QC Checklist for Civil 3D Modeling

QC Checklist for Civil 3D Modeling

Give you and your company peace of mind with this Civil 3D QC Modeling Checklist. With embedded formulas and dynamically linked cells, filling out this form, all while ensuring your design model has been thoroughly checked, has never been easier to Manage and Review. This QC Modeling Checklist covers all modeling aspects available within Civil 3D, including Corridors, Gravity and Pressure Pipe Networks, Surfaces, and more!


Bring Your InfraWorks Model into Stingray

Once you have your InfraWorks model set up and everything appears as it should, you can then export your model to an FBX using the ‘Export 3D Model’ command under Settings and Utilities.

Export 3D Model to FBX

Export 3D Model to FBX Dialog Box

           If you’re new to Stingray, I would strongly recommend starting a new project using 1 of the templates already configured. The project templates include all the basic necessities you’ll need to create the virtual reality experience with your design. Once you determine which template you want to use, your basic scene will be set up. Go ahead and select all the objects in the Explorer tab on the right hand side, minus the ‘reflection_probe (Unit) and ‘Skydome’, right-click and delete.

Stingray Explorer Tab

           Then, in your Asset Browser tab underneath the scene, expand ‘Content’ and select the models folder. Go ahead and drag and drop the FBX file you created from InfraWorks into the models folder. This process imports the model into your Stingray project. Depending on the size, it may take several minutes to process. Once Imported into the models folder, you can then drag and drop the imported FBX file into your scene.

Import FBX Dialog Box

Stingray Asset Browser Tab

           After you get it positioned in your scene where you want, the final step is to generate your EXE file, by going to the Window | Deploy and Connect | Deployer. In the Deployer dialog box, define the location where you want to save the EXE to, give it a name and click the Package Project for Windows button. It’s that simple!

Package Project for Windows Deployment

Import Civil 3D Design Components Into InfraWorks

Import Autodesk SDF Files

           When importing Land Coverage Areas, best practice is to import SDF files as Coverage Areas and apply a rendering style (Rule Style) to each particular component that best represents the feature. Under the Source Tab, make sure that the Drape option is selected and the ‘Convert closed polylines to polygons’ box is checked.

Coverage Area Data Source Configuration Dialog Box

           When importing Striping for Roadways and Parking Lots, best practice is to import as Coverage Areas, and assign as a constant color within the Rule Style. Make sure the Drape option is selected and the ‘Convert closed polylines to polygons’ box is unchecked. Go into the Table tab and apply a buffer to depict the true width of the striping.

InfraWorks Select Style/Color Dialog Box

Coverage Area – Adding a Buffer Value

           When importing Fences and Barriers, best practice is to import as a Barrier, then specify the Rule Style, Height and Object Spacing. Make sure the Drape option is selected and ‘Convert closed polylines to polygons’ box is unchecked.

Define Fencing as Barriers

Applying Style, Height and Object Spacing to Fencing

Select Chain Link Fence Component

           When importing areas that will have running and/or standing water on the site (i.e. streams, retention/detention ponds, etc.), best practice is to import as Water Areas with the Water Rule Style applied to it. If these areas are to illustrate standing water (i.e. pond, lake, etc.), best practice is to select either ‘Don’t Drape’ or ‘Set Elevation’ option to show a consistent elevation throughout the wet area. However, if these areas are to illustrate a stream, you will want to drape these features onto the surface.

Applying the Default Water Style to Watered Area

Select ‘Don’t Drape’ for Standing Watered Areas

Import LandXML Files

           When importing LandXML files into your model, InfraWorks will automatically recognize what type of component is being imported (i.e. surface, gravity pipe network, etc.) and define it as such. InfraWorks will separate your Gravity Pipe Networks into 2 Categories: Pipelines and Pipeline Connectors.

Importing Gravity Pipe Networks Dialog Box

Import DWG 3D Model

           When importing your Pressure Pipe Networks, best practice is to import as a DWG 3D Model. Once imported, it’s best to categorize these components as pipelines. Note that since these objects have been exploded to the point where all Civil 3D data has been lost, all pipes, fittings and appurtenances will be grouped together, not separated as Pipeline Connectors.

