Massive amounts of timber. Tons of structural steel. Envisioned as the centerpiece of a revitalized fairgrounds complex in Washington County, Oregon, the Wingspan Conference And Event Center due to open in summer 2020 includes a high-tech 39,000-square-foot expo hall with 30ʹ ceilings, a rooftop solar array, a 13,000-square-foot conference center to accommodate trade shows, corporate meetings, and seminars, and a materials list of building products to rival any commercial or civic construction project.
“There were multiple materials specified for the project, including steel, concrete, buckling-restrained braces, and the Simpson Strong-Tie Yield-Link,” says Brooke Stevenson, project manager for Rule Steel, which fabricated the steel structural components for construction of the event center. “Honestly, my first thought was, what are we doing with a Simpson Strong-Tie product, which is something we always associate with wood construction.”
Founded in 1960, Rule Steel provides fabrication of structural steel for monumental projects across Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho. When plans for the Washington County Events Center called for the full Simpson Strong-Tie Strong Frame® Special Moment Frame (SMF), Stevenson and the Rule Steel team recognized a design challenge: use of the full SMF would require welding additional lengths of steel on top of the building columns for continuation of the designed steel.
“A lot of times engineers and architects will come up with incredible structural steel designs that are just not erectable,” Stevenson says. “We look at ways to make fabrication easier in our shop while simplifying structural steel systems for the erector so that buildings come together like they should.”
For the events center, optimizing fabrication to eliminate the need for extra field welding meant incorporating the Simpson Strong-Tie Yield-Link structural fuse from the SMF directly into Rule Steel fabrication sets. By utilizing a Tekla structural design software plugin, Rule Steel team members were able to select Yield-Link from a simple drop-down menu while designing fabrications for the project. “There was no extra work that we needed to do beyond installing the plugin,” says Stevenson. “It was just BOOM … and there it was.”
Designed to absorb forces in a seismic event, the Yield-Link connection requires no field welding and allows beams to be designed without supplemental lateral bracing, resulting in fewer fabricated steel elements and field connections.
When it came time to hand off plans from the detailing unit to the shop, Rule Steel production supervisors unfamiliar with seeing Simpson Strong-Tie were pleasantly surprised. “There were no hiccups or issues at all, and the project ran as seamlessly as any other structural job we have,” says Rule Steel structural production supervisor Chase Nelson. “Compared to other reduced beam sections or other proprietary connections, installing Yield-Link in the field was fast and simple and all we had to do was put bolts in holes.”
By utilizing Yield-Link technology, Rule Steel was able to supply one continuous column in multiple locations across the event center, allowing for significant cost reductions and the elimination of extra welding time in the field. Selecting Yield-Link connections via a Tekla plugin tool helped fabricators streamline the detailing and production processes and enabled erectors to quickly assemble components in the field.
“For something that is no more than a beam flange and a web, it’s incredible how much stress the Yield-Link can take,” says Nelson. “To do what it does and also be replaceable is a huge game changer, but what I’m most impressed with is the way it all goes together. It was very easy to use, and that’s probably what blows me away the most, just the simplicity in the design of the product.”
Click here to learn more about software plugins to assist designers, fabricators, and erectors in incorporating the Yield-Link connections into their designs.