Can CIM Be Done in Civil 3D?

We’ve all heard the term Building Information Modeling (BIM) being thrown around for quite some time now. In general, BIM is the process typically applied to and associated with intelligently and dynamically designing an actual building or structure, where architects/engineers and designers can visualize and anticipate the true constructability of a project.

On the civil engineering side, we’ve been designing and modeling everything outside buildings/structures in a 3D environment for just as long, if not longer, than the term BIM has been around. However, for one reason or another, these designs have not typically been viewed as BIM by the vast majority. During this time, we’ve been able to generate and link surfaces, create corridor models and pipe networks. We’ve been able to produce dynamic profiles and cross sections, perform clash detections and earthwork quantities, and even generate reports and cost estimates.  Although civil engineers and designers have been producing some form of a 3D model within their design over the years, the final product has almost always been a hybrid of 2D and 3D design components.

As we ride a new wave of AEC design and collaboration concepts, the industry as a whole is shifting its focus to a fully integrated ‘Design to Construction’ workflow, introducing the ability to streamline designs, reviews, cost estimates, constructions, and as-builts.  To get us there, we are required to throw the 2D mentality out and fully embrace the concept of 3D.

By incorporating similar processes used for BIM, we understand that the full Civil Information Modeling (CIM) process doesn’t end with generating a 3D model.  Once a true 3D model, or site representation, has been developed, we can move into additional dimensions that will allow us to extract and analyze the intelligent components put into our design.

As clients and owners discover the value and adapt to this new technology wave, it’s becoming more common for them to make it a requirement for AEC firms to include their 3D models along with hard copy plan sets at each design deliverable. Contractors are also getting involved and collaborating at much earlier phases of the project design.

Since the introduction of BIM, contractors have been shifting toward this environment where they can update design models with additional construction intelligence while making in-field modifications/adjustments to the model during construction phases. This process, currently known as Virtual Design & Construction (VDC), allows for a more seamless collaboration, resulting in a much improved as-built final product.

CIM Procedures

With a growing demand for expanding our design capabilities to incorporate the ever-evolving enhancements and improved functionality with the various design programs, we are expected to continuously improve our skill sets and help guide each other during the transition from 2D to 3D CIM principles and concepts.

Implementing a true CIM design, especially the first one, isn’t accomplished easily. There will most definitely be some hiccups and growing pains along the way. You may even find yourself reaching the breaking point of frustration where you think that the only viable option is to go into survival mode and let old habits kick in. Rest assured, we’ve all been there and it has only made us better for it. As dim as it may seem at the time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Traditionally, design costs and efforts typically take the biggest hits during the intermediate and final design phases of a project, whereas a CIM design will be front-loaded and taper off as the project design development progresses. Additionally, working in a 3D model-based environment drives individuals to really think about what they’re designing and how it impacts the rest of the project. More time is spent up front detailing a 3D model dynamically and intelligently in preparation of drawing generation and detailed analysis.  As a result, any changes/revisions you encounter during the latter phases of a project will take significantly less time to update and adjust. It’s at this point that you will begin to see the major benefits behind generating a CIM design.

During project initiation/startup, project managers and engineers now need to look at the overall picture of the project and document what they want the final product to represent, and then determine how best to get there. BIM/CIM execution plans are becoming more commonplace, where design teams collaborate early on to put together a document outlining all of the BIM/CIM Workflows and Uses to be applied throughout the project life-cycle that will be most beneficial to reach that final product. Here are some example CIM Workflows and Uses:

Sample CIM Workflow
Logistics

Network Resources

  • Setup
  • Verification
  • License & Privileges

Hardware Resources

  • Acquisition
  • Setup
  • Verification

Software Resources

  • Acquisition
  • Deployment
  • Licensing

Personnel Resources

  • Staffing
  • Training

Initialization

Project Planning

  • CIM Team
  • BIM Team
  • Mobilization
  • Modeling Strategy
  • Integration Strategy
  • New Project Setup
  • Scheduling

Data Management

  • File Transfer Protocols
  • Dataset/Worksets
  • Data Shortcuts

Model Management

Network Resources

  • Linking Method
  • Worksharing Method
  • Holistic Approach

Designing/Modeling

  • Design Phases
  • Change Orders
  • RFIs
  • As-Builts

Quality Assurance and Controls

  • Clash Detection

Deliverables

Soft Copies (Digital Files)

  • Designs/Drawings
    • Source
    • Universal
    • Reproducible
  • Data/Dataset/Resource Files

Hard Copies (Printed)

Life Cycle

  • Archiving Data (Digital Files)
  • Enterprise Data
  • Library/Catalog Updates
  • Commissioning/Operations and Maintenance
  • Lessons Learned

Sample CIM Uses
Planning

  • 3D Modeling (Model Production)
  • Bridge Modeling & Structural Analysis
  • Cost Estimating (QTO)
  • Design Options (Concept Study)
  • Design Reviews
  • Storm Drainage Design and Analysis
  • Utility Design and Analysis
  • Existing Conditions
  • Geotechnical Analysis
  • GIS Tools (Environmental Analysis)
  • Phase Planning (4D)
  • Roadway Design and Analysis
  • Sustainability Analysis
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Visualization

Design

  • 3D Coordination (Clash Detection)
  • 3D Modeling (Model Production)
  • Bridge Modeling & Structural Analysis
  • Cost Estimating (QTO)
  • Design Reviews
  • Digital Fabrication
  • Storm Drainage Design and Analysis
  • Utility Design and Analysis
  • Drawing Generation (Production)
  • Existing Conditions
  • Field Automation (Machine Guidance)
  • Geotechnical Analysis
  • GIS Tools (Environmental Analysis)
  • Phase Planning (4D)
  • Roadway Design and Analysis
  • Sustainability Analysis
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Visualization

Construction

  • 3D Coordination (Clash Detection)
  • Bridge Modeling & Structural Analysis
  • Cost Estimating (QTO)
  • Digital Fabrication
  • Storm Drainage Design and Analysis
  • Utility Design and Analysis
  • Existing Conditions
  • Field Automation (Machine Guidance)
  • Geotechnical Analysis
  • Phase Planning (4D)
  • Record Modeling (As-Built Modeling)
  • Roadway Design and Analysis
  • Site Utilization Planning
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Visualization

Operations

  • Asset Management
  • Cost Estimating (QTO)
  • Existing Conditions
  • Phase Planning (4D)
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Record Modeling (As-Built Modeling)
  • Visualization

It’s also necessary to investigate which design programs are available that will enable us to achieve full success on the CIM implementation. Both Autodesk and Bentley have an array of design programs and tools available that give us the ability to achieve full success on our CIM implementation.

On the Autodesk side, AutoCAD® Civil 3D was introduced more 10 years ago and has allowed us to dynamically design our models. This design process has become more seamless as Autodesk further developed the program through the years since. Civil 3D gives us the ability to produce 3D, 4D, 5D, and 6D models, but with limitations. Many will say there is still a need to revert to the 2D drafting mentality to lay out certain site features (i.e., fencing, erosion control BMPs, landscaping, etc.). Although somewhat time consuming and a little unorthodox, we can now generate a lot of these features dynamically with the use of feature lines, Subassembly Composer, Part and Content Builder, and various add-on design programs, tools and apps.

Furthermore, with the introduction of Infraworks a few years ago, we now have a program that will enable us to take our full Civil 3D CIM design and bring it into a real world setting where we can more accurately visualize how our design will be integrated with its surrounding site features/developments. We can further customize this visualization with graphics/textures, landscaping, animations, analysis, etc.—all while gaining an even better perspective of the true constructability of the design.

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