How to See More in Civil 3D Tools

Tags corridor, intersection, alignment, offset aligment, profile, offset profile, video, design control, Civil 3D 2020, heuristics, QAQC

Better software tools can certainly automate a lot of the drudgery in civil engineering design and survey tasks. That’s a good thing. That is often reason enough to buy and upgrade your Civil 3D. We are waiting for the Civil 3D 2020.1 Update after all.

Our intention to increase our reported speed to results in Civil 3D can directly get in the path of better results. Speed sucks when you blow by the offramp.  Faster is better until we discover later that our process itself produces hidden and unexpected consequences. Worse, we do pointless work and address unnecessary problems because our quicker workflow introduced new black-box problems in the first place.

See More in Civil 3D Tools

In the We See in Civil 3D and Can Be Blind post I attempted to get at the important principal and human condition of Sustained Inattentional Blindness that all serious Civil 3D Tools users and all Civil 3D managers and customizers must pay careful attention to. My point – We all want to apply the tools we know over the tools that are unfamiliar. Then our familiar tools propagate contempt.

This reality of Sustained Inattentional Blindness is true for you and true for me. The SIB Syndrome is often far worse in experts than newbies. Comes with the expert’s territory. We experts know what this or that tool does. We can totally ignore the application of a tool built for task A when we try to address problem B. Call this functional fixedness if you like.

We always do task A this way because we always do it that way. Most work rituals and patterns become habits. Habits can be good and/or habits can be bad. My point – Regularly examine and test your habits particularly when it concerns tool use. Critically, this takes dedicated work and focused practice.

Two Roads Diverged

Here is one of my Civil 3D favorite examples.
There is nothing wrong with creating design control with the Civil 3D Create from Objects tools. Drawing a polyline primitive is faster. Most of us are good at that AutoCAD skill and have lots of practice at that. Better yet, maybe someone else did that grunt work for you. Hoorah.

The use of the Layout Toolbar Tools in Civil 3D to create design control unquestionably takes longer. We are forced to make a series of conscious and informed decisions to build an Alignment for example. There are more rules; more potential properties and conditions to consider; and order and priority choices to make in the Layout Toolbar Tool interfaces.

We might all argue most of this Toolbar stuff is unnecessary for simple task A. Then, when we have to edit and change the beast, it isn’t.

We should bet on the fact the most design control in every civil design will change.

We can bet of the fact that similar projects will require similar resources, structures, and workflows. Why I will continue to repeat the Civil 3D Project Templates are probably your best productive investment in Civil 3D customization.

All Heuristics Cannot Defined by Code

Our design heuristic Rules of Thumb do not and cannot translate well into procedural programmer speak. Oh, the programmers do try incessantly to include common heuristic choices when possible. They rightfully dodge the more dicey ones. Sustained Inattentional Blindness is true for programmers too. They’d prefer that you totally ignore those dicey heuristics that are impossible to code. The Civil 3D Wish List confirms this.

It’s probably fair to ask,

“What do you mean by heuristic?”

Heuristics are general and specific rules and methods we discover and pass around to help us make common decisions quicker. Every trade or profession is full of them. Heuristics don’t evolve from formal scientific theories, mathematics, or even rational logic but from practice. What works to put it bluntly.

Many heuristics are unproveable in objective terms. They don’t even work in all cases and must be employed with attention to that detail. That detail can be easily overlooked by the unskilled or unwary.

Yet heuristics work well to get a lot of work done. We often depend on them. Sometimes we wave our hands around and call them Standards. One of my favorites is the track gauge of railways. That has been the butt of many civil engineering jokes. I’m not horsing around.

How heuristics are birthed, evolve, and are passed around is interesting stuff. Historically, the loss of acquired heuristic knowledge has all but stopped development or improvement in more than a few disciplines for longer than any of us can imagine. But that is not the topic of this post.

The Rise of Corridor Wizardry

Programmers commonly to try to replicate industry (human) heuristic choices in wizards.

Civil 3D has spawned many programmed wizards throughout its long history. It is way too easy to overlook the fact that we can employ many of these important wizards partially rather than all at once. If you miss this, you probably don’t get why of the intended heuristic in the first place.

 

Stop That Intersection Wizard

If you stage your step-by-step use of the Civil 3D Intersection Wizard, you can do more. To employ part of a wizard (or tool) can be much more productive than pounding through the whole Tool at once. This is also no excuse for Autodesk’s failure to improve/expand the heuristic capabilities of the Intersection Wizard.

Simply put, we often are best served to thoroughly solve one set of problems – e.g. the horizontal control in detail before we add the more complexity and consequences of vertical control and cross section control. This separated discipline and practice potentially produces more robust and flexible options as well. My point - Don’t blow by the offramp on the way home.

Civil 3D Corridors are all about establishing the horizontal control first, then the vertical, and finally the cross section control. We’d certainly all prefer that many of the Assemblies employed in all the Regions were more easily replaceable in the Corridor interface without so much busy work. Maybe someday we’ll get there.

We can employ the same rules of thumb to a roadway improvement and rehabilitation projects as well. See the Production Civil 3D Rehab Intersections page for a video and links to the video to get there. The Rehab Corridor videos include the use of many of the significant Civil 3D 2018.1+ design control improvements. These truly changed Civil 3D forever.

These division of decision principals are especially mission critical when we have lots of interdependent design control decisions to make and then maintain. This happens in commercial site development projects all the time.

 

Create Civil 3D Cascade Intersections

I used the second of a video series on commercial driveways as an example. There are other completely different applications for cascaded intersections that have nothing to do with roads. Recall also that we now have Connected Alignments, DREF Corridors, and Feature Line Baselines in recent versions of Civil 3D.

Autodesk likes to employ the workflow word to talk about this sort of structured process.

I technically prefer the phrase Method and Practice to clarify the barbell like duality the usually occurs in good heuristic decision making. These types of choices are not based on a solution on the classic Bell Curve. I’m also not here to fight city hall. Workflow works for me if it works for you.

As Civil 3D tool users we need to see, attempt, and pull more value from the tools we own by learning to employ them creatively. The issue isn’t always about how the tool was designed to work by the programmer, but rather - what does the tool actually do.

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How to See and Get More in Civil 3D Posts

Most posts include videos.

Civil 3D Trials and Suffering

  • The postive effect of low risk and high reward options in Civil 3D customization

Better Resources Do Make a Point in Civil 3D

  • The Synergy of Skill and Substance helps us build viable low risk and high reward options into our Civil 3D

We See in Civil 3D and Can Be Blind

  • The difficulties that our Sustained Inattentional Blindness creates in our Civil 3D workflows

How to See More in Civil 3D Tools

  • Why identified heuristics help us see, make, and employ better options in our Civil 3D tools usage, method, and practice

Better Civil 3D Assembly Management

  • Assemblies are really not single Assemblies but Sets of related Assemblies that establish design rules and better options

The Multiplicity of Civil 3D Templates

  • How the effective use of the multiplicity of Civil 3D Templates enables a productive difference

The Multiplicity of Civil 3D Drawing Types

  • How the relationship of Drawing Type, State change, and Benchmarks help us employ better options in our Civil 3D tools usage, method, and practice