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Practical information for designers

Economy in Steel
By Charles J. Carter, P.E., S.E., Thomas M. Murray, P.E., Ph.D., and William A. Thornton, P.E., Ph.D.

The Economy

T he famous bank robber Willie

Sutton was once asked a simple question:
why do you rob banks, Willie? His simple
response: “because that’s where the
money is.” Sarcastic? Maybe, but his
answer showed why he was so successful.
The simple question in your mind right
now is probably “what does Willie Sutton
have to do with steel economy?” Well,
like he said, if you want to save money in
steel construction, go where the money
When a steel fabricator prepares a
cost estimate for a typical project, the fol-
lowing steps are common:
• Perform a detailed material and labor Figure 1. Material, shop labor, erection labor and
other costs; 1983 through 1998.
• Weigh and price all materials, includ-
ing waste materials, for which pay-
ment is based upon weight, such as and incorporated into the work. It also ponents of the structural steel frame. The
structural shapes, plates and bolting includes the waste materials, such as total erection labor cost is simply the cost
products. short lengths of beams (called “drops”) of the field time required to assemble the
• Add the cost of supplemental materi- that result when beams are cut to the structure, including overhead and profit.
als for which payment is not based specified length. The typical material cost The typical erection labor cost has
upon weight, such as welding and has dropped in recent years from 40 per- increased in recent years from 19 percent
painting products. cent of the total cost in 1983 to 26 per- of the total cost in 1983 to 27 percent in
• Add the cost of fabrication labor cent in 1998 (see figure 1). This repre- 1998 (figure 1). This represents a 42 per-
required for each operation, including sents a 35 percent decline in material cent increase in erection labor costs over
overhead and profit. cost over the last 15 years. the last 15 years.
• Add the cost of all outside services
required, such as pre-fabrication Fabrication labor costs: This category Other costs: This catch-all category
materials preparation, galvanizing, includes the fabrication labor required to includes all cost items not specifically
shipping and erection. prepare and assemble the shop assem- included in the three foregoing cate-
• Add the cost of shop drawings. blies of structural shapes, plates, bolts, gories, including outside services other
• Add the cost of buyout items, such as welds and other materials and products than erection, shop drawings and the
steel deck and steel joists. for shipment and subsequent erection in additional costs associated with risk, the
• Evaluate the risk and need for contin- the field. It also includes the labor associ- need for contingency, and the schedule
gency and add the appropriate ated with shop painting. The total fabri- requirements of the project. The typical
amount. cation labor cost is simply the cost of the cost in this category has increased slight-
• Factor in schedule requirements and shop time required to prepare and ly in recent years from 11 percent of the
add the appropriate amount. assemble these components, including total cost in 1983 to 13 percent in 1998
overhead and profit. The typical fabrica- (figure 1). This represents an 18 percent
All of the components of the total cost tion labor cost has increased slightly in increase in other costs over the last 15
identified in the foregoing estimating recent years from 30 percent of the total years.
process can be classified into one of four cost in 1983 to 33 percent in 1998 (fig-
categories: ure 1). This represents a 10 percent Cost Conclusion:
Material costs: This category includes increase in fabrication labor costs over In today’s market, labor in the form of
the structural shapes, plates, steel joists, the last 15 years. fabrication and erection operations typi-
steel deck, bolting products, welding Erection labor costs: This category cally accounts for approximately 60 per-
products, painting products, and any includes the erection labor required to cent of the total constructed cost. In con-
other products that must be purchased unload, lift, place and connect the com- trast, material costs only account for
approximately 25 percent of the total • Watch out for primer/fireproofing manner that is consistent, complementary
constructed cost. Clearly then, least and primer/top-coat incompatibility. and supplementary to the specification.
weight does not mean least cost. Instead, For steel that is to receive spray-applied
project economy is maximized when the fire-protection, the fire protection manu- • Late details can cost a lot.
design is configured to simplify the labor facturer or applicator should be consult- Even simple detail items like roof- or
associated with fabrication and erection. ed to determine their recommendations floor-opening frames can cost a small for-
Willie Sutton would go after the labor. and/or preferences for painted or tune if delayed, particularly when the
unpainted steel. If a painted surface is delay forces installation after the metal
Ways to Save Time and Money preferred, the paint should be compatible deck is in place.

Given The Economy Equation above, with the fire protection. Above all, make • Show all the structural steel on the
the following are some basic suggestions sure to coordinate with the architect so structural design drawings.
that you can use in your office practice the primer and finish coat are compati- As indicated in the AISC Code of
today to work smarter, not harder — and ble! Standard Practice, structural steel items
to improve the economy of steel building • When specifying galvanized mem- should be shown and sized on the struc-
construction. bers, keep the maximum lengths in tural design drawings. The architectural,
mind. Galvanizing dip tanks are general- electrical and mechanical drawings can
• Communicate! With the division of be used as a supplement to the structural
responsibilities for design, fabrication and ly limited to a member length of 40 ft.
