Research Results in Significant Advances in Cold-Formed Steel Design for Thin-Walled Structures

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 17, 2011  – A review of recent advances in the application, analysis and design of cold-formed steel structures over the past five years demonstrates that significant advancements in structural analysis, particularly when it comes to thin-walled structures, are taking place in three primary applications—framing, metal buildings and racks. The review—a summary paper on recent cold-formed steel research for the European Committee for Constructional Steel that was published in its journal Steel Construction—was conducted by Professor Benjamin Schafer, Ph.D., P.E., chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and an internationally recognized innovator in cold-formed steel design. Schafer and his team are working cooperatively with engineering staff of the Construction Technical Program (CTP) at the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) to advance cold-formed steel design through research and development. 

Dr. Schafer focused his review on load-bearing cold-formed steel structures as opposed to secondary systems and curtain walls. “The behavior of cold-formed steel structures can be complicated due to the thin-walled nature of the sections, so in order to move the design process forward, we had to concentrate on advances in analysis,” Schafer said. “Recent work in Generalized Beam Theory and the constrained Finite Strip Method demonstrate that, when it comes to thin-walled members, significant advances in structural analysis are still possible and desirable.” He cited the Direct Strength Method, as codified in Appendix I of AISI S100, the North American Specification for the Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structural Members, with contributing to the advances and alleviating much of the complexity in thin-walled design.

Schafer explained that thin-walled structures consist of a wide and growing field of engineering applications that seek efficiency in strength and cost by minimizing material. The stability of the components, i.e. the “thin walls,” is often the primary aspect of the behavior and design. Thin-walled structures include industrial and residential buildings, box girder bridges, ship hulls, aircraft skins, and buried structures such as tanks, pipes and culverts.

“The steel industry recognizes the benefits of planning and implementing a long-term ‘technology road map’ to optimize the design of cold-formed steel structures,” Jay Larson, P.E., F. ASCE, Managing Director of AISI’s Construction Technical Program, said. “The review that Dr. Schafer has completed provides a benchmark of current progress. The groundbreaking work that Dr. Schafer and his team are undertaking will determine the future direction of cold-formed steel design, keeping steel competitive in the global marketplace.”

For more information on advances in cold-formed steel design for thin-walled structures, please visit Dr. Shafer’s website at

AISI’s codes and standards work is conducted under the Construction Market Council of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of AISI, which oversees the industry’s investment in advancing the competitive use of steel by meeting the demands of the marketplace. For more information on SMDI’s Construction Market program, visit

AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 25 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and 120 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI's member companies represent approximately 80 percent of both U.S. and North American steel capacity. For more news about steel and its applications, view AISI’s website at

Debbie Bennett
Manager, SMDI and Construction Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 202.452.7179