Incredible Feats of Structural Engineering: SCIA User Contest 2017
Andrew Wheeler posted on October 11, 2017 | 3663 views

SCIA makes structural engineering software for steel and composite design as well as for designing concrete sections of buildings, and this year the company held its massive structural design competition, SCIA User Contest 2017.The competition, held every two years, had opportunities for structural engineers to win in four different categories: Buildings, Civil Structures, Industrial Buildings and Plants and Special Projects. In addition, the Special BIM Prize of the Jury and the Prize of the Public were awarded. With 124 entries from all over the world submitted to the contest, the six winners were remarkable standouts, so let’s take a look at each.

1.  Buildings

To win this category, entrants had to present projects that focused on the design, modeling and analysis of buildings, roof spans for houses and high-rise buildings using SCIA Engineer.

WINNER: Mouton for the Port House of Antwerp, Belgium. (Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid.)

How SCIA Engineer was used: To create a global model (a model of its sculptural and concrete forms),with reinforcement calculations and steel checks, Belgian engineering firm Mouton used SCIA Engineer to perform a nonlinear calculation that considered bow imperfections for the steel columns in the atrium. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

Designed through a collaboration between Mouton and the world famous Zaha Hadid Architects firm, the new Port House is two buildings: a restored, but inactive fire station and the new sculptural form resting above it. The combination of buildings now serves as the port’s new headquarters for 500 staff members who were previously spread throughout the area.

2.  Civil Structures

To win this category, contestants had to demonstrate how they leveraged SCIA Engineer software for civil engineering structures, including bridge types, such as beams, suspension, cable-stayed and arches; as well as locks, dams, and tunnels.

WINNER: Ingenieursbureau Stendess N.V. for the Bridge over the Rhine River, Kehl German and Strasbourg, France. (Image courtesy of Arcadis.)

How SCIA Engineer was used: The structural engineering software was used for two important aspects of the project: the dimensioning of the bridge in traffic situations, as well as for erection engineering. The bridge deck’s effect on the global dynamics of the bridge, initially a challenge to understand, was greatly aided by the ability to input graphical sections. Generating stability models for second order analysis was useful for the check of the arches, and SCIA Engineer was also used for the dynamic check of the bridge in heavy traffic and different wind conditions. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

The bridge that connects the two countries is only 290-meters long. The project is made up of two bowstring bridges that are 145 meters long, and 15 meters wide, with arches that are 21 meters high. The project is a result of a collaboration between the bridge’s owner, Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois (CTS), and Ingenieursbureau Stendess N.V., who worked together on it from 2013 to 2017.

3.  Industrial Buildings and Plants

For this category, contestants had to show how they used SCIA Engineer on structures made of steel or concrete, as well as large halls, hangars, and power plants.

WINNER: I.d.d. Engineering for the Shoaiba II Power Plant in Saudi Arabia. (Image courtesy of Panoramio.)

How SCIA Engineer was used: With steel check according to the American standards, SCIA Engineer was used for seismic analysis, general vibration for wind vortex, plate elements and stability check, as well as a general stability analysis of the main structure.(Image courtesy of SCIA.)

The Shoaiba II power plant burns raw oil to produce electricity, but the collaboration between the Saudi Electric Company, architects from CMI Energy, and engineers from I.d. d. Engineering achieved a significant reduction in the weight of steel. The prime challenge for the group was in addressing the buckling effect of the plated transition piece and matching the connection details together.

4.  Special Projects

For contestant hopefuls, showing how SCIA Engineer helped with specialty structures included many different areas—green structures, art work, mechanical equipment, conveyor belts, cranes, stadiums, support structures—a kind of structural engineering potluck, if you will.

WINNER: Estra Engenharia Ltda / Grupo Cemosa for the Rafael Núñez Airport Expansion in Cartagena De Indias, Colombia.

How SCIA Engineer was used: Engineering firm Estra Engenharia Ltda, part of the Grupo Cemosa,used the software to model the principal structure, which serves as the international terminal building. Complex steel structures like the roof and façade were modeled in SCIA Engineer, and advanced analysis with non-linear considerations, tension-only elements, second order, physical non-linearity (concrete material), seismic analysis and advanced dynamics were performed.

