STRUCTURAL MASONRY

The inclusion of mortar joints thus delays the rate of fibre-reinforced cement mortar plastering[7]. The
construction, and also leads to functional problems surface bonding provides lateral stability, enhances
and structural compromises. The construction output flexural strength and also eliminates water
of brick masonry is not able to cope up with the permeation. As dry stacking and surface bonding
present day requirement of the construction industry. require less time and skill, the construction becomes
The requirement of increased productivity stresses the rapid. It is reported that surface-bonded concrete
need for accelerated masonry construction block walls laid without bedding mortar had an
techniques. Hence a need was realized to accelerate increased productivity of around 71% over
the masonry construction process and simultaneously conventional block masonry[8]. Owing to either non-
address the other limitations of conventional masonry. affordability or non-availability of alkali-resistant
glass-fibre-reinforced cement, surface-bonded
masonry is not popular.
Methods of accelerating masonry
construction Partially grouted masonry
Partial grouting provides lateral stability, facilitates
Several attempts have been made to accelerate the rate reinforcing masonry and increases the load bearing
of construction and to reduce labour intensiveness, capacity. The extent of grouting (unreinforced or
ranging from increasing the size of the masonry unit reinforced) depends on the degree of lateral stability
to nonconventional methods. required. External surface rendering is done to
eliminate moisture penetration.
INCREASING THE SIZE OF MASONRY UNIT
The early attempts were by using blocks, which have
dimensions greater than that of brick. Larger units METHODS USING INTERLOCKING BLOCKS
increase the area of wall completed per day, even From a structural viewpoint, the search for masonry
though the mason may lay fewer units because of the which is less dependent on labour skill and
higher weight[6]. The block can be manufactured in construction variation led to the use of prefabricated
different heights, widths and thicknesses to suit masonry, with mechanically bedded masonry unit
requirements, thereby eliminating complex joints of walls from a central plant, and the use of epoxy glues
different brickwork bonding arrangement. The use of to replace cement and lime mortar[9]. As the products
block reduces the number of mortar joints (fewer joints were far more expensive, these efforts were not
result in higher efficiency factor for block masonry, i.e. popular. The alternative method was to use
0.60–0.75[7]) and hence mortar consumption, thereby dry-stackable masonry units, which could be laid
increasing the productivity. The use of bedding mortar without mortar, thus reducing the construction
still imposes constraints on the number of layers that variability. The basic requirement for a dry-stackable
can be constructed in a day and hence the overall masonry unit is that it should be self-aligning, thus
acceleration in construction is still limited. allowing construction skill to be reduced drastically
and eliminating the need for levelling and aligning
instruments.
ELIMINATION OF BEDDING MORTAR
Deviating from conventional methods, i.e. by
eliminating bedding mortar, the rate of construction Dry-stacked masonry
can be accelerated significantly. The efficiency factor Interlocking blocks differ from blocks used in
of dry-stacked (mortarless) brick masonry is reported mortar-bedded masonry; the block configuration is
to be around 0.90[2]. This concept of bedding mortar shaped to facilitate physical interlocking between
elimination led to the development of several non- blocks. Dry-stacked interlocking block masonry,
conventional methods of masonry construction. which lacks stability or which is required to withstand
higher lateral (out-of-plane as well as in-plane) loads
is usually grouted or surface bonded.
NONCONVENTIONAL METHODS
The nonconventional techniques can be classified as
Surface-bonded/grouted masonry
(i) surface-bonded masonry; (ii) partially grouted
To enhance the lateral resistance of systems with
masonry; and (iii) dry-stacked masonry. These
partial interlocking features, surface bonding/partial
methods adopt conventional blocks and/or special
grouting is adopted. Besides improving flexural
interlocking blocks as detailed below.
resistance, surface bonding also provides protection
against moisture penetration. Hollow interlocking
METHODS USING CONVENTIONAL BLOCKS systems, are usually grouted after dry-stacking.
Surface-bonded masonry Grouting can be plain, reinforced or prestressed,
The masonry units are dry-stacked and the surface is depending on the required lateral load
plastered on both sides using alkali-resistant glass resistance.

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
ACCELERATED MASONRY CONSTRUCTION 3

Interlocking block/mortarless masonry Review of performance evaluation


systems
A few authors have reviewed some of the mortarless STRUCTURAL PERFORMANCE STUDIES
masonry systems[10–12]. Accelerated mortarless A classification of the structural performance studies
masonry constructions developed or being used in reported in the literature is presented in Table 2,
different countries and by various researchers vary in which shows that, even though several systems have
material, geometry and interlocking mechanism. A been reported in the literature, systematic behavioural
classification of such systems along with the salient studies appear to have been undertaken only on these
features of each system is presented in Table 1. limited systems.

