NCS 4.0 Layer Questions and Answers

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We had a customer from an eastern state who was from a rather large civil engineering firm with offices all over the place. They tried out the Free Jump in one office and they liked it. As the office CAD Manager candidly put it, "yours (The Jump) beat the heck out of what we've produced internally".
They took the road to the higher standard and rolled out InstantOn Basic 4.

Fast and Clean

After only a couple of weeks the power that be in the office decided to convert their other on-going C3D project work they'd done in their own Civil 3D templates to IOB. The on-site CAD Manager and PMs were concerned and worried if this could be done without the projects "going to hell in a handbasket".

We had exactly one 30-minute phone conversation about how to get that conversion process done.
Wonder of wonders - I got an email back in a couple of days..."Thanks! That was really a Slam dunk".

The Word Gets Around

Next thing you know some other offices are pulling Free Jumps and "taking a look". One thing led to another and now Larry Young performs on-going "in project" Training Support for them.

In a live Training Support session an internal storm water guru from one office says ,
"The layers in the templates aren't exactly like the layers in the stock Civil 3D NCS templates. The utility layers are not anything like them. Some other ones are different too...Is this template really NCS compliant?"

He was justifiably concerned and his question was excellent.

I wasn't personally the "man" in the session. I got called afterwards to respond with an answer. It took less than a couple of minutes to explain.

I thought some of you might be interested to see my response in writing...

NCS "Standard" Layers

This kind of questions needs a "No Spin Zone" or "no nonsense" approach and answer. All compliance to "standards" is a matter of honest debate that sometimes leads to the heart of the matter.

A Plan Set Publishing Standard

This technically means that the NCS is about the output not about how the output is produced.
The NCS is software agnostic. Obviously, both Autodesk and Microstation using organizations have contributed significantly to the NCS standard over the years. No specific CAD software is ordained by the NCS. These complex realities are reflected in the NCS standards and its "generic" content.

The fact that the NCS is a "publishing" standard and not a USAGE standard is more significant than it first appears.
From our perspective as producers of tools to enhance AutoCAD Civil 3D productivity, we are both interested in optimizing what we deliver to produce NCS compliancy (which is a good thing) and maximize the software for our customer's daily usage (a more important thing).

From our perspective, the National CAD Standard is only one of many important and significant standards that our customer's should be able to publish with their Civil 3D project work.

This is one of the best and truly amazing things about Civil 3D - given you work from a well-constructed standard platform, working or publishing in multiple standards can be much simpler and much less of a financial and man-hour burden on any organization.

Examples Are a Poor Basis for Comparsion

Using the Autodesk example "NCS" templates that ship with any version of Civil 3D as a basis for comparison to the published NCS recommendation is inappropriate. The included layers aren't all NCS 4.0 or even 3.1 compliant anyway.
At one point, Autodesk renamed the stock examples to include "NCS" in the name, but no one did any significant QA against the NCS specifications on them. Some of the included layers unquestionably break major NCS and the somewhat related ISO naming rules as well.
Whenever a new Feature appears in Civil 3D, we can be pretty sure that someone makes layer names up in a reasonable NCS "like" way. They create them to put new Feature component output on. Each release we get some of these new made up layers. No problem with that. 

Autodesk doesn't even claim the stock templates are compliant to any NCS standard except perhaps by including "ncs" in the template name.

We Fix Non-compliant Layers

We make a concerted effort to "correct" non-compliant new layers during every release cycle of Civil 3D. For example: the stock View type Feature layers used in the example templates that do not conform to NCS rules. We rename the "new" layers as is appropriate.

More Productive Utility Layers

The NCS was developed for large architectural building projects. Not all civil engineering and survey projects fit into this mold and certainly many civil engineering organizations complain about some NCS particulars for that reason. 

Civil infrastructure utility layer names are a typical "issue". Simply put, internal building infrastructure in aptly divided by building trade and engineering specialty. Utility layers are named and separated into blocks by alphabetically diverse Major Keys like SSWR and STRM. 
On the other hand, external site infrastructure is more often handled en mass by one firm. Very different or seperated utility layer names for external infrastructure can become a production man-hour problem.

We document that the Jump employs an adjusted set of Major Keys for utility layers. The Major Keys for utilities are however fully compliant with the general NCS 3-4.0 (and ISO) naming rules and recommendations. To the best of our knowledge this adjusted key structure has been submitted to the NCS board, but it has not been either specifically adopted or rejected.

We employ 4-digit Major Key that starts with "UT" and employs two other characters to differentiate various external utilities.

The layer names clearly convey the meaning of the contents of the layers and also employ the appropriate NCS Minor Keys.

This Major Key approach to civil utilities practically gathers together utility layers in a more useful manner than the AIA in-building specialty approach for typical civil engineering infrastructure projects.

There is an exact match of the both sets Major Keys as well. Any layers can be easily be renamed en mass to the traditional AIA naming scheme or any other layer standard for that matter.
We document and publish this list and the Key matches in our included Standards Documentation. 
We do offer to supply rename AutoCAD script files to customers who request them.
No one has ever actually wanted them. This is most telling.

Standards Must Get Better

New technology typically forces new innovations and the evolution in previously existing standards. Model-based software like Civil 3D is certainly doing that in the marketplace and the workplace every day.

We obey the both the important spirit and recommendations derived from the years of significant intellectual experience and capital that is invested and expressed in the National CAD Standard. 

Producing products that embrace and improve on existing standards is a significant way that innovation produces better results in the real world. We employ the NCS is just this way and for that reason.

We work hard to do our part to learn from the past and make a more productive future.

For a previous post on the NCS and Utility Layers Read More

The More Important Questions

"Do our NCS 4.0 compliant Layers and other NCS specifics work better to help you produce better work every day?"
"Do your clients and project partners appreciate the quality and level of detail you are able to produce for them when you publish your design?"
"Can you find a more compliant set of resources anywhere else in the marketplace at any price?"

The Jump Release 4 for AutoCAD Civil 3D is...

A Higher Standard You Can Build On