Steel is such an important material in civil engineering. We use it to build the bridges you drive on, the skyscrapers you live in, pipes to deliver the water you drink, and many more parts of every day infrastructure. Steel has properties that make it safer to build with: stretching to incredible lengths (compared to concrete or wood) before rupturing, giving plenty of warning before failure. It is also a highly recyclable material as it can be melted down and reformed.
To learn more about steel and how it gets manufactured we met with students from UBC Engineering at the Supreme Steel on Annacis Island to attend a tour of the facility. This place is HUGE. The yard (for storage, movement, loading etc.) is about the area of 11 football fields and the shop (where the actual manufacturing happens) is almost the area 3 football fields. The the aerial below.
I really wish I could show you a picture of the inside, but we weren’t allowed to take photos in there. The equipment was incredible: drill presses the size of your car, plasma cutters, and a sand blaster the size of a house for polishing the products before going out the door. And welders… welders everywhere. As we walked through the shops we saw steel beams that weighed 650 lbs per foot of length and huge steel box columns that would one day be part of the assembly of a skyscraper.
So as civil engineers what did we learn? While the manufacturing process was interesting to see up close, the real takeaway was how the steel is ordered and delivered for large project for when we go out into industry to design, manage, and construct large infrastructure projects. Pricing, scheduling, and delivering large complex steel (highly governed by the manufacturing process) takes a lot of coordination and this gave us better insight for how that is done. Stay tuned for our next visit to a water filtration plant.