August 22, 2011
Autodesk’s New BIM for Infrastructure Portfolio Additions
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Autodesk’s New BIM for Infrastructure Portfolio Additions
By Susan Smith



Autodesk announcements have been numerous this past month but for this article we will focus on the announcement of 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.

According to Paul McRoberts , vice president of the Infrastructure Product Line Group AEC Solutions, 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 visualized using Macs, we then 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 enviroinment.”

“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; and being 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 is really a great product for getting 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 doing a project in the Middle East proposed a roundabout in the middle of the city. They wanted to do was lay simulation around the roundabout for traffic, just to understand what things might look like in this inner city area. The last one is showing the power of Infrastructure Modeler in that you can not only look above ground but under ground as well. This project came from a group down in South America who is looking at the large urban environment and stressing the utilities underground and started to look at networks and composing right fixes and right changes. How do they start expanding in this large urban environment, share with utility companies with government officials and start looking at 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, be 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 have 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 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 box style catalogs allowing 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.

Another way of enhancing the model is incorporating time into it. Actions can be given start and termination dates. Houses in the demo are scheduled for demolition in August of 2011. Then a new learning center will be built that will be finished in August 2012. If you set the model date and time the model will update to only show assets valid for that time frame.

Infrastructure Modeler includes powerful simple sketching tools, allowing you to sketch in lines, points, polygons that represent roads and railways and land coverages and still be doing 3D.

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 it 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.”

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