Modern Steel Construction » Steel in the News » December 2007

Archive for December 2007

Back to all posts

ENR misunderstands structural steel marketplace
Posted by Scott Melnick on December 20, 2007 at 11:50 PM.

ENR’s recent December 19 News Alert, “Steel Inventories at 10 Year Low,” is yet another example of ENR failing to recognize that the steel market is not monolithic. And while the report may be true for some steel products (such as the sheet steel used to manufacture refrigerators), it is false for structural steel products (such as wide flange sections and HSS members used in the construction of buildings). Rather than being at record low levels, service center inventory of structural products actually grew by 35,000 tons in October (the latest month for which figures are available) and now represents more than 2.6 months of demand. In addition, in 2008 the domestic capacity for wide flange products will increase by nearly one million tons (15%) as a result of mill expansions. In addition, several jumbo sizes formerly available only as imports will be rolled domestically. The structural steel industry is well prepared to meet the projected demand for steel in construction with products that are economic and readily available.

Bookmark and Share

Five tips on how to find federal clients for your firm
Posted by Scott Melnick on December 6, 2007 at 9:16 AM.

If your A/E firm is new to the federal marketplace, begin by researching the agencies listed on the Federal Business Opportunities web site (, the single point-of-entry for nearly all federal government procurement opportunities. Visit each agency’s web site to learn more about its mission and scope of responsibility, identifying those that might be a good strategic match for your firm. The following are a few tips to help you conduct federal market research:


  1. Read the material on a federal agency’s web site thoroughly. Identify key personnel, offices, installations, programs, and budgets.
  2. Search for and study the agency’s procurement and operations forecast. Most federal web sites will have a page devoted to doing business with the agency.
  3. Obtain a copy of the agency’s long-range acquisition forecast. While it is no guarantee of future projects, it is an excellent indicator of the agency’s goals and priorities.
  4. Read as many of the federal agency’s current and archived FedBizOpps solicitations and award notices as possible. This will help you understand their mission and identify other A/E firms they have worked with.
  5. Get acquainted with government and government-focused web sites that provide access to statutes, regulations, government-sponsored professional/technical research publications, and other useful references.


The preceding was excerpted from Insider’s Guide to SF330 Preparation, ZweigWhite’s guide to SF330 and the federal procurement of architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental design services. Whether your A/E firm is new to SF330 and the federal marketplace, or is looking to improve its visibility among federal agency selection committees, this best-selling guide can help. After all, the more your A/E firm knows about SF330, the more federal agency contracts your firm will win.

Bookmark and Share

Accelerated Construction a Hot Topic
Posted by Scott Melnick on December 6, 2007 at 9:09 AM.

If you’re at all involved in bridges and you’re not in New Orleans this week, you’re missing a great opportunity. For example, I heard a great presentation on Wednesday from Joseph Hanus, a Lt. Col. at West Point. Whether or not you’re interested in the bridge market, his analogy between combat and construction was fascinating. But what it all boiled down to is the future of construction (both bridges and buildings) is in accelerated construction. The goal, he said, is to “reduce time, save money, improve quality and safety, and exceed expectations.” Loved the last point - and it sounds doable.


Hanus emphasized the need for integrated planning, extensive preparation, flexibile execution, and traffic control.


He also explained the origin of Murphy’s Law. I wish I had a tape of Hanus’ explanation, but the next best thing is this quote from the “How Stuff Works” website (


Believe it or not, there really was a Murphy, and he lived in the United States until his death in 1990. Captain Edward A. Murphy Jr. was an engineer in the Air Force. Although he took part in other engineering design tests throughout both his military and civilian careers, it was one test that he attended — almost as a fluke — that gave rise to Murphy’s Law.


In 1949, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, officers were conducting project MX981 tests to determine once and for all how many Gs — the force of gravity — a human being could withstand. They hoped that their findings could be applied to future airplane designs.


