Iconic Projects Spur Growth at SME Steel
For SME Steel, the bigger and more complicated the job, the better the company is at adding value. When large casinos, government clients and sport venues—such as San Francisco’s Levi Stadium—contract with the Utah-based company for design-assist projects, SME brings resources developed over 20 years for providing comprehensive structural steel fabrication and erection.
SME President Dieter Klohn says as project management experts, his company excels at value engineering heavy steel construction with tight quality controls.
In 1992, the company employed 200 people and booked $23 million in annual revenue. Today, 1,300 people work for SME and it is now one of the largest structural steel fabricators in the country, with $206 million in California revenue and regional offices in Lodi and Irvine. The company more than doubled its California revenue in 2017.
The centerpiece is a 400,000-sq-ft facility in West Jordan, Utah. Combined with the Pocatello, Idaho, shop, the company produces 20,000 shop hours a week. It is a one-stop-shop for all things metal, from structural to ornamental—including detailed stairs and finishes. SME Steel can even jump in to fabricate and install other metals, including stainless steel and aluminum.
Innovative Support System
Thanks to this comprehensive approach, SME has played a pivotal role in some of the most high-profile commercial projects on the West Coast.
In California, AT&T Park (home field for the San Francisco Giants) and SAP Center at San Jose (home of the NHL San Jose Sharks) benefited from bringing SME onto the team early in the process. The general contractor worked with SME to build the 75,000-seat Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on an aggressive schedule that allowed the project to open in time for the NFL San Francisco 49ers to host the Chicago Bears there in 2014. The stadium was designed to withstand strong seismic loads thanks to SME’s advanced bracing systems, called buckling-restrained braced frames.
These bracing systems also played a pivotal role in the new San Francisco Moscone Center expansion, set to open in January. SME Steel’s experience designing, fabricating and installing seismic reinforcements has become the industry standard.
“It’s an incredibly complicated project and SME was the perfect subcontractor for such a challenge,” says Charles Chiparo, project director at Webcor Builders, the project’s general contractor.
An SME subsidiary designs and fabricates CoreBrace, a buckling restrained brace (BRB) system. In the Moscone expansion project, engineers created an interim structural system that relied upon supersize BRBs.
The $500-million project was built in multiple phases, with the first building half hosting conferences and conventions as the second half was being built. The first half’s BRBs were designed to be removed once the other half of the building was built and tied in.
“One unique facet of this project is that we’re building the new convention center while accommodating events in the existing facility. This approach required a persistent focus on safety because our project must accommodate 30,000 to 40,000 people passing by—and sometimes through—our jobsite,” Chiparo says.
SME’s BRB system is also part of the resilient support system and design of Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York and Newport Beach Civic Center in California. The company’s bolted lug connections allow for advanced field tolerance, making structural frame erection faster and safer.
Challenges and Solutions
When helping to build Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., SME stationed a detailer on site, backed up by 100% BIM design for collaborating on the complicated moving parts. Tube steel and channel construction wound through 121-ft-tall mountains without disturbing park visitors. SME also helped build artificial intelligence company NVIDIA’s 500,000-sq-ft headquarters building in Santa Clara, which features 245 calibrated triangular skylights in an undulating roof.
At McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, SME operated four cranes continuously for four months, installing 22,500 tons of steel that incorporated eight skylights in the 1.8-million-sq-ft project. The project was completed six weeks ahead of schedule.
An example from six years ago that was featured on National Geographic’s “World’s Toughest Fixes” is the City Creek project in Salt Lake City. It covered two full city blocks with 3 million sq ft of office and retail space and required 15,000 tons of steel. The blocks were connected via a 320,000-lb skybridge positioned using only one anchor pin, allowing 3 ft to float fixed by gravity with steel plates on either side.
SME’s Klohn is also proud of the company’s record for delivering projects on time and on budget. The secret to eliminating uncertainty, he says, is buying only domestic steel and cementing alliances with qualified suppliers and subcontractors. The company employs a veteran erection crew year-around and is consistently recognized for job safety records.
The company also does community work throughout the country. SME employees work with Habitat for Humanity to build housing for those in need. The company worked with local Boy Scouts of America troop to initiate a first-ever welding merit badge. The company provided the plate material and Ironworkers 27 provided the welding equipment.
SME Steel also participates with American Institute of Steel Construction to host SteelDay, an exercise that shows off the impact the industry has on the built environment. SME Steel leads tours through its facility and projects.