Title of Paper


Engineering Applications employing GIS Technology™


Authors' Names


Constantine N. Tonias, P.E. and Elias C. Tonias, P.E.




As we enter the new millennium has anyone noticed how much GIS has spread out into so many different fields; Business, Telecommunications, Defense, Health, Homeland Security, Education and so many more.  Even Engineers and Surveyors, who both have been heavy CAD users, have incorporated GIS into their work flow.  This type of diversity emphasizes the importance of being able to integrate data with maps for the performance of various analyses.  A natural extension, therefore, would be to incorporate the design process with GIS.  If we are using GIS to pre-process (import) base data, and post-process (update) base data, why not create all of the data directly within GIS.


This paper addresses how civil engineering applications such as roadway design, plan and profile drawing preparation, sewer and water distribution systems modeling can be performed directly within the ArcGIS® environment.  In so doing, the need to pass data back and forth from CAD can be eliminated.  The paper describes how customized commands and tools were developed using Avenue Wraps™ and ArcObjects® to bring engineering design functionality into the ArcGIS environment.  In addition, the paper discusses how geodatabases are utilized in the design process.  Real-life engineering projects are presented illustrating that design and final drawing preparation can be performed in ArcGIS.


Paper Body


1. Introduction


Civil Engineers and Surveyors working with municipal clients are finding themselves having to supply their clients with data that can be incorporated into the clients’ GIS database.  Many municipalities maintain extensive and geometrically accurate databases.  As a result of this, these municipalities have a great interest in maintaining their GIS, and as such require their contractors to provide them project data for incorporation into their GIS.  Typically, this has entailed the engineer/surveyor to provide the municipality with a DXF or DWG file in state plane coordinates.  Generally, and rather simplistically, this file contains the project geometry alone without any design information attached to the geometry.


This paper discusses a new approach in how Engineers/Surveyors can perform their work, as well as how their project data can be supplied to their municipal clients.  The new approach described in this paper essentially involves using ArcGIS as the graphics engine with customized commands and tools providing engineering design and drafting functionality.  Employing a "drafting as a by-product of the design process" philosophy, a designer should be able to tackle a project from start to end using engineering and GIS technologies.  The reason for this type of approach is to: (a) eliminate the CAD to GIS, and vice versa conversion and (b) take advantage of the database functionality within a GIS.  In so doing, design parameters and data can be stored in the GIS thereby adding to the "robustness" of the GIS.  In addition, the database functionality, which is an integral component of GIS, can expedite certain design operations, such as design specifications and take-off quantities into an integral operation with the plan preparation.


2. Applications


As one can imagine a single project is comprised of many different aspects; project management/coordination, geotechnical, transportation, drainage, roads, surveying, water distribution, drawing preparation and so forth.  This paper does not attempt to address all facets of a project, but it rather concentrates on the surveying and roadway applications which are typically encountered in a land development project, may it be a subdivision, shopping center, industrial complex, a street or highway project, or most any other project that alters the surface of a land area such as a levee, or channel project.  In dealing with these applications, this paper will address the following items:


a.         Data creation,

b.         Analysis/Design, and

c.         Post-processing.


Data creation denotes the means of how data is geometrically established, as well as, how pertinent design information is introduced into the model.  For example, in the case of contouring, design data would include the contour interval, heavy or index contour interval, smoothing factor, break lines and so forth.


Once the data has been created, the designer is able to analyze the model.  Continuing with the contouring example, once the points and design data have been established, the designer can perform the required calculations to generate the line features representing the contours and the annotation features which identify the contour elevations.


The post-processing item, as the name indicates, denotes how the designer deals with the data which was created during the analysis/design phase.  In the contouring example, once the contour strings have been developed, the designer can review the contours for potential point elevation errors.  In addition, the designer can utilize the contour strings as a basis for extracting cross-sections and/or profiles.


The point to be made is that all three items, data creation, analysis/design, and post-processing can be performed within the ArcGIS environment.