Longer members often can be double- design drawings, such as by direct refer-
erection that is normal in current U.S. ence to illustrate the detailed configura-
practice, open communication between dipped, as long as the noticeable zone of
overlap between the two dips into the tion of the steel framing, but the quanti-
the engineer, fabricator, erector and ties and sizes should be clearly indicated
other parties in the project is the key to tank is not objectionable.
on the structural design drawings.
achieving economy. In this way, the • Clearly state any inspection require-
expertise of each party in the process can ments in the contract documents. The • Make the GC/CM clearly defines
be employed at a time when it is still pos- scope and type of inspection of structural responsibilities for non-structural and
sible to implement economical ideas. The steel should be indicated in the project miscellaneous steel items. Structural
sharing of ideas and expertise is the key specification. Make sure that the require- and non-structural steel items are identi-
to a successful project. ments for inspection are appropriate for fied in AISC Code of Standard Practice
the application. For example, the inspec- Section 2. Many items, such as loose lin-
• Take advantage of a pre-bid confer- tels, masonry anchors, elevator framing,
ence. When in doubt about a framing tion of groove welds that will always be
in compression during their service life is and precast panel supports, could be pro-
detail or construction practice, consult a vided by more than one subcontractor.
knowledgeable fabricator and/or erector. probably not required. Also, make sure
shop inspection is scheduled so that it Avoid the inclusion of such items in two
Most will gladly make themselves avail- bids by clearly defining who is to provide
able at any stage of the game for a pre- does not disrupt the normal fabrication
process. them.
bid conference, such as to help with pre-
liminary planning or discuss acceptable • Avoid the use of brand names when • Avoid “catch-all” specification lan-
and economical fabrication and erection specifying common products. When guage. Language like “fabricate and
practices. A pre-bid conference can also many manufacturers make a product, or erect all steel shown or implied that is
be used to communicate the require- there are acceptably equivalent products, necessary to complete the steel frame-
ments and intent of the project to avoid avoid specifying the product by brand work” probably sounds good to a lawyer,
misunderstandings that can be costly. name. When it is necessary to indicate a but it really does not add much to quality
Many times, fabricators and erectors can brand name for the purposes of descrip- or economy because it is nebulous and
provide valid cost-saving suggestions that, tion, be sure it is a current, readily avail- ambiguous. What is implied? Such lan-
if entertained, can reduce cost without able product. Whenever possible, allow guage probably results only in arguments,
sacrificing quality. the substitution of an “equal”. One excel- contingency dollars or change orders —
lent example: paint. and legal fees.
• Issue complete contract documents,
when possible. Design drawings and • Try to avoid them entirely, but when • Avoid language that is subject to
specifications are the means by which the you can’t, clearly identify changes and interpretation. Vague notations, such as
owner, architect and/or engineer com- revisions. Changes and revisions that are “provide lintels as required”, “in a work-
municates the requirements for structural issued after the date of the contract gen- manlike manner”, “standard” and “to the
steel framing to the fabricator and erec- erally have some cost associated with satisfaction of the engineer” are subject
tor. For guidance on what constitutes them. For example, material may have to widely varying interpretations. Instead,
complete contract documents, consult the already been ordered, shop drawings may when required, specify measurable per-
AISC Code of Standard Practice, particu- have already been drawn and shipping formance criteria that must be met.
larly Section 3. When the nature of the pieces may have already been fabricated. • Use standard tolerances.
project is such that it is not possible to ASTM A6/A6M defines standard mill
issue complete contract documents at the • Provide meaningful and responsive
answers to requests for information. practice. The AISC Code of Standard
time of bidding, clearly provide the scope Practice defines fabrication and erection
and nature of the work as far as what the When the fabricator asks for a design
clarification through an RFI, the most tolerances. The Research Council on
framing will be and what kinds of con- Structural Connections (RCSC)
nections are required. prompt and complete response, within
the limitations of the available informa- Specification covers bolting acceptance
• Don’t forget to include the basics. tion, will be beneficial to all parties. If criteria. The American Welding Society
Show a North arrow on each plan. Show the RFI involves information on a shop (AWS) D1.1 establishes weld acceptance
a column schedule. Include “General drawing approval submission, it is best to criteria. These and other documents pro-
Notes” that cover the requirements for provide the most specific answer possible. vide standard tolerances that are accept-
painting, connections, fasteners, etc. in a
able for the majority of cases. Generally,
they present the most efficient practices.
In some cases, more restrictive tolerances
may be contemplated for compatibility
with the systems and materials that are
supported by the structural steel frame.