Preview of Pressure Pipe Network

Pressure Pipe Network shown in InfraWorks Model Connecting to Piping from Revit Models

Import Revit Models

           When importing Revit Model files, best practice is to import as such. InfraWorks will automatically categorize these models as Buildings, regardless of the actual contents within the Revit Model (i.e. Plumbing, Mechanical/HVAC, Electrical, etc.).

Preview of the Revit Mechanical/Process Model

Export Civil 3D Components to be Imported into InfraWorks

           There’s obviously many ways to export your Civil 3D components and bring them into your InfraWorks model. As a personal preference, I like to extract my site components individually. Although a little more time is spent up front exporting these components, it can, and will, save you time down the road as you further develop your design. This process keeps it simple, making it much easier to manage and update specific components, as needed, at a later date.

Here’s a view of the Civil 3D Model

Export to Autodesk SDF

           Land Coverage Areas are best to be exported from Civil 3D as Autodesk SDF files. Note that all areas will need to be closed polylines to ensure that they’re represented accurately in the InfraWorks Model. In Civil 3D, export these site features to Autodesk SDF files using the MapExport command. During the export process, make sure you manually select the features in the Selection tab and Check the ‘Treat closed polylines as polygons’ box under the Options tab.

MapExport Dialog Box

MapExport Dialog Box

Export to LandXML

           Surfaces and Gravity Pipe Networks are best to be exported from Civil 3D as LandXML files. If the site has multiple surfaces and gravity pipe networks within the design, it would be best to export each surface and/or network individually, rather than all at once such that all components reside in 1 LandXML file. A quick tip here is to combine your existing and proposed surfaces into 1 complete surface model and then export this new combined surface to LandXML. If any excavation is required for buildings/structures on your site, be sure to account for this as well. The last thing you want to see in your InfraWorks models are surfaces running through your buildings.

Civil 3D Combined Surface

Export to Civil 3D

           Pressure Pipe Networks are not supported in InfraWorks at this time. To bring these components into InfraWorks, best practice is to WBlock these networks out to a separate file. Once exported, open up the file, select all objects within, and explode them to the point that they are 3D Solids.

Civil 3D Pressure Pipe Network

Leveraging InfraWorks and Stingray for Interdisciplinary Checks and Reviews

  If you’re like me, it seems like all the cool new design and review programs that have been released over the past several years have been more focused on the building/structure side of the business. Sure, Autodesk had released InfraWorks for us Civil folks, and have put in a lot of effort into further developing it and making it a practical application for us to use during the design process. But it still has its limitations.

           I’ve been trying to find ways to incorporate InfraWorks into my design process since its first release, and have found it to be great at many things. I can do my preliminary existing site analysis by quickly obtaining topography, waterways, drainage features, buildings, etc. in a matter of minutes; whereas this process would have taken several hours, sometimes days, trying to track down all this information online and through various agencies. It also increases speed and decision-making during your project’s conceptual design phase as you can run through different design scenarios on the fly.

           Probably the most important use I’ve found InfraWorks to provide, is it’s ability to improve your Civil 3D Models from a visualization standpoint as well as it’s improved interoperability with other BIM applications. Yes, Civil 3D can bring in Revit models via ADSK and DWG exports, but trying to view your Revit and Civil 3D models in a rendered state in Civil 3D can be quite painful, time consuming and will cause file corruption in your design models at some point.

           As Clients and Owners discover the true value of properly developing an accurate BIM | CIM design, 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. Over the past few years, I’ve seen many design review meetings take place where BIM models are brought into Navisworks, where firms are able to navigate through the model with their clients. Clients are typically left feeling impressed by the new technology and much more comfortable with the design itself, as they can really visualize how everything is coming together. Trying to get design models from Civil 3D into Navisworks has been a whole other process that isn’t as seamless as Revit into Navisworks. Another downside to this concept is that Clients are required to download software to view these models on their own.

           The more I have incorporated InfraWorks into my design process, the more I see it as just an extension to Civil 3D. It really has brought some of my company’s designs to life. I’ve produced some really cool renderings and videos of site fly-overs and walk-throughs of the entire design model. I’ve been able to incorporate our design models from both Civil 3D and Revit, thus providing another program that gives us the ability to review these models for interdisciplinary checks. It also provides a much improved visualization from a Civil standpoint as other disciplines aren’t just looking at lines on a drawing anymore. They can really visualize how their building/structure models are being integrated into the surrounding land, and the rest of the site design.

