DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

What kind of Steel Structures Does Your Utility Project Need?

Posted by DIS-TRAN Steel on Sep 8, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Anyone in the utility industry today knows the importance of high-quality products so preparing for any kind of project can be stressful. Structures, whether substation or transmission need to stand up to unpredictable weather and heavy wear and tear. We like to be nimble, adaptable, and fast when we design and fabricate new structures for our customers. Our engineers always design structures for customers with economics in mind, to ensure not just functionality but affordability. They will choose and combine standard shape steel structures and tapered tubular steel structures as they make the most sense for the project at hand.

So, let's break down these two types of structures into why and when they make the most sense and examples of steel structures for each.


Standard Shape Steel Structures
At DIS-TRAN Steel, our in-house engineering and project management expertise and resources are vast. Using a mix of standard shape material we can exceed your expectations.

Best/Most economically used when:

  1. Low profile
  2. Light loads
  3. Low voltage compact design
  4. Compact design with potential future additions
  5. Shorter leadtime


  1. Equipment Pedestals
  2. Box Bay
  3. Bus supports
  4. Switch stand
  5. Substation riser
  6. Low voltage distribution sub


Tapered Tubular Steel Structures
Right now, fabricated tubular steel poles form about 80% of non-wood electric transmission structures in the United States.

Best/Most economically used when:

  1. High profile
  2. Heavy loads
  3. Higher voltage
  4. Aesthetic effects
  5. High-tension pull-offs
  6. Deflection concerns


  1. Transmission Towers
  2. Distribution Poles
  3. Standard Class Poles
  4. Substation Deadends
  5. Static Pole
  6. High Voltage Equipment Pedestal
  7. High Voltage Bus Support
  8. High Voltage Switch Stand

The Engineering/Sales office and plant facilities are only 15 minutes apart in Pineville, Louisiana, creating synergy across the design, detail and production processes from start to finish. Sitting on 50 acres with over 260,000 square feet of production space, our plant is organized for execution and volume. Whether you need pre-engineered poles, transmission poles, or substation structures, DIS-TRAN Steel can fabricate them to fit your exact needs and specifications. We’re here to make it happen quickly, effectively, and economically every time.

Learn more about our flexible engineering capabilities and collaborative project process by visiting us online at www.distransteel.com today!

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Tags: steel structures, tapered tubular steel poles, standard shape steel structures


Posted by DIS-TRAN Steel on Jun 15, 2016 8:30:00 AM

For hundreds of years steel has served as the physical backbone of civilization. Landmark structures all over the world including Paris’s famed Eiffel Tower, San Francisco's stunning Golden Gate Bridge, and Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa (currently the tallest building in the world), all count steel as a fundamental material used in their construction.

Prized for its versatility and strength, design professionals rely on the indispensable alloy to bring creative compositions to life. But even seasoned builders are sometimes perplexed by a discoloration phenomenon that occurs in steel after workers galvanize it. The surprising fact is this -- the very same chemical properties that give steel its renowned durability also yields its unaesthetic blemishes.

Although seemingly unbreakable, steel has an Achilles’ heel in its susceptibility to corrosion. Harsh elements can weaken the alloy, and strip it of its strength. Builders coat steel to protect it from corrosive conditions, but often mistake normal discoloration for deterioration. While rust and other decay must be safeguarded against, there’s nothing to fear in the dark blotches and spotting that appear atop of steel surfaces. In fact, they should be welcomed as a positive sign that, chemically, everything is proceeding according to plan.  Check our “A Two-Part Recipe for Understanding Galvanized Coating Appearances.”

Galvanized steel structures for Utility IndustryDIS-TRAN Steel produces premium substation and transmission steel structures designed to be durable and environmentally-friendly. The superior chemistry of DIS-TRAN products lends itself to inherent discoloration, a mark of top-of-the-line quality. At the molecular level:

“The coloration variations on the steel are due to variances in the steel chemistry, primarily the silicon content of the steel. Hot dip galvanizing involves a chemical reaction between the steel atoms and the zinc atoms during the dipping process. The base steel chemistry sets the course for the final color and appearance of the coating.”  – PAT SMITH, DIS-TRAN Steel.

Your steel fabricator can offer the use of silicon controlled steel, while it is not easy to source silicon controlled steel in standard shapes, it can easily be sourced (at additional cost) for tapered tubular structures.

Silicon – naturally occurring element commonly found in steel; silicon is particularly reactive in molten zinc metal

Silicon-killed steel – steel treated with silicon as an oxidizing agent in order to reduce the oxygen content to such a level that no reaction occurs between carbon and oxygen during solidification. 
(as referenced https://www.galvanizeit.org/inspection-course/course/glossary#s)

To minimize these inherent variations, other methods to help mitigate the differences include light sweep blasting after galvanizing to even out the zinc patina oxidations. Or, chemical dulling is another method employed to provide a more uniform final zinc patina. Costs, climate, and manpower are all factors to consider when deciding which of these optional cosmetic measures works best for a specific construction project.