Or tolerances may need to be defined for
highly specialized systems or when steel
and concrete systems are mated. All non-
standard practices should be cost justi-
• Specify paint only when it is needed.
Corrosion resistance for architectural or Figure 2. Web penetration reinforcement of an I-shaped beam.
structural purposes may be an important
criterion in the performance of structural
steel. Often, however, the actual condi- Try to avoid responses such as “architect Shear studs are unforgiving in that they
tions of use do not warrant extensive sur- to supply”, “general contractor to sup- can protrude through the top of the slab
face preparation or shop painting, and in ply”, or “verify in field”. when too little camber is relieved under
these cases no special surface preparation the actual load. Alternatively, allow suffi-
or treatment should be called for. For • Use 50 ksi steel in wide-flange mem- cient slab thickness to account for
example, steel that is enclosed in building ber design. U.S. wide-flange steel shape reduced actual deflection. Also, the min-
finishes, fireproofed, or to be in contact production today is normally 50 ksi by imum length of a beam that is to be cam-
with concrete generally need not be default. Specifying ASTM A992, ASTM bered is about 25’. Why? Because the
painted. Furthermore, if a finish coat is A572 grade 50 or ASTM A529 grade 50 fabrication jig that is used to camber
not specified, a shop primer coat need is the same cost as or within pennies per beams is usually configured with pivot
not be specified as it is of only minor pound of specifying ASTM A36 material. restraints that hold the beam from 18’ to
influence on corrosion in the construc- 20’ apart. To make sure there is adequate
• Use 36 ksi steel for plates and angles.
tion phase. For more information, see beam extending beyond this point to
ASTM A36 material is still predominant
AISC Specification Section M3 and its resist the concentrated force from the
in angles; so much so that it is difficult to
Commentary. cambering operation, a 25’ beam is gen-
obtain 50 ksi angle material, except by
erally required.
• When painting is necessary, don’t special order from the rolling mill.
ask too much of the shop coat. The Additionally, there is still a cost differen- • Economize web penetrations to min-
shop coat of paint (primer) is temporary tial between 36 ksi and 50 ksi plate prod- imize or eliminate stiffening. Web pen-
and will provide minimal protection dur- ucts. etrations in beams are often a cost-effec-
ing exposure for steel that is to receive a tive means of minimizing the depth of a
• Consider the use of hollow structural
finish coat in the field. floor system that contains mechanical or
sections (HSS). Square and rectangular
electrical ductwork. However, if they are
• Also, when painting is necessary, HSS are available in ASTM A500 grades
numerous and require stiffening, it is
select the right surface preparation B and C with 46 and 50 ksi yield
probably more economical to eliminate
and paint system for the job. The three strengths, respectively. Round HSS are
them and pass all ductwork below the
most commonly used surface prepara- available in ASTM A500 grades B and C
beams, if possible. Thus, stiffening at web
tions are SSPC SP-2 (hand-tool clean- with 42 and 46 ksi yield strengths,
penetrations should be called for only if
ing), SSPC SP-3 (power-tool cleaning) respectively. Although their material cost
required. The use of a heavier beam, a
and SSPC SP-6 (commercial blast clean- is generally higher, HSS generally have
relocated opening, a change in the size of
ing). SSPC SP-2 or SP-3 cleaning is usu- less surface area to paint or fireproof (if
the opening, and the use of current
ally satisfactory for an ordinary shop required), excellent weak-axis flexural
design procedures can often eliminate
prime coat. If conditions call for a high- and compressive strength, and excellent
the need for reinforcement of beam web
performance paint system for long term, torsional resistance when compared with
penetrations. If web penetrations are to
low maintenance protection, SSPC SP-6 wide-flange cross-sections.
be use and stiffening is required, the
is more frequently required. When most efficient and economical detail is
• Be careful when specifying beam
assemblies are to be blast cleaned, con- the use of longitudinal stiffeners above
camber. Don’t specify camber below ¾-
sider the limitations on size and length, and below the opening as illustrated in
in.; small camber ordinates are impracti-
which vary depending upon the available Figure 2. For more information on
cal and a little added steel weight may be
equipment. designing web openings, see AISC Design
more economical anyway. Also, do not
• Careful consideration should also be overspecify camber. Deflection calcula- Guide #2: Steel and Composite Beams
given to specifying a paint system that tions are approximate and the actual end with Web Openings (call 800/644-2400
will satisfy the required degree of cor- restraint provided by simple shear con- or visit
rosion protection. A high-quality paint nections tends to lessen the camber
• Favor the use of partially composite
system (or galvanizing) can be cost-effec- requirement. Consider specifying from
action in beam design. Although shear
tive or even essential for certain applica- two-thirds to three-quarters of the calcu-
stud installation costs vary widely by
tions, as in open parking structures. In lated camber requirement for beams
region, on average, one installed shear
these cases, life-cycle costing should be spanning from 20’ to 40’, respectively, to
stud equates to 10 lb of steel. Fully com-
performed. An alternative to high-quality account for connection and system
posite designs are not usually the most
surface treatments, in normal atmospher- restraint. In any case, watch out when
economical because the average weight
ic environments, may be ASTM A588 rounding up the calculated camber ordi-
savings per stud is less than 10 lb.
