Case Studies

Computerized Structural Design

Supporting Heavy Industrial Clients through Value-added Engineering

In today’s structural engineering world, the concept of computerized engineering is the industry standard; however, it wasn’t always that way. Founded in 1968, Computerized Structural Design (CSD) was one of the first firms to develop and write software for structural engineering companies.

“We’ve been in business for a long time… more than 45 years now,” reveals Curt Miller, president of CSD. “When we started, computerized design was a big deal and we were one of the first firms to develop analysis programs, some of which we still use today. We developed a library of analysis and design software that ran on a Wang 2200 mini-computer and Wang Laboratories sold the programs to other structural engineering firms.”

A National Leader in Innovation from the Beginning

Since its inception, CSD has always strived for ingenuity. After all, the company is a result of the collective innovation of a handful of University of Wisconsin (UW) professors and students. “CSD began with Don Buettner and LeRoy Lutz, professors at UW in Milwaukee,” recounts Miller, who’s now been with CSD for 37 years. “Their colleague, Jim Fisher, also worked for the firm from its inception and eventually joined CSD full-time in 1973. As the firm grew, the three professors recruited many of their students and I was one of them. Eventually, they passed the company on, but the philosophy has always been slow, steady growth and we have stuck with that over the years.”

Today, CSD has grown to serve nationwide clients, wherever there is heavy industry, mainly in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. “We develop relationships with clients that are going to be around for the long haul,” explains Miller. “We want clients who value engineering. Ones who don’t see it as a commodity, thinking all engineering will be the same regardless of the price. We’re registered in all 50 states, so we try to find customers on a national level.”

Tackling the Complex, Complicated Big Industry Jobs

CSD works with some of the largest heavy industrial players in the country, the largest being Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI) and Nucor Corporation (Nucor). CSD performs structural engineering design of industrial buildings, such as steel mills, manufacturing plants, buildings with heavy overhead cranes, warehouses, equipment support structures, hangars, rack structures and equipment foundations. The company also specializes in the design of aluminum space frames for skylight structures, the design of erection bracing for buildings under construction, connections for steel-framed buildings and the design of precast concrete and forensic studies.

“We go after industrial-type projects,” details Miller. “Steel mills, heavy crane runways and heavy structural steel – anything that’s a little unusual – that’s the type of work we migrate to.”

SDI, a steel producer based in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the fifth largest producer of carbon steel products in the U.S., is one of CSD’s longstanding customers. In May 2011, the ground work began on SDI LaFarga, the first copper rod manufacturing plant in New Haven, Ind. “We designed all of the structural steel and foundations for this 89,000-square-foot, $39 million facility,” reveals Miller.

As demand for copper products, and wire especially, is expected to increase in the next few years, the SDI LaFarga plant is set to become a major competitor in red metals domestically and internationally. “We also recently completed the design of structural steel and foundations for a new rolling mill facility for SDI in Pittsboro, Ind.,” adds Miller.

CSD has worked hand in hand with Nucor, the second largest steel producer in the U.S. “Nucor is installing a 400-foot-tall tower at their new facility in Convent, La.,” notes Miller. “The tower is designed to support a 200-foot-tall reactor weighing 1.2 million pounds, which enriches iron-ore into direct reduced iron pellets that are melted, along with scrap steel, for new steel production. This project is a major structure for us with a multitude of heavy structural steel challenges.”

Fitting Every Piece of the Puzzle

Miller reveals that CSD has also provided structural engineering services on the Freedom Tower in New York City. “We were selected as one of only a handful of firms to design the structural steel connections on the Freedom Tower and we’re proud to have participated in this landmark project,” he shares. “With so much structural steel, the tower needed multiple teams to design the connections of the complex steel frame.”

While the connection portion of a project sounds like a trivial part, Miller ensures CSD’s specialty in the service is invaluable. “When you have 50,000 tons of steel it’s quite an effort to design all of the connections between the pieces and parts,” he explains. “Typically, the design of connections happens two ways; the engineer of record can show the connections on the drawings, or they can choose to delegate the design to a third-party company. If you go down that road, you must provide all of the structural loading information. This is pretty standard on high-rise buildings and stadiums, any sizable job, but it’s our preference to design our own connections on buildings that we design. Why would we want to delegate that to someone else; it’s giving away work.”

Recruiting talented engineers and focusing on big-industry players has allowed CSD to thrive for more than 45 years. “We’ve had our share of challenges, trying to stay profitable and strong through the recession,” shares Miller. “We’ve relied on the industrial building market, because these clients continue to remain strong.”

Since 1968, Computerized Structural Design has been tackling some of the most challenging industrial-sized projects, committed to an innovative approach and integrated engineering and design.

Published on: August 5, 2014

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