           A couple years ago, I came across a webcast that demonstrated how to bring your Civil 3D models into Stingray. Stingray, as far as I knew, was more of a gaming platform. That being said, I assumed that if you ever just wanted to be that person turning your Civil 3D models into Stingray Games, and if you have that kind of time on your hands, more power to you. To be honest, although it seemed pretty neat, I didn’t see it as very practical in any sense. Plus, the demonstration had you go from Civil 3D, to InfraWorks, to 3ds Max and then, finally, into Stingray. To me, this just seemed like a whole big workaround just to produce a game.

           With all the recent advancements in technology, it just seems like there should be an easier process. The more I get into relying on InfraWorks as an extension to Civil 3D, the more I see both programs as 1. I have also since found out that I can ultimately bypass using 3ds Max altogether. I can actually export my InfraWorks model to an FBX file, which can then be brought directly into Stingray.

           Once you import your FBX model into Stingray, and get everything positioned in your scene the way you want it to appear, you can then deploy your scene to an executable (EXE) file that can be launched on any computer without having the need to install any additional software. This is extremely important to note, as clients and owners will feel much more at ease with the overall concept and final output, and not feel overwhelmed by having to acquire, install and actually learn a new software, or tool.

           Another concept that might take some getting used to during this process (I know I had some trouble getting used to it at least), was not to consider this EXE file as a “Game”. I’m sure you can imagine what the response would be if you discuss turning your models into a “Game” to upper management. Instead of considering it a “Game, you’re going to want to consider it a “Virtual Reality Simulation”. This phrasing of the concept will get you increased buy-in from upper management, as well as Clients and Owners.

           Although this Virtual Reality Simulation is actually an EXE file that can be launched directly on your laptop, Stingray also provides the real deal VR experience where you can hook up Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and some other VR headset devices for your simulations, thus allowing you, clients, etc. to be fully immersed into your design models.       

An Approach for Dynamically Linking Erosion and Sediment Control BMPs

Have you ever wanted to automate, or dynamically link, your Erosion and Sediment Control symbology to storm drainage and/or grading design features in AutoCAD® Civil 3D®? By thinking outside the box a little, you will realize that there are quite a few different ways to achieve this. In my experience, I have found that the best approach is to create new label styles that will incorporate specific symbology to these features. 

An added benefit to using this approach is that Civil 3D allows you to assign Pay Items to these Labels using Quantity Takeoff (QTO) Manager as well. In this article, I will go over a couple examples of dynamically linking your Erosion and Sediment Control BMPs within your design.

Gravel Inlet Protection

To avoid massive file sizes and unnecessary downtime, our standard filing practice is to place major design components into separate working files, then data shortcut these components into each file as needed. We set up a separate CAD design model file each for Grading, Drainage, Erosion Control, etc. As we design our storm drainage features in the Drainage model file, we will assign structure styles in that particular file to show up as curb inlets, junction boxes, etc. to depict the structure’s true representation.  We then data reference these drainage components into our Erosion Control model file and configure a new label style to include a Gravel Inlet Protection 3D block.

Figures 1 and 2 show an example of a simple 3D Gravel Inlet Protection block.

Figure 1

Figure 2 

To set up your Civil 3D Structure Label style, you will need to open your Toolspace and go to the Settings tab. Expand the Structure | Label Styles category and create a new Structure Label Style (Figure 3).


Figure 3

In the Label Style Composer dialog box, go to the General tab and change the Orientation Reference to Object.

Figure 4

Next, go to the Layout tab and create a Block Component for your Gravel Inlet Protection block.

Figure 5

After you have the Structure Label Style set up, go to the Annotate ribbon and Add Label. Change your Feature selection to “Pipe Network,” Label Type to “Single Part Plan,” and Structure Label Style to your new “Gravel Inlet Protection” label style

The final product should look similar to Figures 6 and 7.

Figure 6

Figure 7

On a side note, you can easily achieve close to similar results by further utilizing the Structure Styles. Once you have your Storm Pipe Network data referenced into your Erosion Control model file, you can set up a new Structure Style where the Gravel Inlet Protection 3D block will appear at each storm drainage structure location in Plan and Profile views. The only drawback to this approach is if you switch to a 3D view, the actual model of the structure will appear in place of the Gravel Inlet Protection 3D block.

