Association Update: Steel Tube Institute Hires New Director
On Oct. 14, 2022, Informed Infrastructure Editorial Director Todd Danielson interviewed Holly Schaubert, P.E., Institute Director: HSS for the Steel Tube Institute (STI).
The Steel Tube Institute was formed in 1930 when a group of manufacturers joined forces to advance the steel industry. Today it is the leading technical resource in North America for steel tube products. STI is dedicated to advancing the growth and competitiveness of North America’s steel tubular products. Its strength is bringing together resources to move the industry forward through active collaboration. It accomplishes this by effective promotion, education and problem solving, targeting all trades from engineers and architects to fabricators and field installers.
For more information, visit the STI website at steeltubeinstitute.org.
The full interview video can be viewed above or at bit.ly/3O6bBLD but we wanted to include some excerpts in this issue.
Danielson: Please tell me about your new role at STI as Institute Director: HSS. How is that specific to hollow structural section (HSS), and are there other institute directors at STI?
Schaubert: My role at Steel Tube Institute is to work closely with our member companies to lead the organization’s technical, educational and marketing efforts to promote the use of Hollow Structural Sections.
The [STI] participates in the development of design specifications through their work with organizations like the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) [and other industry organizations].
We also develop technical materials and educational content to support the design community.
[STI] is broken into two arms: the HSS Committee and the Conduit Committee. Dale Crawford is the director of the Conduit Committee, and he’s also the executive director of the organization as a whole.
Danielson: What are some common misconceptions about what organizations such as STI do for their industries?
Schaubert: Some people don’t realize what a great resource they have in industry organizations. As a young engineer, for instance, I didn’t know about the valuable resources industry organizations have available to the design community.
There’s a plethora of resources available: technical resources on the engineering side, environmental resources, economy resources.
In addition to the resources the organizations have available, they’re also working with the code and specification writers to ensure those products are adequately represented when developing those codes and specifications.
Within industry organizations such as the Steel Tube Institute, there are experts you can refer to, and we can help put you in touch with those experts if we aren’t able to answer your questions ourselves.
[Another misconception is] some people think we manufacture steel—and we don’t—but we can point you in the right direction, because our member companies do produce steel.
Danielson: Please describe some areas where building designers and engineers lack sufficient knowledge of steel and other building materials to make the best design decisions, and how can they learn more so they’re better prepared?
Schaubert: Two main areas where I think engineers lack sufficient knowledge is connection design and economy of HSS. As far as connection design, we have a number of resources available at the Steel Tube Institute. We have HSS Connex, which is a software available on our website. We have spreadsheet design tools.
We also have webinars on connection design, and another great webinar we have teaches how to utilize mainstream software to design HSS connections.
As far as economy, there’s a perception that HSS is more expensive than other options, and when you’re comparing the cost per foot of an HSS member, that is sometimes true. But with HSS, you’re potentially getting a higher capacity for that member, and then the footprint of your member can also be smaller. So those things need to be taken into account.
Similarly, we have resources available on the economy of HSS. We have a webinar called “Debunking the Myth of HSS Costs,” and we have an article, “HSS Saving You Money.” As part of my strategy for 2023 and upcoming years, I’d like to expand on those resources.
Danielson: What are some best practices and use cases for designing with steel and steel tube in particular?
Schaubert: Engineers, when they specify HSS sizes, don’t always take into account the wall thickness required of the HSS to transfer the connection forces, because in half the country, that connection design is the responsibility of the fabricator.
Once the fabricator is designing connections, they discover [the specified] HSS size doesn’t work for that connection, because the wall thickness won’t be able to transfer the forces at the connection, so they need to increase the HSS sizes later in the game. It gives this perception that connections are difficult, and HSS is more expensive than other options. But if those things were taken into account when specifying the size of the HSS, that would change the perception.
Again, we have some tools available to help with that. We have HSS Connex, which is very easy to use and can help you determine what thickness of member you need without necessarily having to go through the whole connection design.
Another best practice would be to use 50ksi steel. ASTM A500 grade C increased to 50ksi for all shapes in 2021. Previously, rounds were 42ksi, and rectangles and squares were 46ksi. But now the material being supplied by the manufacturers is 50ksi, so it would be best to go ahead and use that 50ksi in design and take full advantage of that strength.
Danielson: What are your goals as the new director for HSS, short and long-term? How do you see yourself changing or improving the organization?
Schaubert: My short-term goals are to learn as much as I can about the HSS industry to find out where our gaps are and where we can best serve the industry.
We’ve done a great job reaching out to engineers—a lot of our content is focused for engineers—and I want to expand that to the architectural community, general contractors and fabricators.
Then I’d also like to expand our resources as far as cost comparisons. That’s a commonly asked question, and I think it’s a gap we have comparing HSS to other materials within and outside the steel industry, to better inform the design community so they can make the best decisions for their project.
And then, of course, my long-term vision would be to increase the market share of HSS in the construction market.