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RE: Structural System Determination

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This is not a simple question but I will attempt to answer as best as I can. Many factors enter into the decision: economics, required fire rating, environment (wet vs. dry exposure), speed of construction, appearance, building layout (repetitive or non-repetitive; transfer girders or trusses, etc.), foundation considerations, winter construction, etc. It is usually a colorabative decision between the Architect and Engineer, unless it is simple structure and then it may obvious to all parties which way to go. If a CM is on board, it may be a 3 way decision. Sometimes the Owner may express his desire to have a particular type of structure like a metal building or precast. If there is a good reason not to, it is up to the Architect and Engineer to give him good reason to go to some other system.
To give you a couple examples:
Fire rating is normally determined by building code. This rating may then in turn determine the required slab thickness and whether you use lightweight or normal weight concrete. 
A concrete frame building of a predetermined height may be too heavy for the soil conditions to use a spread foundation system and therefore a more expensive foundation may be the result. This consideration may make the steel frame option more desirable from an economic standpoint.
A building may have lower floor to floor heights with a particular structural system (like a concrete flat plate) that translates into other economic savings in such things as vertical plumbing runs, stairs, elevators and outside facade.
I hope this helps!
Jim K.
-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Bodkin [mailto:TBODKIN(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 8:29 AM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
Subject: Structural System Determination

Who typically selects the structural system that will be used for a building structure?  Does it come from the Architect, CM or owner?
I know it varies based on several factors but I just wondering who typically specifies it.
Also, I'm picking a thesis topic at Villanova and the answere to this question will help me out alot.  Do consultants generally specialize in one type of sytem when it comes to building and industrial structures ie. steel frame, prescast concrete, cast in place concrete floor systems and frames, masonry?
What usually governs the selection of a structural sytem and what is usually used in the Northeastern part of the country and in the rest of the country for that matter.  I know (or think) concrete fairs better in the drier, non freezing areas, CMU does not so well in the wet freezing areas, and steel has fire proofing requirements.
I would appreciate input based on your experiences.
Thomas W. Bodkin, E.I.T.
Carroll Engineering Corporation
Phone: 215-343-5700 x360
Fax: 215-343-0875