Autodesk Civil 3D: Exploring the Geotechnical Module

For this article I wanted to look at the Geotechnical Module in Civil 3D 2021 software. Some may have heard of it; some may not even know it exists! Then some of you wonder why I only mentioned Civil 3D 2021. Throughout this article I will introduce you to the Geotechnical Module add-in for Civil 3D and provide some insight to the future development of this dynamic geotechnical tool also referred to as the Holebase SI Extension and OpenGround Cloud. The geotechnical module can be installed via the Autodesk Desktop app or directly from your account at Autodesk. Please see your system admin for approval and installation within your company.

Figure 1: Geotechnical Module on the Ribbon in Civil 3D

With the Geotechnical Module you can manage and update borehole information within a Civil 3D profile using the same functionality of Civil 3D styles and settings. This article will be more of a high-level overview of the module and how to get started. At the conclusion, I will provide you a way to update for use in Civil 3D 2022 as the module is not available for that release at this time.


The geotechnical module was created by a company named Keynetix, a UK-headquarted provider of cloud-based software. They provide geotechnical data management software which captures, visualizes, and models geotechnical data within Civil 3D and within the cloud based OpenGround Cloud. In May of 2019 Bentley Systems acquired Keynetix. To many of us Autodesk Civil 3D users we question how this will evolve as Bentley Systems, a leading provider for Civil infrastructure products including MicroStation Connect and OpenRoads Designer. The future of this product holds the key to understanding the development of this very powerful geotechnical tool. The names of the software can become confusing as there is the Geotechnical Module, Holebase SI, and OpenGround Cloud. We are going to focus on the Geotechnical Module for Civil 3D even though the functionality of this product including many enhanced features are included within OpenGround Cloud, including the Civil 3D Extension.


We are going to start with a simple example of how to connect your data to a project. The files you need are a set of CSV files one named Location Details.csv and the other named Field Descriptions.csv. For this example, I used a default project and created sample borings using this format in a particular coordinate system. Let’s setup two .csv files for import. Create a .csv file using Microsoft Excel and the information as shown below. It is important that you include the headings as shown below – the 6 with data in those are required to create the borehole. Name the file Location Details.csv as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Location Details.csv

Create a second .csv file using Microsoft Excel and name the file Field Descriptions.csv. This file will contain our borehole data. Note: We can directly export this data from gINT but for this example we created the fields within the geology code for representation purposes only. Notice how B-1 ranges from 0-42. This will determine our borehole depth in 3D and in our profiles. The module will also separate the strata between the different geologies. Save both files in a location where you can update and modify during the project lifecycle.

Figure 3: Field Geological Descriptions.csv


On the data management panel of the Geotechnical Model tab on the Ribbon select Connect.

Figure 4: Connect to a Database

From this point you will have to connect to a local database (Step 1) and Login (Step 2). You do have the ability to manage connections creating one on your local network where others can access the data (Step 3).

Figure 5:  Login to the Database to Create a project.

Another dialog box will appear where you will enter the project details including Project ID, Name, Status, and Category. This is where you can add details to your project including site location and Contractor’s name.


Now that you have connected to a database and created a project you must import the data. On the Data Management panel of the ribbon move to the import button and select.

Figure 6:  Import the data from a .csv

On the import data dialog box follow these five steps.

  1. Select the file format
  2. Add the data (browse to your .csv files).
  3. Add Location Details.csv
  4. Add Field Geological Descriptions.csv
  5. Select Next.

Figure 7: Import the data

Note: You can add the csv files one at a time and you can update as you are working on your project by selecting the update button. This is great when you have additional borehole data added during your project. If you are successful, you will have a dialog box appear that notes that the data is valid. Once verified select Next.

Figure 8: Validate your Data


Once you select Next several times you will be taken back out to Civil 3D where your borings will be displayed as COGO points using Civil 3D styles provided by the software. Figure 9 shows the default boring location style. At first this does not look like anything new but let’s rotate to 3D to see how the data has been imported.

Figure 9:  COGO Point Style Added

Move to the viewcube and select SE Isometric or some other 3D view (Step 1). Then change your visual style to shaded or something to view in 3D (Step 2). Rotate around in 3D and view the borings and the data. Notice how the colors separate the strata. Note: you can change the patterns within the module via the hatch button.

Figure 10:  Borehole Data in 3D


Based on the data you have imported you now can create surfaces in Civil 3D based off the top and the base of your geotechnical data. Under the Asset Management tab of the ribbon select Strata as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11:  Create Strata Surfaces

When selecting Strata, the module will bring up a dialog box showing you all the geology within your drawing.

By checking the surfaces for Top and Bottom (See figure 12) you can automatically create surfaces for that type of geology. How cool is the fact that you can create a top and bottom surface and come up with a volume of material for your project?

Figure 12:  Displaying Surfaces

You have now created surfaces based off the geotechnical data updated from your imported files. If the data changes, the strata changes.

Figure 13:  Surfaces Created


The best way to do this in my opinion is create your alignment in Civil 3D then create the profile using the tools provided within the Profile panel of the Ribbon.

You can create your alignment within the Geotechnical module or have an existing one already within your drawing file. Select Create as shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14:  Create the profile.

Once you select create the process is very similar to creating a profile view in in Civil 3D. Follow these 5 steps to create your profile as shown in Figure 15.

  1. Name your profile.
  2. Select the Civil 3D Style.
  3. Select the Band Set or No Bands.
  4. Select the Alignment. If no alignment is within the drawing you can create the alignment by selecting the create alignment button as shown.

Figure 15:  Create the profile view.

Your output will contain your borehole data along with strata information, including hatches and geology code. You can also apply a buffer to capture additional borings as necessary. With a little manipulation of styles and settings your profile should look like the profile shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16:  The completed profile View.


The geotechnical module for Civil 3D 2022 has not been released at the time of writing this article. With the Autodesk app or your Autodesk Account you can download the geotechnical module for Civil 3D 2020-2021. Install the module first with one of the previous versions of the software. Then follow these simple steps you can get it working with Civil 3D 2022.

  1. If both Civil 3D 2021 and 2022 are installed, simply install Autodesk Geotechnical Module 2020-2021
  2. Then modify C:\Program Files\Autodesk\ApplicationPlugins\AutodeskGeotechnicalModule2020.bundle\PackageContents.xml

The PackageContents.xml file and be found within this knowledge base article thread.


The geotechnical module can display basic geotechnical information to be dynamically linked within your Civil 3D Design. What if you want more? I went on to purchase and implement OpenGround cloud which is when we became successful on a several projects using this tool. With hard work and dedication, you too can become an expert using these geotechnical tools that can be outside of the box of your normal workflow. When you see the potential, you will be hooked and want to explore more.

We have only scratched the surface of the capabilities of OpenGround Cloud. For additional information on the module and OpenGround Cloud see Bentley’s website where they have examples, fact sheets, and explanations of the software.

Appears in these Categories