CAD/GIS Integration at the U.S. Coast Guard

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Welcome to GISWeekly! This week's Industry News profiles another case of customer-driven interoperability, where two companies, ESRI and Graphisoft, have been introduced to each other for the sole purpose of solving CAD/GIS interoperability issues for their shared customer, the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

CAD/GIS Integration at the U.S. Coast Guard
By Susan Smith

Some stories take some time to evolve. The story of Graphisoft, creators of the architectural CAD program ArchiCAD, and its collaboration with ESRI, is one of those stories. It is another case of customer-driven interoperability, where two companies, ESRI and Graphisoft, have been introduced to each other with the sole purpose of solving problems for their shared customer, the U.S. Coast Guard. The goal of the integration of ArchiCAD and ArcGIS is to be able to exchange GIS information and CAD information between the two systems.

The Coast Guard's initial requirements for CAD/GIS integration were to be able to bring terrain information into ArchiCAD to support both the high level management overview and the detailed visual and analytical design of a building or complex of buildings and at the same time. They wanted to be able to pass building shell and roof details to ArcGIS to provide a realistic representation of the building on the site/terrain.

Graphisoft originated the Intelligent Building Information Model, which provides architects and engineers with a timeline that maximizes intelligent design information from the inception of design through to the maintenance and operations process. Very few CAD customers have taken the technology to the phase of maintenance and operations. The U.S. Coast Guard is doing just that -- using object-oriented information technology.

“Regional strategic planning,” is a primary focus for the Coast Guard, which they use to assess their facilities and their mission and find out what's accessible and deficient. With an annual operating budget of over $7 billion, the Coast Guard manages shore facilities that are comparable to managing a large U.S. corporation. They patrol a maritime border of 95,000 miles of shoreline and navigable waterways as well as the nation's 3.4-million square mile exclusive maritime zone. In terms of its assets, the Coast Guard has over 43,000 full-time employees, 230 cutters, 1,400 small boats, and 240 aircraft. In addition to this the Coast Guard owns 30 million square feet of building space, leases another 3 million, and owns and operates 7,930 buildings at 656 locations, plus controls 65,000 acres of land.

The U.S. Coast Guard has created a prototype for their Civil Engineering Program's use of object oriented IT for regional strategic planning that will consider short term operational efforts with long term mission objectives. The Charleston Regional Strategic Plan is that prototype, commissioned in May 2002. The scope of the project focused on the building of 3D models organized into five steps, listed below, taken from the white paper: “U.S. Coast Guard Regional Strategic Planning” by LCDR James J. Dempsey, PE and Mr. David Hammond, RLA:

    1) As-builts - verification and compilation of existing 2D drawings and other survey information.
    2) Build Model - build 3D object models and populate with basic attribute information.
    3) Model Enhancement-populate models with detailed attribute information compiled by the facility assessment.
    4) Model Utilization - use the model as a tool to support strategic planning and capital asset management needs.
    5) Model Integration - use models as a central database to support facility management and non-facility management decision making.

To accomplish their ambitious goals, the Coast Guard is using Graphisoft's ArchiCAD to build intelligent building models for integrated decision making and regional strategic planning in Charleston. The Coast Guard needs the interoperability of data across commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products more than it needs advanced capabilities with limited scope, so it has adopted only standards that support the interoperability and the integration of data across IT systems. One reason for choosing ArchiCAD is that it is part of the Building Lifecycle Interoperable Software Project (BLIS), and it adheres to other standards dedicated to the interoperability of data. One of the most important of these standards is the International Alliance for Interoperabilty's (IAI) Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) version 2.0 and 2.x, supported by ArchiCAD for the open exchange of the building object model information.

The models will then be related with a GIS application to describe the models' geographical relationships, and the embedded objects will be enhanced with attribute information that will make them responsive to integrated decision making needs. Object oriented IT 3D models intelligently simulate decision making, providing a knowledge base from which to make decisions based on resources, risk management and lower total cost of ownership.

From this point on, schema must be developed that depicts decision making processes and that focus is on the decision points relevant to core business processes. These schema will then be portrayed in a geospatial context. Schema must be sensitive to all facets of the decision making process.

In this situation, the importance of a common database is critical. The database is continuously updated and “cleaned” of errors, so that it increases its value. Intelligence communities at the U.S. Coast Guard can use the database for supporting the critical infrastructure, with the assurance that it provides accurate information.

A Strategy for CAD/GIS Interoperability

According to Bill Miller of ESRI, ESRI is interested in developing interoperability with the various CAD vendors. “We've worked on doing this for both Autodesk and Bentley products and their two products are 2D drawing based programs,” Miller explained. “They both have 3D components in them, so we have interoperability strategies for both those packages and basically it's document sharing at the file level. Our relationship with Bentley has grown so we will be sharing our documents into their ProjectWise environment and then Project Wise can share documents with the various products that they have. We've been doing that by being able to read each other's files.”

“We have another product called CADClient that is included as part of ArcSDE (Spatial Database Engine) that allows both AutoCAD and Bentley users to edit simple features stored in an RDBMS.”

ESRI's strategy with Graphisoft is focusing on sharing objects between our two systems” Miller said. “We did a proof of concept project with ArchiCAD that was funded in part by the U.S. Coast Guard. Graphisoft and ESRI also put in some resources to complete the project that shows how we can take an object out of ArcGIS, such as a terrain object, and put it into ArchiCAD, and how ArchiCAD can take objects out of ArchiCAD and bring them into ArcGIS, so we can view them into our 3D data environment.”

The main advantage of ArchiCAD for the user is that data can be entered once and then used to produce working drawings, documents and a 3D model. Every time a view is created of a model, like floor plan or elevation, the same view can be used as an editing environment so that the location of windows and doors can be changed. Everything works off that model.

By using standard APIs (which, incidentally, are used in the AEC/GIS Interoperability Initiative ESRI has entered into with Bentley), ESRI and Graphisoft can establish a direct connection between the two software systems. ESRI is very interested in the fact that Graphisoft is IFC compliant on the AEC side, which is a standard developed by the IAI. The IAI is working on a project in Norway to develop IFC objects for GIS. “In the future,” projected Miller, “it may be possible to have objects in that format also, but right now we're just exploring the direct exchange between ArcGIS and ArchiCAD.”

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Review Article
  • 2003 issue January 08, 2012
    Reviewed by 'smart reader'
    If you look at the calendar items you can see this is from about the week of October 6 - 7, 2003.

      One person found this review helpful.

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  • Date? December 30, 2011
    Reviewed by 'gis feller'
    good article, but it's hanging there in space-time... what are the project and publication dates? it would help me understand Esri's purchase of CityEngine a little better, i think.

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