3. Customized Commands / Tools


To accommodate the applications and items described above, customized commands and tools will need to be developed.  Although offering a great deal of functionality out of the box, ArcGIS is not a civil engineering design/drafting system.  So that to perform civil engineering tasks, civil engineering tools are needed.  Fortunately, ArcGIS provides an environment where developers can create their own commands and tools.


The customized commands and tools discussed in this paper were developed as Active X DLLs using Visual Basic® 6, ArcObjects® and Avenue Wraps™.  The Active X DLLs are then added within ArcMap, thereby, providing engineering/surveying functionality in the form of custom drop-down combo-boxes and toolbars.  Examples of these combo-boxes and toolbars appear below.


The operation of these commands and tools were designed with the ability to take advantage of the geodatabase.  The reason for this was that a single file could be created containing various datasets pertaining to a common application.  For example, in the case of a horizontal alignment, a file called algX.mdb, where X denotes the horizontal alignment identification (ID), is created.  Within this geodatabase several datasets appear representing the: (a) vertical alignment (profile), (b) stationing, and (c) cross-sections which are associated with the horizontal alignment.  In a CAD system all of this information would generally be stored in multiple files.  Using a geodatabase, all of this information can now be stored in a single file.


4. Topographic Mapping / Surveying


Before any project can proceed a base map or topographic map of the project site must be established.  This can be accomplished by using aerial photography or conventional field survey means.  In either case, a digital model of the project site comprised of contours and existing features needs to be created.  In certain projects, this topographic map may already be in existence in the client’s database, in which case the designer may skip to the next section of this paper.


Regarding conventional field survey, the user needs the ability to import, in mass, point data, see Figure 1.  This point data typically comes from a GPS device and is comprised of X, Y and Z values.  Augmenting this data, a point code and/or description can be attached.  This additional information can be used to provide valuable information pertaining to the point, as well as provide a mechanism for generating connectivity, thus facilitating the generation of the line-work representing the existing features.  For those cases in which a GPS device is not available, a similar digital file will need be developed.


Figure 1 – Mass importing of Point or Coordinate Data


Once the point data has been imported contours can be generated.  In creating the contours, one needs to consider the format of the point data.  Specifically, does the point data represent a radial survey such as that shown in Figure 2,


Figure 2 – Illustration of a Radial Survey


or a cross-sectional type of survey, as shown in Figure 3.  In a cross-sectional survey, the shots are based about a horizontal alignment, which may or may not contain horizontal curves.  In Figure 3 we simply have a straight-line alignment with shots taken left and right of the horizontal alignment.


Figure 3 - Illustration of a Cross-Sectional Survey


Depending upon the format, the user will need to use a specific command to create the contours properly.  It should be noted that conventional contouring algorithms do not properly handle cross-sectional types of surveys.  As such, a special algorithm, specific for cross-sectional survey data, needs to be employed.


As stated at the beginning of this paper, when it comes to contouring the design data associated with the contours include the contouring interval, heavy contour interval, smoothing or rounding factor, and so on.  This information can be specified by the user at the time the contours are to be developed, see Figure 4.


Figure 4 – Contour Generation Multi-Input Dialog Boxes


Once the contouring parameters have been specified, the command can proceed with the required calculations and produce the appropriate features, see Figure 5.  Taking advantage of the geodatabase, all of the features which are created during the contouring process are stored in a geodatabase.  This includes the lines which represent the contour strings, the annotation denoting the elevation of the heavy contours and the polygons which form the TIN (triangular irregular network).  In addition, the lines which represent the contour strings carry the elevation of the contour as an attribute, and the polygons comprising the TIN are 3D polygons (each vertex in the polygon is assigned an elevation).


Figure 5 – Contours Created using Cross-Sectional Survey Data


5. Roadway Design / Plan and Profile Generation


With the topographic map established, the engineer can proceed with the design of the roadway system.  Performing this requires the definition of certain geometric and design information.  The approach taken in performing roadway design within ArcGIS is to store the design information in dBase tables with an identifier, and assign to each geometric feature that requires design information an attribute (field) containing the specific design identifier.  This enables the designer to create a table, or rather a library of various types of design information pertaining to various locales and types of roadways (streets, arterials, expressways), and invoke one by its unique, user specified identifier.


