AEC From the Ground Up-Civil Engineering Update

31 May, 2005 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

Autodesk and Bentley unveil new tools.

Civil engineering encompasses a range of tasks, from land development for building to design of transportation infrastructure such as highways, railroads and bridges. In March (, I looked at several software applications for these tasks. This month, we'll update that coverage with a look at newly released products from Bentley and Autodesk.


In March, Autodesk released the latest iterations of its civil engineering and mapping products, including Civil 3D 2006, Map 3D 2006 and Raster Design 2006.

Civil 3D 2006 supports dynamic 3D modeling. A model contains all core geometry and maintains intelligent relationships between design objects such as points, surfaces, parcels, roads and grading. Tables, object labels and various analysis displays are derived from the model, so when any part of the model changes, all associated parts are instantly updated (figure 1). For example, when the horizontal road alignment is changed, profiles, road model, section plots, volumes, proposed contours and submittal drafting all update automatically.

 Figure 1. When a user changes the horizontal road alignment, all profiles, road model, section plots, volumes, proposed contours and submittal drafting update automatically because Autodesks Civil 3D 2006 is object-based.
Figure 1. When a user changes the horizontal road alignment, all profiles, road model, section plots, volumes, proposed contours and submittal drafting update automatically because Autodesks Civil 3D 2006 is object-based.

A major benefit of Civil 3D 2006 is its ability to maintain drafting standards. Each object type includes user-defined settings that control layer, color, font, label content and so forth to maintain drafting standards. The program includes various style configurations in a drawing template and provides tools to edit existing styles or create new styles.

Civil 3D 2006 also provides a number of native formats and read and write support for common data formats. It can import and export design and project data (such as alignments, profiles, parcels, points and surface models) stored in the Autodesk Land Desktop project format. LandXML is also supported. This common, industry-accepted data format is used for sharing and archiving civil and survey data such as alignments, profiles, parcels, points and surface models. A variety of import/export utilities are provided to import point files, GIS data sources, other CAD formats (including MicroStation DGN files) and generic ASCII data. Civil 3D 2006 can also generate 3D DWF files for use on the Web.

Pipe functionality is now integrated into Civil 3D 2006. Engineers can lay out interactive sanitary and storm drainage systems and dynamically make changes to pipes and structures using graphical and numeric input. Final drafting of the pipe network, in plan, profile and section views, is all derived from the model. Pipe network information can be exported for use in reports and with existing hydraulic analysis applications.

Collaboration is becoming a feature important to the AEC industry. Civil 3D 2006 provides the ability to reference surfaces, alignments and profiles between drawings so that multiple people can use the graphics and data intelligence in the objects simultaneously. Each user can represent and label the objects differently so that the same design alignment and profile can be used on many sheets. If referenced objects change in the master drawing, these changes are reflected in drawings that reference these objects.

Ease of use comes with familiarity. At the heart of Autodesk Civil 3D 2006 is AutoCAD 2006. Users benefit from new AutoCAD enhancements such as the user interface customization tools, heads-up display and editing, dynamic bolding of selected objects and smooth 3D navigation.

Map 3D 2006 software connects CAD and GIS by providing mapping tools for GIS professionals and geospatial features required by engineers, mapping professionals and CAD technicians. The software now can read and write Oracle and ArcSDE with direct access to proprietary and nonproprietary data from multiple databases and files, including Oracle9i, Oracle 10g and ArcSDE. Direct access helps ensure the accuracy of information by minimizing data conversion.

In addition, Map 3D offers an improved display manager, making it easy to query and style data to create presentations for communicating with clients and other departments. New MapBooks simplifies and automates producing map books for the office or the field. And the new user interface with its flexible toolbars and commands is now task-based and easy to learn.

Raster Design 2006 enables users to clean up, edit and vectorize scanned drawings without performing expensive redrafting. Use it to integrate maps, aerial photos, satellite imagery and digital elevation models into presentations, designs and project deliverables. New features for 2006 include:

  • 1. Enhanced raster cleanup and editing tools
  • 2. Extended presentation tools to capture images for use in applications
  • 3. Ability to edit, modify and save DEM and multispectral imagery
  • 4. Raster data querying
  • 5. Support for JPG2000 and GeoTIFF image formats

Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems believes that poor data interoperability between functional units is a continuing concern of large engineering firms and transportation agencies. After more than 20 years of automation of distinct processes, interoperability between products and processes must be addressed. Without question, engineering processes have changed during this time. The fundamental need for interoperability remains as strong as ever—from planning through design and construction—although with the influx of design/build and other requirements, projects may not run as linearly as in the past.