(weathering) steel. nate, particularly with composite designs.

Modern Steel Construction / April 2000

Sometimes, the average weight savings But…avoid shallow beam depths that • When designing for snow-drift load-
per stud for 50 to 75 percent composite require reinforcement or added detail ing, decrease beam spacing as the
beams can exceed the point of equivalen- material at end connections. Detail mate- framing approaches the bottom of a
cy. In some cases, non-composite con- rial such as reinforcement plates at copes parapet wall. Reduced beam spacing
struction can be most economical. A and haunching to accommodate deeper, allows the same deck size to be used and
caveat: make sure that the beam in a special connections is typically far more the same beam size to be repeated into a
composite design is adequate to carry the expensive than simply selecting a deeper parapet against which snow may drift.
weight of the wet concrete. member that can be connected more This is generally more economical than
cleanly. If the beam is changed from a maintaining the same spacing and chang-
• When composite construction is W16x50 to a W18x50, the simplified ing the deck and beam sizes.
specified, the size, spacing, quantity connection is attained virtually for free.
and pattern of placement of shear stud • Minimize the need for stiffening.
connectors should be specified. It And …don’t change member size fre- When required at locations of concen-
should also be compatible with the type quently just because a smaller or lighter trated flange forces, transverse stiffeners
and orientation of the steel deck used. shape can be used. Try to get the usage and web doubler plates are labor inten-
When evaluating the relative economy of of any given member size to a mill order sive detail materials. For the sake of
composite construction, keep in mind quantity (approximately 20 tons). Of economy, using 50 ksi steel and/or a
that most shear stud connector installers course smaller quantities can be used and member with a thicker flange or web can
charge a minimum daily fee. So, unless are commonly purchased by the fabrica- often eliminate them. In the latter case,
there are enough shear stud connectors tor from service centers (at a cost premi- consider trading some less expensive
on a job to warrant at least a day’s work, um), but detailing, inventory control, fab- member weight for reduced labor
it may be more economical to specify a rication and erection are all simplified requirements. Always remember to
heavier non-composite beam. with repetition and uniformity. Keep in reduce the panel-zone web shear force
mind that economy is generally synony- by the magnitude of the story shear. This
• Shear stud connectors should be mous with the fewest number of different can often mean the difference between
field installed, not shop installed. pieces. having to use a web doubler plate and
Otherwise, they are a tripping hazard for not. See AISC Design Guide No. 13 Wide-
the erector’s personnel on the walking Above all …select members with favor- Flange Column Stiffening at Moment
surface of steel beams. able geometries. Watch out for connec- Connections. (call 800/644-2400 or visit
tions at changes in floor elevations; a
• Consider cantilevered construction deeper girder may simplify the connec-
for roofs and one-story structures. tion detail. Also, watch out for W10, W8 • Eliminate column splices, if feasible.
Cantilevered construction was invented and W6 columns, which can have narrow On average, the labor involved in making
primarily to reduce the weight of steel flanges and web depth; connecting to a column splice equates to about 500 lb
required to frame a roof. Although today either axis is constrained and difficult. It of steel. Consider the elimination of a
we are less concerned with weight sav- is often most helpful to make rough column splice if the resulting longer col-
ings than labor savings, cantilevered con- sketches of members to approximate umn shaft remains shippable and
struction may still be a good option. scale in their relative positions to discov- erectable. If a column is spliced, locating
Why? Because the associated connections er geometric incompatibilities. the splice at 4 to 5 ft above the floor will
of the members are generally simple to permit the attachment of safety cables
fabricate and fast and safe to erect. • Use repetitive plate thicknesses directly to the column shaft, where need-
throughout the various detail materi- ed. It will also allow the assembly of the
• Use rolled-beam framing in areas als in a project. Just like with member
that will support mechanical equip- column splice without the need for scaf-
sizing, the use of similar plate thickness folding or other accessibility equipment.
ment. It always happens. The structural throughout the job is generally more eco-
design is performed based upon a prelim- If the column splice design requires
nomical than changing thicknesses just welding in order to attain continuity,
inary estimate of the loads from the because you can. For example, use one
mechanical systems and units. Later, the consider the use of PJP groove welds
or two plate thicknesses for all the col- rather than CJP groove welds for econo-
mechanical equipment is changed and umn base plates. This same idea applies
the loads go up — way up — sometimes my.
for other detail materials, such as trans-
after construction has begun. Rolled- verse stiffeners and web doubler plates. • Configure column base details that
beam framing offers much greater flexi- are erectable without the need for
bility than other alternatives, such as • Design floor framing to minimize guying. Use a four-rod pattern, base-
steel-joist framing, to accommodate these the perceptibility of vibrations. Floor plate thickness, and attachment between
changing design loads. vibration can be an unintended result in column and base that can withstand
service when floors are designed only for gravity and wind loads during erection.