A. Design Parameters


As one can imagine there are various types of design information.  Shown in Figure 6 is a custom drop-down box containing design information broken down according to type of discipline.  The user upon selecting a command is presented with a dialog box containing the Design Parameter ID field and the pertinent design parameters associated with the design data group.  All of this information is then stored in a dBase table.  As such, this information can be easily transferred from project to project by simply copying the appropriate dBase table, or by referencing the table from a central location.


Figure 6 – Specification of the Right-of-Way Design Parameters


B. Horizontal Alignment


The essential component in a roadway design is the horizontal alignment or street centerline.  Comprising the centerline is a series of horizontal PI's.  Each PI in the horizontal alignment can be comprised of a back spiral length, curve radius and forward spiral length.   Shown in Figure 7 is a street centerline comprised of two horizontal PIs, each having been assigned a horizontal curve radius and no spiral data.  The PC and PT locations of each horizontal PI are identified, as well as the start and end points of the horizontal alignment.  In addition, the horizontal alignment can be assigned various design parameters such as a starting station, station increment, description and so forth.


Figure 7 – Illustration of a Horizontal Alignment comprised of 2 PIs with the Multi-Input Dialog Box identifying the Design Parameters associated with the Alignment


To define the geometry of a horizontal alignment, as shown above, one could use traditional line and curve creation tools.  It should be noted that these tools are not terribly efficient for this type of work.  As such, custom tools are required.  Shown in Figure 8 is the custom drop-down box and toolbar for manipulating horizontal alignments and performing roadway design.


Figure 8 – Custom Commands and Tools for Manipulating Horizontal Alignments


The  and  tools enable the user to define and manipulate the horizontal alignments start and end points, as well as the alignment’s PIs.  The dialog box shown in Figure 8 is the base dialog box presented when a new horizontal PI is inserted.  Once the horizontal alignment has been positioned other commands can be used to post-process the horizontal alignment.  For example, Figure 9 illustrates the use of the [Generate ROW w/ Cul-de-sac] command.  With this command the user specifies a range of horizontal alignment IDs, and the associated Design Parameter ID from which the command will generate the appropriate right-of-way features, thus saving a tremendous amount of drafting work.  This is an example of a specialized command being created to post-process design information to efficiently create drawing information.


In laying out the horizontal alignment with the  tool, the user has the ability to click at a PI, and while holding down the mouse button and moving the mouse about the monitor screen, the alignment (tangents and curves) is continuously altered to reflect the last position of the PI.  Releasing the mouse button freezes the alignment, at which point, the user may terminate the editing or continue with the manipulation of the alignment.



Figure 9 – Automated Generation of the Street Right-of-Way and Pavement Ribbon Features


C. Original Ground Cross-Section and Profile Extraction


With the horizontal alignment defined, in addition to the existing ground contours, the designer can proceed to extract cross-sections and a profile along the street centerline.  Shown in Figure 10 is a plan view of the cross-sections that were extracted for this particular project.  The interval at which the cross-sections are extracted is controlled by the design data assigned to the horizontal alignment, see Figure 7.  When the cross-sections are extracted, the user is able to control the extent or width of the cross-section (left and right of the centerline), as well as, the offset of the profile.  A profile offset value of 0.0 denotes the profile is to be taken along or on top of the horizontal alignment.


Figure 10 – Multi-Input Dialog Box for extracting Cross-sections and a Profile with respect to a Horizontal Alignment


In this particular case, the cross-sections and profile were extracted from a set of contours.  It should be noted that the designer has also the option of extracting cross-sections and profiles from a set of 3D polygons, or from a TIN dataset as created with the 3D Analyst.  Should the user have cross sections obtained by conventional field operations, or stripped during the photogrammetric compilation, these sections could be imported.


D. Proposed Ground or Vertical Alignment Design


Continuing with the design process, the designer can plot the original ground profile extracted above and begin to lay out the vertical alignment associated with the street centerline.  The process for doing so is very similar to laying out the horizontal alignment with the exception that a different set of tools are required.  Shown in Figure 11 is the existing ground profile (solid black line) superimposed upon a grid which has been created using different horizontal and vertical scales.  Note that the profile grid has been classified to display the heavy or index grid lines in a different symbol than that of the intermediate grid lines.  In this case a darker shade of gray was used.  The magenta line represents the proposed vertical alignment.