Figure 8

Check Dam

This same concept can be applied to grading objects and feature lines as well. Figures 9 and 10 are a 3D view of a Check Dam block.

Figure 9

Figure 10

In this example, I will outline the process of applying a 3D Check Dam symbol along a diversion ditch centerline at a specified interval. Once your block is configured to match the top and bottom widths and side slopes of your ditch, the next step is to configure a Civil 3D Style that will incorporate the Check Dam block. In almost all cases, diversion ditches are being modeled using feature lines to generate the proposed grading surfaces for each phase of Erosion Control needed for your project.  We want to use Civil 3D’s Feature Line Labels to apply our check dams along the ditch.

To set up your Civil 3D Feature Line Label style, you’ll need to open your Toolspace and go to the Settings tab. Expand the General | Label Styles category and create a new Line and Curve label style separately. In the Label Style Composer dialog box, go to the Layout tab and create a block component for your Check Dam 3D element. See Figures 11 and 12.

Figure 11

Figure 12

After you have them set up, go to the Annotate ribbon and Add Labels. Change the Feature selection to “Line and Curve” and update the Style selections to your new “Check Dam” label styles.

Figure 13

To ensure that you are placing your check dam symbols (labels) at specific intervals, you can use AutoCAD’s Measure command to place points at the required spacing. Once the points are placed, create multiple “Single Segment” labels and adjust the location using grips to be at the same location as the “measured” point.

Theoretically, you can use the same Measure command to place your Check Dam block (instead of points) and it will space it accordingly and locate it vertically as well along your Grading Feature Line. The only downside is that it’s a one-shot deal, so if you modify the Grading Feature Line down the road, the Check Dam symbol will not update its location automatically. You would ultimately have to select all of your symbols, then delete and reinsert.

By using the Label approach, if you modify your diversion ditch centerline in any direction, the Check Dam locations will update automatically, but you will need to re-space your labels as needed. Ultimately, there are benefits and drawbacks to whichever route you choose to go, so you’ll have to make sure that the path you choose obviously has more upside to it.  Either approach will ultimately give a final product looking similar to Figures 14 and 15.

Figure 14

Figure 15

Quantity Take-Off (QTO) Manager

After you have all your Erosion and Sediment Control BMPs laid out, you can assign pay items to the various labels using QTO Manager. Unfortunately, Civil 3D doesn’t allow you to assign pay items to labels during setup or in your template for automatic and dynamic quantification. However, you can assign them after all your labels are in there fairly easily by isolating your labels using groups, selecting structures through the pipe network vista if you go this route, or even using the SELECTSIMILAR command in Civil 3D.

Figure 16

The Label Styles approach of dynamically linking Erosion and Sediment Control BMPs is just one of many that can be applied within Civil 3D. What it all really comes down to is personal preferences and what the final product needs to be. For example, I prefer to go with the Structure and Feature Line Labels approach as the location of the block will always be linked to these components both horizontally and vertically. Furthermore, if I’m already making an effort to set up label styles to be applied to my drainage structures, I might as well do the same for feature lines for consistency purposes.

As we continue to move forward into a complete 3D Dynamic Model world of Civil Design where everything is linked to each other, we can continue to chip away, and toss out, some of those old static 2D ways of drafting and designing.

Leveraging the Use of Profile Banding

In my design experience, I very rarely had to create custom plan and profile construction drawings. The majority of the utility projects I have designed required a very simple and straightforward plan and profile configuration where profiles contained your basic information:

  • Grade Lines
  • Utility Designs
  • Station and Elevation Profile Band
  • Necessary callouts required to more accurately define the design and instruct the contractor

My company, HDR, had recently been working on a very large natural gas transmission main project, which extended approximately 244 miles across three states. It was a utility design project, so the majority of the construction drawings were set up as Plan over Profile sheets. The client requested that we include all Erosion Control BMPs, any Environmental Constraints and Impact Zones, Limits of Right-of-Ways and Property Boundaries (with Parcel Data included), as well as any key notes in all profile views within the drawing set so as not to clutter the plan view too much.

As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of additional information required to be included on the construction drawings. This could become quite messy if not well thought out and organized from the beginning of the project. After much discussion, we had determined that the cleanest way to show all of this data on our sheets would be to set up our profile views such that they included additional bands to represent this information.

