InfraWorks for Beginners

For the past several years Autodesk has made great strides in making InfraWorks® a more powerful preliminary engineering design software in order to meet design demands by user. With InfraWorks, designers can design complex roads and bridges for public infrastructure projects as well as simple site 3D models. In addition, designers can also create preliminary drainage storm systems within roads and run drainage watersheds calculations. With that being said, for beginners it is important to get a good understand of the types of GIS data and also types of roads.

Importing GIS Data

What makes InfraWorks such powerful preliminary design collaboration software is its ability to import various types of file format data. With InfraWorks, designers can import 3D models such as .3ds, .dae, .dxf, .obj, and .fbx file formats. Typically, these file formats are created from Navisworks®, 3ds Max® and Revit®. Other popular 3D model file formats are Revit (.rvt and .rfa) and SketchUp .skp formats.

For beginners, it is important to understand there are two basic types of GIS data: vector and raster data. Vector data is a real-world geometry object that contains metadata. Metadata contains attributes or data that comes with the vector geometry object.  A few examples of vector data are roads, city furniture, coverage areas, parcels, trees, bridges, 3D models, buildings, and water features. Typically, metadata is stored in XML and HTML. Shapefiles, another great example of vector data, come with many metadata support files such as .shx, .dbf, .prj, and .sbx. When importing vector data into InfraWorks, you will have to configure the data because InfraWorks will not know what type of object you are importing (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Raster data are images such as aerial and satellite imagery. This type of GIS data does not contain metadata, but some contain georeferenced data, meaning they have a coordinate system data embedded or a support file that contains the coordinate system data. A great example is a world file (.jgw) that comes with a ,jpg aerial file (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Surface terrain or topographic data can be vector or raster format, but are typically imported as raster format. A few examples of raster terrain data is .asc, .img, .sid, .tif, .tiff, and .xml files (Figure 3). Raster files do not have to be configured when you import into InfraWorks.

Figure 3

If you use Model Builder to create a new model, the aerial imagery that is downloaded by InfraWorks comes in roughly at 85 percent resolution as default. To improve the aerial resolution, simply double click on the imagery file within the Data Sources panel to open the Data Source Configuration dialog box (Figure 4).  Select the Raster tab, and at the bottom under Bing Maps, select 19 @ ground resolution from the pull-down list. You will notice a slightly better resolution quality once you click the Close & Refresh button.

Figure 4

Road Design

InfraWorks provides two methods for sketching out roads and highways: planning roads and component roads. Planning roads is the simplest method to sketch out a roadway when vertical design is not important. Component roads provides numerous preliminary engineering design features and tools that a user can take advantage of to accurately design their roadway.

Planning roads are used purely for visual display for simple render exhibits or models. Within the Stack, designers can edit a few attributes of a planning road such as style, style rule, lanes, direction, and horizontal geometry. When you create a new model with Model Builder, the roads downloaded into your model are planning roads. InfraWorks allows users to convert planning roads to component roads by simply selecting any planning road, right-clicking, and selecting Convert to Component Road.

You can find the planning roads tool within the Intelligent Tools, Build-Manage & Analyze Your Infrastructure Model, Create Conceptual Design Features (Figure 5).

Figure 5

To create preliminary engineered design roads, designers will need to use the Component Roads design tools. Components roads consist of assembly parts that can represent curbs, sidewalks, lanes, and medians. InfraWorks can display profile and section view of the component roads to better design roadways per local or state requirements.  With component roads, designers have more precise vertical and horizontal control of their design roadway. 

Controlling roadside grading and materials is just another added feature that designers can take advantage of with component roads (Figure 6) .

Figure 6

Though InfraWorks provides many component road sections and single part assemblies, designers will still have to create custom road sections. Once you create a custom component road, you can add it to the Styles library for later use by simply selecting the component road, right-clicking, and selecting Road Assembly and Add to Library option (Figure 8)

Figure 7

In conclusion, for InfraWorks beginners, it is important to understand the difference between raster and vector GIS data and road styles.

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