Beauty in Design


Photo Credit: University of Michigan

Structural steel is an extremely versatile material, and for that reason, it’s widely chosen by architects and owners. It allows for infinite forms of expression, from sleek, simple structures to intricate and ornate designs. Structural steel’s strength-to-mass ratio enables the architect to span vast distances while still maintaining its structural integrity.

Recently, Ideal Contracting served as the steel erector for the University of Michigan Union project, which is a renovation of the historic student union building located in the heart of the U of M Ann Arbor campus. The building serves as the most popular gathering point for students, faculty, alumni, and guests. The highlight of the newly renovated building is the year-round courtyard, which has been enclosed with a new domed canopy consisting of HSS tube steel.

The canopy work was a collaboration between Ideal Contracting (erector) and our sister company Ideal Steel (fabricator). Due to the complexity of the work and tight fit-up tolerances, the modular HSS dome and built-up plate columns were fabricated and then fit-up and mocked up by Ideal Contracting’s Ironworkers in Ideal Steel’s Detroit fabrication shop. The modules were then transported to the U of M Union site.

A portable self-erecting crane, as well as a 265-ton hydraulic crane, were utilized to erect the AESS #3 finish canopy. With the help of engineering firm Ruby + Associates, the canopy was erected in sequences based on stability calculations until the main structure was completed. The tight 3,400 SF footprint in which the canopy was erected required daily coordination with the team to allow for other trades to remain efficient while working in the area.

Ideal’s team also installed steel framing to construct a new elevator and stair shaft from the basement to the fourth floor. The steel members had to be erected through existing windows at each level and then transported approximately 200 FT to the installation locations. The members were then rigged and installed by hand using chain falls.

The original ornamental rails in the Union building were from the early 1900s. To keep the aesthetic of the historic building, the new rails were hand-formed to match existing rails. Approximately 400 LF of rails and 200 LF of glass were installed.

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