Making beams and columns more resilient during earthquakes


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Courtesy of ajc architects

Innovating a new AEC solution for seismic activity

One of the most perilous aspects of building design is factoring in the potential for seismic activity and the danger of collapse. DuraFuse Frames has created a new fuse plate system to absorb the damage from an earthquake and protect steel moment frame beams and columns from damage. With AutoCAD, they are able to clearly communicate the detailed connections to architects, engineers, and fabricators.

Beams and columns protected during a seismic event

Seismic activity can have the most devastating impacts on a structure. When steel moment frame beams and columns are compromised during an earthquake, an entire building is at risk of collapse or may be completely unsalvageable.

DuraFuse Frames has set out to solve these beam and column challenges with the solution of a fuse plate that absorbs the damage during an earthquake and prevents yielding, buckling, and fractures of a beam or column. In the event of a severe seismic event, only the plate would need to be replaced—not the entire beam. At the same time, the DuraFuse Frames system is stiffer than many moment frame systems, much lighter, and cost effective with less lateral beam bracing.

DuraFuse Frames fuse plate

DuraFuse Frames fuse plate. Courtesy of DuraFuse Frames.

“We want to finally provide a resilient moment-frame connection for earthquake events where the beam does not yield,” says Dr. Paul Richards, vice president of research and development, DuraFuse Frames. “After a seismic event, it is easy to replace only the fuse plate, making the building inhabitable and easy to repair.”

Clarity delivered with AutoCAD

A DuraFuse Frame system connection holds the beam and column together, including plates, bolts, and welds. The seismic criteria, layout, location of the building, and number of lateral seismic frames all determine which sizes of beams and columns are needed to be designed. No two projects are the same and must be highly customized for dimensions and sizes at any particular joint.

After completing the structural analysis and 3D modeling for a project, DuraFuse Frames designs and delivers clear drawings for these precise connections in AutoCAD or in Revit models, depending on the client’s specifications and preferences.

AutoCAD drawing for DuraFuse Frames installation. Courtesy of DuraFuse Frames.

With AutoCAD, they are able to accurately communicate every aspect of the fuse plate connections and each bolt and weld—whether it’s for the architect, structural engineer, or fabricator. According to the DuraFuse Frames team, AutoCAD is especially helpful to see any conflicts with the plates and what they will actually look like.

“We assemble schedules with our connection IDs and dimensions and then put it into AutoCAD for our structural drawing for assembly,” says Michael Reynolds, project engineer, DuraFuse Frames. “It’s important that we can create these accurate sheets to send back to the engineer or directly to the fabricator.”

“Without AutoCAD, there would be no way to communicate the complexity of our connections. Having everything drawn in AutoCAD, we can provide clear details. The ability to accurately convey our designs to engineers and fabricators is a great need, and AutoCAD makes it possible for us to accomplish it.”

Dr. Amy McCall, Development Engineer, DuraFuse Frames

Real-world application and installation

According to FEMA, many higher education campuses across Utah are located in high or very high-risk seismic zones. AutoCAD drawings are currently being used for DuraFuse Frame’s installation at the new expansion and renovation of the Salt Lake City Community College Jordan Campus Student Center. The 2-story, 50,000-foot building is set for completion in 2021.

Installation of DuraFuse Frames during construction of the Salt Lake City Community College Jordan Campus Student Center. Courtesy of DuraFuse Frames.

Working with Jacobsen Construction, AJC Architects, Reaveley Engineers, and more closely with Lundahl Iron Works (structural steel fabricator) and J&M Steel Solutions (structural steel erector), updated drawing revisions were completed utilizing AutoCAD to clearly demonstrate the unique configurations for both fabrication and erection. The finalized, approved drawings were then able to be easily shared with the entire design and construction team, keeping the project on schedule and flowing smoothly.

“The use of AutoCAD on this project really helped us with streamlining the project process as well as enhancing the ability to adjust to the varying conditions in the building and providing the platform to include the necessary details at the connections where they are critical,” says Ryan McKinney, engineering manager, DuraFuse Frames. “The clarity and ease of use which AutoCAD provides makes it a preferential tool for us and our clients, allowing us to perform as a valuable partner throughout the process.”

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