Modeling Paris with InfraWorks

It has been a while since I wanted to play with InfraWorks, but I never had the chance, nor any purpose until recently, when I start to ponder on retrieving existing conditions to integrate future buildings in existing conditions, without having to rely on time-consuming on-site surveys.

When starting with InfraWorks, the easiest way to create a model is to use the Model Builder. This feature use data from OpenStreetMap and Microsoft Bing Maps to create fully featured models, with terrain, roads, orthophoto, and so on.

The Model Builder interface

The Model Builder interface

Using this Model Builder, I quickly create a complete 3D model of Paris.

The initial model created from OpenStreetMap

The initial model created from OpenStreetMap

However, this model is not accurate enough for any practical application. For example, the 10-stories building where I live is modeled as a 2 levels building. My idea was to use these buildings for site integration and lighting solar studies, but building heights provided by OpenStreetMap is not reliable enough, I had to find another data source.

I am quite envious of the data used to build Google Maps, which can provide us a 3D model of every building, based on 45-degree aerial imagery. But these data are obviously not easily available, and I fall back on open data.

APUR, the Paris Urban Planning Agency provide an Open Data platform with a lot of datasets about Paris and its suburbs.

Their “EMPRISE BATIE PARIS” dataset contains every building in Paris in Shapefile format. Importing it in InfraWorks is quite easy, but this dataset must be configured to map its values with InfraWorks features.

To do so, it is necessary to map the information contained in the dataset to the property of building objects in InfraWorks.

Configuring the dataset

Configuring the dataset

Some properties, like Roof Height, can be easily filled with data coming from the APUR dataset. However, this dataset is far richer than that, and I wanted some specific information, like construction date, to be imported in InfraWorks as custom properties.

To create these custom fields, I have to edit the “im.schema.json” file located in “%USERPROFILE%\Documents\Autodesk InfraWorks Models\Autodesk 360\modelNumber\modelName.files\unver. Using the indications found here, I edit this JSON file to create five custom fields for the “Building” class in InfraWorks: Construction Date, Refurbishment Date, IHG (Hight-Rise Building), Roof Height Standard Deviation and Roof Type. These fields are then mapped to the corresponding values found in the APUR dataset, using the Table tab in “Data Source Configuration”.

Mapping custom fileds

Mapping custom fields

Since my data contains the type of roofing material of the building, I create a rule to match the appearance of the building with my dataset. These Roof Type values are integers defining a roofing material for every building.

Using great explanations from here, I create a small script to map these values to a roofing material in InfraWorks, with a switch command on the type of roof described in the dataset.

//Added by me

switch (SOURCE["C_TOITDOM"])
{
case 0: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Spanish Tile Brown";
break;
case 1: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Spanish Tile Brown";
break;
case 2: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Zinc";
break;
case 3: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Slate Grey";
break;
case 4: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Masonry Stone Black";
break;
case 5: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Grass Augustine";
break;
default: BUILDINGS.ROOF_MATERIAL = "Material/Roofing/Spanish Tile Brown";
}

 

Most of Paris buildings have a very characteristic zinc roof, a material that is not available by default in InfraWorks.

Typical Parisian roofs

Typical Parisian roofs

Using the style palette, I create my own zinc material from a picture and a few settings.

Creating a custom "Zinc" material

Creating a custom “Zinc” material

My final experiment was to use the Feature Themes tab to display construction dates for Parisian buildings.

This function allows me to add a color scheme to my buildings to display values, here the construction date.

FeatureThemes

The result in quite compelling, every building is displayed in color per its construction date.

Displaying construction dates

Displaying construction dates

Building models of entire cities is incredibly easy with InfraWorks, and as long as you have correct data sources, it seems to be the perfect tool to re-create the environment for your studies.

A360 Team

A year after my first post about Autodesk A360, I kept on testing its features as they came out. When one of my colleagues brought me an A360 Team subscription from last year Autodesk University, I tested it on a small project with some of my teammates.

Recently, Autodesk  unrolled a new design for A360. I use this occasion to share my thoughts about the evolution of the service since my last post.

Starting using A360 is really easy. Just invite your teammates to your A360 hub, drag and drop documents to the platform, and start editing or commenting them. Basically, anyone can edit anything, the revision control system is here to retrieve any previous version of a document in case of emergency.

Roles and permissions are organized around Team Members, who belong to an organization and have access to every project inside this organization. These Team Members can invite Project Contributors outside of the organization to participate on a specific project.

Roles

Different project types allow for different accessibility rules for Team Members and Project Contributors. However, don’t expect to find tune every option, we are not in a tightly controlled document management system, but more on a collaboration platform based on trust and a powerful versioning system.

Of course, A360 provides the ability to upload Revit models, and process them as they arrived on the platform. To me, this is the most important feature. Every model you upload on A360 will be processed to be visible online, without having to download it. This feature has largely improved since my last article, and you can now select which views and sheets that will appear on A360. To do so, open the Views For A360 windows in Revit and create a set of views to be uploaded to A360. Save your model, upload it, wait for a while and every selected view will appear on the model page.

A360Views

You can upload a single file or an assembly, which is a set of files linked together. When uploading an assembly, A360 asks for a parent file and uploads it along with every other file in the same folder. As it is processing this parent file, it takes these linked models into account to create online views.

UploadAssemblySmall

My first impression of the online 3D viewer is quite good. It is fluid and really easy to use. One of the wishes of my previous article have been fulfilled, you can now create Sections of your model. Sections are beautiful, with a nice cut pattern, but the section plane is barely usable. Instead of being able to quickly select a face of your model to create a section plane, you have to painfully drag a predefined plane where you want to cut your model. Since the section plane gizmo stays aligned with the model origin, you can’t move it while zooming. I have to say I was pretty frustrated by the experience, seeing everything I was hoping for a web-based model viewer, and not being able to use it because of these few issues.

And why the Measure tool shows up when the model is loading and disappears when the viewer had started?

Aside from the current issues of the 3D viewer, Autodesk has created a really interesting collaboration platform. Roles and permissions manage to stay simple while enabling most collaboration scenarios. I still have to test the integration within Revit through the A360 Collaboration for Revit, as soon as it will become available in Europe.