Civil 3D Data Management

A common misconception is that Civil 3D does not require a project as did its predecessor, Land Desktop.  The fact is, you cannot take full advantage of key Civil 3D features without one.  Some of the terminology may have changed but the concept has not.  You must still specify a project path and a project if you intend to share data.

A project template is installed with the program.  It contains a sample folder structure designed to help manage Civil 3D data.  The primary purpose may be to organize the data but, as design data is often shared, it is equally import to distribute this data such that it is not limited to a single drawing.

Base Drawings
Increase performance!One method to distribute this data is to save design objects into individual base drawings.  Base drawings contain basic design objects such as surfaces, alignments, or pipe networks.  You can save a single object as a drawing or, when appropriate, save several related objects as a single drawing.

The base drawing should be named relative to the object it represents and saved to a designated base drawing folder.  A clear reference to the object in the drawing name will prove helpful throughout the life of the project.  As the number of drawings increases, so will your appreciation for simple, logical file names.

Data Shortcuts
Data shortcuts are created from design objects and later data referenced into design drawings.  Using data shortcuts, the data can easily be shared yet remains secure in that the source data cannot be changed in a host drawing.  It can only be changed in the original base drawing.

The data shortcut created from the base drawing is stored as an XML file.  The filename contains the design object’s name plus additional alpha-numeric characters.  This file can be renamed but should not be moved from the default shortcuts folder.

Design Drawings
Basically, design drawings are a combination of data referenced from base drawings and topographic (topo) data.  Topo data refers to existing condition features represented by basic AutoCAD elements such as lines, curves, blocks, and text.  The topo data can be created directly in the design drawing or externally referenced from a separate file.

Design drawings are usually quite small compared to the original source drawings and require very little system memory.  This is a huge benefit to users struggling to meet minimum system requirements.  Generally, a smaller drawing is a faster, more stable drawing and this becomes increasingly important as the project grows.

Proposed design elements are created in design drawings.  These elements are created from data referenced from base drawings, as is the case with a surface analysis of an existing surface, or as new design data reflecting proposed conditions, such as a proposed detention model.

Generally, design drawings should be named relative to the design objects they represent and saved to a designated design drawing folder.  If the design drawing meets submittal requirements as a production drawing, however, it should be named according to company standards and saved to a designated production drawing folder.

Production Drawings
In simplest terms, a production drawing is what happens when you add a border and title block to a design drawing.  So, in some cases, the design drawing actually is the production drawing. 

Obviously, some production drawings require construction beyond simply adding a border and title block.  Combining referenced design data and referenced drawings with drafted elements and labels may be necessary to complete the sheet.

Production drawings should be named according to company standards and saved to a designated production drawing folder.

Summary
Although less constricting than its predecessor, Civil 3D still requires a project if you intend to share project data.  An important benefit, however, is that program memory is optimized by distributing this data independent of a single drawing.  Also, data security is increased in that design data can only be edited in original base drawings, not in a host drawing.  So, data sharing, memory optimization, and data security coupled with a simple, standard implementation is quite a compelling list of qualifications.  The project is still here.  It’s just not as cumbersome.

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