Trying to Be Civil in a BIM World

BIM is a term that is getting thrown around out there a lot lately. You hear about BIM 360 and all the different flavors of it. There are BIM Mangers out there now. You might have even heard talk of Civil 3D being able to interact with BIM 360 Glue. But up to this point, BIM seems to have been mostly associated with Revit, right? There really has not been any Civil in BIM, has there? Well, that is not entirely true–at least from a project standpoint. I will explain a workflow that I have been involved with on a project to give you a better idea of how Civil not only fits into the world of BIM but also some workflows (or workarounds in some cases) to get your Civil objects from Civil 3D into a multidiscipline project that is hosted in BIM 360 Glue.

For most people reading this blog, Civil 3D remains the Civil tool primarily used to produce your projects. Things such as surfaces, alignments, corridors, and pipe networks are some examples of what we produce with Civil 3D. These elements are great as they are both dynamic and essentially 3D elements containing valuable data. Does that mean that all of these project items can easily translate into a BIM environment? (“Easily” being the key word here.) That all depends on a few areas involving project coordination.

One thing to keep in mind is project setup, such as coordinates. As Civil people, we have dealt with the age-old issue of the building being in one location, and our Civil project being in the correct location, tied down with coordinates. While there are ways for the other disciplines to make this easier for us, it doesn’t often come to fruition. In a recent project I was involved with, the other disciplines did not use project coordinates. This meant that when I was ready to export my model to get it into BIM 360 Glue, I had to jump through what I call the “Civil Project Hoops”. First, a co-worker (StarLord James) had to figure out how to move the Civil objects to match the other disciplines’ files. This involved moving in from one end of the drawing to the other, rotating the objects, then literally dropping their Z value by almost 17 feet! Check out the image below. It had to be moved roughly 316 miles! But wait! There’s more fun!

Prior to moving, rotating, and dropping everything, it was determined that all of the desired model items, which included some AutoCAD 3D entities to go along with all of the Civil 3D objects, had to be exported to AutoCAD to “dumb” down the Civil objects, as there seems to be issues with them in BIM 360 Glue. After this export, all the moving, rotating, and other editing can take place.

In the images below, you can see a combination of Civil 3D pipe network objects, pressure network objects, as well as AutoCAD blocks and 3D solids. All gravity system piping and structures were modeled using Civil 3D pipe network objects while fittings, elbows, and valves were used from pressure network parts and pipes to connect them. You can see how the combination of these parts went together in the first image. In the second image, you can see a fire hydrant, which is an AutoCAD block, thrust blocking for the pipes, which is an AutoCAD 3D solid, and a retaining wall which is another AutoCAD 3D solid.

When everything is ready on the AutoCAD side, the final piece of the puzzle to be able to get Civil into the BIM 360 Glue model is to create an NWC file in Navisworks. This is the easy part where all you have to do is drag and drop the DWG file from Windows Explorer into the Navisworks window. It creates an NWC file in the same location as the DWG file. From there, I just post the NWC file to Glue, and double check to make sure all is well.

That’s about it for this blog. It’s not all gloom and doom but I will definitely be looking for easier ways to get Civil into BIM 360 Glue projects in the future.

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