Not Your Grandfather’s Steel

The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute

Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) is headquartered in Schaumburg, a northwestern suburb of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1924 when leadership came together to assist one another in industry practices and business matters. Fostering a spirit of collaboration, CRSI works with changes in the building code to make sure steel reinforced concrete remains a competitive construction material.
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Before becoming the president and chief executive officer of the Concrete Reinforced Steel Institute (CRSI) last November, Danielle Kleinhans, Ph.D., P.E. dedicated years of her life to her chosen career as a professional engineer. Dr. Kleinhans is passionate about the industry and proudly served as the institute’s staff liaison on a number of committees as well as numerous technical committees outside of CRSI. As the twelfth president, her role includes overseeing daily operations of CRSI, along with stewarding the Institute and its staff of eighteen.

Dr. Kleinhans’ selection was praised by Pete Diggs, past chairman of CRSI’s board of directors and de facto head of the selection committee. “Of the candidates interviewed for this position, Danielle’s leadership skills, familiarity with the institute’s mission and membership and the numerous technical committees on which she has served, were key in the selection process,” said Diggs at the time.

Diggs’ confidence in Dr. Kleinhans to lead the institute is well-founded. In one of her previous positions at a bridge design firm, she was involved in the forensic end of the industry, going in after an accident to determine cause. As involved as the work was, she says moving to the Concrete Reinforced Steel Institute as a structural/transportation engineer – her first trade association position – has taught her a great deal about how trade associations operate and what they can do for an industry and its members.

“Coming into CRSI early on and working with the other staff here taught me how trade associations function,” she says. “And even though I had been a volunteer on various committees and organizations, being a staff person for a trade association taught me even more how to complete projects through committee and the consensus process, because that’s how things get done in a trade association.”

Many of the institute’s early discussions focused on standardization, creating standard bar sizes, the importance of design and stocking products, how they should be labeled and standard practices for estimating, tracking and tagging materials.

“The bar sizes haven’t changed necessarily, but the process by which they mark and tag various bundles is very different today and is computerized, whereas it was done by hand back in the 1920s,” states Dr. Kleinhans. As many structures constructed with concrete and rebar decades ago still exist, CRSI introduced the publication Vintage Steel Reinforcement in Concrete Structures. The comprehensive illustrated book about all forms of steel reinforcement from long ago discusses early steel and reinforcing bar sizes and types, early welded wire fabric, early systems of reinforcement and much more. This information is extremely valuable for forensic engineers. “We’ve done a good job at keeping and retaining samples of those, so it’s really fascinating,” she says of the publication, which is just one of many manuals and guides available from the institute.

CRSI is the authoritative resource for information about reinforcing steel for concrete construction. The technical institute and standards developing organization (SDO) is respected for its regularly updated technical publications, standards documents, reference materials, design aids and the networking and educational opportunities it provides. For the convenience of purchasers, its publications are available in digital and printed editions.

“We are focusing our efforts on being the technical expert and promoter of steel reinforcement for concrete construction in North America,” says Dr. Kleinhans. “To that end, our staff is focused on understanding the industry. We have significant efforts in promoting reinforcing steel, making it easier for engineers to design with reinforced concrete and developing the rules for the use of reinforcing steel, so we are active in many other associations’ committees, for example, the American Concrete Institute. They write the building code, which is ACI 318, and we are very active there, making sure provisions within that code that deal with reinforcing steel are correct.”

Members of the Concrete Reinforced Steel Institute are as diverse as the industry itself and include manufacturers and producers such as steel mills, material suppliers, fabricators, placers of steel reinforcing bars and related products, professional researchers, designers and others involved in constructing steel reinforced concrete. The combined membership of about 800 includes professionals, students and companies ranging from family-owned businesses to massive corporations. “There is a lot of interest with different perspectives, but certainly all are pulling in the same direction of the reinforcing steel industry,” states Dr. Kleinhans.

Members of CRSI employ about 15,000 workers in steel production and reinforcing bar fabrication at over 450 locations in over 45 states across North America. And with an estimated 75,000 people involved in steel transportation and placement, the value of the institute cannot be underestimated. Members are extremely active, engaged and passionate about the industry.

Many CRSI staff are trained structural engineers who are familiar with design codes and provisions, and, overall, the membership is knowledgeable about the fabrication and production of reinforcing steel. CRSI recognizes that reinforcing steel is a vital part of concrete construction, and this affects the role the institute plays in bridging the gap between the knowledge its members have about reinforcing steel and the concrete industry.

“Our steel producing members know metallurgy, for example, but the design aspect isn’t necessarily part of their role, so the CRSI staff is instrumental in bringing all that together,” says Dr. Kleinhans.

CRSI keeps members informed through newsletters including the monthly Rebar in Brief and the quarterly CRSInsider and ensures that the voice of the industry is being heard in Washington with its government affairs committee, which engages with legislators. To make the government affairs efforts as effective as possible, the institute works with other trade associations, including the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) and the North American Concrete Alliance (NACA). Together, the groups work to increase their impact within Washington. Like other construction sector institutes and associations, CRSI is facing its share of challenges, particularly a lack of infrastructure funding, which is affecting roads, bridges, and airports.

By listening to its membership, the institute is creating positive changes through the CRSI Education and Research Foundation by funding research projects and scholarships within the reinforced concrete arena. “The goal of it is really to provide for the future of our industry through education and research,” states Dr. Kleinhans.

Among its many initiatives, CRSI is involved in creating certification programs, such as one for epoxy coating, which started in 1991 after recognizing a need to improve the quality control of the process. Research found that if bars were blasted and cleaned properly before epoxy was applied, performance would be greatly improved. Other considerations, such as ensuring machinery is padded while bending steel reinforcing bars, aid in safeguarding the epoxy from damage. The institute’s newest certification program is for the fabrication of stainless steel reinforcing and includes requirements, for example, that certain equipment used for stainless steel does not come in contact with carbon steel (uncoated black bar) to prevent contamination.

“We think the future is strong. We are definitely trying to find new ways to engage the architect/engineer/contractor community and our membership, so we recently started offering educational webinars and online learning,” she says. Additionally, CRSI is exploring the potential of reinforcing steel-related apps, which would be helpful to designers or people in the field. The industry, after all, is evolving, and the Concrete Reinforced Steel Institute is keeping pace with the many steels available. “The reinforcing steel that is available to designers today is not your grandfather’s rebar. It’s either a higher strength or more corrosion-resistant. Even though it might look the same, it’s definitely not.”

September 15, 2019, 4:26 AM EDT