The Maturation of Civil Engineering Software (AEC in Focus Column)1 Apr, 2007 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg
Civil engineering continues to benefit from evolving software.
Several companies create products for civil engineering, but the main players are Autodesk, Bentley and Eagle Point. Rather than creating new paradigms, this segment of the industry is beginning to mature by improving its existing products. This month's "AEC in Focus" presents what's new for 2007 from these companies and provides an update on the excellent civil engineering–specific visualization software from RDV Systems.
Autodesk Civil 3D 2008
AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is built on the AutoCAD 2008 software platform. All AutoCAD functionality is included in Civil 3D. Because Civil 3D is built on AutoCAD 2008, users benefit from new AutoCAD enhancements, including automated annotation scaling and speed enhancements. New features and enhancements to pre-existing Civil 3D features benefit a wide range of design, drafting and surveying professionals.
AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 includes AutoCAD Map 3D 2008 functionality. However, not all AutoCAD Map commands work fully with the AutoCAD Civil 3D model. For example, the AutoCAD Map 3D Query command can't use Civil 3D object data such as an alignment name or parcel number. Other commands such as Drawing Cleanup don't trim or extend Civil 3D objects. In addition, Civil 3D objects can't be exported directly into Oracle Spatial (they must be exploded first). However, AutoCAD Civil 3D provides the ability to export data—including Civil 3D points, parcels, alignments and pipes—into SDF format files that can be used to create intelligent maps in Autodesk MapGuide and AutoCAD Map 3D applications.
AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 functionality can provide significant productivity benefits for a variety of project types and tasks, including surveying, transportation, site, sewer, storm drain, subdivision and environmental design projects (figure 1). The software's functionality is flexible enough to be used for specialized tasks, such as landscape architecture, land-use planning and golf course design.
Figure 1. Civil 3D 2008 can generate a dynamic model of any road, rail or corridor project based on design elements, including alignments, profiles, superelevation and criteria included in design subassemblies. Changes to any elements that are used to create models result in updated corridor volumes, surfaces, sections and other analysis and output.
According to Pete Kelsey, Autodesk's Civil evangelist, Civil 3D 2008 is a dynamic model-based environment that allows a lot of interoperability with many import and export formats, such as ESRI's and Bentley's. When asked if Civil 3D is really a BIM (building information modeling) application, Kelsey said he likes to use the term CIM (civil information modeling).
New for 2007, Bentley Systems has introduced Bentley OnSite, a software product that connects the worlds of civil engineering design and construction. This new software automates tasks for stakeout, inspection and measurement in the field, which facilitate project management and help ensure unprecedented levels of accuracy during construction. Used in concert with industry-standard GPS hardware, the software runs on portable devices and can be used by field personnel in applications ranging from earthwork and grading to drainage, utilities and signage (figure 2).
Figure 2. Bentley OnSite runs on portable devices, so users can bring their design models into the field.
Bentley OnSite takes design models directly into the field, avoiding the pitfalls of disconnected design and construction information. By integrating up-to-date electronic design intelligence with on-site information from GPS hardware, field crews can automatically attain elevations, determine cut and fill, position stakes at desired intervals and offsets and accomplish various other critical tasks on demand.
Bentley OnSite also streamlines the inspection process—everything from locating, measuring and verifying constructed features to generating reports and records of project status. Rather than being encumbered with hard-copy documents, inspectors carry a single portable device that contains electronic versions of all pertinent documents and images, standards manuals, specifications, drawings and plan sheets, contracts, construction directions and inspection forms.
Bentley OnSite also can routinely deliver true as-built project status reports as stakeout and inspection updates are completed. This capability ensures accurate construction; provides a record enabling accurate and timely progress payments; and facilitates maintenance, repair and improvements throughout the project lifecycle. In addition, by eliminating paper documents in the field, Bentley OnSite simplifies the compilation and management of construction records.
Eagle Point has the third-highest number of installed seats in the civil engineering segment—more than 30,000 users. It's also one of the oldest developers of digital civil engineering software. Because Eagle Point is a developer for both Autodesk and Bentley, its programs run seamlessly on both the AutoCAD and MicroStation platforms. Eagle Point's desktop applications cover the entire spectrum of land development projects, from land surveying to civil design and landscape architecture. Products in this line include Site Design, Surface Modeling, Intersection Design, Profiles, Quantity Takeoff and Eagle Point's flagship product, RoadCalc.
Site Design is a toolkit for projects that require complex site modeling and analysis. Slopes, drainage patterns and earthwork volumes can be analyzed for any type of site, including parking lots, detention ponds, landfills, building complexes and subdivisions.
The primary function of Surface Modeling is creating and editing 3D models of ground surfaces and then automatically representing those models as contour maps. Not only does it reduce the amount of time needed to generate a topographic map of original ground survey points and line work, it also aids in the modeling of proposed designs.
Intersection Design helps users automate the entire design process from pavement, island and median design to curb, shoulder and sidewalk layout, in addition to analyzing the design and calculating intersection quantities (figure 3).
Figure 3. Eagle Point's Intersection Design helps with the road design, including pavement, islands and medians, shoulders and sidewalks.
With the Profiles software, users can create a profile of the natural or proposed ground and place that profile into a drawing. It also provides the tools to draft in tangents, vertical curves, manholes, pipes, headwalls, flared-end sections and wing walls. Annotation and querying tools help produce finished drawings.
Quantity Takeoff reduces the time spent counting and measuring items within a project, giving designers more time to analyze projects and their costs. RoadCalc is a valuable tool for other corridor-based projects such as subdivision streets, berms, ditches, canals, dams, runways and taxiways.
RDV System's Rapid Design Visualization
Rapid Design Visualization is an application developed specifically for use with Autodesk Civil 3D. RDV Systems, a member of the DataSafe group headquartered in Lod, Israel, considers its software to be part of the whole-product civil engineering technological concept that complements the building information model.
The main enhancement in Rapid Design Visualization technology for 2008 is its support of photorealism; huge modifications have been made in its core technology (figure 4). Rapid Design Visualization enables civil engineers and designers to create powerful interactive 3D visualizations directly from within an Autodesk Civil 3D project. In RDV 2008, the Rapid Design Visualization core engine has been enhanced, and its corresponding Web-based viewer technology has been modified to support these adjustments. The RDV 2008 viewer also provides an augmented set of user-friendly interactive viewing capabilities. This version enables designers to easily apply advanced lighting and shadowing techniques for time-of-day implementation and to attain a greater level of photorealism for Civil 3D project-based visualizations.
Figure 4. The main enhancement in Rapid Design Visualization technology for 2008 is its support of photorealism.
RDV 2008 also delivers an enhanced set of visualization capabilities for the support of advanced object animation such as animated people, wildlife and machinery.
H. Edward Goldberg, AIA, NCARB, is a practicing licensed architect and AEC industry analyst. Ed's full-length book, Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2007: A Comprehensive Tutorial (Prentice Hall, www.prenhall.com) is now available. His new Revit Building tutorial book will be available in fall 2007. Visit www.hegra.org for more information or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.