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Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing


Anatomic Iron’s design-detailing process greatly accelerates schedules.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing

If there is anything that builders want, it is for projects to go smoothly. Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing helps meet that objective with its design-detailing process, CFO and Vice President of Sales Clifford Young says.

The North Vancouver, Canada-based structural steel and design detailing company developed the process as an answer to challenges it found with the traditional detailing process. Previously, Anatomic Iron stepped into projects when they were 80 to 90 percent designed. Anatomic info box

But because these designs were not complete, Anatomic Iron encountered many issues that required it to create RFIs to send to the fabricator, which then were forwarded on to the general contractor, the structural engineer of record (EOR) or the architect. No action could be taken on the project until the RFIs were returned with answers which often takes weeks. 

Furthermore, the answers received are sometimes incomplete or subsequently lead to further problems and questions. “This whole back and forth process with multiple parties and indirect communication significantly delays the detailing of the job and results in us sitting at our desks waiting for answers instead of detailing the steel,” Young explains.

In 2009, Anatomic Iron began developing its design-detailing process together with the cooperation of structural EOR’s Adam Wood, PE, and Joe Rapp, PE, while employed at S.A. Miro. (Wood and Rapp have since partnered with Paul Espinoza, PE, formerly with S.A. Miro as well, and in 2014 the three founded Fortis Structural.) The key aspect of the design detailing process is that the detailer works directly for the EOR and commences detailing when the project’s design is only 50 percent complete or less.  

Since the detailing starts so early, Young explains, Anatomic Iron can advise the EOR on steel conflicts and problems in the design before the design drawings are issued for construction. This means that problems that would become time costly RFIs during the traditional detailing process are completely eliminated since the problems are resolved directly between the EOR and the detailer during the design phase. 

“The result is that the issued for construction design drawings are much cleaner and much better so we’re ahead of the game,” he says. Secondly, since Anatomic is working directly for the EOR, the steel is approved in the Tekla model by the EOR concurrent with design completion. This means that at the time of award of the steel fabrication contract, Anatomic only needs the fabricators drawing settings. Once these are programmed into Tekla all the shop drawings can be issued directly to fabrication since the approval process is already complete. This is the primary driver of schedule acceleration since the fabricator receives the for fabrication drawings within a week or two of award, rather than two months or more as is the case in the traditional detailing path.

Anatomic has enjoyed great success with this approach, which included its work on the expansion of Denver International Airport’s South Terminal with Wood, Rapp and Espinoza while at S.A. Miro in 2013. The project included a new hotel and two large diagrid canopies; one that went through the hotel and the second which carried over the large commuter train platform.

Anatomic Iron’s design-detailing process allowed it to reduce the project schedule by more than eight months. “We didn’t have the RFI problems that we would have on a traditional job,” Young recalls. “We had the fabrication drawings for Canam Structural ready to go at the same time S.A. Miro issued the release for construction design drawings.”



Smooth Sailing

Anatomic Iron recently teamed again with Wood at Fortis Structural on a radio tower for Central Park, a mixed-use development in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Young notes that this marked the 30th time the company has used the design-detailing process on a steel project.

Wood, who served as the project’s EOR at Fortis, says the development includes housing, a hospital and retail space. Because Central Park is located in a dead zone, it needed a telecommunications tower for emergency responders.

However, one of the project’s developers, Shea Properties, did not want the tower to be anything typical. “That’s where it became more of a sculptural piece with these three leaning and tapered poles,” Wood describes.

Anatomic Iron Project Manager Justine Koprowska-Janusz notes that the design-detailing process again allowed the company to circumvent the RFI process and work directly with Fortis. “This makes our job so much easier, as direct communication meant they could work quickly to resolve the problems we had,” she recalls. “It was mostly plain sailing for us.”

Wood also praises the work of Anatomic Iron. “They’re able to take these complicated forms and geometries and break it down into drawings the fabricators can work with,” he says. “You give them something difficult and they can figure it out.”

Gaining Traction 

Anatomic Iron has enjoyed success with the design-detailing process, but it has found it challenging to get architects and owners to embrace the approach. However, Young reports, each year more are adopting it. 

When the company attended the AISC conference five years ago, it did not receive a very warm reception when it pitched the idea to engineers. They all looked a little skeptical, he admits. They said, “Sounds like more work, why would I want to do that?”

But when Anatomic Iron again presented at the show this April, Young noticed that the tide had significantly turned. “Almost every engineer was interested in the process, and more importantly they already knew about it,” he reports, adding that many were now using it to some extent in their organizations.

“The acceptance in the market for the design-detailing process has changed a lot over the last five years,” he says. “We are now working on projects using this process with three separate engineers and continually trying to grow it.”

Although the process has gained traction, “It’s not mainstream by any means,” he says. “At this point, it’s really up to the engineer to sell the process during their project selling and bid process.”

It also is key for owners to ask for it as well. “They may not be interested in such fine level points as the detailing process since this is quite a small part of the total project scope, but they might say, ‘I want this to be a design/build project,’ in which case it will be a given that we use design-detailing,” he says. 

The critical element for the owners to understand is the major schedule acceleration this process has on the whole project path. Since the fabrication of the steel is started so much earlier, then all other steps such as steel erection, building envelopes and interior work can also start that much earlier. This is the key benefit that is helping the EORs sell the owners on use of the design-detailing process on their projects.

Young predicts that the process will grow in importance in its sector, while Koprowska-Janusz wants continued success for the company. “Anatomic Iron was the pioneer of this system, and we would like to go on being in this position for the best and brightest projects in the world,” she says.

Wood adds that Fortis will continue working with Anatomic Iron, and continue to develop the design-detailing process. This includes an upcoming office tower that Fortis is designing and which will allow both firms to show their skills using this process. “It’s a signature job and showcases the capacity to do some really cool things,” he says. 


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