July 03, 2006
Virtual Construction, BIM + GIS with Extensions and Connectors for Google Earth
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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About this Issue….

Welcome to AECWeekly! Two announcements this week involving Google Earth may herald a shift in the way design information is delivered and viewed to technical and non-technical users involved in big projects.

Read about these two announcements in this week's Industry News.

AECWeekly is a news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.

AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Contract Awards, Awards, People, New Products, Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Virtual Construction, BIM + GIS with Extensions and Connectors for Google Earth

by Susan Smith

Two announcements this week involving Google Earth may herald a shift in the way design information is delivered and viewed to technical and non-technical users involved in big projects.

Government agencies were perhaps the first to bring our attention to the urgency of keeping many different agencies, owners and other stakeholders informed about the progress of various projects and events. But civil engineers and surveyors, and professional engineering firms must also keep involved non-technical parties up to date on what's going on in a project. Autodesk's Civil 3D 2007 Extension for Google Earth-Technology Preview is a way to publish design information and put it in the context of Google Earth.

Another product launched this week is Avatech Earth Connector for Autodesk Revit, which seeks to combine the advantages of building information modeling within the global context of Google Earth.

Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 Extension for Google Earth-Technology Preview

With the new
Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 Extension for Google Earth-Technology Preview publishing utility, civil engineers can keep all constituents involved in the process of a building project from the planning phase through to the public approval phase. This in itself is not entirely new; certainly browsers have been hard at work making this possible for some time now. However, with the Extension for Google Earth, civil engineers and surveyors will be able to publish design information and put it in the context of Google Earth, which basically provides a very easy interface and a free rendering engine.
Those on the receiving end can take a look at what a subdivision is going to look like in the context of the real world.

According to Gary Lang, vice president, Infrastructure Solutions Division, customers can see their design information in Google Earth well before it makes it into the Google Earth database (that information is generally one to three years old).

For those users who already have Civil 3D, the Extension can put their new designs, created in Civil 3D, into Google Earth. These designs are typically housing subdivisions, commercial sites, parking lots, dam projects, and major transportation projects. “We build this 3D model for our customers and we allow them to specify what things will look like, but the model has the same data format and layout that we're used to seeing in our applications,” explained Lang. “When they open it up in Google Earth, they see that they have parcels, roadways, etc., not just generic pieces of CAD information.”

Nathan Crews added that the way Civil 3D builds 3D roads, it displays them as “very pretty and ready to go,” and there is no need for another product to dress them up. “We'll be able to aggregate some of the Google 3D Warehouse information so we have a realistic mode and we allow users to drop in things like utility poles and trees, even houses and cars, which they can add to their model during the publish phase. When they bring it up in Google Earth, it looks realistic. It goes beyond design data to help our customers make an even more realistic looking model. What we produce does not look like a drawing laid on top of Google Earth. This is completely different. We're
building what will be constructed in the future, and so we're putting in all the new surfaces, and boundary lines, and roadways and bridges ahead of time. So we're doing a kind of virtual construction.”

Everything in the design is kept object oriented, so that when you see a line you know it's a parcel or a road center line or part of a road surface, or part of a surface that's going to be built.

A two step wizard allows you to filter out things you don't want to publish. “Once you do that the wizard interface pops up and allows you to specify a few options about how your parcels are going to look,” said Crews. “So if you want them to be filled in, for example, or shaded, above the ground, or snapped down to the ground, we have options for points, roadways, surfaces, parcels, and storm sewer. Users can pick what they want it look like in Google Earth which is not necessarily the same way it looks in the drawing. They're in presentation mode not CAD mode.”

The utility can be used out of the box to make the model look very good with just a few clicks. “We handle the last part of the wizard interface,” said Lang. “Once the user has selected how they wanted it to look and where they want it, the last part is the coordinate system.” Since Civil 3D is built on top of Map 3D and they've already set up a coordinate system using the Map interface, then the coordinates are used to automatically publish their data. Some users don't have a coordinate system set up, such as in the example of civil customers who work in state plane coordinates but they don't actually set that coordinate system up in their map. They're using the
coordinate system, they just haven't specified it. They can tell you where it is in the world and what the latitude longitude is and then Civil 3D will transform the entire model to that location.

“This functionality is starting to get a lot of our traditional CAD, engineering customers thinking about the geospatial location of their data,” said Lang. “A lot of our customers work with assumed coordinates. They look at their site as the whole world and are beginning to realize that they are connected to everything else.

You can
download the Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 Extension for Google Earth-Technology Preview immediately free of charge. You will need Autodesk Civil 3D 2007 software installed to run the utility, as well as Google Earth (Autodesk's extension is compatible with the free version of Google Earth, as well as Google Earth Plus and Google Earth Pro).

Avatech Earth Connector for Autodesk Revit

Karzen Residence

This week Avatech
launched its innovative new product, Avatech Earth Connector for Autodesk Revit, a Google Earth-based plug-in. While it is the first of its kind in terms of addressing the combination of building information modeling and GIS, Matt Mason, Avatech Solutions' Director of Research & Development, said the product is currently in beta and they are looking for feedback to see where to take the product from here.

Back in January, Avatech launched the Avatech Earth Connector for AutoCAD users, which now has over 2000 users. The Earth Connector for Revit makes it possible to collaborate with many different stakeholders outside the architectural design office by producing a common file format, the Google Earth KMZ standard. Clients and others can view sophisticated building information using Google Earth.

“They can see both what the building looks like and see inside the building,” said Mason. “In the example of the Karzen Residence [pictured] , you can look through the tree to see how you can move some of the Revit information over to Google Earth and you have the ability to explore the model and look at it different ways. Architects are the primary authors of the design files, and this gives another mechanism for sharing that information with whoever else needs to see it.”

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