Steel detailing is the preparation of shop fabrication drawings from structural and architectural design documents. The detailer is the interpreter of the engineering design, translating the designer's intent into the language of the steel fabrication industry. This interpretation involves the analysis, evaluation, organization, and communication of the structural design. Each and every part of the steel fabricator’s scope of work is defined, from every bolt, weld, and dimension, to the assignment of an identifying mark for each component to facilitate member placement. Although some steel fabricators maintain an in-house detailing office, it is common practice for fabricators to rely on the services of qualified independent detailing firms.
From Design Documents to Steel Details
The analogy of a steel detailer as an interpreter has been used to describe their function in the steel construction industry. It is the detailer who takes the information from the design documents, develops the mill orders and fabrication drawings, and provides other required supporting services. This information must be presented in a format that is required by the fabrication facility and members of the construction team. It may be said that the structural design documents are really a message to the detailer. The clarity of that message dictates the ability of the detailer to correctly interpret and provide the design information. When the architect and engineer have completed their design of a steel frame structure, it is time for the structure to be produced. Typically, at the onset of a project, the steel detailer is the first subcontractor to begin using the design documents and one of the first to determine if the designs are complete and accurate. The process used by the steel detailer is just as it is for making any other product. All of the component parts of the structure are gathered together into an organized system (Member Placement Plans) to be used by all detailers involved in the project. This includes individuals doing column details, beam details, braced frame details, girder details, horizontal and vertical bracing details, and many others, depending on the project at hand.
The most important concept to understand about the process is that steel detailing is a production line type of operation. When a steel detailer produces drawings, it is essential to have all of the information required for the assembly of the structure. When even one component is missing, it can have a serious impact on the detailer's production of shop drawings. Keep in mind that there is a great difference between the creative process of making design drawings and the production process of making steel detail drawings.
When the design drawings are found to be incomplete or inaccurate, the detailing production process cannot run smoothly. Production becomes inefficient and fragmented. The once smooth-running production line has to stop, back up, and start again, and thus results in a lot of extra time in detail drawing production. This list illustrates those significant elements of the design documents used by the detailer to furnish the required detailing services.
From Design Documents
- All structural design documents.
- Foundation plan, column schedule, and associated sections.
- Structural framing plans and sections.
- General notes and project specifications.
To Steel Details
- Complete shop detail and member placement drawings.Material procurement lists.
- Anchor rod plans and embedded material plans as well as shop details of embedded items.
- Member placement plans and sections.
- Job standards, painting requirements, special notes, material & weld requirements, bolting information, etc.