But I Don’t Design Cold-Formed Steel…

For the first half-dozen years of my professional career, my experience with cold-formed steel (CFS) consisted of sizing studs for non-structural walls and red-marking the bracing details on architectural plans. When the dotcom bubble burst, my firm needed to shift its focus from high-tech commercial and industrial to more multifamily design work. Several developers we worked with built with CFS, so in addition to designing condominiums instead of cleanrooms, I was designing CFS.

Less than 10% of engineers have any exposure to CFS design as part of their undergraduate education. OK – so this is based on an informal survey of about 50 colleagues, but I suspect if I were to hire a market research firm for lots of money, I’d pretty much get the same response.

Maybe this explains why a majority of CFS design is done by a relatively small group of engineers – probably the 10% who studied it in school.

But even though many engineers may never do significant CFS design, all engineers should have a working knowledge of how to design these elements. Has any of this ever happened to you?

  • You spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing CFS shop drawings for a curtain wall because you’re not sure what you’re looking at.
  • You turn down a job from a good client because it requires CFS design, and you are too busy to learn what you need to know to complete the project.
  • A small building in a larger project you are designing is CFS, and you lose money on this portion of the project because of your limited training and/or experience.

So… what is an engineer to do? Here are a handful of helpful resources – some may be dated, but the concepts still ring true:

Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute

STRUCTURE Magazine

General

What new types of design have you needed to learn to stay competitive in today’s market? Let us know by posting a comment.

-Paul

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.