Advanced Features

This article looks at some of my favorite features within AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2018, and some oldie but goodie tools I’ve used a while.  Most of us are accustomed to doing things one way and stay the same because it gets the job done.  I always like to see how others do things and utilize the software in different ways.  I saw some great tips and tricks at AU 2017 and will share a couple of those as well.

Stage Storage with User-Defined Contour

Many times you need a specific elevation that doesn’t fall on an even contour interval—whether it is a high-water elevation of a pond or maybe a floodplain elevation on a site.  Civil 3D has a simple way to display a user-defined elevation, and in this case, I will use that user-defined elevation in my stage storage analysis of a pond.

First, we will use an overlooked surface analysis called “User-Defined Contours.”  Do the following:

  1. Select your surface, go to Surface Properties and go to the Analysis tab.
  2. From the Analysis type, choose User-defined Contours.
  3. Under Ranges, change the value to 1 and press the down arrow to the right.
  4. Below, in the details, change the Elevation value(s) to the value of your choice.  For this, I chose 4517.65 as the elevation for my high-water mark (Figure 1).
  5. Select Apply and OK.  Make sure in your surface style that you have turned on the user contours layer on the display tab.

Your surface has now turned on the contour you identified!

Figure 1

We aren’t done yet.  We now want to see the volume of the pond at that elevation. When using the state storage tool, you can calculate the volume based upon your visible contour interval, including the user-defined contour (Figure 2). Do the following:

  1. From the Analyze tab, select the Design panel and choose Stage Storage from below.
  2. Choose Define Basin.
  3. Choose Define Basin from Polylines.
  4. Select the “Extract Objects from Surface” button and select your surface.
  5. This brings you back to the same dialog box, now choose Define.
  6. Now select only the polylines you want to calculate. In this case we choose the user-defined contour and everything below. Hit Enter or right-click and you will see the results.

Figure 2

Parcel Properties Manager

The Parcel Properties Manager is an easy-to-use tool for editing parcel styles, area label styles, descriptions, etc.  But what about creating an Excel spreadsheet?  Or exporting out buildable areas?  For one municipality here in Utah, we have to create a spreadsheet of each lot’s buildable area.  We could probably do this a few ways, export to SDF, import, export to SHP, and edit the DBF file.  But that seems to be too many steps for a lazy drafter such as myself!  I want the least number of clicks.

The Parcel Properties Manager can be found on the Toolbox tab of your Toolspace, under Misc. Utilities.

To set this up, I simply used the setbacks already drawn on the final plat and turned those into parcels on their own site that I called buildable areas.

Do the following:

  1. Double click the Parcel Properties Manager tool. 
  2. You can filter the columns by selecting any of the heading above. I chose to filter by Site.
  3. Select the top row, then Shift+select the rest of the parcels on that site.
  4. Select the check box above to check on all the selected rows.
  5. Select the icon to export the selected rows to a specified file.  This will export to a CSV file (Figure 3).
  6. Edit the file as needed and you’re done!

Figure 3

Connected Alignments and Profiles

Create offset alignment profiles that are relative to the main alignment baseline

You can create dynamic offset profiles using the same command you use to create offset alignments. The profile geometry is offset using a default cross slope, which you can modify by editing the profile properties. You can create multiple offsets in a single operation, including a different number on each side of the parent alignment. The offset distance can be different on each side of the parent alignment.

Useful why?  Maybe you have to show a borrow ditch, TBC profiles, or pretty much anything that is relative to your main profile.  There are current workarounds, but this should help out a lot of people.

Create connected alignments and profiles

You can use the Connected Alignments feature to create a new dynamically linked alignment and profile that transitions between two selected alignments and their profiles. You can use this feature to create a curb return, an exit ramp, a merging/diverging road, or you can connect an existing road with a proposed road. The connected alignment is created between two selected alignments at a specified radius. The geometry of the connected profile is automatically generated from the parent profiles you select. The start and end elevations and slope are taken from the parent profiles, and the middle section of the connected profile is calculated depending on whether extensions of the parent profiles intersect.

A lot going on there, right?  This streamlined method works great for manually creating those intersections and will save a lot of time on editing.

Figure 4

Civil 3D SHP Import/Export

I must admit…..I LOVE THIS TOOL!  There are a ton of features in the Civil 3D SHP and Table tools functionality including importing SHP Survey data (i.e., from Infraworks extracted lines), importing survey databases, geometry/breakline tools, and a whole lot more!

However, for many users, this may seem like a lot more work than it’s worth.  But I have been using it to convert my as-built COGO points to shapefiles quickly and easily.  A very common requirement is to turn in your survey as-builts in GIS format, or at the very minimum provide your survey points in a shapefile.  This workflow is very simple.  Do the following:

  1. From Civil 3D, select the points you want to export and choose Isolate Selected Objects. This is helpful if you need to separate your shapefiles by layers (e.g., light poles, hydrants, etc.).
  2. Expand SHP Import/Export (Figure 5)
  3. Right-click on Export Cogo Point Survey Data to SHP and select Execute.

Figure 5

      4. Select the point you wish to export and hit enter.
      5. Specify your file location/name at the top.
      6. Expand COGO Point Properties and choose which attributes you want to export to your SHP database (Figure 6).
      7. Select OK and you now have your shapefile created!

Figure 6

Alignment Name Label

I totally stole this from Jeff Frye and Spenser Hays at AU this past year!  This may seem like such a simple thing and is something I knew could be done, but just never chose to do it.

When I create alignments, I continuously forget the name of the alignments, so I either select it and look at the properties for the name, or hover close to it until a tooltip pops up or a couple other bone-headed things just to get the name!  All those are just wasted time.

Why not label it? So simple, right? You can add a note or alignment label to display the name and description of your alignments to help you and other users navigate your model.  Do the following:

  1. Create a new note label style called “Alignment Name.” Yes, a general note style can do this (Figure 7).
  2. On the layout tab create a new “Reference Text” component and select Alignment.
  3. In the Contents text box, change the default “label text” to display the alignment name over the description as shown below by selecting the Alignment Name property and hitting the right facing arrow.

Simply use that label style to add a label to your alignment.  No more wasting time remembering your alignment names! 

Thanks, guys!

Figure 7

Feature Line as Baseline in Corridor

This feature came out in the 2017 release of Civil 3D and I have since used it on hundreds of curb returns and parking lots.  In addition to alignments and profiles, feature lines can now be used as corridor baselines. Feature lines can also be selected when creating the corridor and when adding baselines (Figure 8).

Figure 8

A parking lot is a good example of where to apply this new workflow. When I design a parking lot, I typically design the edge of pavement in order to see true slopes of asphalt. I then use the stepped offset command to give me flow line and/or back of curb elevations, and sometimes I may use grading objects to keep some level of dynamics.  But now you can add the feature line to a corridor along with a curb and gutter assembly and have a much more dynamic and accurate surface.

However, I think doing curb returns at an intersection has never been easier.  I prefer the feature line because I can easily model the slope through the handicap ramp.  Instead of an alignment and a profile to manage, we can now use just a feature line (Figure 9). 

Figure 9


Hopefully a couple of these uses can help streamline your workflow and boost productivity.  There are thousands and thousands of commands and numerous ways to do the same thing and sometimes we just get stuck in our own ways.  I like to think I come up with new ways to use old tools, but at every consulting gig or conference I always learn something new or a better way to do things.  Even the simplest tasks, such as labeling the alignment, show us that we all have room for improvement.

I would love to hear from you about any tips and tricks you use. Feel free to call or email me anytime.

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