Structural Steel Detailing – Its Standards and Its Software Tools

Steven Spielberg

Structural steel detailing is the design and drafting of the connections between the steel beams and columns in the massive steel frameworks that form the skeleton of most multi-story buildings in the western hemisphere.

The design of these connections is naturally very critical, since the decoupling of any beams from columns could result in collapse of the steel framework as well as the building, and the consequent deaths of thousands of people.

For that reason there are very exacting standards which are followed for structural steel detailing. These standards are different for every country, and are compiled by recognized industry associations of the concerned country.

Examples of such associations are:

American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC)
Canadian Institute of ” ” (CISC)
SBI Swedish Institute of ” ”
EUROFER, the European Confederation of Iron and Steel Industries
African Iron & Steel Association
Arab Iron & Steel Union [AISU]
World Steel Association (formerly IISI)
Brazilian Steel Institute (IBS)
British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA)
Iron & Steel Institute of Japan
Korean Iron & Steel Association
Malaysian Structural Steel Association (MSSA)
Norwegian Steel Association
Steel Construction Institute (SCI- UK)
Taiwan Steel and Iron Industry Association (TSIIA)
Japanese Society of Steel Construction
The Steel Construction Institute
The Southern African Institute of Steel Construction
China Steel Construction Society

Structural steel detailing starts after the design of the structural framework has been completed. Using the properties of the steel material in question, the steel detailer calculates the forces acting on the connection he is designing. He then consults design tables to arrive at the specific design details of the connection.

These design details would include the material and dimension of the brackets, nuts and bolts. He expresses these in the form of an erection drawing, which is a drawing that people working on the site follow to assemble the actual connections.

Structural steel detailing typically involves the use of one or more very specialized software programs, such as STAAD, RISA, SAP2000, RAM, PCA, SAFE, SDS/2, Tekla and ETABS. Some of these programs are so sophisticated that one has only to input the steel structure design along with some specific parameters such as material, edge distance and cope criteria, and the program designs the connection automatically with a few clicks.

The erection drawings are usually created with wide-used CAD platforms such as AutoCAD or MicroStation.

Structural steel detailing is clearly an evolved discipline with stringent standards and sophisticated tools at its disposal.

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