• Optimize bay sizes. It is still a good strength and deflection limit-states and
idea to design initially for strength and At the same time, make sure the footing
an absolute-minimum-weight system is detail is also adequate against overturn-
deflection. Subsequently, geometry and chosen. Today’s lighter construction,
compatibility can be evaluated at connec- ing due to loads during erection. For
when combined with the lack of damping more information, refer to AISC Design
tions, with shape selections modified as due to partitionless open office plans and
necessary. John Ruddy, Structural Guide #10: Erection Bracing of Low-Rise
light actual floor loadings (in the era of Structural Steel Frames (call 800/644-
Affiliates International, suggests that the nearly paperless office), has exacer-
using a bay length of 1.25 to 1.5 times 2400 or visit
bated the potential for floor vibration
the width, a bay area of about 1000 sq. problems. For information on designing • Make your column base details
ft., and filler beams spanning the long to minimize floor vibration, see AISC repetitive, too. The possibility of foun-
direction combine to maintain economi- Design Guide#11: Floor Vibrations Due dation errors will be reduced when repet-
cal framing. To Human Activity (call 800/644-2400 itive anchor-rod and base-plate details
or visit are used. Keep your anchor-rod spacings
uniform throughout the job. Use headed • Consider if heavy hot-rolled shapes • Don’t confuse the requirements for
rods or rods that have been threaded are really necessary in lighter and bolts and bolt holes in steel-to-steel
with a nut at the bottom if there is any miscellaneous applications. Ordinary structural connection with those for
calculated uplift. Otherwise, hooked rods roof openings can usually be framed with anchor rods and anchor-rod holes.
can also be used if desired. Be sure to angles rather than W-shapes or channels. There are many differences between
identify both the length of the shaft and As another example, heavy rolled angles steel-to-steel structural connections and
the hook if so. for the concrete floor slab stop (screed steel-to-concrete anchorage applications,
angles) are unnecessary if a lighter gage- including the following important ones:
• Allow the use of the right column- metal angle will suffice (something in the
base leveling method for the job. 10 to 18 gage range, depending upon • While ASTM A325 and A490 bolts are
Three methods are commonly used to slab thickness and overhang). These most commonly used in steel-to-steel
level column bases: leveling plates, level- lighter angles can often be supplied with structural connections, they are not
ing nuts and washers and shim stacks and the metal deck and installed with puddle appropriate for use in steel-to-con-
wedges. Regional practices and prefer- welding, simplifying the fabrication of the crete anchorage applications. For
ences vary. However, the following com- structural steel. Small roof openings on anchor rods, ASTM F1554 is a new
ments can be stated in general. Leveling the order of 12 in. square or less proba- umbrella specification for headed,
plates lend themselves well to small- to bly need not be framed at all unless there threaded/nutted and hooked anchor
medium-sized column bases, say up to is a heavy suspended load, such as a rods (they still call them anchor bolts)
24”. Shim stacks and wedges, if used leader pipe. in three material strengths: 36 ksi, 55
properly, can be used on a wide variety ksi and 105 ksi. Of course, you can
of base sizes. Proper use means maintain- • Limit the use of different bolt grades also use ASTM A36, A572, A449
ing a small aspect ratio on the shim stack, and diameters. It is seldom feasible to (strength equivalent of A325 in rod),
possibly tack welding the various plies of use more than one or two combinations A354 (strength equivalent of A490 in
the shim stacks to prevent relative move- of bolt diameters and grades on a project. rod).
ment and secure placement of the The use of different diameters for differ- • The hole sizes that are permitted in
devices to prevent inadvertent displace- ent grades simplifies the quality assur- base plates and similar devices for
ment during erection operations and ance task of ensuring that each strength anchor rods are larger for any given
when load is applied. Leveling nuts and grade was used in the proper location. It diameter to account for the larger
washers lend themselves well to medium- also allows more shop efficiency in the placement tolerances on anchor rods.
sized base plates, say 24” to 36”, but are drilling or punching operations. • Installation is totally different. That is,
only practical when the four-rod pattern pretension is sometimes specified for
of anchor rods is spaced to develop satis- • Use ASTM A325 bolts whenever pos- steel-to-steel structural connections,
factory moment resistance. Large column sible. They are strong, ductile, and reli- but not normally for steel-to-concrete
base plates, say over 36”, can become so able — the best fastener value. anchorage applications.
heavy that they must be shipped inde- • Limit bolt diameter to 1”. Diameters • Washer requirements are also differ-
pendently of the columns and preset, in of ¾” and 7/8” are preferred and 1” ent. Anchor rods generally require
which case grout holes and special level- diameter is still within the installation thicker, larger washers that are often
ing devices are usually required. capability of most equipment. Larger made out of plate stock.
