In this study a genetic algorithm based method is developed for the optimum design of grillage systems. The algorithm not only selects the optimum sections for the grillage elements from a set of standard universal beam sections, but also finds the optimum spacing required for the grillage system. Deflection limitations and allowable stress constraints are considered in the formulation of the design problem. Due to the fact that grillage elements are thin walled sections, warping plays an important role in their design, particularly, when they are subjected to significant torsional loading. The algorithm developed has the flexibility of including or excluding the effect of warping in the design process. Grillage structures are designed for uniformly distributed loading. The optimum spacings are determined both considering and not taking into account the effect of warping in the design. The comparison of the results shows that inclusion of warping in the design process has a significant effect on the optimum spacing. (C) 2000 Civil-Comp Ltd and Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.