Civil 3D: Trending Technologies with GIS Data & Autodesk

The gap between survey, engineering, and GIS has been narrowing year over year as long as I’ve been in the industry. I used to make a joke that GIS actually meant Get It Surveyed!!  Although funny, I no longer see them as all separate silos. And Autodesk and ESRI have continued to strengthen their partnership and really focus on placing BIM and GIS at the center of every project.

This article explores then many ways of utilizing GIS data in your everyday workflows. From simply dropping in shapefiles, to connecting with the Autodesk Connector to ArcGIS GeoBIM.

KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid!) Method

The most often used method(s) for importing GIS data into Civil 3D are pretty simple. The GOOD method of simply typing in MAPIMPORT or the BETTER method of simply dragging and dropping the data onto your screen and utilizing the FDO options work great, and we’ll talk about the BEST methods coming up.


This is a great way to utilize GIS data if you don’t want any connection online or to local databases. This also works out great if you’re looking to insert the linework for drafting purposes (lines, polylines, points, etc.).  But you still get the extended information from the data itself!


1. Type MAPIMPORT into your command line.

2.Change the “Files of Type” to your data type, mostly commonly used is SHP (Shapefile)

3. Select your data file and choose OK.

4. Here you can do the following before import:

a. Filter it by defining a window or using the current display on screen.

b. Data

i. Select under data where it says <none>.

ii. This will allow you to create the object data and choose which object data you want to attach to the object properties.

c. Change layer or create new.

d. Import Polygons as closed Polylines and more!

e. Select OK!

TASKPANE / FDO Connections

My favorite command in Civil 3D is MAPWSPACE! For the non-GIS user types, this gives you an immediate set of tools available for use, without switching workspaces or really knowing much about how to use GIS data.


1. Type in MAPWSPACE into your command line.

a. Turn on TASK PANE

This turns on the TASK PANE, where you can select the Data silo button and connect to all sorts of Data Connections. You can explore all the options available to you, but these connections can be life savers!

Continuing on with the BETTER method, in my opinion, by dragging and dropping your SHP file onto your model space screen. I’ll use a county TaxParcel SHP file for my example, but this can be done with literally anything! I use it a lot for parcels and utilities, especially in the early stages of a project.

2. From File Explorer, simply select your SHP file (AutoCAD Shape Source) and drag it to model space. Once released, the data will import into Civil 3D and the layer will show up in your Task Pane!

Easy right?  Now the real fun begins! You now have, and I’ll use a clinical term, a SI$% TON of data and tools at your disposal!  Let’s explore a few of them.

Let’s say a client calls in and is looking for a 2-acre parcel in a certain area of town and needs a quick concept plan.

3. Right click on the TaxParcel in the Task Pane.

4. Choose from the list “Query to Filter Data”.  This will allow us to focus our data search on a certain area, based on either a certain parameter (zip code, town, etc.) or based on drawing in an area of interest.

5. Choose the Locate on Map drop down, and choose “Touching Any Part of Rectangle)

6. Draw on your screen the area you want to focus on.

7. Select OK.

Now that you have narrowed your search to a certain area, let’s “theme” the database to show parcels based on size!

1. Right click on the TaxParcel in the Task Pane. Choose Edit Style to launch the Style Editor Dialog Box.

2. Select “New Theme” as shown below.

3. Now, we will filter the data to change the display to show us parcels broken out by acreage. We want to display parcels that are between 2 and 10 acres, by using the ACREAGE attribute and an equal distribution of 6 ranges.

4. Change your settings as shown below, then select OK!

You now have a beautiful map showing your client which parcel map is worth taking a look at!  You can then extract the map objects as polylines, turn them into parcels and utilize Civil 3D parcel tools to quickly break out some concept plans.

EXTRA CREDIT: Select any parcel shown, right click and choose Show Data Table! Look at all that info! Go back to the Edit Style options and add labels!!  Some cool stuff here, so explore around and check out all the functionalities!

Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS

The Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS is the first step toward realizing the vision of the partnership between Autodesk and Esri to integrate BIM and GIS workflows.

In Civil 3D 2023, this tool can be found on the Insert Tab of the Ribbon, within the ArcGIS panel. This is the BEST method in my opinion if working with a lot of GIS data and wanting to ensure that both your design and GIS systems contain the same information.

Using this window, you can bring ArcGIS data into your drawing as Civil 3D objects.

If you have an ArcGIS account, you are prompted to sign into your account to access your data before this window is displayed. If you don't have an ArcGIS account, you can sign in as a guest to access public data.

Using the controls at the top of the map you can search for a certain area, and then define an area of interest. Specify the data to bring into Civil 3D by browsing available datasets for the selected area of interest using the Public, My Content, My Groups, and Organization filters.

Once selected and inserted, items such as pipes and structures come in and are converted into Civil 3D Pipe Networks by utilizing the Pipe Network Schema Mapping dialog!

But this isn’t just a 1-way street!! You can edit your data in Civil 3D and “Save Back” to your ArcGIS online model!

Simply adjust your data, a sewer or storm drain network for example, and select the “Data Source Manager”. From there, you can choose what data updates you’d like to push back to ArcGIS and simply select SAVE BACK.

There is so much more we could explore here. We could take over this entire magazine with 50 pages dedicated to this workflow!

What is ArcGIS GeoBIM?

Something we all need to look more into, myself included, is a new offering from Esri that is built on the ArcGIS platform called ArcGIS GeoBIM. GeoBIM connects ArcGIS to the Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC), providing a cloud-to-cloud solution that helps architecture, building and civil engineering, and construction teams make more informed decisions from planning and design through delivery and operations. GeoBIM provides for the development of task specific web-based applications that leverage information in ArcGIS and in the ACC. These webapps can consolidate project and portfolio-level data, including design models, supporting documentation, GIS data, and issues, into information rich visual representations of the project.

How does ArcGIS GeoBIM work with Autodesk software?

ArcGIS GeoBIM enables web-based applications to be developed which dynamically connects GIS data from ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise with project design and documentation information from collaboration software built on the Autodesk Construction Cloud.

For example, a GeoBIM webapp could be developed that allows users to explore a project within a 2D or 3D map that contains buildings and other assets being worked on for the project along with information about the surrounding area and GIS boundaries. The user could then click on an object within the project extent to open a window to the Autodesk Construction Cloud viewer that displays the latest project information.

In the next edition of AUGIWORLD, we will take a super in-depth dive into GeoBIM!


GIS is a beast!! There is a reason why GIS users (and GIS degrees) are some of the most sought-after individuals in the marketplace right now. While there are a ton of GIS capabilities in AutoCAD, Map 3D, Civil 3D and Infraworks, they are just scratching the surface on what you can really do by utilizing GIS in your project workflows. Hopefully this helps remind you of some of those capabilities and piques your interest in some of the more advancing technologies we will highlight coming up soon.

Thank you!

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