Record Attendance for 2006 NASCC: The Steel Conference
February 21, 2006 From American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc.
Improving steel design and construction through technology and teamwork were dominant themes of this year’s NASCC: The Steel Conference. New ideas in interoperability and Building Information Modeling (BIM), automated fabrication, design innovation, and project team coordination permeated the conference’s keynote speeches, general sessions, and pre- and post-conference symposia.
A record-breaking 3,208 steel industry professionals primarily from the United States, Canada, and Mexico — but also from South America, Asia, and Europe — attended this year’s conference. The event was held Wednesday, February 8 through Saturday, February 11 in San Antonio and featured technical and educational sessions for engineers, fabricators, detailers, erectors, architects, and educators alike; as well as a 65,000-plus sq. ft exhibit hall with more than 160 exhibitors representing steel design and construction software, services, and machinery.
“It’s the best Steel Conference we’ve ever had,” said Terry Zwick, Steel Conference Planning Committee Chairman, noting the outstanding attendance and excellence in the conference’s varied sessions and keynote speeches.
Gene Kranz, the now-retired NASA flight director who directed the Apollo 13 space mission back to Earth after the shuttle’s oxygen system failed, addressed more than 1,200 conference attendees in one of three plenary sessions.
“It was very engaging and inspiring,” said Judy Liu, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University and member of AISC’s Partners in Education Committee, of Kranz’s speech. “It showed that nothing is insurmountable.” Liu said she was impressed with Kranz’s account of the cooperation that was required by NASA’s team of engineers and builders to build the space program from the ground up, and then to bring the Apollo 13 astronauts back to Earth. “There was amazing integration and communication between the designers and builders,” Liu said, “and that’s a very important message for the steel construction community.”
Ronald Hamburger, recipient of the 2006 T.R. Higgins award, presented his award-winning paper, “Design of Steel Structures for Blast-Related Progressive Collapse Resistance,” to the general assembly. Louis Geschwindner, AISC’s Vice President of Engineering and Research, said that Hamburger’s talk, which will be repeated in locations throughout the United States in 2006, touched on an important issue for today’s designers.
“Progressive collapse is a very timely issue,” Geschwindner said. “People need to understand what it really means, and Ron is an excellent presenter.”
James M. Fisher was presented with AISC’s J. Lloyd Kimbrough award, the association’s most distinguished honor for steel designers. In his keynote speech “Design!,” Fisher, an industrial buildings designer, discussed what successful design is and how it can be attained.
“Good judgment is the single most important factor in good design,” Fisher said. “It’s what gets a design headed in the right direction.” Success, however, is not only dependant on the structure’s ability to efficiently satisfy the structural criteria, but also its ability to meet the entire project team’s expectations, he said.
“A successful design is one in which the team members and owner are satisfied.”
On Wednesday, the pre-conference symposium, “Purging Extras,” provided a forum that brought architects, structural engineers, steel fabricators, general contractors, and construction managers together to approach the subject of contract “extras” in a neutral setting, and to discuss ways to work together in reducing excess in the overall project’s budget and schedule. Following this symposium, AISC will continue to work with the Council of American Structural Engineers (CASE) in developing ways to resolve problems associated with extras, according to AISC’s Chief Structural Engineer, Charles Carter. Together the groups plan to reach out to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to generate more solutions.
Also presented Wednesday were short courses on beam buckling and bracing, termination issues, and interoperability (a short course on designing with the AISC 2005 specification was presented Saturday). During the interoperability short course, project teams discussed how BIM accelerated schedules and lowered costs for three different structural steel projects—one high-profile project, one “standard” project, and one manufacturing facility. According to presenter Derek Cunz of MA Mortenson design-build contractors, projects like Mortenson’s recent Denver Art Museum expansion would not have been successful without interoperability. “Projects of this complexity can’t be built without BIM,” he said.
Brian Lenartowich of Spencer Steel, Ltd. in Ilderton, Ontario said the short course, “Termination: PM Issues, Rights, Remedies and Defenses,” applied to circumstances his company is now experiencing. “A lot of the material was directly applicable to what we’re going through,” Lenartowich said. “The lawyer who was speaking hit a couple chords with me, and I got up right away and made a couple calls. It was so parallel to what we’re experiencing—it was unbelievable.”
On Thursday evening, attendees loaded buses and headed outside the San Antonio city limits to the Knibbe Ranch. A Texas-style barbeque, hayrides, armadillo races, and a country Western band entertained more than 1,100 people on the ranch’s sprawling grounds.
Attendees were also given the opportunity on Wednesday to tour the San Antonio facilities of AISC member steel service center Triple-S/Instel. “Seeing their operations, you think about things from your own perspective and your own material needs,” said Michelle Williams, project manager with SEAA member steel erectors Perry and Perry Builders, Inc. “They’re dealing with inventory control and quality management just like we are.”
Williams, who said this year was her first at NASCC, said that she found value in many of the conference’s technical sessions, even when they did not specifically reflect the size of work or sector of steel design her company performs.
“When you scale it down to the size of work we deal with, it was good information for us,” she said. “It’s good to compare experiences with contractors and designers, and to see it from all points of view. Everybody’s getting something different out of it, depending on what their specialty is.”
The conference’s sessions included a track for engineers, fabricators, detailers, and erectors, as well as a seismic design track — new to this year’s conference.
While the general sessions allowed members of the design and construction communities to develop better understanding of their own work and of each other’s roles in the project team, the exhibit hall—which featured leading software, machinery, and structural materials producers—provided exhibitors and attendees a similar opportunity.
“It’s a great show to be at—you see a wide cross-section of the industry,” said Olimpio DeMarco, Product Marketing Manager for Autodesk. “This conference helps give us a broader understanding of the industry.”
The exhibit hall also featured, for the second year, a classroom for heavy machinery manufacturers, software producers, structural materials producers, and other exhibitors. Exhibitors presented workshops with design tips and information on product developments.
Abdul Rab, Principal of Structural Engineering for Parsons Corporation in Murphy, Texas, said that a workshop on composite steel joists presented by Nucor Vulcraft could influence his future designs. “We’ve designed composite beams before, but not composite joists,” Rab said. “It was new to me, but now I might get into designing composite joists more.”
And, as in years past, the Structural Stability Research Council (SSRC)’s Annual Stability Conference was held in conjunction with NASCC. According to Joseph A. Yura, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas, sessions on bridge topics and thin-walled construction issues were among the best attended of this year’s Stability Conference. Yura, a widely recognized authority on stability and a lifetime member of SSRC, was presented with SSRC’s Lynn S. Beedle award during the conference.
The fully restored Morial Convention Center in New Orleans will be the setting for next year’s conference, April 18-21, 2007. “The NASCC committee knows everyone is concerned about the city and conference center’s restoration, and we are, too,” Chairman Zwick said. “We are monitoring the progress very closely.” According to Zwick, transportation and other services are expected to be fully restored by the beginning of this summer — and definitely before next year’s conference. The convention center has already hosted its first post-Katrina convention with numerous more scheduled in the near future, including one in June that is expected to attract more than 20,000 attendees.
Lenartowich says he and his colleagues at Spencer Steel are already planning to attend. “We’ll definitely go to New Orleans,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
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