• Don’t over-specify the details of sec- diameters require special equipment and • Use snug-tightened installation
ondary members. For example, span- increased spacings and edge distances whenever possible. Snug-tightened
drel kickers and diagonal braces can than are typical. installation requirements (the full effort
often be provided as square or bevel-cut • Select the right bolt hole type for the of an ironworker with an ordinary spud
elements that get welded into the braced application. In steel-to-steel structural wrench that brings the connected plies,
member and structural element that pro- connections, standard holes can be used but without any specific level of clamping
vides the bracing resistance with a very in many bolted joints and are preferred force between them) recognize that most
simple line of fillet weld. In contrast, it is in some cases. For example, standard bolts in shear need not be pretensioned;
very costly to require that such secondary holes are commonly used in girder and for further information, see the RCSC
details be miter-cut to fit the profile of a spandrel connections to columns to more Specification. The maximum shear
member or element to which it is con- accurately control the dimension strength per bolt is realized while the
nected and welded all-around. between column centers and facilitate the related installation and inspection costs
plumbing process. In large joints, particu- are minimized. As given in the AISC
• Keep relieving angles in a practical Specification, the cases that must be pre-
size range. The thickness of relieving larly those in the field, the use of over-
sized holes or slotted holes can reduce tensioned include: tall building column
angles is normally 5/16” or 3/8”. If a splices, connections that brace tall build-
greater thickness is required for strength, fit-up and assembly time and the associ-
ated costs. For further information, see ing columns, some connections in crane
the basic design assumptions should be buildings, bolts subject to direct tension
reviewed and perhaps modified. If verti- the RCSC Specification.
(AISC and RCSC are currently consider-
cal and/or horizontal adjustment of • Open holes need not be filled for ing a relaxation of this requirement for
masonry relieving angles is required, the structural purposes. Sometimes, bolt ASTM A325 bolts in non-fatigue and
amount of adjustment desired should be holes remain in the structure without non-impact applications), connections
specified and the fabricator should be bolts in them. Whether this is because a subject to impact or significant load
allowed to select the method to achieve temporary bolted connection was made reversal, and slip-critical connections.
this adjustment, such as by slotting or at that location, a design modification
shimming. Final adjustments to locate was made during construction or for • Permit the use of any of the four
relieving angles should be made by the other reasons, there is no structural con- approved methods for pretensioning
mason, preferably after dead load deflec- sequence of not having a bolt installed in high-strength bolts, when pretension-
tion of the spandrel member occurs. the hole. ing is necessary. RCSC provides four

Modern Steel Construction / April 2000

approved installation methods for high-
strength bolts that must be pretensioned:
the turn-of-nut method, the calibrated
wrench method, the twist-off-type ten-
sion-control bolt method and the direct-
tension-indicator method. Different fabri-
cators and erectors have different
preferences, which mostly center on the
installation cost that is associated with
their use of each of these methods. When
properly used in accordance with RCSC
requirements, these methods all provide
acceptable results. Therefore, it is in the
interest of economy to allow the installer
the flexibility to choose their preferred Figure 3. Extreme example of what arbitrary connection criteria can mean.
method and properly use it. For more
information, see the RCSC Specification.
applicable so that proper connections can the most economical welded joint will
• Minimize the use of slip-critical con- be made and costly overdesign, as well as generally result when weld metal volume
nections. Most connections with three or dangerous underdesign, can be avoided. is minimized. Furthermore, reducing the
more bolts have normal misalignments This applies to shear connections, weld metal volume reduces the heat
that would cause some of the bolts to be moment connections, bracing connec- input and the resulting shrinkage and
in bearing initially. Furthermore, the nor- tions, column splices — all connections! distortion. Minimizing the weld metal
mal methods of erection usually cause The actual reactions are quite important also minimizes the potential for weld
bolts to slip into bearing during erection. for the proper design of end connections defects.