While it may be considered unsightly, discoloration is a natural and normal oxidation process that occurs through the galvanized steel process due to the chemical compounds found within the steel. DIS-TRAN’s first-class products are inherently prone to these color variations that serve as proof of superior quality. The topical imperfections are purely superficial, and the experts at DIS-TRAN have scores of knowledge to help reduce their visibility. If the appearance of these blemishes are of concern to your project, our professionals are happy to help you find an aesthetically pleasing solution. Give us a call today!

Galvanizing eBook

Tags: steel structures, galvanized steel

SUBSTATIONS: 3 Common Steel Structures Found Inside

Posted by Wendy Gintz on Feb 26, 2015 7:54:00 AM

Before electricity can travel into your home, it must pass through a substation first. A substation is an assemblage of equipment where electrical energy is passed in order to be stepped up or stepped down.

Transformers inside a substation change the voltage levels between high transmission voltages and lower distribution voltages. The high transmission voltages are used to carry electricity longer distances, like across the country, whereas lower distribution voltages travel to industrial, commercial or residential consumers.

In a T&D system, the major components typically consist of transmission lines, distribution lines, substations and switchyards.

For this particular Blog, lets just identify the Main Substation Structures.

1.)    Dead-End Structures

2.)    Static Poles

3.)    Bus Supports/ Equipment Stands

Dead-end Structures are where the line ends or angles off. They are typically constructed with heavier steel in case they are needed to carry heavier tension. The two most common dead-end structures are H-Frame and A-Frame structures.

HFrame Substation Structure   t&d_1-resized-600

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Static Pole, is a single, free-standing pole that creates a shield to protect all of the equipment inside a substation from lightning. Static poles may or may not have overhead shield wires attached to enhance protection. It depends on the size of the substation as to how many static poles are needed.    

NOTE: Tapered tubular design is typically efficient and economical in dead-end andstatic pole situations when compared to AISC standard shape structures.



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Bus Supports are the most basic structure found inside a substation. Its main purpose is to provide support for rigid bus as it travels though the substation. Rigid bus is stiff and will not move around during     weather events. Unlike rigid, flexible bus is typically used in high   seismic areas in order to be able to move and dampen the seismic forces that occur. 


Examples of some equipment stands include:t can be of significant weight and must meet specific guidelines for structural loads, deflection limits or clearance requirements. Equipment Stands are the structures that the actual equipment sit on.

  • Potential Transformers (PT) Stands
  • Current Transformers (CT) Stands
  • Coupling Capacitor Voltage Transformer (CCVT ) Stands
  • Lightning Arresters (LA)
  • Switch Stands


When it comes to which type of steel is used, galvanized or weathering, inside a substation, I won’t say that you will never see weathering steel, but it is very rare. Weathering steel is used more in transmission structures than substation. One of the main reasons is because aesthetically, galvanized steel “looks” better inside a substation. Typically a substation is surrounded by a fence, has a metal building inside as well as white rock on the ground surrounding it. So the look of weathering steel, which is usually a dark brown color, aesthetically, goes better with a transmission line running through the woods to blend in versus in a substation.

Let us know if this information was helpful.  Comment below with and questions you may have, we would love to hear from you.


 Ultimate Utility Guide


Tags: steel structures, DIS-TRAN Steel, standard shape steel structures, switch stands, substation, dead-end structures, H-Frame structures, dead-end h-frame structures

How Leading versus Lagging Indicators Will Change Your Thinking

Posted by Brooke Barone on Jan 8, 2014 9:36:00 AM

Growing up as a kid, I’m sure you heard one too many times, “Get down from there! You’re going to hurt yourself!” Or as an adult, how many times have you caught yourself saying the exact same thing? Safety is subject we all understand, but it’s also a concept that we think we’re invincible to.

No matter if you’re driving down the road, playing football in the backyard, hunting or even just riding a bike-safety precautions are there. When you’re welding, seaming or picking up and moving 1,000 pound steel structures, you wouldn’t believe all the possibilities that could potentially happen if safety isn’t implied. An accident, as stated in the dictionary, is an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury. Well, without safety procedures, precautions and rules, the word accident would become an understatement.

leading indicators

The Leading versus Lagging Indicator approach is a proven technique that can easily be implemented no matter what industry you’re in. Lagging indicators measure past performance, failures and other safety factors, while leading indicators measure current events that keep accidents from occurring.

Looking at past performance is reactionary, where as looking for leading indicators to prevent accidents before they happen is being proactive. There are many ways to measure leading indicators, which can vary depending on the type of products being manufactured, in-house machinery being used, number of employees and so on.

Below are 5 examples of leading indicators that can be measured and tracked.

1. Audit Scores- A walk-through is conducted in order to identify any hazards that are currently happening, such as employees not wearing their proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), lifting or handling material incorrectly or trash on the floor. An audit is a great way to spot problems that can lead to accidents because a weighted score is given, which can then be used to pinpoint issues and track progress.

