Steel Core Method Promises New Approach to Skyscraper Construction

A new method of building steel-framed skyscrapers is coming into play.

📅   Fri September 29, 2017 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


The sandwich system consists of two steel plates that have been filled with concrete, the Engineering News-Record reported. According to engineers testing out the new method, the structure allows for the same strength, safety and serviceability as a typical reinforced concrete core would, but without the challenges rebar brings with it. Instead, the steel plates replace the necessity of both rebar and formwork. (Photo Credit: AISC)
The sandwich system consists of two steel plates that have been filled with concrete, the Engineering News-Record reported. According to engineers testing out the new method, the structure allows for the same strength, safety and serviceability as a typical reinforced concrete core would, but without the challenges rebar brings with it. Instead, the steel plates replace the necessity of both rebar and formwork. (Photo Credit: AISC)

A new method of building steel-framed skyscrapers is coming into play.

The sandwich system consists of two steel plates that have been filled with concrete, the Engineering News-Record reported. According to engineers testing out the new method, the structure allows for the same strength, safety and serviceability as a typical reinforced concrete core would, but without the challenges rebar brings with it. Instead, the steel plates replace the necessity of both rebar and formwork.

According to Ron Klemencic, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, (MKA), without the rebar and framework process, the sandwich system will allow for faster construction. MKA believes the system will cut construction timelines for buildings such as these in half, the Engineering News-Record reported.

There are even more benefits to the new method:

  • The core wall sections can be prefabricated, and include tie rods to separate the plates from the shear studs.
  • The use of the steel plates will eliminate both tolerance and overlapping trade problems, since steel tolerances are much tighter than concrete tolerances, the Engineering News-Record reported.
  • “If successful, the new approach will transform the marketplace,” Klemencic said.

    The method was first used for nuclear power plants across the U.S., but a $600,000 study, sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the Charles Pankow Foundation, are working to adapt the process to fit the leaner, taller walls of high rises. Perdue University's Robert L. and Terry L. Bowed Laboratory and the University of Buffalo are working on the three-year research project together.

    Some Drawbacks

    Although the method does have the power to transform building design, it does come with its own set of problems, the Engineering News-Record reported:

  • Typically, workers can cut into concrete at the job site without a second thought, but with the sandwich method, it's a lot easier to plan for openings before the piece is actually formed, Klemencic said.
  • The team is still working out problems related to the connections from module to another, as well as the coupling beam design, key for building in doorways and other bigger spaces.
  • The method is not yet covered in building codes, which means engineers must rely on peer reviews of performance-based design.
  • Real-World Application

    Despite the ongoing research and testing, MKA has already secured approval to use the method on a 58-story, 850-ft.-tall building in Seattle, which it will start to build in January 2018. Lease Crutcher Lewis will be the contractor, the Supreme Group has been chosen as the steel fabricator and the Erection Co. is the steel erector. All three groups have been working on a full-scale mock-up to test out the method before construction begins.

    Klemencic said the building should be complete in 2020.