This expansion project was a collaboration between architects and engineers from Estra Engenharia Ltda and the Sociedad Aeroportuaria De La Costa S.A. because the airport needed to expand its capacity to process 8.5 million passengers each year. This new building is connected by a boarding pier that spans more than 400 meters. The total designed area is 27,000 square meters.

5.  Special BIM Prize of the Jury

This additional award was created to honor difficult Building Information Modeling (BIM) projects undertaken by talented structural engineers. For structural engineers, BIM requires understanding how to leverage the functional characteristics of a structure represented digitally by BIM files to design, construct, operate, maintain and troubleshoot physical and functional characteristics of places that include: water, electricity, gas and waste facilities, as well as roads, bridges, tunnels and ports. Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) Building Information Models (BIM) files are usually proprietary open files that can be exchanged, shared or networked to gain consensus from decision makers about a particular building, structure or other built asset.

WINNER: HESCON s.r.o for the Football Stadium in Dunajská Streda, Slovakia

How SCIA Engineer was used: Hescon s.r.o. managed this project in a record time while also maintaining the quality using different software, such as SCIA Engineer, Tekla Structures, and Allplan Nemetschek for the BIM. The structural engineering software was used to create a global static model. Models were created and submitted for static design and design review, and SCIA Engineer was used to analyze normative loads and effects, and well as dynamic effects, fire resistance and general behavior of the stadium. After this was complete, SCIA Engineer was used to check elements in both limit states from a detailed design of reinforcement of concrete elements.

6.  Prize of the Public Contest

For the second time, this additional category was made open to the public on SCIA’s Facebook page, which was visited by 10,000 people during the contest duration.

WINNER: Centre Point Landmark in London, UK—Pell Frischmann 

After receiving the most votes in the contest, the Centre Point Landmark in London, UK, engineered by Pell Frischmann, was crowned the contest winner. If you are familiar with London landmarks, you’ll likely recognize Centre Point. It is a building that is currently in the midst of a huge construction renovation to convert the structure into 32,000 square meters of residential units and 8,000 square meters of retail space.

Pell Frischmann is an engineering, development and management consultancy firm, so challenges are nothing unusual for it. For the Centre Point project, the firm had to figure out how to extend the building’s basement and remove two floors to accommodate double height retail spaces. And to make things even more challenging, Pell Frischmann had to determine how to do this while residents still occupied the building. On top of all that, it had to deal with limit ground pressure on the new Elisabeth subway line tunnel.

The Centre Point Landmark project cost a total of £300 million and is a complicated structural project. Pell Frischmann had to figure out how to reposition external concrete staircases, as well as make a partial cut and redesign of the current mezzanine slab—which then had to be hung on the first-floor slab to free the ground space from any vertical obstructions—like a column, for example. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

In the US, there were some very interesting entries that didn’t win, but deserve an honorable mention without a doubt.

Pacific Northwest College of ArtPortland, Oregon

This entry was submitted for the relocation of the Pacific Northwest College of Art in the United States from a mostly industrial area to a beautiful historic building located in downtown Portland, Oreg. The project had several engineering challenges, and the historic building needed an aesthetic upgrade. Adding a new cable-supported concrete mezzanine was part of the architect’s plan to upgrade the space for the new tenant.

The architect wanted the mezzanine supports to create the impression of a suspension bridge, but the structure of the older building was such that placing cable locations and figuring out their structural loading capabilities proved to be a considerable challenge. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

The reasons that finding optimal cable locations was so challenging were twofold: the curved form of the cables and the tributary areas for each cable were so varied. To solve this issue, the architect provided the structural engineer from KPFF Consulting Engineers with a 3D model of the overall project. The New York-based engineering firm specializes in solving challenging problems in the design and construction industry. The engineer imported the architect’s model into SCIA Engineer, where he could apply appropriate loads, and create the deflected form of the 3D model. The nodes were positioned in locations with respect to the loading, and the engineer sent his revisions to the architect.

After careful consideration and deliberation with multiple stakeholders, a consensus was reached about the final shape, and the team hired by Pacific Northwest College of the Arts designed a supporting steel structure and properly positioned the cables for their final loading.

