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President’s Column: May 2023

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BCSA President Mark Denham

The draft version of the guide, Fatigue design of crane supporting structures has been issued for comment to the BCSA Process and Technical Committee. The steelwork industry was very lucky to be able to persuade Charles King to work on this document. Some of you will remember that Charles used to work for the SCI before moving to Canada, he was heavily involved in writing publications on portal frame design in the past. There was a feeling that the UK structural steelwork industry needed more guidance on fatigue design and when it became public knowledge that Charles was returning to the UK, the BCSA didn’t waste any time in asking Charles to take the lead in drafting the document. This guide will help designers to understand the physics and then be able to navigate the relevant design codes. There is a lot of work to do still but I’m hoping a document will be issued in the next six months.

It was recently explained to me that the Eurocodes were never supposed to be design codes for the design of steelwork but were supposed to be the design rules for the academics to be able to design rules for the designers in the field. The approach as described makes sense. What should have happened partially in hindsight is that the steelwork designers at the “coal face” should have had a large summary document/book that encapsulated all the necessary salient points of the Eurocodes in one easily accessible and manageable document. This would have been very similar to the large design books that govern US design, with everything all in one place. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way everybody in the UK became distracted and we all had to purchase far too many design codes and UK National Annexes that would easily swamp the whole surface area of the largest of office space.

Unfortunately, it appears that Eurocode development has been hijacked by academic institutions that prefer the design process to be further complicated. Efficient steelwork design is important, but what we don’t want is the process to be further complicated such that design is dominated with largely unnecessary Finite Element design and so forth which adds no real value compared to the complexity involved in obtaining a solution. Surely, the easier it is to design the product, the easier it is to specify the product and that needs to be the mantra of the BCSA in its efforts to help the structural steelwork industry. The BCSA has already recognised that they need to drive the development of the UK National Annexes which will govern the use of the new Eurocodes for the design of steel structures to ensure that they are usable. The BCSA is also acutely aware that the new Eurocodes will need updated design guides to help the practical designer to be able to navigate the changes in the Eurocodes. The structural steelwork industry must be thankful to the money invested by British Steel at the time of the introduction of the first Eurocodes when they bank-rolled the development of a number of very important design guides produced by the SCI. If steelwork is to maintain its dominant market share, these guides will all need updating such that structural engineers remain comfortable designing buildings in steel rather than other materials. Rest assured the BCSA is on the case.

Mark Denham
BCSA President

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