Curving Steel for Iconic Structures

One of the seminars at the recently concluded North American Steel Construction Conference (NASCC) held in Toronto on March 26, 27, and 28 dealt with the issue of whether iconic buildings can be affordable:  ICONIC AND ECONOMIC–CAN YOU HAVE BOTH? It is a topic that comes up from time to time with those of us who curve steel for a living.  We price the curved steel incorporated in the designs architects and engineers propose to the owners of buildings to be built.  Then a value judgment can be made about costs and benefits of various proposals.  Sometimes curved steel members are a relatively minor part of a structure, e.g. a canopy at the entrance of a high-rise building.  Sometimes the curved steel members form a curtain wall encircling an entire arena.  And sometimes the curved steel members constitute the trusses for an entire retractable roof of a stadium.

Some architects and engineers think that curved steel adds to the cost of a structure.  Of course, a curved beam, for example, includes the cost of bending it and therefore would be more expensive than a straight steel beam.  But there are occasions when a curved steel beam would be less expensive than a segmented curve that would require full-penetration welds to achieve a curve.  Benders and Rollers, companies that specialize in curving steel, welcome the opportunity to become involved as a steel team member to offer cost-saving solutions for a variety of applications early in a project.

One iconic structure where early involvement by a Bender/Roller saved time and money is the Gerald Ratner Athletic Center at the University of Chicago designed by star architect Cesar Pelli and winner of the AISC Engineering Award of Excellence.  His design called for 16 reverse curves of W33 x 169# beams cold bent on the x-x axis, each without a $1,500 weld splice.  A total of 310 tons of curved beams form the wavy roof which is supported by cables attached to soaring masts.  Working with the engineers and architects, our reverse curves resulted in savings exceeding $24,000.

Reverse Curves by Chicago Metal Rolled Products
An Iconic Structure in Chicago by Cesar Pelli

Another iconic structure is the University of Phoenix Stadium designed by another world renowned architect, Peter Eisenman and the AISC IDEAS2 National Award Winner.  Again when we became involved early in the project, we were able to contribute ideas about the curving of 410 tons of 12in square tubing for the lenticular trusses that form the retractable roof of the stadium.  Typically when curving tubes this size, as much as ten feet of “grip” or “trim” on either end of a rolled tube goes to scrap.  However, with our advanced technology, we were able to provide a near-net yield of 52 feet of distortion-free arc from 54 foot lengths of tube.  This process saved 80,000 lbs. of steel.  Chicago Metal’s solutions also substantially reduced freight charges.

12 Inch Square Tubing Curved for the Retractable Roof
An Iconic Stadium in Phoenix by Peter Eisenman

So, if you have a project that involves curved steel, it pays to contact a Bender/Roller early in the process to obtain not just job costing but also cost-saving suggestions.  And then you can help build the next iconic structure.


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