In order for our Profiles to read this information, we had to incorporate this data into various AutoCAD® Civil 3D® objects that referenced our proposed transmission alignment along the way. Being that this alignment stretched approximately 244 miles, extra attention was made to verify all this data was dynamically linked to the alignment, so that we would avoid massive rework, headaches, etc. down the road if the horizontal alignment had to be revised in any way.

On the flip side, even though we had figured out a nice clean approach to displaying this additional data in our profile views, we were ultimately just cluttering our plan views with these dynamically linked Civil 3D objects instead. To minimize some of the clutter, we decided to use a combination of Pipe Networks and Section Sample Line Groups to differentiate the various features and data to be represented in our profile bands. Furthermore, we kept all these features on no plot layers and styles in plan view so they could be turned off relatively quickly.

Figure 1: Here is a view of the final product of our typical plan and profile sheets

As you can see in the example in Figure 1, all information displayed in the Right-of-Way, Environmental Data, and Site Specific E&S bands, as well as the symbology in the profile view depicting the proposed water bar and trench plug locations, were all dynamically linked to the various Civil 3D features we incorporated into the plan views. Figure 2 shows an outline of the workflow we used to define these features to be dynamically linked to the profile band set.

Figure 2: Final Band Set dialog box

Stream, River, Pond, Lake, and Wetland Crossings

  • Create a New Sample Line Group.

Figure 3: Sample line group created for stream, river, pond, lake. and wetland crossings

  • Place Section Lines at each location where the Main Alignment crosses stream, rivers, ponds, lakes, and wetlands. If a Main Alignment crosses a stream or river that is less than 10’ wide from top of bank to top of bank, place Section Line at Centerline only.
  • Place direction (ENTER/EXIT) according to the direction of the Main Alignment stationing as well as the name of the water body crossing in the “Name” value for each Sample Line.

EPZ Crossings

  • Create a New Sample Line Group.

Figure 4: Sample line group created for EPZ crossings

  • Place Section Lines at each location where the Main Alignment crosses EPZ boundaries.
  • Place direction (ENTER/EXIT) according to the direction of the Main Alignment stationing as well as the name of the water body crossing in the “Name” value for each Sample Line.

Property Owner and ROW Information

  • Create a New Pipe Network.

Figure 5: Pipe network created for property owner and ROW information

  • Place Null Structures at each location where the Main Alignment crosses Property Boundaries and ROW Lines with any size pipe connecting throughout the entire run.
  • Place Parcel Number and Last Name of Owner (or Road Name) in the Description of each Pipe as two separate lines of text.
  • Select All Structures and Pipes in the “Parcel Data” Pipe Network.
  • Right-click and select “Draw Parts in Profile View.”
  • Make sure all Structures and Pipes are assigned to the “HDR – No Plot” Style.

Timber Matting and Soil Instability Zones

  • Create a New Pipe Network.

Figure 6: Pipe network created for E&S Timber Matting and Soil Instability Zones

  • Place Null Structures at each location where the Main Alignment crosses erosion control matting and known soil instability area boundary lines.
    • Place key note reference in the description of each structure.
  • Place pipes connecting to Null Structures within areas where the Main Alignment crosses erosion control matting and known soil instability areas and apply.
    • Add labels to all pipes using the “HDR – E&S Matting and Soil Instability Zones” style assigned to it.
    • Place key note reference in the description of each pipe.
  • Select all structures in the “E&S matting and Soil Instability Zones” pipe network.
  • Right-click and select “Draw Parts in Profile View.”
  • Make sure all pipes and structures are assigned to the “HDR – No Plot” Style.

All Other Erosion Control Features

  • Create a New Pipe Network for each key note line (maximum of four).

Figure 7: Pipe network created for first line of key notes. (Additional pipe networks were created for each additional key note line)

  • Place a “Concentric Cylindrical Structure” at each Water Bar and Trench Plug location.
  • Place key note reference in the description of each structure.
  • Select all structures in each pipe network.
  • Right-click and select “Draw Parts in Profile View.”
  • Assign all structures at Water Bar locations the “HDR – Design Water Bar” style.
  • Assign all structures at Trench Plug locations the “HDR – Design Trench Plug” style.
  • To change the elevation assigned to Trench Plug locations, select each structure and modify the “Surface Adjustment Value” field as required.