Bentley is now turning its attention to smoothing the dataflow between processes and enabling users to leverage the data created in the conventional design and construction phases to optimize operations and asset management for the lifecycle of the structure.

"Improving intelligent data exchange from design to construction alone offers phenomenal opportunities for increasing the efficiency of civil projects," says Ted Johnson, director of business development for Bentley Civil. He adds, "U.S. highway construction projects spend $7.5 billion annually on construction engineering and inspection. Shaving just 2% or 3% off this cost—which we think is conservative—each U.S. state alone could save at the least $3 million per year."

Bentley plans to release new technologies that it believes will enable users to leverage design data at the construction site for faster, more efficient construction processes and capture of as-built data.

In March, I noted that Bentley had released PowerCivil ($4,995), based on PowerDraft, for the development of site components, roads and drainage. I also mentioned that the company was developing tools for stakeout and inspection that run on handhelds and tablet PCs.

Inspector and Stakeout are the first products to be released as part of Bentley's effort to provide field tools for the civil construction industry. These tools enable construction and inspection professionals to carry engineering data into the field for a full range of site preparation and inspection needs.

Bentley's Inspector and Stakeout applications run on handheld devices that use Pocket PC or Windows CE 4.0 operating systems, and on tablet PCs with Windows XP. Both products underwent extensive field testing with a number of state departments of transportation, including the Minnesota Department of Transportation and New York State Department of Transportation.

Bentley Stakeout eliminates the need to carry multiple plans and field books into the field for site preparation. Moreover, users can derive elevations and generate cut-and-fill from any design surface on the job site. A surveyor or constructor can carry the full array of design data onsite on a small handheld device and use it to perform all calculations (figure 2). Stakeout automatically displays the information to be placed on the field stakes. This tool is helpful when staking out drainage structures because it can generate stake points for every key location.

Figure 2. With Bentley Stakeout, a surveyor or contractor can carry a full array of design data onsite on a small handheld device.
Figure 2. With Bentley Stakeout, a surveyor or contractor can carry a full array of design data onsite on a small handheld device.

Bentley Inspector, a tool for automating inspection and reporting, captures a highly accurate view of the site as constructed. An inspector can carry all pertinent documents and images, specification books, plan sheets, construction instructions and contracts—the full range of information needed—all electronically. Captured field information automatically populates reports, which can then be customized to suit specific standards and requirements. Inspector supports measurements performed manually or by station and offset, as well as electronic GPS measurements, including those made using GPS rovers.

A single field database available from a central field office desktop docking station or transmitted directly between handhelds via cable or infrared can be shared among inspectors and surveyors. StakeOut and Inspector offer flexible query and reporting capabilities.

Both products derive data from Quantity Manager, which automates generation and management of project quantities. This tool is available in Bentley's GEOPAK and InRoads families of civil engineering products. Quantity Manager calculates graphic and nongraphic quantity data simultaneously as designs are developed. It enables users to develop data at a more granular level to facilitate a host of downstream activities. For example, it provides two-way integration of quantity data with AASHTOWare Trns*port software for transportation construction contract management. Quantity Manager also delivers data directly to ProjectWise for advanced implementation of Bentley's managed environment.

Bentley Inspector and Bentley Stakeout lease for about $250 per month per seat. They are also available through Bentley's service program, Bentley SELECT.

Bottom Line

Rapid growth in building and infrastructure development make the benefits of productive civil software solutions ever more important. In the office and the field, these applications offer engineers the ability to design more quickly and accurately. Because civil design is often the first engineering problem approached in AEC projects and because of long permit lead times, speed and accuracy in this area equate to return on investment and increased profits.

H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, NCARB, is a practicing licensed architect and AEC industry analyst. Ed's full-length book, Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2005: A Comprehensive Tutorial (Prentice Hall; is now available; watch for the 2006 version this fall. For information on Ed's online Architectural Desktop training sessions delivered directly to the desktop, visit or e-mail

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