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Steel Detailing Technology for Developing Innovative Structures

The building structure has evolved tremendously from the beginning of human civilization. The structural forms have transformed from wooden frame structures to steel structures and precast reinforced steel concrete structures.

Technological innovations such as BIM, 3D Visualization, and Artificial Intelligence changed the traditional way of creating steel concrete structures. 2D AutoCAD drawings got replaced with 3D steel detailing with 3D BIM tools like Tekla. It enabled the steel detailing process to reach the optimum level of accuracy, specification, and visualization. The modern-day steel structure has got highly influenced by sustainability and precise steel detailing. It is due to the rising complexity of the projects.

Denver’s historic union station that converted 20 acres of former rail yards into an urban transit district is an example of excellent structural steel art and innovation. Circuit of America’s Austin is another innovative structural system made with red steel tubes making use of state-of-the-art structural engineering services.  

Role of Steel Detailing in Building Sustainable Structures

Steel detailing is one of the critical processes of structural engineering that demands high accuracy for all construction projects. The quality of steel detailing helps the large and complex structures stand up to climate change calamities, the stress of time, and any other natural calamities. Precise steel detailing ensures a sustainable and stiff project structure.

Steel is considered one of the sustainable and prevalent materials for construction because of its durability and closed recycling loop. Steel detailing strengthens a structure through the following:

Fabrication Detailing

For steel fabrication, detailed steel detailing gets required for creating drawings, cost evaluation, and production details. Detailed drawings help to understand the complex geometry and ensure if the fabrication process can get practically implemented. For example, if a weld is just three inches away from a connection or plate. The welder can access the drawings to get details, as there may not be enough space to weld. Fabricators can understand the complexity of the structure, geometry, and practicality to develop a sustainable structure.

Ensuring the Erection Ability and Constructability

Structural steelwork should fit together or get assembled accurately for a stiff structure. Steelwork is also required to be erectable, i.e., enough space to erect or swing once it is in place and on-site. Steel detailing with precise information helps to assemble and erect the steelwork. It does not erode the strength, stiffness, straightness, and flatness of the steel.  It ensures that the structure is not deformed, there is no issue related to mechanical fit such as bearing, grinder, nut, bolt, etc.

Visualizing Design Intent

The stakeholders can visualize a project design using pre-construction modeling and planning. A precise design intent helps to communicate and collaborate with them effectively. Structural steel detailing drawings ensures that the design intent has been interpreted correctly and meets the deliverables. For instance, using precise design details, it becomes easy to confirm. If the bolts, holes, and welds can get fabricated in-lined with the design intent.  Thus, connection design intent can be detected early, corrected, and verified with steel detailing.

Detailed Material Tracing Leads Planning Accuracy

3D detailing leverages a data-centric and intelligent model. A wide range of information can get tracked using the data. The weld data for high-security projects like ID numbers, weld links, type of welds, etc., can be extracted from the detailed drawings. Detailed tracking from fabrication to erection enhances planning accuracy.

Practical Scenarios in Which Steel Detailing Is Required

The architects, contractors, and steel engineers of a project require steel detailing and its services. It helps measure the complexity of a structure, its usage, cost, load-bearing capacity, constructability, etc.

The use of technology like Tekla, CNC machines, STAAD, and other designing software has enlarged the usage and scope of steel detailing. Here is the list of a few practical scenarios where steel detailing is required:

Pre-Engineered Building

Pre-Engineered Buildings (PEB) are the buildings that are engineered and fabricated in the factory. After fabrication, these buildings are transported and assembled on-site using the bolted connections. Such PEB is mostly made of steel and used to make metro-stations, warehouses, canopies, etc.

Steel detailing is essential for such building enclosures.  It helps to get the accurate size, shape, and design. The fabrication process using these steel detailing drawings gives precision and accuracy to the structural systems. And it also adds several advantages such as cost and time.

