The first-ever Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute “Award for Innovative Design,” recognizing pioneering use of cold-formed steel in structural design, was presented to “Research Wind Tunnel for Freightliner Trucks,” a Salem, Ore. vehicle development project commissioned by Freightliner Corporation, a large truck manufacturer. Alpine Structural Consultants, of Haines City, Fla., received the Award as the principal engineering entity responsible for the innovative use of cold-formed steel. The Award was bestowed in a ceremony during the Steel Framing Alliance’s 10th Anniversary Dinner at METALCON International.   

The design department of Pacific Panel and Steel Truss Inc. worked with the engineers at Freightliner, VLMK Consulting Engineers and Alpine Structural Consultants over a three-year period to develop a design for the intake portion of the tunnel that could be built entirely of cold-formed steel trusses. Pacific Panel and Steel Truss Inc. developed a framing concept and were able to answer the owner’s structural and geometric needs as well as address issues surrounding erection in the field. This structure needed to be easy and quick to install, without the use of a large labor force or machinery.

Combinations of trusses were engineered to create the roof, floor and walls of the 80 foot-long tunnel. The frames at the opening of the tunnel began at 57 feet wide by 52 feet tall and tapered down throughout the throat of the tunnel to 32 feet by 24 feet by the time the intake portion entered the lab. The frames bear on two wide flange beams extended out over the Willamette River.  

The 12,000-square-foot tunnel, with an interior of fiberboard and steel reinforced Plexiglas walls, employs ten large fans on one end to pull air from its open end, which extends out over the Swan Island Lagoon. The fans, with a combined 25,000 horsepower, can generate wind speeds of 65 miles per hour. Disruptions of airflow and load factors that the wind places on the vehicles are measured by a host of computers and gauges.

“Research Wind Tunnel for Freightliner Trucks” claimed the top prize in the close competition, but outstanding innovations incorporated in other projects earned those projects Honorable Mention status, including:

  • “Holiday Inn Express – Hotel and Suites,” in Hearne, Texas. Presented to Cory W. Potts of Lobsinger and Potts Structural Engineering, Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. 
  • “The Century Tower” in Century City, Calif. Presented to Brady Innovations, ProX Header in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • “Magic House – The Children’s Museum”in St. Louis, Mo. Presented to Engineered Steel Products in Wright City, Mo.
  • “Design Build Construction LLC” for Innovative Design of Light Gauge Steel Foundation System. Presented to Design Build Construction LLC in New Orleans, La.
  • “Piatt Place Residences and Mixed-Use Commercial” in Pittsburgh, Pa. Presented to Shaffer, Wilson, Sarver & Gray, Reston, Va.
  • “The Village at Winter Park, Village Core” in Winter Park, Colo. Presented to Milender White Construction Co. in Golden, Colo.

“The explosive pace of innovation among engineers who are currently specifying cold-formed steel is beyond impressive,” CFSEI President Jeff Klaiman said. “The advancements reflected in many of the projects entered in the competition demonstrate cold-formed steel’s potential in modern construction, and great potential as a material of choice in the buildings of the future.”