The project team used a rocket sled dubbed the “Gee Whiz” to simulate the force of an airplane crash. The sled traveled more than 200 miles per hour down a half-mile track, coming to an abrupt stop in less than a second. The problem was that, in order to find out just how much force a person could take, the team needed an actual person to experience it. Enter Colonel John Paul Stapp. Stapp was a career physician for the Air Force, and he volunteered to ride the rocket sled. Over the course of several months, Stapp took ride after physically grueling ride. He was subjected to broken bones, concussions and broken blood vessels in his eyes, all in the name of science.


Murphy attended one of the tests, bearing a gift: a set of sensors that could be applied to the harness that held Dr. Stapp to the rocket sled. These sensors were capable of measuring the exact amount of G-force applied when the rocket sled came to a sudden stop, making the data more reliable.


There are several stories about what happened that day, and about who exactly contributed what to the creation of Murphy’s Law, but what follows is a good approximation of what happened.


The first test after Murphy hooked up his sensors to the harness produced a reading of zero — all of the sensors had been connected incorrectly. For each sensor, there were two ways of connecting them, and each one was installed the wrong way.


When Murphy discovered the mistake, he grumbled something about the technician, who was allegedly blamed for the foul-up. Murphy said something along the lines of, “If there are two ways to do something, and one of those ways will result in disaster, he’ll do it that way.”


Shortly thereafter, Murphy headed back to Wright Airfield where he was stationed. But Stapp, a man who was known for his sense of humor and quick wit, recognized the universality of what Murphy had said, and in a press conference he mentioned that the rocket sled team’s good safety record had been due to its awareness of Murphy’s Law. He told the press that it meant “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”


That was all it took. Murphy’s Law turned up in aerospace publications and shortly thereafter made its way into popular culture, including being made into a book in the 1970s.

Bookmark and Share

FHWA Stresses Fast Deployment As New Bridge Strategy
Posted by Scott Melnick on December 5, 2007 at 12:52 PM.

The FHWA and state DOT engineers in attendance at this year’s World Steel Bridge Symposium (going on right now in New Orleans) are hot and heavy to improve the accelerated construction of bridges. “80% of bridges on the interstate system are single span, 30 m or less, and many are in need of replacement,” explained Bill Wright of the FHWA. The goal is to develop systems that offer rapid construction, 100-year durability, and are cost effective in terms of initial and life-cycle cost. And the solution they’re looking at now points towards a prefabricated system that can be quickly moved into position with minimal disruption to traffic.


During the next five years, the FHWA will spend nearly $3 million annually on a variety of projects that will directly impact the steel bridge community, including:

  • Optimized welding (including robotics);
  • HPS corrosion resistance;
  • One-coat shop coatings;
  • Innovative designs (testing and evaluating rapid bridge construction concepts);
  • Precision measuring of components to eliminate the need for shop assembly to ensure fit-up correctness;
  • Shop automation; and
  • Technology transfer.


Some of the intriguing programs currently being researched focus on using GMAW for HPS and developing Hybrid Laser Assisted Welding (HLAW). Work on the former is being done by Yoni Adonyi up at LeTourneau University, while the latter project is being spearheaded by High Steel Structures. Innovative work also is being done by Mittal and Lehigh on advanced corrosion resistance in the next generation of high performance steel, while work at Northwestern University focuses on optimizing the current generation of HPS. Meanwhile, the FHWA is working on re-writing their standards for the use of weathering steel to further promote this product.


According to Wright, the next generation of bridges will offer integrated structure and deck so the system can be dropped in place quickly. The goal is to meet a 100 ft span with single-crane erection and a maximum erection time of one week.


A parallel effort is underway with the Transportation Research Board, which has contracted with HNTB on a program for Innovative Bridge Design for Rapid Renewal. The goal is to develop “standardized approaches to designing, constructing, and reusing complete bridge systems.” The system developed will offer the rapid replacement while the existing bridge is in-place while minimizing disruption to traffic.


Phase one, which has just started and is expected to last a year, includes a literature review and focus groups around the country. If you’d like to contribute to the project or participate in a focus group, please contact Frank Russo at


Bookmark and Share

Walterio Lopez and Rafael Sabelli Win 2008 T.R. Higgins Award
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on December 4, 2007 at 4:36 PM.

