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Scia Engineer Proves to be Ready to Support Cold Formed Steel in BIM

Friday, 12 April, 2013

A recent Cold Formed-benchmark, done by Jean Batista A, member of the Thin Walled Structures Research Group of the John Hopkins University concludes that Scia Engineer, the flagship product of Nemetschek Scia, is ready to support   Cold-Formed Steel Designers who want to work in a BIM process.

In his benchmark study, 4 software solutions - AISIWIN, CFS Software, LGBeamer and Scia Engineer - were compared, using a couple of examples from the AISI Design Manual. 

A number of criteria were put forward. For example, “Is the software able to model 3D systems”? “Can the user define sections with complex lips”?, “Can the user define multiple load combinations”?

Looking at the final scores, Scia Engineer (77.2 %) is leading the way, ahead of the other Cold Form Steel Design Software (LGBeamer: 68%; CFS: 59%;  AISIWIN: 59 %)

Scia Engineer Cold Formed SteelThe study also revealed some suggestions and improvements for Scia Engineer, which were immediately fixed and updated in version 2013. One example, the calculation of the “Saint Venant torsion constant” for flanges with lips was modified using a completely new Cross-section Engine. Other improvements, such as manual input of the rotational stiffness KØ for sheeting and the design of punched members, were added to the development list and will find their way into one of the upcoming releases coming Spring 2013.

Scia Engineer is a multi-purpose 3D and multi-material design software. It’s clear that, as such, it does not have automatic technologies for wall framing, floor joists and trusses. However, Scia Engineer can leverage models like these from architectural BIM modeling programs and using either direct links, or a certified IFC 2x3, it can convert them into structural models that are ready for CFS analysis and design  

At the same time Scia Engineer’s parametric object modeling technology allows Cold Form Steel designers to create to create  “intelligent” CFS components  like wall panels, or trusses that can automatically modified by simply typing in new variable into a dialog box.  These components can be easily saved into Scia Engineer’s Catalogue and then added to new projects as needed. 

In addition, Nemetschek Scia’s new  Design Forms technology allows the users to quickly create custom CFS checks for quick member design.  

Looking at the main benefits Scia Engineer can offer to Cold Formed Steel designers, 3 major points were listed by the study:

Scia Engineer offers flexibility and accuracy.

"This software does not only evaluate standard sections and standard configurations, but allows the input of different geometries and material properties, as well as multi-dimensional structural models. The computations are detailed in a clear technical report. Its results are accurate, compared to current and popular cold-formed steel design software."

Scia Engineer is an integrated solution

"Scia Engineer integrates structural analysis, {multi-material} design and also drawing in a user-friendly software with an excellent graphical interface."

Scia Engineer is ready for BIM

"BIM processes are becoming more popular so the traditional design is evolving rapidly. Concurrently, the need to produce cost-competitive solutions makes optimization techniques fundamental in cold-formed steel design. Besides most of the qualifications offered by other software, Scia Engineer provides multi-dimensional building information model capabilities and a powerful optimization tool. In this manner, this software is able to satisfy today’s industry requirements." 

Most cold-formed steel design software are basically interactive versions of manufacturers catalogues. As such designers are accustomed to making assumptions and toggle check boxes in order to obtain a rational design solution for individual members and 2-dimensional assemblies.  

Scia Engineer Cold Formed Steel

Scia Engineer is different as it opts for exact calculations of any member type, meaning that Scia Engineer will always determine the initial shape of the profiles and calculate the effective section properties, including local and distortional buckling for edge stiffeners, double edge folds and internal stiffeners. Using these properties ULS Design Checks, similar to the ones for steel, are performed for the AISI S100-2007 as well as for EN 1993-1-3:2006. 

Due to the special nature of CFS and its fields of application, Scia Engineer takes into account special considerations (e.g. purlins restrained by sheeting) and it also runs special purlin design checks including free flange geometry, advanced loading determination, lapped purlin design, etc.

It is clear that cold-formed steel design is transitioning from traditional member based design workflow to more modern Building Information Modeling processes, and is a hot topic in the steel framing industry.  The traditional, “tabulated” workflow will gradually be replaced by more exact and calculated alternatives. Taking this evolution into account, Scia Engineer is a very competitive solution in the CFS world. 

The software is proven… now it’s up to the engineers to use its full potential !


  • Batista J, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Thin-walled structures research group, “COLD-FORMED STEEL BENCHMARKING”
  • Scia Engineer – General 3D and multi-material design software
  • AISI Manual, Cold-Formed Steel Design, American Iron and Steel Institute, 2009