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In the SMARTconnection research project methods are developed to include steel connections within parametric models.

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The design process of a steel structure for the utility building industry is fragmented. Here, two parties are involved in designing the steel structure. The structural engineer is responsible for the designing the structures geometry and to dimension the steel members and the detail engineer, mostly working for a steel contractor, is responsible for designing the details. Since this process is linear and not iterative, the detail engineer has to make their details based on the by the structural engineers determined member dimensions.

In many cases, connections are governing in determining the ideal cross-section. When the cross-sections dimensions are two small to allow for a structural sufficient connection, it can lead to two scenarios. In the first scenario measures need to be taken, to create sufficient structural capacity. For example by adding extra stiffeners and plates to increase the structural capacity. These extra measures will have a big impact on the total project costs.

The second scenario comes to play when solving issues by adding plates and stiffeners is not an option. In this stage redesign is needed. Dimensions need to be increased and possibly the structure's geometry needs to be altered. This will generate new conflict with other disciplines. For example the structure may clash with MEP object, like ventilation channels or pipes or architectural demands are clashing because walls thicknesses and floor heights increase. In this case project cost overrun due to these failure costs is inevitable.


In this era, computational design and parametric modelling is accelerating in popularity. Mainly because due to visual programming software like Grasshopper and Dynamo it has become a lot more easy to create a parametric model. Often these parametric models are used by structural engineers to compare geometric variations of the steel structure and optimize total weight, which hugely increases the likeliness of the formerly discussed two scenarios.

Why don't we use these new digital possibilities to combine these two processes for designing a steel structures in one parametric model?


In the SMARTconnection research project methods are developed to include steel connections in parametric models and making an iterative integral analysis process.
With as a main goal, to increase feasibility and build ability of the designed steel structures.

Followed by the following motivations. By developing an integral analyses process a higher efficiency can be achieved within the design process. A higher efficiency, causes less time to be needed. The surplus in time can be used to further improve and optimize the steel structure. Lastly, developing knowledge about integrating global and detail engineering in one model is one of the steps needed in order to create a "File to factory" process for steel structures.

In engineering practice, structures weight is often optimized. Which has an influence on the production costs of connections. Optimizing weight can cause, steel connection to have unnecessary high costs or to be not buildable at all. 

Integrally analyzing steel structures, by including joint design, leads to more insight. Which stimulates making better design consideration. In such an integral approach optimal in not expressed in weight, but in costs. Where the most cost-effective solution if found by obtaining a structure with the best balance between cost of the connections and costs of the material.


SMARTconnection is an open-source research project, where knowledge is collected, developed and shared.

Key aspects of development

SMARTconnection focusses on the following three key aspects of development needed to execute an integral analysis of a steel structure:




SMARTconnection links



For more information

please contact: Rayaan Ajouz 


SMARTconneciton is a joint collaborative initiative of Bouwen met Staal and ABT.