In laying out a vertical alignment, the designer positions the vertical points of intersections (VPIs) and assigns a vertical curve value.  The PVC and PVT locations are computed and displayed.  In addition, if there is a turning point (TPT) on the vertical curve, this location is also displayed.  Much the same way the user is able to click at a PI of a horizontal alignment, and move the mouse to dynamically alter the horizontal alignment, the user can employ the same methodology of dynamically altering the shape of a vertical alignment by clicking at a PVI and moving the mouse.


Figure 11 – Illustration of the Proposed Vertical Alignment for the Proposed Street


The custom command and tools for defining and manipulating vertical alignments are displayed in Figure 12.  Post-processing of the vertical alignment can be done to mass generate profile annotation such as a vertical curve table.  The multi-input dialog box shown in Figure 12 illustrates how the user can control: (a) the surface to be processed (existing ground or proposed ground), (b) the range and increment at which elevation values are computed, (c) the number of digits to the right of the decimal point and (d) the size of the annotation.  All of this information is used to create a vertical curve table, whose features are stored in a personal geodatabase (algX.mdb, see Section 3 above).


Figure 12 - Custom Commands and Tools for Manipulating Vertical Alignments


Shown in Figure 13 is a blow-up of the vertical alignment annotation that is mass created.  All of the profile annotation shown in this figure was created by the [Annotate Vertical Alignments] and [Annotate Surface Elevations] commands shown in Figure 12.  This information is stored in a personal geodatabase and can be repositioned or modified by the designer as may be desired.


Figure 13 - Automated Generation of the Vertical Alignment Features and Annotation


E. Roadway Templates


Roadway templates can be drafted by the designer using a custom drafting tool designed to accept slope and distance values.  Roadway templates are assigned an ID and as with the design parameter data can be stored in a central location for use in multiple projects.  In so doing, a company is able to establish a library of roadway templates from which many designers can access.  A roadway may have more than one template due to the introduction of left and right turn lanes, super elevation and other reasons.  In such cases a distinct template will have to be created for each condition, and each template will have to be assigned to station ranges.  A single template may have to be applied to more than one such station range.  Where a gradual transition between templates is to occur, a straight line interpolation is applied for the computation of earthwork, slope stakes and other computations.  Abrupt template changes are attained by the introduction of a very small station range (i.e., 0.001 feet or meters).


Figure 14 – Proposed Roadway Template with Gutter


F. Roadway Design – Integration of the Original Ground and Proposed Ground Surfaces


Once the necessary components of a roadway, the horizontal alignment, vertical alignment, original ground cross-sections, and proposed ground templates, of the roadway have been established, the designer may direct the program to compute earthwork and quantities, plot combined OG and FG cross sections, and plan and profile (P&P) sheets, print computational reports, and create a proposed ground surface which will be a set of 3D polygons representing the roadway surface.  These polygons can then be merged with the original ground 3D polygons to form a proposed site model.


Figure 15 – Multi-Input Dialog Box for the Generation of Proposed Roadway Surface and its Integration with the Original Ground Surface


G. Cross-Section Plotting and Earthwork


As one would expect in a roadway or site development project, the designer needs to be able to compute the amount of earth that is to be removed or added.  Using the cross-section surfaces developed above, the [Generate Earthwork Report] command can be employed to prepare a formal report of the proposed cut and fill quantities.


Figure 16 – Multi-Input Dialog Box for Plotting Cross-Sections


Enhancing the visualization of the proposed cut and fill values, the [Plot Cross Sections] command is used to plot the cross-sectional surfaces with the cross section area (S.F.) and volume (C.Y.) between the preceding and current cross section.  Figure 17 contains a few of the cross-sections that were developed in this project.  Again all of the line-work and annotations were mass created by the command and stored in the personal geodatabase.  In preparing the cross section sheets, the designer has the ability to control the size of the sheet and the number of cross section columns per sheet, and the number of cross sections per column.   Should additional cross section information need to be added, or existing information modified, the designer is more than able to do so.