Additional slip beyond this point is usual- for beams in composite construction.
ly negligible. Special faying surface • Favor fillet welds over groove welds.
requirements add cost due to required • Are your bolt threads automatically Fillet welds generally require less weld
masking or use of a special paint system. excluded from the shear planes of the metal than groove welds. Additionally,
Furthermore, additional installation and joint? For ASTM A325 and A490 bolts, a the use of fillet welds virtually eliminates
inspection requirements add cost. 3/8”-thick ply adjacent to the nut will base metal preparation, which is labor
Therefore, generally limit usage of slip- exclude the threads in all cases when the intensive.
critical connections to those cases bolt diameter is 3/4” or 7/8”. A 1/2”-
thick ply adjacent to the nut will exclude • Configure fillet weld length to
required by AISC/RCSC, including: con- reduce weld size. Compare a ¼” fillet
nections with oversized holes or slotted the threads in all cases when the bolt
diameter is 1” or 1-1/8”. Use a washer weld 12” long with a ½” fillet weld 6”-
holes not perpendicular to load; end con- long. These welds have equal strength,
nections of built-up members, and con- under the nut and you can reduce these
minimum ply thicknesses by 1/8”. but the latter weld requires twice as
nections that share load between bolts much weld metal volume and cost. With
and welds. For more information, see the Depending upon the combination of grip,
number and placement of washers and due consideration of the implications of
AISC Specification and the RCSC increased weld length on the size of con-
Specification. selected bolt length a lesser ply thickness
may also work with the threads-excluded necting elements, such as gusset plates,
• Follow RCSC Specification require- condition. the best balance can be found.
ments for the use of washers. The use • Keep fillet weld sizes at or below
of hardened washers is often unneces- • Take the easy way out on prying
action in bolted joints. Prying action, 5/16” when possible. Per AWS D1.1,
sary; see the RCSC Specification for when this weld size can be deposited in one
they are necessary. However, some fabri- the additional tension that results in a
bolted joint due to deformation of the pass with the shielded metal arc welding
cators and erectors elect to use a hard- (SMAW) process in the horizontal and
ened washer under the turned element to connected parts, generally requires
detailed calculations to determine the flat positions. Larger weld sizes will
prevent galling of the connected material, require multiple passes.
which would otherwise increase wear and combination of bolt diameter, gage and
tear on the installation equipment. Lock fitting thickness that is required to trans- • Don’t always weld on both sides of a
washers are not intended for use with mit the design forces. Simplify the whole piece just because you can.
ASTM A325 or A490 bolts, nor should process as follows. As a first step, calcu- There are many applications where it
they be specified or used. late the fitting thickness that is required may be possible to weld on one side of a
to reduce the prying action to an insignif- joint only. For example, the attachment
• Design connections for actual forces. icant (i.e., negligible) amount. If this of a column base plate to a column can in
Or at least do not overspecify the design thickness is present or can be provided, many cases be made with fillet welds on
criteria. In U.S. practice, the Engineer of there is no further need for prying action one side of each flange and the web. This
Record sometimes specifies standard calculations. If this thickness is excessive same idea is also sometimes possible with
reactions for use by the connection or cannot be provided, then use the more transverse stiffeners, bearing stiffeners
designer. These standard reactions can detailed calculation approach that match- and other similar elements.
sometimes be quite conservative; look at es the proper arrangement of bolt diame-
the extreme example illustrated in Figure ter, gage and fitting thickness to transmit • Use intermittent fillet welds when
3. However, design for the actual forces the loads with prying action. possible. Under typical loading, intermit-
generally allows more widespread use of tent fillet welds can often be specified
typical connections, which improves • Configure welded joints to minimize and the weld metal volume can be
economy. Axial forces, shears, moments the weld metal volume. Each pound of reduced accordingly. However, not in
and other forces should be shown as weld metal has a deposition time (and applications that involve fatigue.
labor cost) associated with it. Therefore,
• Favor the horizontal and flat posi- by savings in weld metal volume (and in bolt diameters and holes sizes, broken
tions. These positions use the base metal labor). gages, combination of bolting and weld-
and gravity to hold the molten weld pool ing on the same shipping piece will incur
in place, allowing easier welding with a • Watch out for weld details that will excessive and costly material handling
faster deposition rate and generally high- likely cause distortion as the welds requirements in the shop.
er weld quality. cool and shrink. Welding (and in many
cases, flame cutting) causes distortion • Use one-sided shear connections,
• Recognize the increased strength in because the heated regions are restrained when possible. One-sided connections
transversely loaded fillet welds. It has by the rest of the steel as they cool and such as single-plates and single-angles
long been known that a fillet weld loaded contract. Under extreme circumstances, a have well-defined performance, are eco-
transversely is up to 50 percent stronger structural member could be distorted so nomical to fabricate and are safe to erect
than the same weld loaded longitudinally. severely that straightening of the member in virtually all configurations. When com-
AISC Specification Appendix J2.4 pro- would be required, particularly in an bined with reasonable end-reaction
vides a means to take advantage of this application that involves architecturally requirements, one-sided connections can
strength increase. As a result, values in exposed structural steel, with the resul- be used quite extensively to simplify con-
the eccentrically loaded weld group tant increase in cost. The potential for struction. Sometimes, however, end reac-
tables in the current AISC Manual are distortion can frequently be reduced tions are large enough to preclude their
typically from ten to 30 percent higher through proper selection of the connec- use because of the strength limitations of
than in the previous edition. This is par- tion configuration and joint details. The such connections.
