How To Manage Points With AutoCAD Civil 3D

How To Manage Points With AutoCAD Civil 3D

How To Manage Points With AutoCAD Civil 3D

In the latest Professional Land Surveyor Premium Member Newsletter I wrote about "Why AutoCAD Civil 3D Points Miss the Point". Working with Points in AutoCAD Civil 3D requires technical setup of Description Keys, Point Styles, Point Label Styles, and Point Groups. Phew!

But wait, there's more! You also can have Survey Points in any given CAD drawing, and not in others, while maintaining Survey Points from your Survey Database across several AutoCAD Civil 3D drawings, each of which could also have Civil Points with conflicting point numbers.

So, you would think that Autodesk would make it easy, simple, and error free to manage Points across multiple project drawings and to upload and download Points from your survey data collector. If you thought that, you would be wrong.

How I Manage Points With AutoCAD Civil 3D

It doesn't take too long working with AutoCAD Civil 3D to realize that the backbone of surveying, Points, does not lend itself to good land surveying best practices. For example, say that you have multiple project CAD drawings, each of which has some of your project points from the project Survey Database, but not all. This leads to two problems:

  1. Points created in one drawing that conflict with Points in the Survey Database and/or other project CAD drawings.
  2. When loading your data collector from the Points in one CAD drawing results in missing points.

I worry about some shops that aren't diligent in their Point management thinking they are setting out, say, Point #258  from one drawing, when in fact they are setting Point #258 from another drawing that does not represent the same Point and location. Another problem that could happen is in office computations based upon the same Point, when in fact while they are identically numbered, they are not the same Point.

Having all the Points you need(and the correct ones at that) when you go into the field is so important. I can attest to this myself, as I've gotten out to the job site only to realize that the drawing that I used to export the project points did not, in fact, contain all the project points.

Here are a few solutions you could use.

All for One and One AutoCAD Civil 3D Drawing for...Well, each project.

If your land surveying projects are small, do not include a lot of "design" elements (and points), and you don't need to generate too diverse of plan sets and deliverables, then you may be able to keep everything in one drawing. The advantages of this approach are:

  • Reduces the chances for duplicate points. You certainly would be notified if you created a duplicate point in the drawing, but that doesn't mean you couldn't end up with duplicate project points. For example, say that you create a Civil point in the project drawing not knowing that there was a point using that Point number in the Survey Database that wasn't in the CAD drawing. So, if you are using this method you need to make sure every Survey Database Point is in the project drawing and if you create Civil Points that you don't use the same Point number when doing your fieldwork, which will become an issue when you bring your field work into the project Survey Database.
  • Makes it easier to export and upload all the project points to your data collector for field work. As above, for this to work,  you do also need to make sure that every Survey Database Point is in the project drawing.

I've used this method, as it's simple and easy to support, but it does not lend itself to working on larger and more complex land surveying projects.

Divide and Conquer....Create Several AutoCAD Civil 3D Drawings with Point Subsets Manually Connected to the Survey Database.

The method I am now using, and highly recommend, is to create several AutoCAD Civil 3D drawings per project, with subsets of Points that I manually connect to the Survey Database. This is how I do it:

  1. I create (beforehand and as a template) separate AutoCAD Civil 3D project drawings for different Points subsets:
    • Proj#-PNTS. This is the most important drawing, because it has every project Point.
    • Proj#-SRF. This drawing only has the Points I would use to create a surface, and that surface.
    • Proj#-PL. This Drawing only has the Points I would use to draw the property boundaries, and the property lines, dimensions and annotations.
    • Proj#-FTR. This drawing only has the Points I would use to draw site features, like fences, walls, roadways, buildings, utilities, etc., including drawing those features.
    • Proj#-DES. Individual project design drawings with those design / Civil Points.
  2. The Survey Database becomes the Points clearinghouse. I do this by:
    • I import Survey Points into the Survey Database through electronic field books or as Control Points from file or drawing.
    • I create design / Civil Points, after first seeing that the Point numbers are available in the project Survey Database, and import these Points into the project Survey Database as Control Points. First, however, I create a unique Survey Database Network to hold the design /Civil Points.
    • Regardless of how I create Points or where, I then make sure that every I insert every Point in the Survey Database into the Proj#-PNTS drawing. This way, the Proj#-PNTS drawing is always up to date and is the AutoCAD Civil 3D file that I use to export Points for the file that I use to load my data collector.
    • No more dealing with duplicate Points.
    • Smaller and better organized drawings (and Points).
    • Guaranteed that you have all of your Points loaded into you data collector for field work.

As you can see, this divide and conquer method does need a little more manual maintenance, but accomplishes what we as land surveyors require, including:

Why does Autodesk make AutoCAD Civil 3D so Land Surveyor Unfriendly?

I know, I know, many of you after reading this will jump up and down fretting over how much extra work this is and will, no doubt, curse at Autodesk for handling Points in such an inelegant way. Why does Autodesk make AutoCAD Civil 3D so land surveyor unfriendly? I don't know and hopefully Autodesk will add a more robust solution for globally handling and accounting for project Points. Until then, it's up to you to have a plan in place that deals with how you use Points in your professional land surveying practice.

Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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