Figure 17 - Automated Generation of the Cross-Section Features and Annotation


H. Subdivision Design


Addressing the subdivision design aspect of a project, Figure 18 displays the custom menu combo box commands which were created to subdivide a parcel of land.  In addition, Figure 18 contains the Subdivision Design Parameters dialog boxes illustrating the various design parameters which the designer can control.  Note that when subdividing a parcel of land, the user can control which design parameter ID is to be used during the computations.  In so doing, the designer can try several different scenarios very quickly by simply changing the design parameter ID value.


Figure 18 – Design Parameters for Subdivision Design


The basic concept in subdividing a tract of land is that the tract of land is comprised of four sides, a front side along the street right-of-way (ROW), a start side normal to the front side at the right end, an end side normal to the front side at the left end, and a rear side joining the start and end sides.  These four sides, each one of which could be comprised of a series of lines and curves, form a block which is assigned an ID.  The [Subdivide Block] command walks along the front side a distance controlled by the applicable subdivision criteria, and turns normal sides to the intersection with the rear side of the block to define a lot.  This process continues until the end side of the block is reached.  As one can imagine there will always be an excess amount of land left over.  The designer has the option of how to deal with this excess amount.  That is, the entire excess amount could be distributed: (a) evenly amongst all parcels, (b) in reverse proportions to their area, or (c) only to certain parcels in a proportionate manner.  Once the excess area has been distributed, the command displays the subdivided block into lot polygons as shown in Figure 19.  When a large parcel of land has to be subdivided, it is first divided by use of the various geometric commands, into blocks taking into account reserved green or common areas.  Thereafter each block can be subdivided as indicated above.


Figure 19 - Automated Generation of the Features representing the subdivided Block


Once the lots have been created, they can be post-processed in terms of mass annotating the bearings and distances, as well as, creating the lot envelopes within which the buildings can be erected in accord with the required zoning set backs and clearances.  To expedite the generation of the annotation, custom annotation commands were developed, see Figure 20.  In addition, pertinent information such as lot number, block number, house number, street name, address, etc. can be attached to each lot as an attribute.  As such, when the lots are delivered to the municipal client, this information is available for the client’s use and incorporation in its database.


Figure 20 - Automated Generation of the Lot Envelope Features and Lot Annotation


I. Plan and Profile Assembly


A required phase in the project is the creation of the final drawings, in this case, the plan and profile (P&P) drawings.  Figure 21 contains the custom menu combo box drop-down that was created to assist in the production of the plan and profile drawings.  In essence, a plan and profile drawing is nothing more than multiple individual drawings put together.  For each such drawing, there is a plan view component, a profile view component, the drawing border component, north arrow component and perhaps notes or details components.  All of these components can be generated individually.  The production of the final P&P drawing, however, can be automated by creating a dBase table that contains the P&P sheet ID and the various components which are to appear on the P&P.  Also contained in Figure 21 is a horizontal dialog box identifying the components of the plan and profile drawing that are shown in Figure 22.  Using the horizontal dialog box shown in Figure 21, the designer controls the position, scale and orientation of each component on a drawing.


Figure 21 – Horizontal Dialog Box identifying the Components and their Position within a P&P Drawing


In assembling or building a drawing, the [Build Sheet] command prompts the user to specify a range of Sheet IDs.  As such, the designer can mass produce one or many plan and profile drawings.  Again taking advantage of the geodatabase, each drawing is stored in its own personal geodatabase, and is displayed in a separate data frame within the ArcMap document file.  That is to say, a single ArcMap document file will contain multiple data frames with each P&P drawing appearing in a separate data frame.


