Delegating Connection Design

NASCC: The Virtual Steel Conference Recap

The Harman Group Vice President and Quality Assurance Manager, Clifford Schwinger, P.E. presented a webinar at this year’s AISC North American Steel Construction Conference. The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta from April 22-24, was changed to a virtual conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cliff’s presentation was on the topic “Delegation of Connection Design.” Delegation of structural steel connection design by Engineer of Record (EOR) to the steel fabricator’s connection design engineer is a practice common in many parts of the United States.

The rules mandating the proper way of delegating connection design are delineated in AISC 303-16, “AISC Code of Standard Practice for Steel Buildings and Bridges.”

Key points of the webinar were as follows:

  • The Engineer of Record is ultimately responsible for the safe design of all connections, even when delegating connection design.
  • The latest Code of Standard Practice, AISC 303-16 provides engineers with three options for dealing with connection design. They are:
    • Option #1: The EOR designs and details all connections on the contract document
    • Option #2: The EOR provides connection details on the contract documents in sufficient detail such that an experienced steel detailer can select or complete the connection details.
    • Option #3: The EOR delegates design of the connections to a licensed engineer working for the structural steel fabricator.
  • When the EOR delegates connection design they must follow either Option #3A or Option #3B.
    • Option #3A: The EOR designs and details all member reinforcement at the connections and identifies where such member reinforcement is required. The EOR delegates design of the connections to the fabricator’s design engineer.
    • Option #3B: The EOR provides project-specific concept connection details illustrating the conceptual configuration of member reinforcement at the connections and provides bidding quantities quantifying the extent of member reinforcement at the connections. The EOR delegates design of both the member reinforcement at the connections and the connection design to the fabricator’s connection design engineer.
  • The cost of connections is a significant percentage of total structural steel cost. Accordingly, when delegating connection design, engineers must:
    • Show all beam reactions on the framing plans.
    • Consider connection constructability (i.e., will the pieces fit together?) and connection designability (i.e., will the connections be designable?) when configuring the framing.
    • Follow the rules for delegating connection design as stipulated in the Code of Standard Practice.
  • Following the Code of Standard Practice’s rules for delegating connection design will:
    • Eliminate confusion among bidders as to the EOR’s intent regarding what they expect with respect to the design and detailing of connections. (This puts all bidders on a level playing field and should narrow the range between high and low bids).
    • Enhances constructability by forcing engineers to consider during the design phase how steel framing members will connect together (versus during the steel detailing phase of construction when options for altering the framing are limited).
    • Enhances the efficiency of the design process by requiring engineers to produce higher quality contract documents.
    • Reduces questions, RFI’s, change orders and arguments during steel detailing, fabrication, and construction.
    • Makes buildings safer by requiring engineers to carefully consider all connection details during design – even when they will be delegating connection design.

The latest AISC Code of Standard Practice, AISC 303-16 provides a concise roadmap explaining the responsibility of all parties when delegating connection design. For a more detailed explanation about delegation of structural steel connection design, see the article that Cliff wrote in the April 2020 issue of AISC’s Modern Steel Construction magazine. If you have any questions, email Cliff at cschwinger@harmangroup.com.