Table 1 Classification of interlocking block/mortarless masonry systems


.......................................................................................................................................................
Name of system, country, Typical unit Block details
reference, geometry
material
.......................................................................................................................................................
Interlocking mechanism: projecting nibs/lugs in bed joint
.........................................................................................................................................................
Haener system, USA and Four nibs projecting above two webs to provide interlocking and control of
Canada[13–15] positioning
Hollow block, concrete Block placed above has four depressions on the under side of the same web
locations to receive the protruding nibs
Modified block has a tongue and groove fitted head joint with alternating male–
female matching on opposite face shells.

Etherington system, Manila Basic block is a closed-ended two-cell unit with a raised rim around each cell on
and Bangkok[16] the upper surface providing horizontal interlock
Hollow block, concrete Lower surfaces have matching recesses or depressions to receive the projecting
rims of the blocks below
Vertical interlocking by cement grouting of the small cells provided in the web
Jordanian block, Jordan[12] Three cell units with a raised lip around the cells which provides horizontal
Hollow block, concrete interlock; open ends with tongue and groove fit on the head joints
Units are arranged in stack bond pattern

TSZ block, Czechoslovakia[12,17] Laid without any mortar


Hollow block: light weight The interlocking elements are the rings on the top surface of blocks around the
no-fines concrete hollow core

Sinusat system, Berlin and Open-ended dry-stack system with a central cell
London[12] Basic blocks are in widths of 125, 175, 200 mm
Hollow block, concrete Interlocking mechanism consists of lugs placed on the face shells

Azar block, Canada[18] Interlocking is provided by three mechanisms


Hollow block: concrete
Key on top of the web fits into a recess on the web of the block above
Two levels of bearing surface along each face shell at the bed joint
Interlocking of adjacent blocks along the head joint by shiplap geometry.

Linkbloc system, South Africa[19] Projections and recesses in the bedding surfaces result in self–alignment, thus
Hollow block: concrete achieving horizontal interlocking
Blocks are stacked in stretcher bond

continued

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
4 STRUCTURAL MASONRY

Table 1 continued
Name of system, country, Typical unit Block details
reference, geometry
material
.......................................................................................................................................................
Interlocking mechanism: tongue and groove arrangement in head/bed joint
.........................................................................................................................................................
McIBS Inc. mortarless system[12] Two-cell closed-end unit with a tongue and groove joint on the bed and head
Hollow block, lightweight concrete joint
Closed cells result in vertical threading over the reinforcement bars during
construction

Stepoc building system, UK[20] Single-cell unit with one open end laid dry in 1/3 running bond with standard
Hollow block, concrete width of 140, 190, 256 mm
Can be reinforced in vertical and horizontal directions

Modified H block, USA[21] Has grooved face shells on both the head and bed joints with completely self-
Hollow block, concrete aligning cores.
Open ends of the unit facilitate construction around the vertical reinforcement

German KLB system, Germany,[22] Partial interlocking with a tongue-and-groove arrangement on head joint
Solid block, lightweight, concrete

Soil-cement block, Thailand[23] Modification of soil cement block which rely on interlock laying and cement
Hollow block, Soil–cement grouting at the central hollow space instead of mortar bed

.........................................................................................................................................................
Interlocking mechanism: dovetail on head joint
.........................................................................................................................................................
Whelan block[24] Block with a dovetailed end joint and projections and recesses on the bed joints.
Hollow block, concrete Suitable for vertically reinforced construction, but closed cells result in vertical
threading over the reinforcement bars during constructions

Barlock system, Texas[12] Has dovetail lug with sharp corners on head joint for a snug fit.
Hollow block, concrete The units are 150 and 200 mm wide
Can be reinforced in the vertical and horizontal directions with a bond beam

WHD system, USA[22] Has more rounded dovetail lug on head joint
Hollow block, concrete Consists of stretcher, corner and half block units

.........................................................................................................................................................
Interlocking Mechanism: through geometry and stacking pattern
.........................................................................................................................................................
Sparlock system, Canada[26,27,28] Most intricate shaped interlocking blocks through geometry and stacking pattern
Hollow block, concrete with interlock both in vertical and horizontals directions
Consists of full and half course blocks for stretcher unit and end blocks
Masonry construction may by dry stacking, surface bonded or grouted
Suitable for vertically reinforced construction only, but closed cells result in
vertical threading over the reinforcement bars during construction