ticularly useful for transverse stiffener fabricator is the best source of guidance
end welds, which are purely transversely and advice for avoiding potentially trou- • Avoid through-plates on HSS
loaded and qualify for a full 50 percent blesome details. columns; use single-plate shear con-
increase in shear strength. nections whenever possible. A single-
• Know what to look for when moni- plate connection can be welded directly
• Avoid the use of the weld-all-around toring interpass temperatures in weld- to the column face in all cases where
symbol. This welding is excessive in most ed joints. For a given level of heat input, punching shear does not control and the
cases. It may even be wrong in some. the interpass temperature in a weldment HSS is not a slender-element cross-sec-
Welding all around may violate the AISC is largely dependent upon the cross-sec- tion. For more information, refer to the
Specification requirement that welds on tional area of the element(s) being weld- AISC HSS Connections Manual.
opposite sides of a common plane be ed. The larger the area, the faster the
interrupted at the corner (i.e., when the heat will be drawn from the weldment. As • Consider partially restrained (PR)
weld would have to wrap around the cor- a rule of thumb, if the cross-sectional moment connections. PR moment con-
ner at an overlap). Also, the weld-all- area of the weld is equal to or greater nections can provide adequate strength
around symbol should not be used if the than 40 in.2, the minimum interpass tem- and stiffness for many buildings, particu-
entire perimeter of the weld cannot be perature should be monitored. larly those with long frame lines where
reached. Conversely, if the cross-sectional area of many connections of reduced stiffness
the weld is equal to or less than 20 in.2, can be mobilized. PR connections can be
• Consider the AWS acceptance crite- the maximum interpass temperature configured to minimize field welding,
ria when an undersized weld is discov- should be monitored. simplify the connection details, and speed
ered. AWS D1.1 allows a 1/16” undersize erection.
to remain if it occupies less than ten per- • Avoid welding on galvanized sur-
cent of the weld length. This recognizes faces. When at all possible, avoid design • Design columns to eliminate web
that an attempted repair may create a situations that will require welding on doubler plates (especially) and trans-
worse condition than the undersized galvanized surfaces, particularly in the verse stiffeners (when possible) at
weld. shop. Special ventilation must be provid- moment connections. The elimination
ed in the shop to exhaust the toxic fumes of labor-intensive items such as web dou-
• Avoid seal welding unless it is that are produced. Additionally, the gal- bler plates and stiffeners is a boon to
required. Seal welding is generally vanizing must commonly be removed by economy. One fillet-welded doubler plate
unnecessary, unless the joint is required grinding in the area to be welded. This can generally be equated to about 300 lb
to be air-tight or water-tight. requires the subsequent touching up with of steel; one pair of fillet welded stiffeners
cold galvanizing compound after welding can generally be equated to about 200 lb
• For groove welds, favor partial-joint- of steel. Additionally, their elimination
penetration (PJP) over complete-joint- and cleaning. All of these operations add
cost. simplifies weak-axis framing. See AISC
penetration (CJP). PJP groove welds Design Guide No. 13 Wide-Flange
generally require less base metal prepara- • Consider the fabricator’s and erec- Column Stiffening at Moment Connections
tion and weld metal. They also reduce tor’s suggestions regarding connec- (call 800/644-2400 or visit
heat input, shrinkage, and distortion. It is tions. To a large extent, the economy of a
sometimes possible to increase plate structural steel frame depends upon the
thickness and use a PJP groove weld difficulty involved in the fabrication and Charles J. Carter, S.E., P.E., is AISC’s
instead of a CJP groove weld. erection, which is a direct function of the Director of Engineering and Continuing
connections. The fabricator and erector Education.
• Select a groove-welded joint with a
preparation that minimizes weld metal are normally in the best position to iden- Thomas M. Murray, P.E., Ph.D. is
volume. Depending upon thickness, a tify and evaluate all the criteria that must Montague-Betts Professor of Civil
particular combination of root opening be considered when selecting and detail- Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic and
and bevel angle will minimize weld metal ing the optimum connection, including State University, and a previous recipient
volume. The combination that requires such non-structural considerations as of the AISC T.R. Higgins Award.
the least amount of weld metal should be equipment limitations, personnel capabil-
selected. Also, consider double-sided ities, season of erection, weight, length William A. Thornton, P.E., Ph.D is
preparation. In some cases, the additional limitations and width limitations. The Chief Engineer at Cives Steel Companyy,
labor to prepare the surface can be offset fabricator will also know when variations and a previous recipient of the AISC T.R.
Higgins Award..