Optimum design of structural systems based on metaheuristic algorithms suffers from enormously time-consuming structural analyses to locate a reasonable design. In this paper an upper bound strategy (UBS) is proposed for reducing the total number of structural analyses in metaheuristic based design optimization of steel frame structures. The well-known big bang-big crunch algorithm as well as its two enhanced variants are adopted as typical metaheuristic algorithms to evaluate the effect of the UBS on computational efficiency of these techniques. The numerical results reveal that the UBS can significantly lessen the total computational cost in metaheuristic based design optimization of steel frames. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.