Jane Sanders Softball ComplexEugene, Oregon

When the University of Oregon received a donation to construct new facilities for its women’s softball team, the Oregon Ducks, a team of engineers and architects were charged with creating a dynamic roof structure for the new stadium. Replacing what was known as Howe Field with the Jane Sanders Softball Complex would cost $17.2 million. After careful deliberation, the engineering team was tasked with managing a set of five possible points located at the concourse level. These points were possible locations for roof beams that would support the new roof structure.

Engineers from KPFF Consulting Engineers and architects from SRG Partnership were tasked with optimizing the column layout and configuring the roof beams. The team they had some serious structural issues that could potentially be disastrous if not appropriately planned for—namely, that the structure was to be constructed in a zone of high seismic activity.

To accomplish this, the team of engineers performed a series of lateral analyses using SCIA Engineer to determine if a 100-foot-long wing structure would remain stable in the event of a major earthquake.

Since the structure is shaped like an aircraft, the potential impact of hurricane force winds was considered as well to avoid the disaster of any uplift force ripping the structure off its supports and causing extensive damage to the surrounding area and remainder of the structure. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

Constructing the canopy roof under tight schedule deadlines was considered by the team, and after deliberation, they decided to save time by fabricating the canopy on the field. To lift the canopy in place, the engineers and contractors first considered lifting the finished canopy in two pieces. After designing the roof structure to lift the canopy in this way, this idea was scrapped in favor of lifting the whole canopy at once.

After its successful completion, the Jane Sanders Softball Complex hosted its inaugural game, which found the Ducks squaring off against the Stanford Cardinal on March 24, 2016.

Grocery FacilityHenderson, Nevada

The amount of groceries distributed to stores in the U.S. alone is staggering, and the food distribution system that delivers groceries to stores is complicated. The products that people pick off the shelves of their local grocery stores have traveled many miles and passed through many hands.

Each middleman considers each item’s price, labeling, packaging and marketing plans so thoroughly that by the time a product is purchased, manufacturers, retailers, brokers and distributors have all deemed it a viable and profitable commodity. For major grocery distributors, logistics and planning are almost everything, and they certainly need great storage racking modules and conveyor systems.

A major grocery distributor contacted Malin Systems to provide architects and engineers to analyze and improve their storage module platforms and their conveyor system. The function of rack module platforms is that they give workers access to large pallets of products so that the workers can organize items by product orders, and consolidate them into cases for shipping to individual stores.

The racking module has three levels and measures 30 feet high above the concrete floor slab. The architects and engineers from Malin Systems contacted California-based rack manufacturers Frazier Industrial Company to consult with a structural engineer to help improve the racking system.

Together, the team created a 3D analysis model using SCIA Engineer. By coding variables into user templates, product loads and seismic forces could be applied to the 3D model. In the software, the platforms and shelves were represented by load panels, and the team modeled stiffness of beam-column connections based on their direct testing.

They also created an engineering report that could be perpetually updated with tables, pictures and design forms to track results and show model inputs.

The module was designed specifically to support case-flow racking on the top level, so ensuring that the case-flow attachment to the decking worked as well as possible was the project’s highest priority. (Image courtesy of SCIA.)

The team could create a 3D model from 2D plans. The specifications from the 2D plans enabled the structural engineer to visualize and determine the load path from the case-flow to the main support structure. The 3D model also had an equivalent cross-section that represented the B-deck. The B-deck is responsible for transferring rack posts and seismic demands into the main force resisting system, which helped the team enhance and secure the improved racking module system from potential damage.

Bottom Line

The SCIA User Contest 2017 yielded some interesting entries and finalists in the United States. After celebrating the 10th anniversary of the contest, SCIA and its software will continue to help solve some of the most complicated structural engineering challenges. It helps to have the right team. Software can’t work effectively without the necessary knowledge and training of the people using it. Structural engineers are a rare breed, and I’m sure we’ll see more interesting structural problems solved using the company’s training and powerful software like SCIA Engineer.


SCIA has sponsored ENGINEERING.com to write this article. It has provided no editorial input. All opinions are mine, except where quoted or stated otherwise. —Andrew Wheeler


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