Figure 22 - Automated Generation of a P&P Drawing


J. Design Data Exchange


The design of a land development or roadway project is an iterative process.  Before its completion, there will be several sets of preliminary, and “final design looking” sets of drawings to be reviewed by the designer’s staff, the direct client, and the interested governmental agencies, and in addition those NIMBY (not in my back yard) citizens who object to most any development.  For all such reviews the 3D Analyst provides an excellent format for displaying such a project in three dimensions from various vantage points.  Thus, when the necessary components of the design have been created, their integration can be read by the 3D Analyst to produce the desired display renderings.  These displays can become more realistic if the above described design products are augmented by the introduction of structures, greenery, and other features relative to the life of the project.  Two such samples are included in Figures 23 and 24.  As the design process progresses, new such displays can easily be updated.


Figure 23 – 3D Analyst Rendering Looking North from the Cul-de-Sac


Figure 24 – 3D Analyst Rendering Looking South from the Main Entrance


As a by-product of performing the design within the ArcGIS environment, all of the design parameters and data are stored in dBase tables and geodatabases.  Furthermore, the design data resides in a state plane coordinate system since that was the coordinate system in which the design was performed.  As such, it is possible to simply send to the municipal client the geodatabase containing the requested information, without having to create some neutral file (dxf, dwg, etc.).  The requested information could include: the contours, the subdivided lots, the design parameters, and/or any other desired information.


In addition, as mentioned in Section H Subdivision Design, it is possible for the designer to include in the database information such as the lot number, house number and so forth.  As such, this capability enables the designer to assist the municipal client in maintaining their database.  Therefore, it may be prudent for the designer prior to performing the work to discuss with the client what information may or may not be desired by the client.  In so doing, the product that is delivered to the client would be of more benefit than just a simple DXF or DWG drawing file.  Let us acknowledge at this point that the term client above may have been misused a bit.  Although in some places the development of a land subdivision may be undertaken by the affected governmental agency (town, county, etc.), in most places it is the private citizen (developer) who is the client of the engineer.  Although the engineer does not have a direct contractual agreement with the affected governmental agency, both the developer and the engineer have to produce a product (streets and utilities) which will be assumed by said agency for maintenance.  In a way, such agency may be construed as a silent client who could easily dictate the state and nature of the deliverable material.  If this silent client has a need for the easy maintenance of its GIS database, why not deliver a product directly compatible with said database.


6. Summary


In summary, by creating custom commands and tools, which provide specific functionality, it is possible to utilize ArcGIS as a graphics engine for most any type of application.  In addition, utilizing the database functionality within ArcGIS enables the designer to include pertinent design and non-graphic data.  The advantage of such an approach provides the designer the ability to deliver to the municipal client a product better suited for integration within the client’s GIS.




The authors express their appreciation to all those who have tested and used the components of the system, and offered valuable information and suggestions.




End Notes




CEDRA-AVcad, CEDRA-AVcogo, CEDRA-AVparcel, CEDRA-AVland, CEDRA-AVsand and CEDRA-AVwater are trademarks of The CEDRA Corporation, Pittsford, New York.


Avenue Wraps, 2nd Edition, July 2004, The CEDRA Press, Pittsford New York.


ArcGIS, ArcObjects and 3D Analyst are trademarks of Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), Redlands, California.


Visual Basic, Visual C++ are registered trademarks of Microsoft, Inc., Redmond, Washington


Author Information


Constantine N. Tonias, P. E. is president of The CEDRA Corporation, and overseer of the research and development operations of the corporation.  He has been responsible for the development of The CEDRA System, an interactive design and drafting system particularly tailored for the civil engineering practice, major portions of which have been ported to ArcView® GIS 3.x and ArcGIS® 8.x and 9.x.  His computer experience also includes the conversion of numerous computing programs between various computing hardware and operating system environments.


Organization: The CEDRA Corporation

Address: 151 Sully's Trail

Phone: 585-232-6998

Fax: 585-262-2042

E-mail: cedra@cedra.com


Elias C. Tonias, P. E., a pioneer in the application of computers in Civil Engineering, is a technical consultant to The CEDRA Corporation in the development of engineering computing software.  He has written extensively in this field, and has managed the development of numerous software.  Having being involved with software development since the very early days of the computer age, he was forced to go through a series of program conversions from computer environment to computer environment.


Organization: Tonias Engineers

Address: 151 Sully's Trail

Phone: 585-232-6995

Fax: 585-262-2042

E-mail: ect@tonias.com