Last month I was privileged to attend the 2013 NASCC Steel Conference in St. Louis. This was my first steel conference and I can now agree with the sentiment of a friend: if you’re a structural engineer and can only attend one conference a year, make it this one. I look forward to being able to attend again next year.

AISC routinely shares more free information than you would expect, and the conference presentations are no exception – every session was recorded and is now available, absolutely free, on their website. Here are a few of the sessions I found most useful.

### Practical Use of the Direct Analysis Method

You can’t spell his name or sport a better mustache, but you will want to use the Direct Analysis Method after listening to Lou Geschwindner. Key takeaways:

- Chapter C of the 2010 AISC Specification contains the requirements; alternatives including the K-factor approach are now in an appendix
- K = 1.0 for all members when using DA (Direct Analysis)
- “Most of you are not calculating K correctly anyway” – Lou
- A “rigorous” second-order analysis is required. Lou’s simple definition of rigorous: “superposition does not apply”

### 50 Tips for Designing Constructible and Economical Steel Buildings

Cliff Schwinger shared a wealth of knowledge that he has accumulated over his decades of experience. Highlights:

- Use the deepest practical columns (e.g. W14s rather than W12s)
- Size truss members to have adequate strength on the net section
- Use R=3 “unless you have the seismic code memorized”
- Talk with the fabricator and understand their preferences for connections

### Load Paths! The Most Common Source of Engineering Errors

Carol Drucker has earned a reputation as one of the leading steel connection designers. She shared wisdom gained from observing the work of many engineers of record on countless projects. One key insight from her talk was: understand diaphragm forces from vertical trusses.

Structural Innovation: Combining Classic Theories with New Technologies

Bill Baker is smarter than you. And smarter than me, and smarter than everyone else who was in the room for the T.R. Higgins Award Lecture on the final day of the conference. Much of what he said went over my head, but the designer best known for the Burj Khalifa was enthusiastic and engaging as he applied Maxwell’s Theorem (which we all know, right?) to structural optimization problems, with fascinating results. It speaks to his charisma that I came away wanting to learn graphic statics, which probably hasn’t been taught at any university in 50 years.

Were you in St. Louis? Leave a comment and share your favorite session or design tip!