Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute reflects on a century of impact

The 2024 World of Concrete provided the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute a springboard for 100th anniversary observances. Founded in 1924 with priorities that included legal measures to ensure fabricator payments, CRSI has emerged as the trusted industry resource and standards development organization for steel reinforcement, specifically rebar, in concrete construction. Since its inception, the Institute has continually built upon partnerships to help shape the construction industry. Members’ resolve, moreover, has allowed the group to traverse political and economic difficulties.

In the fall of 1924, 33 owners and executives of 25 companies involved in the fabricating and distribution of new billet-steel bars gathered at Pittsburgh’s William Penn Hotel, eyeing a trade association to promote the use of steel reinforced concrete. Against the post-World War I backdrop, the newly chartered CRSI went immediately to work. Industrialization was in full swing and among the first orders of business was developing uniform contracts for fabricator members to gain legal authority to ensure they were paid appropriately by their customers. Additional goals, initially, were to a) standardize the number of grades and sizes of the steel bars that were being produced in the United States, and b) tackle the lack of a uniform publication addressing rebar standards and specifications.

During its infancy, the Institute produced numerous works that would become major contributions to reinforced concrete practice. One such publication was the Standard Building Code Provisions for Reinforced Concrete, adopted by the American Concrete Institute as the ACI Building Code Regulations Covering Reinforced Concrete Construction. Several years later, a new membership structure that included steel mills bolstered CRSI as it weathered the Great Depression and World War II. While government intervention and war-time restrictions impacted the work of the membership, one constant remained: a commitment to advancing reinforced concrete practice. Ahead of and during WWII, CRSI delivered the precursors and first editions of industry staples.

Titles from the period included Reinforced Concrete – A Handbook on Reinforced Concrete Construction Containing Information of Value to the Architect and Engineer (predecessor of the current Manual of Standard Practice); CRSI Design Handbook (now produced as series of design guides); Recommended Practice for Placing Reinforcing Bars (later to become simply Placing Reinforcing Bars); and, the Reinforcing Bar Detailing manual. As the industry matured, CRSI kept evolving with the changing needs of its members and an environment impacted by technological advancement, demographic changes, plus the advent and evolution of new products and related processes. Taller buildings, new highway infrastructure, the evolving building code, and corrosion resistance were all topics of focus and research.

Leading up to and entering the new millennium, CRSI expanded its membership, technical committees, standards and codes representation, and research obligations. New services included the development of industry specific software, plant certification programs, as well as various initiatives to help members conform to a growing number of regulatory frameworks, from health and safety to environmental protection. The Institute embraced government advocacy and developed the necessary documents for its members to comply with requirements in the sustainability movement. It also fostered the research and adoption of high strength (80 and 100 ksi) reinforcing steel in partnership with the CRSI Foundation, Pankow Foundation, and ACI Foundation. Workforce development and outreach to universities and construction school programs continue to be key issues within the Institute.

CRSI’s most recent flagship publication, Design Guide on the ACI 318 Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete, was released during the pandemic. Shortly thereafter, a series of companion Design Checklists were created to provide design professionals additional time-saving information. Development of a comprehensive design guide addressing state-of-the-art seismic design requirements is pacing an early 2025 release.

“From member companies who agreed to support our efforts financially, to member employees who volunteered their time on committees, to the dedicated staff who have chosen to devote their professional expertise toward a greater good, each has played a vital role. We express our gratitude to all who have made CRSI what it is today,” says CRSI President and CEO Danielle Kleinhans.

The Institute shows no signs of slowing, she adds, as members and staff continue to author and influence the standards, codes, and rules from which the construction industry ultimately operates. CRSI also remains steadfast in its commitment to the thousands of professionals who utilize reinforced concrete construction in their careers through education, information, and promotion. The Institute will come full circle during the Fall Business and Technical Meeting at Chicago’s Drake Hotel, the same location as its first national meeting in 1925. The October event will be the culmination of a celebration allowing CRSI members and staff to reflect on the longevity, milestones, and future of a trade association turning centenarian.