How Steel Helps Architects Fulfill Their Innovative Visions

Architects can take advantage of steel’s full potential by partnering with steel producers early in the design process.

The use of steel in design and construction changes the way architects approach projects. Steel gives architects the freedom to create structures in scales that weren’t possible before. And by working closely with steel producers, such as partnering with Nucor’s team, architects can take advantage of steel’s full potential—maybe in ways they hadn’t even considered—to take their projects to the next level. Here are a few ways that using steel and partnering with a steel producer early in the process can help architects solve some of today’s biggest design challenges.

1. Pushing the boundaries of design

Jayshree Shah, a self-employed architect based in Chicago, says steel gives you the freedom to think about designed space differently (learn more about what inspires Shah). That includes the ability to use steel to create more open space, an important element more building owners are requesting. Steel is the optimal solution for designers who prefer column-free spaces for flexibility and large gathering spaces with fewer chopped-up areas.

Architects can use steel to create more open space.

“Steel allows freedom for architects to design the floor plan the way they want and not around columns that disrupt space,” Shah says. “A column 10 feet into the ballroom space means fewer people can enjoy that beautiful room and its view.”

Partnering with a steel producer at the earliest stages of a project’s design ensures architects have knowledge of—and access to—specialized steel products, such as Nucor’s Aeos™ (Agile, Efficient, Optimized, and Sustainable), the only American-produced A913 high-strength structural steel.

Innovative steel like Aeos can be used to design structures that would have been extremely difficult to accomplish or even unthinkable in years past.

One example is the use of high-strength steel in Salesforce™ Tower Chicago, one of the latest high-rise buildings under construction in Chicago.

Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA), the engineer of record, and Walsh Construction, the general contractor, used Aeos throughout the tower’s structural framing system. This allowed them to craft a building strong enough to meet the engineering requirements for a tower of this magnitude, but flexible and structurally versatile enough to achieve the project’s innovative architectural vision, such as its stunning glass facade and column-free corners.

“Certainly taking advantage of the high-strength steel in the project reduced the column sizes, which reduced the [size of the] enclosures, which made it more desirable to the architect and actually creates more leasable space for the developer,” says Dave Eckmann, PE, SE, FAIA, Senior Principal for MKA. (Learn more about Dave’s thoughts on steel.)

2. Strengthening sustainability

Patrick Hassett, President of Hassett Engineering near San Francisco, has advocated using steel in building designs throughout his career, and one of the benefits is its contribution to sustainability within projects.

Hassett believes sustainability will continue to drive many project decisions—another reason steel, especially recycled steel, will continue to be the building material of choice. Nucor, for example, is North America’s largest recycler, with some products comprised of nearly 100% recycled content.

“The low carbon footprint and the reduction of greenhouse gases are huge,” Hassett says. “If you think about the generations that are coming, we’ve got to at least start the process, with sustainability being a key word.”

“Definitely sustainability is something that’s here to stay … from all aspects of design, and that’s one part of it,”

Steel can make buildings more sustainable and also improve speed of construction.

says Ahmad Rahimian, Executive Vice President and USA Director of Building Structures at WSP. “It all goes together.”

Steel producers can partner with architects to determine what solutions help meet sustainability goals while also protecting the integrity of the project design. Again, the access to products such as Nucor’s Econiq™, the first net-zero carbon steel produced at scale, provides designers with the confidence to push forward on their designs while being able to prove to stakeholders that they’re exploring the most sustainable options possible and partnering with firms that share their same goals around sustainability.

3. Maximizing budget

Collaboration between architects and steel producers during the early phases of a project can yield benefits for several reasons. That includes determining budget and schedule as well as whether the materials are the right fit for the project. Important discussions include making initial decisions regarding engineering requirements and selecting the right steel materials.

Close collaboration between architects and steel producers can yield a variety of benefits.

It is well known that using structural steel can have vast benefits to a project’s speed of construction versus other materials, but working closely with Nucor’s Construction Solutions team can take schedule improvements to the next level. By engaging a steel producer at the onset of a project, potential schedule bottlenecks or alternative design approaches can be determined together.

Nucor’s Construction Solutions team also keeps designers apprised of the latest innovations and design trends, and can assist with feasibility studies when exploring options—such as Aeos or Econiq. It’s a process that has paid off for architects and engineers.

Nucor’s Construction Solutions team also keeps designers apprised of the latest innovations and design trends, and can assist with feasibility studies when exploring options—such as Aeos or Econiq. It’s a process that has paid off for architects and engineers.

“We like to engage as many bright minds as possible,” says Eckmann with MKA. “We’re involved in Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) projects where the trade partners or contractors and subcontractors are sitting at the same table with us from the beginning. Obviously, we know how to design and detail, but they know how to procure and construct. So, when we put all those bright minds together, we can do amazing things.”