Kim Olson –  constructsteel Vice-Chair 

Innovate with structural steel

Innovation is a subject that interests me. When you mention “innovation”, companies in e-commerce and AI may first come to mind. But what about the major players in the broader technology sector whose commitment to innovation has led to continued success over the last several decades? That is what interests me the most. How can we emulate these types of companies and come together to share innovations to grow the steel industry as a whole? Internally, we are always exploring new ideas of how to increase the size of the steel industry pie – to grow the market to benefit the entire industry. This is one ideal we have in common that binds us together.

How do we make it happen? Developing new materials is one low-hanging fruit opportunity with the potential for a big impact. We must continually push the boundaries of steel strength while also increasing ductility and weldability. This will ensure steel remains competitive with other building materials both in terms of cost, but also sustainability by using less material to achieve the same results. As sustainability becomes a larger project driver, the impact of steel’s fire protection methods will be scrutinised more. Are there ways we can naturally increase the fire resistance of steel?

In the United States, the most recent significant steel innovation is SpeedCore. SpeedCore is a steel plate composite wall system that combines the speed, accuracy, and tight tolerances of steel and the stiffness of concrete. As a leave-in-place forming system for the concrete, it removes the need for reinforcement and embed plates to be placed onsite. This system allows steel erection to proceed without waiting for the concrete to cure. Construction schedules are reduced and therefore cost savings are realised. This innovative system didn’t come out of thin air. It has been used for years in the nuclear industry but only recently adapted for more common construction projects. What other technology and solutions are out there that can be repurposed into the next steel construction innovation to propel our industry forward? I’d love to hear your ideas.

constructsteel members can participate in one of our task groups to share these types of ideas. Sharing knowledge may spur a new concept, or you may be able to leverage a solution used in other parts of the world. Currently, constructsteel has task groups focusing on composite steel-concrete and steel-timber, life cycle assessments and zero energy buildings, short/medium span bridges, high strength steel, modular construction, and disaster prevention and restoration. Let me know if you see a trend or a need for efforts in other areas.