Under the Hood: Bringing GIS Data into InfraWorks with the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS

John Sayre December 3, 2018 3 min read


Every month, an Autodesk expert gets technical and provides an overview of the AEC Collection’s most powerful workflows. Read on to learn how you can seamlessly import GIS data into InfraWorks with the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS.

It doesn’t matter what you’re designing—a building, a road, a parking lot—context matters. It’s absolutely essential that you have a solid understanding of existing conditions before starting to create your model. You need to know topographic information for the build site, where existing utilities lay, their depth and the location of connecting roads and other infrastructure.
Traditionally, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) information has been spread out across various sources and databases. Accessing the information required multiple formal processes. You had to petition local government, environmental agencies, and other organizations for the data. Then, you would parse, edit, and translate the data into the correct format for your design software.

The whole process was time consuming, often leading to project delays and budget overruns.

To address these challenges, the Autodesk and Esri collaboration delivers a practical solution to help realize the fusion of BIM and GIS. You gain fingertip access to GIS information that can then be seamlessly imported into your infrastructure project with just a few clicks. Suddenly, a weeks-long process is completed in just a few minutes. Once set up, you can upload your own data sets or select from thousands of GIS data feeds that can be fed directly into your InfraWorks model where it can inform and speed up the design process. This integration acts as the bridge between BIM for infrastructure design tools and GIS mapping technologies. They work together to create a more direct, bi-directional and frictionless flow of information—enabling owners and AEC firms to work with more robust existing conditions models.

Here are three things you need to know about how it works.

1. Esri ArcGIS Online

If you’ve never used ArcGIS online, you’re in for a treat. The cloud-based mapping and data analysis platform allows you to create custom maps using thousands of data feeds from ArcGIS Living Atlas. You can also upload your own data or download data from municipalities and other public and non-profit organizations.

You create a feature layer or feature map and make it available to all team members from this central online platform. The data can be analyzed to derive powerful location insights into your infrastructure site and surrounding area. When everyone views the same data, this enables faster decision making, based on that data.

Here is how you can pull data from Living Atlas to create multiple feature layers that make up a feature map:

2. Enrich Your Data Directly in ArcGIS Online

The really cool thing about ArcGIS is that you can manipulate your data sets in any way you want, enriching your GIS information before you send it to InfraWorks. This allows you to analyze site selection and project planning among other things. For example, you could use this workflow to analyze rich traffic pattern data to determine whether to plan a roundabout or a traditional four-way stop intersection.

Here is an example of how I can do just that for a hypothetical celebrity chef looking for an ideal location for their next restaurant:

3. Importing GIS Data into InfraWorks

Once you have created your feature map you can import it directly to InfraWorks with just a few clicks:

As you can see, the GUI for the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS is very similar to ArcGIS Online, and that’s done purposefully. We wanted to make sure that the look and feel were aligned to give you that seamless experience. And that’s the thing. Having all this data at your fingertips in InfraWorks allows you to quickly make preliminary design decisions with the data that you need. You have the existing conditions, and you can quickly add a building, a parking lot and other components. You can then bring it into Civil 3D and Revit for design, then roundtrip the design back into InfraWorks to create a nice presentation piece. It’s a great workflow that allows you to speed up the time it takes to get a project off the ground based on a complete data set of existing conditions.

In celebration of this workflow, Esri is offering select Autodesk customers a complimentary one-year subscription to Esri ArcGIS Online—the premiere repository for GIS information in the world. This offer is available to Autodesk AEC Collection subscribers and Autodesk EBA customers. To take advantage of the offer, eligible customers can contact their contract manager. Learn more and see eligibility requirements.

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