ArcGIS Pro

Surface modeling across Autodesk Civil 3D and ArcGIS Pro 3.2 using newly supported feature classes

Throughout the planning, design, and construction phases of physical infrastructure projects, knowledge of the most up-to-date definition of ground remains essential. Characterizations of existing ground in design tools and modeling of proposed ground surfaces provide digital representations of the evolving topography, terrain features, and elevations across the project site. Surface models of existing conditions establish initial context in projects during the planning stage. Further, models of existing ground inform design decision making and accelerate convergence on proposed ground surface models. Together, existing and proposed ground surface models enable estimations of earthworks quantities such as cut and fill volumes, culminating in final ground conditions upon completion of the construction phase. In turn, subsequent projects undertaken in the same vicinity can leverage previously developed surface models as part of respective project planning efforts.

Autodesk® Civil 3D® is widely used by civil engineers, provides comprehensive design capabilities, and improves efficiency for a wide range of physical infrastructure projects, including those involving ground surface modeling. Element support and integration capabilities in ArcGIS Pro allow you to model surfaces originating from Autodesk Civil 3D, in which surface models typically conform to triangular irregular networks (TINs). Consisting of 3D points interconnected by triangles, TIN surfaces also include basic elements that reflect model extents, inner and outer boundaries, breaklines, and grading components for proposed ground 


New feature class support  

ArcGIS Pro 3.2 extends integration support to more elements that influence generated points and triangles of TIN surface models. Access to these influencing elements, represented as newly supported feature classes in ArcGIS Pro, broadens the contexts and workflows available to GIS professionals for generating surface models. Collectively, the previously developed integration capabilities and newly supported feature classes allow you to generate surface models in ArcGIS Pro that uphold the accuracy of counterpart surface representations in Autodesk Civil 3D across a wide range of scenarios. 

In ArcGIS Pro 3.2, four new feature classes are supported as part of direct-read processing of Autodesk Civil 3D files:  


Existing feature class support 

The newly supported feature classes listed above complement those that were already supported: 


Centralized, collaborative workflows for modeling ground surfaces 

The collection of supported feature classes, which correspond to the constitutive elements of surface models in Autodesk Civil 3D, enable generation of highly accurate surface models in ArcGIS Pro. These feature classes also provide a basis for establishing centralized access to surface model components through feature layer publishing and use of feature services. Correspondingly, collaboration opportunities increase between civil engineers and GIS professionals, where modifications made to surface models in either Autodesk Civil 3D or ArcGIS Pro can be maintained in one system of record. Further, the collection of feature classes allows you to publish surface models as web scenes in ArcGIS Online and disseminate them to stakeholders for visualization purposes. 

The blogs listed below provide additional discussion of the workflows related to surface modeling in ArcGIS Pro: 

The above workflows illustrate how to leverage Autodesk Civil 3D surfaces and newly available capabilities in ArcGIS Pro. However, the workflows are intended to be expanded and modified as necessary. Also, the above resources provide a basis for democratizing Autodesk Civil 3D surfaces; surface data no longer needs to reside within a file, which can lead to the negative effects of data silos. Instead, surface models become available for visualization and assessment to broader groups of civil engineers, GIS professionals, and stakeholders taking part in projects that involve ground modification.  


If you’re attending AU 2023, join us on Wed. Nov. 15 for a Technical Instruction course:  Digging into Surface Modeling with Civil 3D and ArcGIS.


About the authors

Richard Horrocks

Richard is a Product Engineer for AEC at Esri located in Ottawa, Ontario. He enjoys improving workflows for the integration with the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry.


Michael Davidson

As a Product Manager, Michael pushes the boundaries of interoperability across GIS/CAD/BIM and ArcGIS for AutoCAD. Michael possesses 10 years of experience in civil engineering software development, including past focuses on Building Information Modeling (BIM) for bridges and geostatistics. He has a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida and is a licensed PE in Florida.

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