Figure 8: Trench plug surface adjustment available within Structure Properties dialog box

  • Place Null Structures at each location where all other the E&S features have been placed that need to be projected into Profile Views and/or Profile Bands with key note references.
  • Place Reference Number to correspond with the General Notes Reference Sheet in the description of each structure.
  • Select all structures in each key note pipe network.
  • Right-click and select “Draw Parts in Profile View.”
  • Make sure all structures are assigned to the “HDR – No Plot” style.

Assigning Bands to Each Profile

  • Select profile view.
  • Right-click and select Profile View Properties…
  • Go to the Bands tab.
  • Select “Import Band Set” button located at the bottom of the dialog box.
  • Select the “Nexus Pipeline – E&S Profile Band Set” and click the OK button.
  • Final Band Setup should look like Figure 9.

Figure 9: Final Band Set dialog box

This workflow of displaying multiple levels of information within our profile views is just one of many that could have been implemented on this project. There are many different ways we could have approached this, and believe me, many were discussed and carefully vetted. This workflow was a unique example of what can potentially be done within Civil 3D and extensive use of profile banding. Hopefully this has provided enough insight for you to apply similar concepts to your current or upcoming projects.

Incorporating Dynamic Blocks to Generate More Accurate Civil 3D Models

Figure 1: Exaggerated fence layout

In order for us to fully embrace the 3D environment, we need to completely change our way of thinking and designing. We continue to rely on custom linetypes to represent a lot of our site features being displaying on our plans.

By creating 3D elements in AutoCAD and converting to dynamic blocks, we can begin to remove at least some of the 2D linetype representations we so heavily relied on in the past to display various site components. The following example will go over the process of creating a dynamic block to replace a simple Civil Site 2D linetype.

Figure 2 is a picture of a typical chain-link fence in 2D view.

Figure 2: Typical 2D chain-link fence linetype

With the use of the 3D Solid Modeling built into AutoCAD (and available in C3D by switching your workspace to 3D Modeling), we can create an accurate 3D representation of what this fence should really look like. You would want to start off with a standard fence based on a detail from your local municipality. Keep in mind this block can be modified later on to accommodate any special requirements needed for different clients/owners or site constraints. Once completed, your new appearance will look like this in 2D and Isometric views:

Figure 3: New 3D chain-link fence linetype shows pole and foundation

Figure 4: Isometric view of new chain-link fence

Once you have your 3D representation set up the way you want it to look, we would then convert it to a block. In Block editor, we can add Parameters to define distances, points, visibility settings, etc. to better define how your block is, and should be, represented in 3D views. We can further manipulate it to apply Actions to each of the Parameters to define how you want the block to act as you lay out your site features in your Civil 3D models. In this instance, I have applied stretches to a few of my distances to give me the ability to extend poles and fencing along alignments as necessary. I have also added an array to my horizontal distance so that as I stretch my chain-link fence block, the poles will copy in an array along the alignment as well. In this situation, I have set my array to 10’ intervals/spacing.

Figure 5: Chain-link fence definition in block editor – 2D wireframe view style

Finally, if you switch your view display setting to realistic, you can apply the chain-link fence appearance to your block through the Rendering Materials Browser. You may also need to adjust the material mapping interval such that it looks like a true 3D chain-link fence with correct mesh spacing.

Figure 6: Chain-link fence definition in block editor – realistic view style

After you’ve set all your parameters and actions, save and close out of block editor. If you switch to your isometric view and select your new block, you will also see grips in places where you have defined your actions.

Figure 7: View of block as inserted into your working model

Figure 8: View after using one of the grips to stretch the chain-link fence block in your working model

Your block is now ready to be incorporated into your Civil 3D model.

Figure 9: Realistic view of chain-link fence

Figure 10: Realistic view of chain-link fence

Figure 11: Realistic view of chain-link fence

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

Network Resources

  • Setup
  • Verification
  • License & Privileges

Hardware Resources

  • Acquisition
  • Setup
  • Verification

Software Resources

  • Acquisition
  • Deployment
  • Licensing

Personnel Resources

  • Staffing
  • Training


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


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

Quality Assurance and Controls

  • Clash Detection


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

  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.