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Steel industry offers resources for beginners and experienced design professionals.

By Roger LaBoube, Ph.D., P.E.

Here is a familiar problem: You or one of your employees has recently graduated from an engineering college. You are excited and ready to design the most beautiful and efficient structures in the world and are pretty good at the design methodologies you were taught. But now you are confronted with a design problem using cold-formed steel framing. With no training and little design experience, what do you do?

Unfortunately, most college curricula, with too few hours and too many subjects to pack into an undergraduate or even a graduate program, do not teach cold-formed steel framing design. But thankfully, the industry has developed resources for both beginners and experienced designer engineers. Many of the educational resources provide professional development hour (PDH) credits for participants. Following are some of these educational opportunities.

Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute

The mission of the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute (CFSEI) is “To enable and encourage the efficient design of safe and cost effective cold-formed steel framed structures.” To accomplish its mission, CFSEI provides state-of-the-art information regarding steel-framing design and construction that is developed by experts who are helping to shape cold-formed steel design techniques and practices.

CFSEI offers webinars, seminars at their annual CFSEI EXPO, and FAQ videos on their website, www.cfsei.org. Typically, a minimum of six webinars are offered annually and are archived at

https://cfsei.memberclicks.net/webinars. The CFSEI Annual EXPO offers two days of face-to-face seminars. Additionally, CFSEI partners with structural engineers’ associations nationwide to meet the growing demand for instruction in cold-formed steel application and design. Formats for these educational programs range from one-hour sessions to multi-hour and full-day presentations for such organizations as EduCode and state structural engineering associations.

CFSEI Tech Notes are an invaluable resource to understanding the nuances of cold-formed steel design. More than 40 Tech Notes

(https://cfsei.memberclicks.net/technical-notes) have been developed and address the range of issues encountered by a cold-formed steel engineer, including the following:

  • durability and corrosion protection;
  • fasteners and connection hardware;
  • component assemblies (trusses and wall panels);
  • general topics;
  • floor and joist systems;
  • wall systems;
  • roof and ceiling systems;
  • thermal, fire, and acoustics; and
  • lateral systems.

Students from around the world have participated in CFSEI’s International Cold-Formed Steel Building Student Design Competition. The mission of the student competition is to promote higher education in cold-formed steel structural design and to encourage students to use creative thinking skills to solve engineering problems. The goal of this competition is to push the creative bounds of structural design with light-steel-framed buildings.

The design problem for the 2016-2017 competition was a three-story, cold-formed steel condominium building located in Las Vegas with 26,912 square feet (2,500 square meters) of useable floor space. The primary load bearing and lateral structural system were to be cold-formed steel framing, designed to IBC 2012 and governing American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) specifications with load combinations taken from ASCE 7-10.

AISI Education Committee

The focus of the AISI Education Committee is to monitor the alignment of education products with the standards and to ensure adequate educational products are available to support each AISI standard and, where needs are not met, advocate for additional resources to support the standards. The primary effort of the AISI Education Committee has been development and maintenance of AISI design guides and manuals, which include:

  • AISI D100 – CFS Design Manual
  • AISI D110 – CFS Framing Design Guide
  • AISI D111 – CFS Purlin Roof Framing Systems
  • AISI D112 – Brick Veneer CFS Framing Design Guide
  • AISI D113 – Design Guide for CFS Framed Shear Wall Assemblies

(in development)

  • AISI D310 – Design Examples for the Design of Profiled Steel Diaphragm Panels Based on AISI S310-16

These documents are available at https://shop.steel.org.

Center for Cold-Formed Steel Structures

The mission of the Wei-Wen Yu Center for Cold-Formed Steel Structures (www.ccfssonline.org) is to provide an integrated approach for handling research, teaching, engineering education, technical services, and professional activity. The center brings together the technical resources of interested parties such as university researchers, steel producers, product manufacturers, consultants, building officials, government agencies, and others with a common goal of continued improvement of cold-formed steel design and construction.