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
ACCELERATED MASONRY CONSTRUCTION 5

SILBLOCK/HILBLOCK, Simple shaped interlocking blocks through geometry and stacking pattern
India[29,30,31,32,33] without tongue-and-groove and without undercuts
Solid /hollow block, concrete Interlocking in both vertical and horizontals directions
Discontinuity of bed joint and cross joint from inner to outer face
System is comprised of three basic shapes stretcher, jambs, and corner blocks
with full and half-height units

.........................................................................................................................................................
Systems without geometric interlocking details: grouted system
.........................................................................................................................................................
Mecano system, Peru[34] Blocks are dry-stacked then reinforced and grouted
Hollow block Basic units are 150 mm high, 300 mm long and 120–150 mm wide
Can be reinforced in the vertical and horizontal directions

Faswall system, South Carolina[35,36] Can be reinforced and grouted to form a solid structural wall
Hollow block, composite of cement
and mineralized wood

Dry stacked clay masonry wall partially reinforced single-wythe wall


system, USA[37]

.........................................................................................................................................................
Systems without geometric interlocking details: surface bonded system
.........................................................................................................................................................
Sparfill system, Canada[38] Dry-stacked and surface-bonded with a matrix of glass fibre in Portland cement
Hollow block, lightweight polystyr-
ene aggregate concrete

.........................................................................................................................................................
Systems without geometric interlocking details: use of synthetic strip
.........................................................................................................................................................
Tasta system, Netherlands[39] Synthetic coupling strips shoved into the vertical grooves and H shaped strips,
Block with horizontal grooves, light- which are placed into the horizontal grooves in the blocks connected to the
weight cellular concrete coupling strips
Surface of the masonry is provided with glass fibre skin covered with plaster

.........................................................................................................................................................
Systems without geometric interlocking details: hybrid systems
.........................................................................................................................................................
German KS-R system, Germany[12] Interlocking at head joint and laid with mortar on the bed joints
Solid block, lightweight concrete

continued

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
6 STRUCTURAL MASONRY

Table 1 continued
Name of system, country, Typical unit Block details
reference, geometry
material
.......................................................................................................................................................
I-shaped blocks[40] Mortar-laid masonry with blocks of special shape which may interlock together
Hollow block, concrete Can be reinforced in vertical direction and grouted

Domed block, Canada[41] Blocks can be dry-stacked as well as laid with mortar
Hollow space for double-domed unit,
concrete

.........................................................................................................................................................
Interlocking blocks for blocks curved wall systems
.........................................................................................................................................................
Baker system, Australia[34] Interlocking head joints by means of dovetail lugs without bed joint interlocking
Solid block Allows courses to be curved

Structural block system,[12] Units have circular cores may be rotated at the interlock connection between
Hollow block adjacent blocks to form curved walls

.......................................................................................................................................................
CONSTRUCTION PRODUCTIVITY STUDIES blocks each per hour, compared with 40 blocks per
Many of the interlocking block masonry systems are hour for one mason and one helper for conventional
stated to have enhanced construction productivity. masonry, while with Sparlock system, a crew stacked
However, the methodology and conditions under at a rate equivalent to the size of nearly 40
which the observations have been made are not conventional block per worker per hour[35].
readily available in the published literature. This A laboratory-based relative productivity assessment
section presents the data on some of the systems of conventional and interlocking block masonry
reported. Studies on 1400-mm-square panels of (SILBLOCK, HILBLOCK) was carried out[31], through
conventional block masonry and Whelan interlocking work sampling, adopting 5-min rating technique for
block masonry have been reported[24]. The net time measurement of utilization of time by members of the
spent for the conventional masonry as 3.5 h with a team. Productivity enhancement of 80 – 120% was
crew of one mason and one helper, indicating a observed for dry-stacked masonry, and 60 – 90% for
production rate of approximately 1.7 m2/h. With a thin-jointed and mortar-bedded interlocking block
crew of one person, the time spent for Whelan blocks masonry compared with conventional masonry.
was 1.25 h, which indicates a production rate Even though the manufacturing costs of
approximately 4.1 m2/h, which indicate that interlocking blocks are marginally higher than
production rates for the system were approximately conventional blocks, this is more than offset by the
2.5 times those of the traditional system. reduction in labour, construction time and material
Manufacturers of Haener blocks state that the system requirements. With sufficient early planning and
allows block laying up to five times faster than careful detailing, it is easier to overcome
conventional block masonry, creating labour savings (i) construction difficulties; (ii) the possible reduction
up to 80%. VanderWerf[35] has reported that workers in strength and stiffness due to initial seating
with experience in Haener blocks stack more than 100 deformation; and (iii) problems with stability during
blocks per hour. Based on the design experience with erection against lateral loads.
Haener block on a project site, it was estimated that
the time of completion would be reduced by 60% over
that of conventional masonry[27]. Reduction in labour
requirement by 65% is reported for TSZ block in Future prospects and conclusions
comparison to brickwork[1]. For soil–cement blocks a
reduction in construction time by 50% is stated Mortarless/dry-stacked/interlocking block masonry
compared with that of the conventional blocks. With systems that have been developed and being used are
AZAR block, unskilled workers routinely stack 100 reviewed, which indicates a worldwide interest in

