Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Autodesk’s New Infrastructure Portfolio Additions
October 8th, 2011 by Susan Smith
Autodesk announced recently their Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012 software for conceptual design and AutoCAD Utility Design 2012 software for electric utility design, two new additions to the Autodesk Building Information Modeling (BIM) for Infrastructure portfolio for planning, designing, building, and managing more sustainable infrastructure. These new products complement the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite 2012, and are designed to help professionals address the failing infrastructure crisis.
For those in the GIS industry unfamiliar with building information modeling (BIM), it is a technology designed to build a model to collect and manage all the data that goes into an infrastructure project. As projects become larger and encompass more data, the need to have a centralized repository of all associated project data from concept through to building, operations and maintenance becomes more critical. Paul McRoberts, vice president of the Infrastructure Product Line Group AEC Solutions, was formerly the head of Autodesk’s GIS division, which they rolled into the Infrastructure division in the past two years. The reason for this is that the company at its roots is focused on infrastructure, and their GIS products are best suited as complements to their other infrastructure products. Most of their customers use GIS as part of a whole in initial site planning, digital cities, building design, utility design and other infrastructure related tasks. Their GIS products are now part of Autodesk’s Civil 3D and AutoCAD Utility Design for Electrical Utility Distribution.
GIS becoming part of model-based design is another way in which GIS is becoming invisible as it becomes ubiquitous and powers various consumer, location, tracking, real estate, imagery and other applications. The convergence of design and geospatial is cutting edge and worthy of note. Autodesk presented at the 2010 Esri GeoDesign conference in Redlands, offering an interesting perspective to geodesign by way of their architectural and engineering background.
McRoberts noted that there is a $41 trillion problem with infrastructure and about $22 trillion available to fix this situation.
The Infrastructure Design Suite released earlier this year introduced the whole gamut of plan, design, construct and manage as part of the infrastructure lifecycle. “We called it our BIM for Infrastructure,” said McRoberts. “At that time we really focused on how information was leveraged throughout the entire lifecycle and took things from Map 3D in our GIS environment and moved them to Civil 3D for purposes of construction. We moved into construction and the construction phase using NavisWorks. We were moving a lot of information back and forth between these products that looked at how a project is delivered from the early stages of planning all the way through to the design build and manage environment.”
“Today we are showing how ideas are being passed through structural design and ultimately utility design as well,” said McRoberts.
What defines Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler is the expansion of Autodesk’s BIM portfolio, to be geared around the idea of being able to leverage existing information such as GIS data and any kind of disparate data: lidar data, Pictometry and photogrammetry. Users want to be able to layer this information in and to create a representation of existing conditions. “We wanted to be able to create new proposals that are very quick to help customers understand what the future BIM structure is going to look like and to move the process along that much faster,” explained McRoberts.
The next product introduced was BIM for Infrastructure for the Utility Industry. McRoberts described this product as Civil 3D for the utility design industry – with all the data and intelligence at the core, really being able to leverage everything from GIS data, network data, analysis configuration and move it quicker through the design process.
Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012
McRoberts said Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012 helps get the public, government officials and corporate stakeholders involved at the earliest stages of the project. “What we decided to do two or three years ago was to be able to visualize all this data- GIS, lidar and infrastructure information at an early stage in the process for those not familiar with the design and construction world.”
In one of the videos McRoberts showed, a Russian design firm working on a project in the Middle East proposed a roundabout in the middle of the city. They wanted to lay simulation around the roundabout for traffic, just to understand what things might look like in this inner city area. One video shows the power of Infrastructure Modeler in that you can not only look above ground but under ground as well. A South American company is addressing the large urban environment and stressing the utilities underground, for which they need networks and right fixes. How do they start expanding in this large urban environment, share with utility companies with government officials and start looking at the next generation of urbanization for really moving a million more people into a city?
“The power of Infrastructure Modeler is in being able to leverage existing data, being able to sketch in new information and create proposals around what you might be looking at a very early stage in the process,” said McRoberts.
Technical marketing manager Linda Sharkey gave a demonstration of Infrastructure Modeler and suggested where you might start creating a model. “You can use the data you already own and manage as part of the planning and design process to create your model, and then more details from the Infrastructure Design Suite software or Navisworks or Revit can be incorporated,” said Sharkey.
AEC firms maintain a lot of CAD, GIS and design data. Map engineers work with data including surface data in raster form, road center lines, land use, parcels and building footprints. This same data can be used to create an infrastructure model. Raster data or AutoCAD 3D surfaces can be used to create terrain and make the terrains more realistic and informative by tracing aerial photography or site plans or topographic maps on top of them.
With Infrastructure Modeler, you can connect to data from relational databases, flat files, as well AutoCAD DWG. You can make full use of the CAD and GIS data that you already have to display 3D representations grown from 3D data both above and below the ground. You can connect to these different data formats and then configure them to become different feature types such as buildings, trees or roads, or in this case, some land coverages. Infrastructure Modeler comes with a large number of out of the box style catalogs that allow you to change road styles, simply by dragging and dropping these styles onto the feature. This allows you to tailor to the different needs of clients or stakeholders and you can change and enhance the model as you get more detailed data.
Because style models are customizable, you’re able to add these to the catalogs and use to enhance your model. The same goes for more detailed models from other software including Civil 3D, 3ds Max, Navisworks or Revit, all Autodesk products.
Another way of enhancing the model is incorporating time into it. Actions can be given start and termination dates. If you set the model date and time the model will update to only show assets valid for that time frame.
You can use conceptual design as a basis for detailed design, according to Sharkey. You can use AutoCAD Map 3D to perform a buffer analysis on the conceptual design road to find out what underground utilities are within a hundred feet of the building or asset and which needs to be considered when you start to dig. Results can be brought into the infrastructure model.
“We were able to create a project proposal in only two hours with Infrastructure Modeler, and that same process would’ve taken two weeks or more using traditional practices,” said Sharkey.
AutoCAD Utility Design for Electrical Utility Distribution
McRoberts talked about the need for a SmartGrid and how it requires smart design. There is a lot of technology being developed for location based sensors and to turn grids on and off, and the ability to manage utilities more efficiently. “What does a model based design product look like, how do we know where something is, how was it intended to be used, what the materials are, what’s configured, how is it set up and configured as part of a network?” he asked. “The SmartGrid revolution requires a new way to think about design and our BIM approach for AutoCAD Utility Design does just that.”
Getting power from a windfarm generation operation to the location where power can be consumed is not being accomplished because there is not the grid in place to make this happen. The aging infrastructure is not designed to support this and to support existing customers. Smart Grid demands are getting greater, and creation and distribution of power are on the minds of all utilities professionals.
Sharkey talked about model based design for electric utility distribution networks. which makes it possible to “drive consistency and productivity with model based design.” The goal of this product is to analyze these designs, optimize them and enhance reliability, and deliver more consistent and coordinated design models automatically.
AutoCAD Utility Design for Electrical Utility Distribution addresses three main areas: design, analysis and automated processes.
One of biggest benefits of AUD would be the ability to set up templates. An experienced designer can set up a number of templates for use by the entire team, complete with coordinate system information and document properties.
You can pull GIS information into your template to better inform your design, you can use building and parcel data from AutoCAD 3D.
Automated processes –
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