What Should I Know about Concrete Columns, Piers & Beams?

Concrete beams and columns are typically detailed reasonably clearly on the structural drawings. While the Design Professional reviews the reinforcing steel shop drawings for conformance to design, the Construction Supervisor should review the shop drawings to verify that the dimensions are correct and that everything will fit. Reviewing for fit includes plenty of things and the Construction Supervisor may wonder why this checking shouldn’t be someone else’s responsibility. Perhaps it should be. The reality of the industry, though, is that the Construction Supervisor has to put the project together and make it work.

For example, a concrete beam and column intersection may appear quite straight forward on the contract drawings, but the reinforcing steel shop drawings show the bar sizes and splices which at this location allow no room for the concrete between bars. Probably other people should have caught this problem previously, but the Construction Supervisor has to deal, immediately when discovered in the field, with the cost, schedule and performance implications of this problem. In many cases, the Construction Supervisor’s experience allows him to guess at the potential problem areas and review those areas carefully. Incredible amounts of time, money and frustration can be saved by catching the problem on paper rather than in the field. So the Construction Supervisor should carefully review rebar shop drawings for concrete columns, piers and beams, paying special attention to intersecting areas.

Years ago it was common practice for the Structural Engineer to show the reinforcing steel only where it was actually needed in the concrete beam. This practice meant less reinforcing steel used, but more exacting detail of the shapes and placement of the bars that were used. With the rise of labor costs, it became more economical to use more, simpler reinforcement to improve steel tying production. This change means there is more reinforcing steel in splice areas and intersection areas, making the coordination more important.