AutoCAD Civil 3D and Pay Items

3 Nov, 2010 By: Phillip Zimmerman

CAD Clinic Civil 3D Tutorial: Set up your drawings to produce reports with item counts, areas, or volumes that are updated if the drawings change.

Editor's Note: This tutorial courtesy of Imaginit.

All of the elements that implement AutoCAD Civil 3D require setup time. Although this time is usually thought of as costly, if used wisely, the resulting setup changes a job's workflow and expands the resulting work's value.

For example, a plotted sheet is passed to an estimating group, and it is marked up to produce an item count and estimation. In this workflow, if the design changes, new sheets need to be plotted and the estimating team must determine the differences and create new counts. With this process, it's possible to miss subtle changes, which are easily overlooked.

By using Civil 3D pay items, drawings can produce reports with item counts, areas, or volumes, which are used in a spreadsheet to create an estimate. The estimation spreadsheet contains a costing formula column that produces an estimate from Civil 3D's pay item reports. Should a drawing change, a new pay item report file is generated containing the changes, and when imported into the estimation spreadsheet, it produces a new estimate. While pay item reports are useful, like anything else, they are only as good as the user assigning the pay item entries to objects in a drawing.

To create a quantity take off (QTO) report, you must first create a pay item master list. The master list is an ASCII file with a CSV extension. To organize and better manage this potentially lengthy list, a category file is added to create divisions, groups, and sections, or any user-defined category system.

The last element of the pay item master list is a formula file. This file does not calculate an estimate, but provides a means to convert values for an estimate. For example, if using the pave link to calculate an asphalt value, the pay item report uses the link to calculate an area in square yards. If asphalt is estimated by the ton, a formula needs to calculate the number of tons from the material's area and thickness.

To reduce assignment errors, Civil 3D assigns pay item values automatically for roadways through the code set styles and the pipe networks' pipe parts lists. The remaining pay items are manually assigned to individual (any AutoCAD or Civil 3D) or area (closed polygons) entities. The manual assignment tools are found at the top center of the pay item's vista. The tools to create a quantity report are located in the same vista area.

The pay item's vista includes tools for manual assignment and creating quantity reports.

After creating and assigning pay item values to AutoCAD and Civil 3D objects, the final step is creating a pay item report. This report contains counts, areas, and calculated values.

The estimating team will use this file to create a job estimate. Autodesk maintains that it is not in the estimation business, and that the company only provides tools that allow you to gather data used in the estimation process.

Master Pay Item List

The Master Pay Item list is a combination of three files: pay items, category, and formula. These files are combined in the QTO Manager vista and produce an organized Pay Item list. Each pay item is assigned from this list while or after creating the design objects. Civil 3D implements two pay item and category groupings: Autodesk's TXDOT and CSI (Construction Specification Institute) systems. You are free to create your own Pay Item list and category file.

Pay Item List

The first Pay Item list is based on a TXDOT implementation. The file is a CSV (ASCII comma delimited) file. The file contains three important items: the pay item number, the pay item description, and the item's unit type. The item has additional entries that are sometimes used. The following is a code snippet from the Getting Started.CSV file that installs with Civil 3D:

Pay Item,Item Description-USC,UNIT_E,Bid_Dec,Pay_Dec,Pay Item Type,FP-YR,Date added/modified,Division,Comments,





15210-0000,"CENTERLINE, REESTABLISHMENT",STA,3,3,N,2003,,,,

15210-1000,"CENTERLINE, STAKING",STA,3,3,N,2003,,,,


The second pay item file type is based on the Construction Specification Institute's standards. The file's entries contain only the pay item number, the item's description, and the item's unit types. The following is a snippet from that file:

Pay Item,Item Description-USC,UNIT_E

31 05 16.00.1,3/4 inch and finer bank-run gravel,TON

31 05 16.00.2,1.5 inch and finer bank-run gravel,TON

31 11 00.00.1,Clearing,ACRE

31 11 00.00.2,Grubbing,ACRE

31 37 16.13.1,6 inch and finer stone rip-rap,ACRE

31 62 16.16.1,12 inch steel H pile,EACH

Each file starts with the pay item category value and its description. For example, in the Getting Started file, item 15101-0000 is a Mobilization cost and a lump sum value (LPSM). In the CSI file, item 31 05 16.00.1 is 3/4-inch or finer bank-run gravel and is estimated on a per ton basis.

Adding entries to either file requires only a simple edit in either Notepad or Excel. If the edits expand the pay item list, the items will show correctly in the pay item vista.

If you use a category file and your edits expand the pay item list or add new categories, you will need to edit the categorization file. The pay items in a category are hard-coded in the category file.

Category File

The category file is an optional XML file containing header information and category definitions. Even though this file is optional, if you have a large pay item file, this file is nice to have to organize the Pay Item list. A category file defines divisions. Each division has groupings; for example, division 150 includes the groups 151–158. Each group may comprise one or more sections; group 151 has section 15101. And finally, a section has one or more items; section 15101 has item number 15101-0000 Mobilization. The following is a snippet from the Getting Started Categories XML file. There is a category for the CSI implementation installed with the product.

  <Product>AutoCAD Civil 3D</Product>
  <Description>Quantity takeoff pay item list categorization file</Description>
  <category type="value" start="" end="" title="Division 100" description="General Requirements">
  <category type="value" start="" end="" title="Division 150" description="Project Requirements">
   <category type="value" start="" end="" title="Group 151" description="Mobilization">
    <category type="value" start="15101" end="" title="Section 15101" description="Mobilization"/>
   <category type="value" start="" end="" title="Group 152" description="Construction Survey and Staking">
    <category type="value" start="15201" end="" title="Section 15201" description="Construction survey and staking"/>
    <category type="value" start="15205" end="" title="Section 15205" description="Slope, reference, and clearing and grubbing stake (length)"/>
    <category type="value" start="15206" end="" title="Section 15206" description="Slope, reference, and clearing and grubbing stake (lump sum)"/>
    <category type="value" start="15210" end="" title="Section 15210" description="Centerline, ---"/>
    <category type="value" start="15215" end="" title="Section 15215" description="Survey and staking, --- (each)"/>
    <category type="value" start="15216" end="" title="Section 15216" description="Survey and staking, --- (length)"/>
    <category type="value" start="15217" end="" title="Section 15217" description="Survey and staking, --- (time)"/>
    <category type="value" start="15225" end="" title="Section 15225" description="Slope, reference, and clearing and grubbing control"/>
    <category type="value" start="15236" end="" title="Section 15236" description="Survey control, ---"/>

When adding the category file to a pay item list, the QTO vista organizes the pay items into a more manageable form.

The Quantity Take Off vista for the Getting Started file, showing items and categories.

When adding new pay items in the Pay Item.CSV file, you need to edit or add the category to the Categories.XML file. If necessary, be sure to include the group and section definitions that correspond to the entries in the Pay Item file.


AutoCAD Civil 3D provides tools to create a pay item report of a design. The pay item process uses the QTO Manager, which displays pay items from an ASCII file that uses either the TXDOT or CSI and organizes the pay items through an XML-based category file. The assignment of pay items is done manually by the user or by assignments made in a code set style and a pipe network parts list.

In my next article, I'll review the formula file and begin reviewing the pay item assignment process.

About the Author: Phillip Zimmerman

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