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Team Erects First Industrial Project Using Innovative Steel Design


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By Chris Heath, senior vice president, industrial and Colorado regional manager, Arch-Con® Corporation 

When Arch-Con® Corporation began preconstruction on the eighth and final industrial building within Hines’s 110-acre Grand National Business Park in northwest Houston, our team was faced with a long, 10-month delivery delay to receive critical, structural, steel-roof framing material. Pre-COVID, we built six buildings simultaneously within the same development in less than 12 months. Therefore, a contracted eight-month construction schedule for a 220,000-square-foot, tilt-wall, build-to-suit warehouse facility for Elliott Electric Supply had a major time challenge and we weren’t going to take “delay” for an answer. In the unforeseeable future, material delays were going to be the norm, so we simply needed to figure out another way.

The de facto standard for framing industrial buildings is to erect steel tube columns with steel joists and joist girders at the roof. The exterior perimeter is load-bearing, concrete tilt-wall panels. Nationwide, delivery of steel joists and joist girders have been deeply delayed because only two manufacturers dominate this niche market and their capacity was affected by COVID. This supply problem was compounded by an unprecedented volume of orders. 

“The two joist manufacturers are over capacity, overbooked, and they’re pumping out as many joists as they possibly can,” said Matt Postel, president of Postel Companies, which fabricates and erects steel for commercial and industrial markets. “Supply currently cannot keep up with the extreme demand and the problem will not resolve any time in the near future.”

Arch-Con and Hines brought a key, collaborative team together including Founding Principal Don Greive with Pinnacle Structural Engineers and Postel to solve a critical problem: How can we build an industrial building when steel joists and joist girders are simply not available when we need them? 

There are many steel mills across the country that produce wide-flange steel beams, a different framing application that is often used to construct elevated floors in buildings rather than roof structures. Albeit wide-flange steel beams are heavier in weight, the recent price spike in steel joists and joist girders coupled with extremely long lead times have resulted in steel wide-flange beams being a better value than steel joists and joist girders.

“With Elliott, we thought about other options for the roof framing,” Greive said. “We saw wide-flange beams as a possibility. By going to a deeper deck, we were able to space the beams out further than joists to partially offset the additional weight of the beams. We went back and forth with Postel to make sure we were optimizing the design as much as possible. We knew there would be a time savings, but with market conditions we were also able to get a cost savings.” 

This solution was a no brainer. Thanks to Arch-Con’s recommendation, Hines’s agreement and decisiveness regarding releasing the beam material and roof decking early, and the fast-paced design collaboration between Postel and Pinnacle, Arch-Con is currently tracking ahead of schedule, which is unheard of in the long-lead market that we are currently building in.

“Elliott Electric is the first warehouse/distribution project erected that I know of using this innovative design,” said Postel, who provides steel to contractors nationwide. “Now, I estimate that tens of millions of square feet have transitioned to using this method.” 

Wide-flange steel beam delivery times have now grown due to this demand, but Greive said that with almost every industrial project he is currently working on he is doing a study to price joists vs. beams. Wide-flanged beams can be spaced 14 feet apart in industrial buildings, so this span can be leveraged and adjusted based on the project’s size and budget.

“We are continuing to tweak and fine-tune the solution as lead times and prices evolve and stabilize,” Postel said. “But this overall method is still the best option from a cost and lead-time perspective.”

I would agree with Postel. There are benefits to this design, including the reduction of the overall construction cost of a project and, with this design, you can save on concrete as the average height of the overall building can be reduced 6–12 inches. Therefore, the overall cost savings is currently $1–$2 per square foot.

“We are thrilled with the collaboration that took place as innovation is a key part of Hines’s culture. The outcome is a noteworthy way to complete Grand National Business Park and most importantly is a functional success for Elliott Electric,” said Laura Denkler, managing director for Hines.  

We like to collaborate with the best in the business to find solutions whether short-term or long-term. And this team didn’t just accept a challenge, they pioneered an industry-wide solution.

The project designed by Powers Brown Architecture started construction in April and is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2021. 

About Postel Companies:

With over 35 years of experience, Postel Companies specializes in steel fabrication, steel erection, heavy lifting, and various different types of equipment installation. With AISC certifications in steel fabrication and erection, Postel upholds safe practices and delivers exceptional results. For more information, visit

About Pinnacle Structural Engineers

Pinnacle is a structural engineering consulting firm providing services on a wide variety of project types, including commercial, healthcare, workplace, institutional, and educational. Pinnacle was formed to provide high quality, cost effective, structural solutions, while emphasizing service to our clients. We provide services to architects, developers, owners, other design consultants, and general contractors. At Pinnacle, we value our relationships with our clients and seek to continue them beyond individual projects. For more information, visit

About Hines:

Hines is a privately-owned, global real estate investment firm founded in 1957 with a presence in 240 cities in 27 countries. Hines oversees a portfolio of assets under management valued at approximately $160.9 billion*, including $81.7 billion in assets under management for which Hines serves as investment manager, and $79.2 billion representing more than 172.9 million square feet of assets for which Hines provides third-party, property-level services. Historically, Hines has developed, redeveloped, or acquired approximately 1,450 properties, totaling over 485 million square feet. The firm has more than 180 developments currently underway around the world. With extensive experience in investments across the risk spectrum and all property types, and a pioneering commitment to ESG, Hines is one of the largest and most respected real estate organizations in the world. Visit for more information.

 *Includes both the global Hines organization as well as RIA AUM as of December 31, 2020.

About Arch-Con® Corporation:

Founded in 2000, Arch-Con® Corporation is a commercial general contractor with experts in office, industrial, retail, hospitality, corporate interiors, healthcare, multifamily, and community construction. Arch-Con’s award-winning team simplifies the process for their clients using the latest, cost-efficient technologies to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Arch-Con is a licensed general contractor in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas with offices in Austin, Dallas, Denver, and Houston. Learn more about Arch-Con at  

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