Wednesday, July 20, 2005


As a high school student you learn about inertia. Then you spend the rest of your life fighting it. Before we knew interia had a name, did we notice it? Did we notice how continuing to sit is easier than getting up, how plowing through a box of candy is easier than stopping, how getting stuck in our daily work rut is more comforting that exploring a new opportunity?

Civil 3D brings amazing power and excitement to Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Surveying, Site Planning, Urban Planning... but it also brings uncertainty.

Not uncertainty that the program won't work- because it does- but uncertainty about our futures as designers, as draftspeople. Uncertainty about our roles being redefined.

I will be honest, just in case someone out there actually knew me in college, I was not a great student at that time. I was unsure where I fit into the world of Civil Engineering. I spent a lot of time asleep on the CE building couch and trying to make smart friends who would take pity on my lack of understanding and interest in slab design and would, in exchange for a bag of Einstein Bros, help me learn enough to pass...

But the moments that really did speak to me- the moments where I had glimmers of hope that YES THIS IS WHAT I WANT- it was the power to CHANGE THE WORLD that got me. The power to DESIGN A NEIGHBORHOOD. TO BUILD A TOWN. TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

The day I graduated, I walked through sweltering Atlanta summer heat from my dorm to the colesium saying a silent prayer that when I unrolled the document that President Clough handed me that it would not be blank. And when, to my delight, it did indeed have the necessary printing to free me from my undergraduate education- I knew I had the power to CHANGE THE WORLD.

But then I went to work.

And I made copies. I took drawings to the city office. I changed text. I wrote letters for the PMs to sign. As I got better, I could design. Then, I had to focus all of my energy on GETTING THE SET TOGETHER. If, while drafting the set, I enountered something that might make a better design... TOO BAD.

We have a deadline. We must press on... We must fight over layering conventions and text scales and dimscales and ltscales. We must dview twist and block and detail and discuss dtext vs mtext. We must sit in front of the plotter at 3AM in tears staring at the garabage coming out of the plotter and wondering WHY oh WHY did there have to be something printed on that piece of paper that Pres. Clough handed me. Why couldn't I have flunked out and changed my major to Phys Ed?

But I knew there had to be a better way. And one day, the clouds parted and the heavens opened and down came Civil 3D.

Nah.... that is pretty dumb.

But seriously, Civil 3D has opened my eyes to the power (I need a thesaurus) of design again.

So... you have 3 weeks to submit. You realize if you move two manholes three feet to the left you can improve your pipe design, eliminate two lengths of pipe and reduce the amount of road fill required. Then... you think... it will take me X hours to model the change and 4000X hours to make all of the drafting and labeling corrections (not to mention replotting everything and checking for conflicts) to reflect this change and at $100 per hour billed to my client, it might just be cheaper for me to stick with the bad design...

But now, with Civil 3D, you can move those manholes and see the labeling change right away. You can get warnings about cover and slope violations. You can bring the pipes into a profile view immediately and see how things change. You can grip edit your finished grade and see the new road surface...

When the PM comes to you at 4:15PM and says "What happens when we move the road alignment over 10 feet?" after you have already done the FG, Typical section and pipe design.

Instead of putting your hand into the large format stapler and slamming it a few times, you can grab your mouse and MOVE the road and see what happens. And do a cut/fill analysis. And if you don't like it you can move it back. And now, it is 4:20PM. not 4:20AM.

So interia.... inertia kept me in Civil Engineering (line was too long at the Dean's office to bother changing). And every day I thank the Folks in Charge for that inertia.

Inertia will NOT hold me back from Civil 3D. Finally, design is back in our hands. What could we possibly be afraid of?