Friday, December 02, 2005

LOOONG time coming...

Sorry folks- been out Driving Civil 3D Adoption and by the end of the day these eyes are tired! But good tired.

Just got back in from Autodesk University and THERE IS SO MUCH TO TELL. It was great. I'll write up as much as I can.

More later...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Environmental Series...

Base Plan Info Availability
Integrating CAD and GIS
Converting Raster to Vector- inheriting old paper drawings
Detailed breakdown of:
national wetlands inventory
FEMA information
delaware dataMIL
pennsylvania GIS data
new jersey GIS data
Arc vs Map

Monday, August 01, 2005

How to make your first experiences with Civil 3D positive experiences

How to make your first experiences with Civil 3D positive experiences

1. CAD standards- gotta have ‘em.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you started your own engineering firm. Every day you come in to the office and see more and more papers EVERYWHERE. On the floor. On the desks. You can never find anything!!

So what do you do?

You run down to the Office Supply Store and the slick salesperson talks you in to the state of the art filing cabinet.

So you go back to the office and you dump all of your stuff into this cabinet.

The office looks GREAT.

But every time you open the filing cabinet you think that the sales person ripped you off because you still can’t find anything. The mess is just hidden inside.



Why do you expect your drawings to be produced effortlessly without CAD Standards?

And, why do you blame Civil 3D? (Or Map or Land Desktop or Whatever else you use?)

2. Clean up your inherited data! See inherited data checklist

You cannot help the data you get (unless you screen your subconsultants and hold them to your standards). But you can help what you put in to your drawings. What may be perfectly useful in your surveyor’s office could contribute to GIGO and corruption in your office. Know your data and know how to clean it up, translate it and make it good for YOU.

3. ALWAYS start with a Civil 3D Template

If you do not pick a Civil 3D template you will email me and tell me how much Civil 3D sucks. It doesn’t. You just have to pick a template. Until you create your own (or have me create it for you), choose the Imperial by Style template. Why? Because everything is mapped to layer zero to begin with, so that you can map it to your own layers when you are ready.

4. Start with Pilot Project

Save cold turkey for after Thanksgiving.

Pick your most gearhead, giddy about technology project team. You know the guys- they build their own computers. They never buy intel. They had CD burners in 1995. They watch Tech TV. They would stay up all night to figure out how to use Civil 3D and Viz to render a valley scene from Lord of the Rings.

These guys and gals will lay the groundwork for your firm’s Civil 3D standards and procedures.

Pick a relatively small project- good examples: shopping centers, straightforward subdivisions, stream restorations, etc.

If you do not have a team of gearheads, never fear. Civil 3D really isn’t that bad and the technology is no longer in Beta form. This is the release for everyman. Call me and I can help you through your Pilot Project and help you get your standards established.

6. If you remember nothing else- THE TOOLSPACE IS YOUR FRIEND

General>Show Toolspace

The Toolspace is your command center. When in doubt, go to the toolspace and right click on something.

5. Remember the DON’Ts

Don’t open a drawing created somewhere else besides Civil 3D. Why? Not because it won’t open, but because Civil 3D won’t understand its project data. You also won’t have any styles. Best bet? File>New>Choose a template. Insert necessary linework as a block. Then, use LandXML or Import Data From Land Desktop to get the project data

Don’t expect it to be Land Desktop. There are no Land Desktop style Project Paths, Projects and Databases. Layers take on a new meaning. Erasing objects actually erases them. There is much more to learn here. But the most important thing to learn is that Civil 3D is not Enhanced Land Desktop.

Don’t get bogged down in “knowing it all” and having it all perfect. Guaranteed I could show you menus in MS Word you have never seen let alone used, but that doesn’t stop you from opening up MS Word every time you need to type a letter.

Don’t explode anything. If you feel the itch to explode something EMAIL ME FIRST. Tell my why you want to explode it. Keep your fingers off of the mouse. Go for a walk. Go get a soda. Check out

Don’t give up! You have survived Engineering School. Or Tech School. Or Planning School. Or Landscape Architecture School. Or the School of Hard Knocks. You have survived DCA, Softdesk, R14, Many Releases of Land Desktop not to mention Betamax, VHS, Cassettes, CDs, DVDs and MP3s. Civil 3D is a whole lot more fun that any of that stuff. It is more visual and intuitive than Land Desktop. You will survive this and you will love this.

In a year, you will say things like “I can’t believe we used to have to build surfaces after adding data and we couldn’t see the contours change right away. Man, that was the stone age”

6. Keep your drawing clean

Audit your drawing regularly. Keep junk out. By junk I mean- Land Desktop points, softdesk points, HUGE contours (like aerial topo). Save the originals in their own file, use the data to create Civil 3D data and get rid of the junk!

7. Make sure you are asking Civil 3D to do things that are possible

The Parceling routine cannot make 5 acre lots with 100 foot depths and 50 feet of frontage. It will crash if you ask it to do that. It also cannot fillet intersections at 25 ft if you have drawn horizontal curve radii smaller than that.

Yes, Civil 3D should politely say “Does not compute” and leave you alone, but sometimes it gets angry and kicks you out. Worse yet, if you have a drawing full of junk and errors it may corrupt itself leaving you hoped. We’ll talk about backup in a minute, but it helps to think a little about what you are doing before you do it.

8. Create Backups in case you accidentally ask Civil 3D to do something it cannot do

This will happen. You are learning the right order of mouse clicks and what the parameters are. If you ask Civil 3D to do something it cannot do and it kicks you out, you will want a backup.

Exporting LandXML is a great way to preserve this data. It takes a second. It doesn’t cause confusion since it is not another dwg file. And if you are taking advantage of the Civil 3D objects, most, if not all, of your linework will be recreated from an import of LandXML.

I am recommending doing a LandXML export once an hour or so when you are in heavy object creation. For example: If you are subdividing a large site, creating a lot of alignments, creating a lot of points.

Autosave and I have a mixed relationship. I have never been able to do much with the .sv$ format if I can even find the file. Plus, autosave tends to kick in when I am in the middle of something and it messes me up. I’d rather get in the habit of hitting the quicksave button every 15 minutes under my control.

At critical junctions, save a copy of your drawing somewhere safe- locally or otherwise.

9. Seek intro training at the very least
Cadapult offers a one day quick orientation to Civil 3D that is designed to give you an idea of what is possible. I can also come to your site to do the Civil 3D Workshop. Also try tutorials that come with the program. Email me for more resources.

10. Make a project commitment and don’t go back

Take it to Civil 3D and unless you absolutely must move it out- leave it there.

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?

Monday, July 11, 2005

First Post

This blog will chronicle my exciting double life as:


Business Development Manager


Implementation Specialist

If you aren't excited yet, you will be.

The information journaled here will become part of a body of knowledge to help me get your firm up and running with the latest design software and some of it will be cleaned up, fine tuned and posted on my website

So, if you dream in Cartesian Coordinates but live on an imperfect spheroid, stay tuned.