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
Table 2 Classification of structural performance studies
Name of Block material Experimental investigations Theoretical Salient observations
system and type studies
Reference
........................................................................................
Axial Eccentric Flexure Diagonal
compression compression tension (shear)
...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................
I-shaped Concrete Hollow Mortar-bedded An increase in shear resistance and seismic resistance were obtained
block[40]
Sparlock Concrete Hollow Dry-stacked/ Dry-stacked Finite element Vertical compression test on ungrouted walls, face shell cracking
system[28] Partial-grout/ analysis occurred close to ultimate load but in grouted walls it occurred well
Fully grouted before ultimate load due to lateral tensile strains in grout, lateral load
capacities were much higher than that of vertical direction but panels

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


showed wide gaps at dry joints in both case.
Mecano Sand-lime, Hollow Fully grouted Fully grouted Compression tests on prisms showed 20% reduction in strength than
system[34] mortar-laid masonry, diagonal tension tests showed that horizontal
reinforcement increases diagonal tensile strength and provides
ductility.
Sparfill Light weight Surface bonded Surface-bonded/ Surface bonded Compressive strength is affected by individual block strength and
system[14,38] concrete Hollow reinforced surface bonding provides flexural resistance, walls with combined
surface bonding and steel reinforcement exhibited good initial stiffness
and significant ductility.
Haener Hollow, concrete Ungrouted, grouted Grouted Grouted Compressive strength higher than conventional masonry ungrouted
system[38] prism failed by splitting in the webs whereas grouted prism shear
failure; beneficial strain gradient effects were much greater
Modified Hollow concrete Ungrouted Grouted Grouted Hollow prism showed lower load bearing efficiency; higher flexural
H-block[12,21] grouted strength for grouted masonry; grouted specimens showed compar-
able shear strength to conventional mortared and grouted system
WHD Hollow concrete Ungrouted, grouted Ungrouted, Grouted Failure mechanism Axial compression tests indicated lower load bearing efficiency for
block[12,21] grouted through FEM hollow prisms than conventional prisms, but higher when grouted,
flexural resistance, both in vertical and horizontal directions, was
lower than conventional masonry and the improvement due to
grouting was not significant, diagonal tension test on reinforced
grouted specimen showed improved ductility.
Etherington Hollow concrete It has been reported that some of the buildings using this system have
system[16] survived very strong earthquakes.
Non-interlocking Calcium silicate/ Dry-stacked, Strength of dry-stacked structures does not depend only on the
blocks[42,43] aerated concrete post-tensioned strength of the bricks, but also on the quality of bed surfaces of bricks
laying one upon the other, post-tensioned masonry improves
ACCELERATED MASONRY CONSTRUCTION

serviceability by reducing or eliminating opening and early cracking


of bed joints. Equation to predict strains is proposed for estimating
loss in prestress.
SILBLOCK, Concrete, solid/ Ungrouted, Ungrouted Ungrouted, Axial and eccentric compression capacity was higher than conven-
HILBLOCK[29,31,32] hollow drystacked, grouted Surface grouted, surface- tional masonry. Unlike conventional brick/block masonry flexural
thin-jointed bonded bonded capacity is higher with loading parallel to bed joint than normal to bed
joint because of staggered bed joint.
7

Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9


...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................
8 STRUCTURAL MASONRY

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Dr K Ramamurthy
Associate Professor
Building Technology and Construction Management Division,
Department of Civil Engineering,
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras,
Chennai-600036, India
E-mail: vivek@civil.iitm.ernet.in

E K Kunhanandan Nambiar
Research Scholar
Building Technology and Construction Management Division,
Department of Civil Engineering,
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras,
Chennai-600036, India

Copyright & 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Prog. Struct. Engng Mater. 2004; 6:1–9
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