Basics of GIS Data | GIS Integration with Civil 3D 2020

Our Consulting and Services Manager, Shawn Herring, wrote an article for this month's issue of AUGI World. Below is a portion of the article:


Geographical Information System (GIS) data is everywhere.  There is GIS data for almost anything you want to display and analyze, as long as you can find it!  Using GIS data within Civil 3D (or Map 3D) has been around for a long time, and there are several ways of utilizing that data.  Now with the latest Civil 3D 2020 version, it has become even easier to access data at any moment.

It is so simple inside Civil 3D that users of all experience levels can succeed in working with GIS data.  This article looks at ways to utilize GIS data in Civil 3D by taking a look at some of the methods that have been around a while, and some of the latest updates in 2020. 

Finding GIS Data


Being able to use GIS data is great, but where do you find it?  First, I’ll tell you what I tell my kid when she asks me how to do her math homework… GOOGLE IT!

Pick the ounty that you reside in and Google, for example, “Utah County GIS”, and see what comes up!  I typically find that you get more information at the county level, such as building outlines, up-to-date parcel information and land use information. From the state level, you get more imagery, topo, voter information, etc.  But this really all depends on the state/county and it differs all over!  I usually begin my search in order, by going to the county, state, and then federal.

Here are a few sites for open source GIS data:

OpenTopography - https://opentopography.org/

And probably thousands more!


Types of GIS Data

There are many types of GIS data formats. I am a shapefile kind of guy, shapefiles are very powerful and can be used for many different things in Civil 3D and even more so in Infraworks.

Several format options are described below:
·         Shapefiles (SHP) – This is probably the most common data format, and almost any GIS enabled software can read a shapefile.  A SHP typically consists of 4 file types, and sometimes more.  Each file is needed as they all do something different.  The file types include:
o    .SHP – Contains the geometry
o    .DBF – Contains the attribute data for the features of the shapefile. Can be opened and edited in Excel.
o    .SHX – Spatial Index file for finding features within the SHP
o    .PRJ – The projection file.  Contains the coordinate system and projection for the data.
·         File GeoDatabase – Collection of files in a folder that can store, query and manage spatial data
·         KML – You’ve probably been using this for years.  KML is the Google Earth default file format.  Many softwares, including Civil 3D, can export to KML.
·         GeoJSON – JavaScript Object Notation – Lightweight data interchange format.  Can be converted to GIS/CAD pretty easily
·         Tab File – Very similar to SHP, and used by MapInfo
·         GeoTIFF – Most widely supported raster data format and is typically georeferenced (contains metadata) so that data imports property.
·         CSV – Yes, CSV is a GIS option and can be used/edited easily across all CAD platform products.


I told a joke once at an ESRI event 10 years ago, and I still get flack for this, but here goes nothing!

What does GIS stand for??  GET IT SURVEYED!!

That joke goes over much better with the survey audience.  But I love working with GIS data in all my projects.  I typically don’t begin a project without using some sort of GIS data, and with Civil 3D and Infraworks, most project utilize the GIS data from beginning to the end.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the GIS world, or a season vet, Autodesk makes working with multiple data sources easier than ever. 


By the time this article comes out I’m sure new and exciting features will be in place.  Autodesk and ESRI seem to be working hard together to make the user experience better and better as we go through the year and I look forward to seeing the improvements being made.


To learn more about GIS integration with Civil 3D 2020, click here.

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