SCIA Engineer as BIM software


SCIA Engineer is a leader among applications that support BIM. It was one of the first applications to receive the certification for import and export: IFC2x3 Coordination View 2.0. This certification, which is issued by the BuildingSmart organization, is widely internationally recognized. SCIA Engineer promotes exchange of data using a variety of formats (dwg, dxf, vrml, xml, etc.) and also includes a direct interface for particular applications such as Nemetschek Allplan, Tekla Structures, Revit Structure and Etabs. From its first versions, SCIA Engineer supports creation of 3D models, option to display the model in perspective view, allocation of entities to layers, display of details, definition of sections across the structure at a particular place, generation of sections according to a line grid, and much more. Input of any additional information can be done via attributes.

Example 1- perspective mode

Note: The chess set above was modelled in SCIA Engineer.

3D environment

3D graphical window displays the entire structure or just a required part of it. It is possible to view rendered or wired surfaces of structural elements. Adjustable transparency allows e.g. for a preview of a building including arrangement of concrete reinforcement in individual beams and columns. The structure can be rotated according to an arbitrarily chosen point or element. Actions Scroll, Rotate and Zoom can be very easily performed using the mouse buttons and keyboard short-cuts. Function Activity can hide parts of the structure and keep visible only the members chosen by direct selection or via a certain property such a layers, story, etc.

Example 2 - transparency, structural shape, beam colour by material, colour of reinforcement by normal with anchorage

Two models in one

Although SCIA Engineer is primary an analysis software it incorporates a sophisticated system for definition of a structural (CAD) model, i.e. the real shape of the structure. It is possible to display one model or the other or both at the same time. If an architectural model is imported from any supported file format, the real shape is always available. This (real, imported) shape can be "frozen". It means that during all manipulations in SCIA Engineer, the imported shape remains unchanged and in its original location.

Example 3 - analysis model displayed in grey

Colours and attributes

SCIA Engineer also supports colour adjustment of individual structure parts according to various criteria such as layer, material or design type. The users can use the predefined colour palette or define their own.

What plays an important role in the exchange of data are attributes. SCIA Engineer provides offers a P_set predefined specially for IFC export/import. Moreover, it is possible to define any other attribute using the general functionality of the program. The attributes are used as additional information extending the 3D geometry by e.g. relations between individual elements, by quantity, quality, manufacturer data, price or other details that are not necessary for the calculation itself.

IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)

Similarly to the majority of other applications, e.g. ArchiCAD, Allplan, Vectorworks, Revit Structure, Tekla Structures and others SCIA Engineer supports IFC2x3 Coordination View 2.0. SCIA Enginner is one of a few analysis applications that can read the structural model from an IFC file that is commonly supported by architectural software. It is a versatile and open file format, which allows for several different ways to describe entities. Each application uses a different description of elements depending on the suitability for given types of entities. Therefore, SCIA Engineer tries to support import of all frequently used element descriptions/definitions. For situations when the definition of an element cannot be imported directly as a native element, SCIA Engineer is uses a powerful tool that can convert a reference (imported) model to a model composed of native SCIA Engineer elements. Elements defined by parameters are always imported as the native elements. In addition to the geometry itself, the IFC file format also supports the exchange of attributes, definition of layers, storeys, etc.

Supported features:

  • Columns and beams with holes.
  • Walls and slabs with openings, niches and curved (circular) edges.
  • Storeys and layers.
  • Concrete reinforcement and tendons.
  • P_sets attributes.
  • Windows, doors, stairs, etc. as a reference model.
Example 4 - import of project with storeys, colours by layers


Elements that are imported only as general volumes (reference model) must be converted to native SCIA Engineer elements. A special tool in SCIA Engineer converts the volumes to beams or plates. The three basic functions are Convert to column/beam, Convert to wall/plate and Convert in parts. The conversion functions also allows for creation of curved or haunched beams, circular walls or for conversion of a single volume into several beams or slabs.

Example 5 - arbitrary beam

Example 6 - circular-arc wall

Example 7 - conversion of general volume in parts

Alignment and connect

The imported structure has the structural shape preserved. But for the needs of numerical analysis it is necessary to create contacts between beam axes and slab mid-planes. SCIA Engineer takes care of this and is fitted with "Structure To Analysis" module. It means creation of the analysis model from the structural one. As the first step, the structural shape has to be aligned. There is a very wide range of possibilities. The basic option is the alignment by storey planes and according to the local coordinate system of individual elements. Also important and useful is the option to link elements by stretching or shortening their axis or the option to specify what should be aligned to what, e.g. a wall to a wall or a beam to a column, etc.

Example 8 - alignment by storeys and 2D member LCS

The last step in the creation of the analysis model is the generation of intersections between members that do not touch each other. This can be done automatically using the Connect function. This function connects both 2D members to each other and also finds intersections between 1D and 2D members.

Marie Heřmanová