Improve your management of CAD standards for civil engineering and surveying

November 3, 2020

Sponsored by: ZenTek Consultants

Optimizing civil standards may not be a straightforward process, but as these examples show, dealing with some key features can be very profitable in terms of both time and money saved.

In the civil engineering industry, setting standards, defaults, and models, and making them work the way you want, with the output you need, is no small challenge. Software solutions such as AutoCAD Civil 3D are very powerful and provide civil engineering and surveying designers with essential tools to manage 3D modeling and design of site-specific features, but control how these are handled. display, interact and print is an unparalleled challenge.

Whether you use Autodesk’s solution or that of Bentley Systems, Carlson, or Civil Survey Solutions, these civil design systems all have one thing in common: they require specialist knowledge to effectively implement any type of practical drafting and design standards. design. The main difference is that these systems don’t just work with lines, shapes, and layers like a traditional 2D CAD system does. They work with 3D objects which are complex design elements with several sub-elements which also need to be checked and standardized. In other words, they have display and label styles that are not found in other software. Not only that, but your standards should work with design criteria for elements such as pipes and corridors and address all possible display views: plan, model, profile, and section for every possible element type. (That’s a lot of articles!)

In this article, I’ll provide some tips on the key components and features of setting up your CAD standards in a civil or surveying environment. I’ll be using AutoCAD Civil 3D as an example system, but the principles apply to any software you use. I do a lot of consulting work in my day job at ZenTek Consultants, helping companies set up, refine and optimize their civil standards, and while this is not a straightforward process, it is not outside the scope of a skilled CAD manager. You just need a little bit of advice on the key features you need to cover, so let’s go!


Working with models is vital for professionals working in the civil engineering industry. It is necessary to configure DWT files with your company standards for different types of jobs, sheet sizes, locations or drawing scales so that your end users can simply choose the right model to start their project. The key point here is geo-referencing. Do you want to set up models where you have already defined categories, map areas and scales, like in the example below, or do you want your users to choose them for each project? If you work in multiple states / countries / regions, you will probably want to let users select them. This way you can keep a small selection of templates, possibly based on the size and scale of the borders, which will apply to any workplace. If your business does most of its work in one or two states, for example, creating a template for each of those areas allows you to ensure that the geolocations of all your items will be set correctly by default and will not depend on not user input. .

Definition of the zones and scales of the map.

Layers vs Styles

One area where there is a very big difference in setting up standards is the concept of display styles versus layer controls. This is often one of the most difficult points when companies first set up their models. Traditionally, we all work with layers to control things like color, type, thickness, and on / off display options, but that’s not very important in systems like AutoCAD Civil 3D. Instead, you should focus on the display styles associated with specific objects, such as surfaces and hallways. These display styles allow you to set the same properties as layers, but they can have different settings when the object is moved in different views (for example, plane vs profile or section). You can also create multiple named display styles, which users can choose from to quickly change the appearance of hundreds of objects at once. This makes it very easy to switch from existing elements to demolition ones, proposed states and all line colors, line types, etc. change with the click of a mouse. Additionally, you can create null or “No Display” styles, so that the display of entire sets of objects can be turned off, without having to choose dozens of layer controls to achieve the same effect.

Display styles.

Description keys

For those who work primarily in the surveying industry, it’s all about points and importing terrain data. One of the best tools you have in civilian systems is the concept of descriptor keys. This is a list of predefined codes, which you create to coincide with the descriptive codes that your survey teams use when collecting data in the field. When you import points into a file with an established descriptor key set, the point codes are mapped to the key and all symbol redaction in your outline is handled for you. In other words, when a “tree” code (TR) is detected, the descriptor key recognizes the “tree” code (TR) and places a tree symbol on your plan, at the right size, on the right layer, and even with the textual description you want. Use the descriptor key manager to automatically populate your drawing with entrances, light poles, cleanings, and more. Just about any symbol you would place on a blueprint can be automated, saving you hours of drafting on each project.

Description keys.

Label styles

In systems such as AutoCAD Civil 3D, label styles can dramatically reduce drawing time. Labels are a combination of normalized text, formulas, and data extracts from civil objects. For example, instead of spending time calculating the rim elevations of catch basins, then using multiple texting to label them at the right scale, on the right layer and with the right font, and having to repeat the process anytime the design changes you can let the system handle it all. Label styles allow you to add dynamic labels that automatically update when the design, drawing scale, or even the location of the Civil object changes. You can even create labels with formulas so that you can perform tasks like label the top / bottom of a border at the same time by automatically adding +0.5 to the BC. Not only that, but the elevations can be read from the civilian object (a hallway or surface, for example), and as the design of the object changes, the elevations change to match without the need for be relabeled.

Custom label styles.

There are hundreds of other elements in civil CAD standards that can be addressed to make your life easier, faster job performance, and lower costs. Whether you are working with a consultant like ZenTek Consultants To set up your civil and surveying standards, or develop them from scratch, a little attention to detail and understanding the basic options will go a long way in ensuring that your business gets a quick, consistent and profitable output on all your projects.

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