Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects

Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects Hero|Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects 1|Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects 2|Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects 3

Structural steel detailing involves the interpretation of architectural and engineering designs to gain a thorough working knowledge of the design intent for a bridge, building, or other structure. Based on this understanding, steel detailers then create 3D models that produce detailed erection plans, shop drawings, NC exports, reports and other documentation for use by steel fabricators and erectors during manufacturing and installation.

To ensure millimeter-perfect dimensions and designs, structural steel detailing requires high-quality and precise 3D modeling. This modeling provides a suite of data and information to produce other 2D drawings and deliverables, and can be undertaken through several steel detailing software packages.

Steel detailers play an essential role in the construction cycle, facilitating collaboration, communication and cooperation between all project stakeholders, particularly engineers, architects and fabricators.

Given the essential role that structural steel detailing plays in bridge, commercial and industrial projects, it must be precise. Precise structural steel detailing confirms that a structure is not only geometrically correct, but that it is constructible and erectable, and that fabrication is practical. Precise steel detailing also helps to avoid project delays and costly rework or replacement. All of these benefits are particularly pertinent for complex projects in which miscalculations or human error can compromise its viability, safety and structural integrity.

Avoid Project Delays, Rework and Replacement

Prefabricated steelwork might be transported to a construction site hundreds, or even thousands of miles away. If this steelwork arrives on-site and is found to be incorrect, expensive rework may be required. Or, in the worst-case scenario, complete replacement might be the only course of action.

Rework and replacement of structural steelwork can be incredibly expensive, cause severe project delays and shut down a construction site altogether. For instance, if the incorrect steelwork includes columns that support trusses, the steel erection will likely be shut down until the steelwork can be corrected.

Precise steel detailing helps avoid these types of project delays and costly rework or replacement. Multi-discipline 3D model coordination, incorporating all construction services, delivers fully integrated clash detection capabilities to resolve delays and rework. Interactive development streamlines the design process by checking fit-up, and resolves design discrepancies and intent before the final phase of the geometry lockdown.

Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects 2

Confirm Erectability and Constructibility

Structural steelwork must fit together perfectly. However, it must also be erectable; once on-site, there must be enough space to erect or swing the steelwork into place.

For example, if a beam needs to be installed between two members, but the ends are tucked in between the two flanges and it runs close to the web of those two beams, it will not be easy to erect the beam—unless it can be dropped between the two flanges and then swung around.

Precise structural steel detailing ensures that steelwork can be assembled and erected without:

  • Impacting the flatness or straightness of the steel, which can erode its strength and stiffness
  • Applying force to connections and deforming the structure from its intended geometry
  • Causing issues related to mechanical fit, such as between bearing and girder, or nut and bolt.

With the help of precise structural steel detailing, the erectability and constructibility of structural steel can be confirmed long before the steelwork is delivered on-site.

Verify Design Intent with Precise Structural Steel Detailing

Preconstruction modeling and planning can allow stakeholders to visualize a design concept, which improves communication and cooperation between all project stakeholders.

Precise structural steel drawings can help verify that design intent has been accurately interpreted, and that fabrication deliverables have been created in accordance with the design intent.

For instance, structural steel drawings help ensure that elements like bolt holes and welds are fabricated in accordance with the design intent. If a 16-diameter bolt is specified, but the connection necessitates a 24-diameter bolt, the beam will inevitably fail and collapse. Precise detailing enables early detection, correction and verification of the connection design intent so that such a scenario does not occur.

Ensure Fabrication is Practical

Precise structural steel detailing ensures that fabrication is practical; it reveals whether a welder can actually access the member to complete a weld, particularly if it is a complex geometry.

For example, if a weld is located only three inches away from another connection or plate, there may not be enough space to perform the designed weld.

Similarly, if a full-strength butt weld is called for, the member should be prepped with an edge bevel applied. However, as down-hand butt welds are preferable, it makes them difficult to weld from underneath. As such, if a piece of steel is too large to rotate, access for the butt weld needs to be considered.

Why Precise Structural Steel Detailing is Critical for Complex Projects 1

Provide Cost and Schedule Certainty

On large-scale projects, cost and scheduling requirements are integral. Clear and accurate steel detailing is essential to meet these benchmarks and ensure costly mistakes are detected early on. This means that the potential for rework delays, or even complete site shutdowns, can be avoided altogether.

At DBM Vircon, we use Integrated Design Processes to help ensure cost and schedule certainty by removing unnecessary design and shop detailing duplication. Integrated design offers real-time project updates that allow all project stakeholders to be proactive throughout all stages of the project and accelerates the transition from conceptual design to fabrication level modeling.

Structural Steel Detailing Helps to Create a Digital Twin

When this level of steel detailing precision is combined with early project involvement, it allows for the creation of a digital twin: a dynamic, 3D model of an asset. DBM Vircon can utilize the BIM models created during construction to build a single consolidated model—a digital twin—for use in long-term facility management.

There are a lot of moving parts in assets such as power stations, mine sites, stadiums and buildings, all of which require constant maintenance. Having a live model that reflects the real-world circumstances on the ground helps simplify and streamline the ongoing management and maintenance processes of these assets.

A digital twin offers enhanced knowledge capture through graphical interfaces and visuals, as well as improved safety, productivity, responsiveness and decision making through access to asset engineering and facility data. A virtual walk-through of assets can be used for training purposes, as well as rapid problem resolution. Shutdowns are safer due to pre-planning and animated rehearsals facilitated by the digital twin.


Structural steel detailing services are vital. They help ensure that the fabrication process flows seamlessly. While the whole process only makes up 2-4% of the total steel package costs on a project, poor steel detailing could cost millions of dollars in fabrication rework and schedule delays. Precise steel detailing means there is no need to halt fabrication to confirm missing details or dimensions, the construction timeline is expedited and costs are reduced.

By investing in quality detailing undertaken by a partner like DBM Vircon, the enhanced constructibility of a project pays for itself many times over. DBM Vircon provides precise and accurate detailing to verify all elements of a steel structure, and avoid any unnecessary expenditure on additional labor and materials.