structural forum Structural Steel Shop Drawings by vvq21088


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                                                    Structural Steel Shop Drawings
                                                    Are We Stuck in the Stone Age?
                                                    By Jim DeStefano
   Very little has changed over the past hundred    these old timers have retired, CAD technicians   the individual
years in the way we process structural steel        with little understanding of fabrication         piece drawings is
shop drawings. Even a modest size project will      and erection practices have replaced them.       almost automatic.
often require hundreds of beam and column           Seasoned steel detailers are becoming a rare     We are now able to review
detail drawings that must be reviewed by the        breed. CAD technology has also resulted in       the 3-D computer model directly
engineer. Multiple prints of each drawing           a dramatic increase in the number of shop        on the computer screen and have the
(sometimes as many as 8 prints) are routed          drawings that must be reviewed. When shop        detailer make corrections prior to plotting the
through the contractor and architect prior to                      drawings were hand drawn,         individual piece drawings. This new software
arriving at our doorstep. Usually, neither the                                                       technology has allowed us to review all of the
contractor nor architect actually looked at the        “There is now a new generation                steel shop drawings for a project in a few days
drawings or had any understanding of what                of software technology…”                    rather than weeks.
they depict. When they finally arrive, we are                                                            I know that many engineers have resisted
expected to review them in a few days so as not     one beam detail would often depict dozens        changing the way they do things and have not
to delay the project.                               of similar beams. Today, a separate drawing is   embraced these new technologies. Old habits
   The task of reviewing the shop drawings          generated for each beam.                         die hard. As far as I am concerned, good
is often delegated to a junior engineer who            For years I have lamented “there must be      riddance to the old ways!
dreads the arrival of the Federal Express courier   a better way.” We have experimented with
burdened with rolls of drawings. After the          ways to make the shop drawing process more             Jim DeStefano is the Principal of the
task of date stamping the drawings has been         efficient. We have tried alternative methods           structural engineering firm DeStefano
completed, the review process begins. The           of routing drawings. We have taken the              Associates, and is a Partner in the firm of
            most tedious and time consuming         architect and contractor out of the loop of        Coastal Engineering Partners. Jim currently
                       part of reviewing shop       reviewing drawings that they don’t need to          serves as the Chair of the STRUCTURE
                                                    see. Architectural dimension verification and                magazine Editorial Board.
         “The most tedious and
                                                    rooftop HVAC unit coordination only require
         time consuming part of                     the architect and contractor to mark up
      reviewing shop drawings…”                     the erection plans. We have reduced the
                                                    number of prints that need to be processed
drawings is the Easter egg hunt of finding the       by requiring the fabricator to send record
corresponding piece mark on the erection plans.     sets of the final approved drawings to the
Once the piece location has been identified,         owner, contractor, architect, etc. rather
little time is left for reviewing the connection    than everybody getting red marked
capacities or fabrication details.                  prints. We have also required the detailer

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   Corrections are red marked on the shop           to imprint our review stamp directly on
drawings and then the real fun begins               the CAD drawing, eliminating the need
– transcribing each red mark onto all of the        for hours of rubber stamping. We have
other prints. We are sometimes tempted to           required detailers to document connection
allow minor deficiencies to pass rather than         capacities on the piece drawings, which
having to red mark multiple prints and then         expedites the review of connections. All
process a second submittal.                              of these steps have allowed us to be
   By the time all of the shop drawings have                       more efficient.
been processed, our fee for the construction
                                                        “Seasoned steel detailers
phase services has been pretty well exhausted,
leaving little fee for site visits.                   are becoming a rare breed.”
   Some things have changed over the past few
decades. Structural steel detailers used to be         There is now a new generation of
very knowledgeable about steel fabrication.         software technology that is a “dream come
Many of them started their career working           true”. The steel detailer can now create a
in large fabricating shops, such as American        3-D model of the structural frame with
Bridge or Bethlehem Steel, where they were          intelligent elements. Once the computer
exposed to many aspects of the business. As         model has been created, generation of

                                                         STRUCTURE magazine • July 2004                                                          19

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