Understanding Basic Structural Steel Building Codes

Building codes apply to industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. These codes are designed to ensure safety. Before you begin creating a building plan, you must consider the structural steel building codes that are required for your design.

Basic Building Codes for Structural Steel

Checking building integrity

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) provides guidelines to help you understand the building codes. The latest update to the code occurred in 2010. However, local requirements that you face may be stricter than the AISC standards, so be sure to check with your local regulating agency.

Structural steel is defined as all elements of the steel frame designed to support the building load. This includes anchors and plates that are attached to the steel and the fasteners used for connections. Shop standard material grades must be met according to the standards of ASTM International, an international organization that sets guidelines for testing and materials.

  • W and WT must meet ASTM A992
  • M, S, MT, and ST must meet ASTM A36
  • HP must meet ASTM A36
  • L must meet ASTM A36
  • C and MC must meet ASTM A36
  • HSS must meet ASTM A500 grade B
  • Steel Pipe must meet ASTM A53 grade B
  • Plates and Bars must meet ASTM A36

Test reports for this compliance must be maintained and the material identification must be visible up to the point of assembly. Seismic requirements must also be taken into consideration. In addition:

  • Thermal cutting is allowed.
  • Finished surfaces must be equal to or less than 500ยต in roughness.
  • Fabrication tolerances must meet AISC sections 6.4.1 through 6.4.6.
  • Finished contact bearing ends may not vary in length by more than 1 mm, other frame member under 30 feet may vary no more than 2 mm. Members over 30 feet must vary less than 3 mm.
  • Loose base and bearing plates and leveling plates must be grouted once set, and then checked for grade and line.
  • The total erection tolerances may not be exceeded by the combined mill and fabrication tolerances.

What Happens in Noncompliance

The fabricator is the responsible party for ensuring adherence to AISC structural steel building codes. The erector must ensure that all work is performed to the codes. Failure to comply with all code requirements, documentation, and inspection will result in refusal to grant an occupancy permit. Depending on the stage of the failure, some issues may be corrected while others will result in tear-down and rebuilding. The most important issue to keep in mind is that noncompliance can result in structural collapse resulting in property damage, injuries, and the loss of life.

Remember that you must submit your building plans and have them approved by the city or county building department. Deviations from the original design must be approved. There will be inspections as your project progresses and a final inspection before you receive an occupancy permit.