Light Metal Framing

Light metal framing gets constructed with galvanized steel coins.  And rolled steel coils form a steel section. Here, the formed steel sections are called cold-formed sections. Light metal framing application is for residential, commercial, and health care sectors. Steel detailing helps these sections to cut to length and form holes and notches.

Fabrication and the quality of connections largely depend on the shop drawings and detailed information. Smooth communication between the fabricators and other project members reduces the error and flaws in fabrication and erection with improved model accuracy.

Construction of Bridges and Transmission Towers

Steel detailing is crucial for bridge construction, as it helps to fetch accurate details and drawings related to the steel, timber, composite bridges, etc. Steel detailing helps in identifying the exact placement of beams, columns, and slabs. The connection details like column connections with base plate details, welded and bolted frames could get extracted. Material reports, like Pre-detailing and bill of materials, could also get availed.

For producing transmission towers, detailed information of the connections and angular holes are crucial. Steel detailing provides all the specific information with better control of the tower elements. Access to all the information helps the hassle-free construction of towers.

Façade System and Aluminum Curtain Walling System

Façade system and curtain walling comprise the structural elements that provide lateral and vertical resistance to wind and have properties to resistance to weather, thermal, acoustic, and fire resistance. Structural steel detailing helps to get accurate curtain wall shop drawings and also supports curtain wall construction. Logistics and construction complexities get resolved with detailed shop drawings.

Evaluation and Maintenance of a Project Through-Out the Life Cycle

Steel detailing services gets used throughout the life cycle of a project, i.e., planning and designing to fabrication, erection, and maintenance. The information like the weight of the structure, center of gravity, detailed information for maintenance, etc., can be extracted from steel detailing. The detailed shop drawings referred for ongoing structure maintenance or future asset management. It also helps in improving site safety, reduction of waste and materials, time and cost optimization.

Process of Steel Detailing in Developing Innovative Buildings

The steel detailing process results in developing structural designs, layout drawings, and sectional shop drawings of the steel structure. The detailed drawings also include plans, estimates, and other reports and tasks. The process of steel detailing includes these five stages:

1. Conceptual Stage

At the initial stage, the project idea is discussed and planned. The conceptual or rough design created by the steel engineers includes an overall structural layout. The rough sketch also details the mechanical system and fabrication process of the steel structure.

2. Development of Sectional Drawings

After the planning phase, steel detailers develop a methodical diagram from the initial rough design. Sectional drawing created by the steel detailers specifies each part of the steel structure project.

3. Detailed Shop Drawings

Shop drawings are the precise and detailed specifications of each member or part of the structure. Created by the detailer, these drawings get used by the steel fabricators in the fabrication process.

Shop drawings include a comprehensive detail of each part or unit, such as

  • Size and dimension
  • Material specification
  • Surface specifications
  • Bolting
  • Welding
  • Painting requirements
  • Fabrication instructions
  • Manufacturing conventions

The steel detailing drawings need to be approved by the structural engineer and architect before releasing them for fabrication.

4. Final Erection Drawings 

After producing steel parts using the shop drawings, the steel detailer develops drawings for the erection of the steel components in the field. These erection drawings specify the location and plan of each steel component in the overall structure. Includes detailed information about the component position and how to install them in the field.  Also, have additional inputs like installing bolts, wedge anchors, and welding spots.

These drawings developed by the steel detailer must comply with the steel detailing standards of different countries like the National Institute of Steel Detailing (NISD), American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), Canadian Institute of Steel Construction, and American Welding Society (AWS), etc.

Expert Advice on Steel Detailing Technology to Peep into the Future

MSK Consultants is a leading structural engineering service provider with extensive experience in catering Tekla steel detailing and related services for years. The team of industry experts at MSK provides advice on structural steel detailing and how to plan and build innovative steel-concrete structures. With over a decade of project management consulting experience, our team offers a plethora of engineering services pertaining to BIM modeling, MEP clash detection, architectural CAD drafting, and construction cost estimation, and more. Contact us to help you with all your project management requirements.


Comment (1)

  1. praneeth gandi
    March 27, 2021

    Amazing write-up!

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