Interview: KaDe King on Civil 3D and GIS

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Our very own KaDe King sat down with Tom Temin, host of GovIT, a DLT Podcast, a monthly series dedicated to discussing the next generation of public sector IT solutions with the technology innovators driving the change. Tom and KaDe discussed Autodesk Civil 3D and GIS software, her experiences, and its importance in the civil engineering space.

Ms. King, good to have you with us. So, let’s talk about civil engineering and GIS. This is something that goes back some years. What are the contemporary ways GIS is used in civil engineering?

GIS is used for project planning by allowing civil engineers and CAD technicians to use GIS data to create existing condition scenarios. For example, that could mean mapping out where existing pipelines are located, street centerlines, property boundaries. But a wide variety of GIS data is available from cities, county states, and government organizations.

We must be into a second or third generation of this type of data. In other words, at one time, people walked around mapping existing infrastructure and they would mark it and enter it in spreadsheets and so forth. I imagine now, at installation or at the time of repair, all of that data is recorded and made permanent.

Yes, a lot of data is gathered digitally nowadays and shared digitally as well. So, the access to the data is improved greatly.

And tell us about Civil 3D. Is that GIS software, is it CAD, or what is it?

So, Civil 3D is a little bit of both. It is the GIS software. That’s not its main purpose, but its main purpose, of course, is to build civil engineering data from a variety of sources. But GIS is a big important component of that. The Civil 3D is built on a product called AutoCAD Map, which is built on AutoCAD. So Civil 3D contains the core AutoCAD product in addition to all the functionality of AutoCAD Map. And AutoCAD Map is the GIS component for AutoCAD. It contains the ability to connect to and stylize GIS data sources, as well as the ability to import that data and convert it to CAD format. AutoCAD Map also has the ability to build new GIS data from existing CAD data.

In other words, you can take two-dimensional data, that GIS tends to be, and turn it into 3D for purposes, say, of maintenance or of studying structures, that kind of thing?

Absolutely.

How actually do you create Civil 3D objects from existing GIS data? Is that possible?

Yes, so to create, you can create Civil 3D objects from GIS data. There is a nice tool in Civil 3D called Import GIS Data, and that can build pipes and structures, import those, and create pipe networks. You can also bring ArcGIS data, data layers that contain points, lines, and polygons, and bring them into Civil 3D or convert that GIS data into Civil 3D things that are called alignments, feature lines, gravity pipes, parcels, and points or structures. Those are intelligent objects that are 3D model objects.

And so, as the nation embarks, presumably on big infrastructure work, there’s a couple of 100 billion dollars there in that bill for actual infrastructure, then, if you have something where you have the GIS data on it, it’s possible to convert that in some way, if you have your CAD drawing somewhere, into something usable for repair, maintenance, upgrade, replacement. And at the same time, if you are designing something, you can create the 3D and the GIS simultaneously for whatever you might need to do in the future?

Yeah, that is correct. It’s a great way to, if somebody was designing something new, it gives them a nice base to start with, you know, what the existing conditions look like. It’s basically the planning portion of civil engineering. The GIS data is very easy to access in Civil 3D.

In other words, you can export Civil 3D to GIS, working in the opposite way.

Yes, you can. So Civil 3D objects like alignments, points, parcels, pipes, and structures can be directly published through… There’s a piece inside of Civil 3D called the ArcGIS Connector, or they can be exported to an SDF, which is a GIS file-based format.

And just from a user standpoint, acquisition standpoint, is the software we’re talking about here, Civil 3D, GIS, is this a cloud-hosted application, or do agencies still want it on their own servers? How do they buy it and implement it?

Good question. So Civil 3D is a product that’s installed on your local computer. And it’s usually purchased through what we call the AEC Collection through Autodesk. And that AEC Collection contains numerous other products that tie in with Civil 3D, one of those being InfraWorks, which is also a 3D planning software that can take GIS data. Very common workflow to tie in InfraWorks back with Civil 3D to do not only planning but design as well. And then there are other pieces of software that go along with that as well, there are several software pieces in that AEC Collection. But it is installed directly on the user’s computer, and licenses are assigned per user.

And so, people that are familiar with the AutoCAD programs and so on, then this is something they’ll be able to simply use, it sounds like.

Yes, they will. If you’re already familiar with AutoCAD, learning Civil 3D is just kind of the next jump up. And learning how to use the GIS features within that is just another short time of training to kind of figure out what workflow you need to use.

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