The center’s Cold-Formed Steel for Students website

(http://ccfssonline.org/cold-formed-steel-for-students) provides an introduction to cold-formed steel, the cross sections used for cold-formed steel framing, and the appropriate design specifications. Also, a list of design aids is provided for more in-depth study and for future career reference. To facilitate questions regarding material presented on this website or a question pertaining to cold-formed steel applications and design, the Ask the Professor tab is available.

A biennial three-day short course offered by the center is designed to benefit both engineers who are unfamiliar with cold-formed steel design and engineers experienced with cold-formed steel design. For engineers unfamiliar with cold-formed steel design, the course is structured to provide an introduction to the behavior of cold-formed steel members and connections and how that behavior is addressed by the AISI specification. For engineers experienced with cold-formed steel design, the course is intended to strengthen their understanding of the fundamental behavior of both members and connections, as well as provide a better understanding of cold-formed steel design. Both commercial and residential applications of cold-formed steel are discussed. The technical program is structured to discuss the many applications of cold-formed steel members, including wall studs, floor joists, purlins, girts, decks, and panels.

For engineers interested in delving into the research that serves as the basis for the design specification provisions, the center’s online library (http://scholarsmine.mst.edu/ccfss) has a wealth of information. The online library also has design documents developed by AISI, Steel Deck Institute, and Rack Manufacturers Institute. The center’s biennial international specialty conference offers a forum for dissemination of on-going and recently completed research. Proceedings of the past conferences are posted at the online library website.

Steel Framing Alliance

The mission of the Steel Framing Alliance is to enable and encourage the widespread, practical, and economical use and preference for cold-formed steel framing by identifying, maintaining, and promoting competitive advantages while identifying and pre-empting threats.

The Steel Framing Alliance works to expand market share in the commercial and residential construction markets with an emphasis on growth potential of structural cold-formed steel framing in the mid-rise sector for offices, hotels, condos, apartments, and other multi-family housing, university housing, and similar buildings.

The “STEEL Doing It Right” seminar is organized by the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry and the Steel Framing Alliance. The seminar brings comprehensive education and training to those currently working in the steel framing industry and to those looking to expand their business. The content is based on industry-accepted standards and best practices. The seminar covers the essential knowledge and techniques for correct installation of cold-formed steel, as well as codes and standards affecting cold-formed steel; structural (load-bearing) wall assemblies; wind-bearing and curtain wall framing; interior systems; roof assemblies; estimating; project management; and more.

The Steel Framing Alliance also publishes design guides on such topics as thermal design, fire and acoustic design, as well as position papers such as durability and sustainability of cold-formed steel.

Other education opportunities

MBMA University/Industry Collaboration on Capstone Design Project — The Metal Building Manufacturers Association launched a collaborative program to match metal building manufacturers with university educators to help develop a capstone design experience. In the first two years of the program, MBMA has worked with more than a dozen universities to introduce students to metal building construction through a real-world design experience that also incorporates site visits as well as visits to the fabrication and design facility. Resources have been developed to assist faculty in this effort. Interested universities are invited to contact Dr. W. Lee Shoemaker at MBMA for more information on the program (mbma@mbma.com).

Manufacturers’ associations, including the Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA; www.steelframingassociation.org) and Steel Stud Manufacturers Association (SSMA; www.ssma.com) have span and load tables for basic conditions that can act as an initial check for architects and engineers for determining a size and thickness that may be required for a particular design application. In addition, SSMA has a set of typical details in both .dwg and .pdf format for free download. The SFIA has a series of free, previously recorded webinar presentations on topics ranging from specifying cold-formed steel to panelization and energy codes. All of this information and more are available from their respective websites.

In closing

If all else fails, an invaluable resource for obtaining cold-formed steel design information is the CFSEI Hotline, which can be accessed at 800-79Steel (800-797-8335) or at Ask an Expert at https://cfsei.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&Itemid=148.


Roger LaBoube, Ph.D., P.E., is director of the Wei-Wen Yu Center for Cold-Formed Steel Structures (https://ccfssonline.org).

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