Buckling-restrained braced frames (BRBFs) are an increasingly popular new steel seismic load resisting system that has demonstrated efficiency and exceptional seismic performance. Based on their groundbreaking paper “Seismic Design of Buckling-Restrained Braced Frames,” Walterio Lopez and Rafael Sabelli are being honored with the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award. “BRBFs have the potential to significantly impact the structural steel market in seismic regions,” explained Louis F. Geschwindner, AISC’s vice president of Engineering and Research.


A new paper based on the work will be presented for the first time at the 2008 NASCC: The Steel Conference in Nashville April 2-5, 2008. For more information on the conference, visit


Their work has already been published by the Structural Steel Education Council and has helped BRBFs to be accepted in ANSI/AISC 341-05 Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings and in the International Building Code. Included in their paper is a detailed component design of two typical BRFB configurations and the development of testing protocols. In addition, a discussion of gusset-plate design and its influence on acceptable frame behavior is provided.


The T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize, is presented annually to an outstanding lecturer(s) and author(s) whose technical paper or papers are considered an outstanding contribution to the engineering literature on fabricated structural steel. For more information on the T.R. Higgins Award, visit

Bookmark and Share

Annual Meeting Presentations Online
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on December 4, 2007 at 4:33 PM.

In response to a large number of requests by attendees, the speaker presentations from the 2007 AISC Annual Meeting are now available for download by AISC members. The presentations include:


  • Attracting and Retaining A Quality Workforce (Andrew Patron from FMI Management)
  • Immigration Reform Update (Patrick Cont from Strum & Cont)
  • Four Generations (Cam Marston from Marston Communications)
  • Moving Your Business a Generation Ahead (Wayne Rivers from the Family Business Institute)

The downloads are only available to members. To access the files, visit and click on the Membership tab, then click on the Annual Meeting Sessions link.

Bookmark and Share

New Handbook for Civil and Environmental Engineers Addresses Risk and Reliability Analysis
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on December 4, 2007 at 4:32 PM.

When it comes to the planning, design, construction, and management of engineering systems, risk and uncertainty are unavoidable. The consideration of the risk involved in any situation, project, or plan becomes an integral part of the decision-making process. Risk and Reliability Analysis: A Handbook for Civil and Environmental Engineers presents key concepts of risk and reliability that apply to a wide array of problems in civil and environmental engineering.


The authors begin with an overview of the art of making decisions in the presence of uncertainty and then explain the fundamentals of probability that will be applied throughout the book. In the second part of the book, the authors discuss various techniques used in probability distributions and parameter estimation. A third section of the book considers different aspects of uncertainty analysis, especially risk analysis and risk management, providing instructive examples. The final group of chapters addresses reliability analysis and design, focusing particularly on the important area of water distribution networks.


Ample illustrations and detailed real-life examples make Risk and Reliability Analysis essential reading for present and future engineers in the fields of civil, environmental, biological, and agricultural engineering, as well as the watershed sciences.


To order, call 800.548.ASCE (2723) or visit The ASCE member price is $120.00.

Bookmark and Share

Register Now for The Steel Conference!
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on December 4, 2007 at 4:31 PM.

Register now for the 2008 North American Steel Construction Conference! More than 3,000 engineers, fabricators, erectors, and detailers are expected to register for The Steel Conference, which will take place April 2-5 in Nashville, Tenn. See the advance program in this issue or visit for a complete schedule of conference events and instructions for pre-registration.


With nearly 90 technical sessions, The Steel Conference is the industry’s premier education event. It provides structural engineers, steel fabricators, erectors, and detailers with practical information and the latest design and construction techniques. The conference is a key networking opportunity. Its extensive trade show features products and services ranging from fabrication machinery, galvanizing, and connection products to detailing and engineering software. The conference also incorporates the Structural Stability Research Council’s Annual Stability Conference. Online registration is available through March 27, 2008. After March 27, registrations will be taken on-site, but at higher rates.

Bookmark and Share