2. Behavioral Observation Cards- This method allows for employees to recognize issues themselves, and then document what it was. It helps train their minds to be more conscious of not only what’s going on around them, but how they too can improve their safety. If you’re company has monthly, quarterly or yearly safety incentive programs, then this leading indicator can be tied to it.

3. STOP Cards- Taking the observation cards a step further, STOP Cards require the employees to make actual safety stops and document them to turn in. While this is to remain anonymous so employees don’t feel betrayed by their fellow employees, the use of positive reinforcement in leading indicators may produce a more forthcoming workforce and culture. This also provides leading information to help derive where safety efforts and dollars need to go towards.

4. Employee Perception Survey- This survey provides feedback to the employer on how the employee feels about their personal safety while on the job.  It’s important for the employees to feel safe while they are at work, and if they don’t, then something needs to either be changed or corrected. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure a safe work environment, which in return, turnover rates decrease, employees are happier and work performance increases.

5. Training Programs- It’s a known fact that trained employees are safer employees. That is why OSHA requires mandatory training on certain things such as driving a forklift. But it can also be beneficial to implement your own training, like a “Tool Box Talk” that requires your employees to learn specifics about the machines and materials they are handling at your facility. Another idea is to OSHA certify all employees and require them to attend weekly training meetings, and after training is complete, performance can be tracked (leading indicator). The more training, the better and safer your employees will be at their jobs.

In order to create a positive working environment for all employees, it is important to assess and enhance safety conditions. Employees must feel both physically and emotionally safe from harm, and that their employer truly cares about their safety. But they must also be equipped with the safety skills to handle situations that may arise. It’s important that all employees feel engaged and challenged in their working environment, with high expectations set for all.

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Tags: steel structures, leading verses lagging indicators, lagging indicators, leading indicators, PPE personal protective equipment, behavioral observation cards, STOP cards, employee perception survey, leading versus lagging indicators

3 Rules to Make Electric Utility Contractors' Lives Easier

Posted by Brooke Barone on Sep 10, 2013 1:35:00 PM

Remember the game Messenger? It starts off with one person telling someone something, and then by the time it gets to the end of the line, it’s usually either off by a few words or completely wrong. I’ve always wondered why that happens…

But from experience, I think I can chop it up to holes in communication. Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear.

In the grand scheme of things, every steel fabricator would like to believe that they are the best- the most reliable, the most efficient, and as true as that might be, sometimes communication gets lost. There are so many “messengers” that hear and deliver important information all the way from the customers, to the contractors, steel vendors, truck drivers and so on, that if the line of communication falls short, it could have a huge effect on the entire project.

And to narrow in a little further, electric utility contractors are the ones who ultimately have to deal with these issues when they arise. When dealing with larger projects, coordinating scheduling, materials, safety procedures, etc. can be very time consuming, but it is also very important.

electrical substation

So what are some of these communication issues, and how can they be solved? Well, I don’t have all the answers since every project is unique, but I do have three suggestions to help improve communication flow between all parties involved to make for a smoother process from start to finish.

  1. Have a clearly defined scope of work.
  2. A set schedule agreed upon in writing from all parties involved.
  3. Well documented customer requests and the means to relay those requests downstream to the different departments like engineering, detailing, shipping, etc.

Depending on when the structures are scheduled to go up, like during outages, material should be checked to make sure that everything is ready to go before the allotted window of time. It might also be a good idea to do inventory checks before the scheduled time to ensure that all the correct pieces are there like hardware or number of poles.

Another communication-must is when tying on to a structure that is already in place. Sometimes it’s not clear if the structure needs to be replicated or upgraded to new codes, and if so, the engineer needs to know if they are responsible for upgrading the entire structure or just the part they are designing.

Having the correct, most up-to-date drawings on site is also very critical. Think about when you’ve tried to put together a desk or a toy car: you need the directions not only to show you the final outcome, but to also follow all the steps required to do so.

During the design phase, if equipment changes, it is crucial that cut sheets get updated so that the engineer can design the structures accordingly so certain things, like holes, can align. If holes misalign or poles don’t fit, it can really put a damper on the entire project.  This usually goes down a long line of communication- from the contractor, to the engineer and then to the detailing department.

Another issue that seems to cause a slight headache is trucks showing up to the jobsite unannounced. It’s important for the fabricator/truck company to call the contractor onsite in advance to make sure they are aware that the material is on the way, and that they are ready and have room for it. It can really throw a morning off if a truck shows up with a couple thousand pounds of steel and either not have enough space to drop it off or not enough manpower to unload it. And while on the topic of shipping, it’s also important that the truck driver is aware of what proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they should have on when delivering loads. 

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Tags: steel structures, steel fabricator, electric utility contractors, utility contractors, define scope of work, steel vendors

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