Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak: History in the Making for Malaysian Infrastructure

Opening up new economic opportunities for the Malaysian State of Sarawak

Design and construction teams in Malaysia are using Autodesk BIM solutions—including Civil 3D, Revit, ReCap, InfraWorks, Map 3D, Dynamo, 3ds Max, and Navisworks—to deliver the expansion and upgrade of the Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Works is in the midst of a major effort to expand and upgrade the Pan Borneo Highway in the state of Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The project will connect the highway to the adjoining state of Sabah and reduce travel times throughout Sarawak while opening new economic opportunities for the state.

Currently, Sarawak’s major highway system is mainly a 2-lane single carriageway and is notorious for its poor condition in some sections. The two-phase project will upgrade the highway to a 4-lane dual carriageway and extend the highway to 1,060 km. The project also entails the construction of many bridges for river crossings and pedestrian bridges, as well as interchanges and bus shelters all along the length of the highway.

The project began in 2015 and the construction of phase 1, which spans 765 kilometers, is currently underway. The completion of phase 1 is scheduled for mid-2021. The second phase, which will upgrade the portion of the highway in Sabah, is in the planning stage.

Aggressive timelines and massive coordination

Given its large scope, the project was divided into 11 separate sections and work packages—each one stretching between 60 to 90 kilometers. To meet the short timeline for delivery, the construction of all 11 contracts has to be carried out simultaneously.

As such, the overall project requires significant coordination of (and between) 11 different designs and 11 different construction projects. In addition, the designs of all the highway sections had to be coordinated with the existing conditions of the current highway and surrounding landscapes. And the efforts of the extended project team must be coordinated as well, including the client, the 20 firms that secured construction work contracts, and many more subcontractors and consultants.

With this extraordinary level of coordination, it would be very difficult to meet the project’s aggressive timeline using traditional 2D project delivery. Therefore—and in keeping with the Malaysian government’s efforts to streamline and modernize the country’s construction industry—BIM is being used throughout the project.

Integrated BIM project delivery

An integrated software platform of GIS and Autodesk BIM and reality capture solutions supports the development and upgrade of the Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak. The integration of these technologies is helping project stakeholders:

  • minimize errors and discrepancies during design,
  • manage construction efforts to mitigate risk, and
  • create as-built models and a centralized data system for operations and maintenance.

Project modeling

During design, the project teams used ReCap to convert point cloud data that captured existing conditions of the highway and its environs by stationary LiDAR and drone photogrammetry. InfraWorks was used to generate high-quality 3D model renderings and animations during preliminary design stages. The link between Autodesk solutions and GIS data helped inform the design team throughout their efforts.

Civil 3D was used for the detailed design of the highway. The software helped them create custom cross-sections subassemblies that automatically adjusted to updated model terrain information. Revit was used to design the project’s structures and its mechanical & electrical systems. Dynamo enabled them to generate parametric scripts to extend the modeling capabilities of both Civil 3D and Revit.

The project team now uses Navisworks to combine models of different formats into a single project model. This model/platform enables 3D clash detection and 4D construction planning and simulation—giving the team a better understanding of projects issues.

A federated project model combining BIM and reality capture data enabled 3D project coordination and 4D construction planning and simulation.
A federated project model combining BIM and reality capture data enabled 3D project coordination and 4D construction planning and simulation.



The Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak is Malaysia’s first transportation project to fully embrace the use of BIM and its complementary technologies. The project’s overall construction is approximately 35 percent complete and the use of BIM is generating exciting results for the Malaysian construction industry.

  • Routine clash detections and the ability to compare design information to actual site conditions before the start of construction is reducing design discrepancies and rework costs.
  • Model-based coordination and communication is helping stakeholders better understand design and construction issues—leading to improved decision-making and quicker resolution.
  • A shared, common data environment helps stakeholders gather, collect, and share the latest project information.
  • Model-based project scheduling and asset information provides better visibility for all stakeholders, and will be vital for efficient operation and maintenance management.

Digitalization in infrastructure is inevitable. Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak is ‘history in the making’ as it is the first infrastructure project in Malaysia to utilize BIM, GIS and UAS technologies. It is the benchmark for BIM infrastructure projects in Malaysia. BIM ensures project delivery whilst not compromising on cost, time and quality. BIM enables a paradigm shift in the construction industry.

–Dato’ Sri Zohari Akob, Secretary General, Ministry of Works Malaysia




Spotlight On Air Travel: How Technology Tackles 5 Key Infrastructure Challenges

The future may be unpredictable, but one thing seems certain: The air travel and cargo sector will keep booming. More specifically, passenger travel is expected to expand to 8.2 billion air travelers annually by 2037 and the number of cargo freight aircraft is expected to jump 30 percent.

If these projections come true, airport designers and developers have their work cut out for them: The top 100 airports in the world don’t have much excess capacity, according to the International Air Transport Association. All but four of those face capacity constraints in the next 10 years, and 45 airports already face issues such as too-short runways or terminals operating at capacity.

Designers must also take into account the uncertain effects of climate change and anticipate potential problem areas that could impact airport operations and safety. For example, about 25 of the world’s top 100 busiest airports lie in low-level coastal areas less than 10 meters or 32 feet above sea level. Half of those, including JFK, San Francisco, and Shanghai, are less than 5 meters or 16 feet above sea level, making them prone to flooding.

Technological advancements such as Autodesk’s AEC Collection software play a key role in the design and upgrading process of the world’s busy airports of the future. By using the latest tools, airport designers can find new solutions and construction workflows to overcome the challenges of modern airports. They can simulate and test approaches, look for construction conflicts and take into account site-specific building and transportation challenges.

We’ll look at five current airport projects that use technology to address the challenges of creating efficient, passenger-friendly airports of the future.


1. Location, Location, Location: Geological and Site-Specific Challenges

As outlined above, rising ocean levels and extreme storms put many airports at risk of flooding. This challenge is perhaps most acute in Japan, where several major airports have been built on low-lying, reclaimed land.

In 2018, for example, Japan’s Kansai Airport was inundated after Typhoon Jebi hit the Osaka area. It was built on an artificial island three miles off shore to avoid noise complaints and land-rights issues that plague older airports. While the powerful storm was the cause of flooding, some of the impact was due to the fact that the terrain was lower than the designers had predicted. Initially, designers expected the island to sink about a foot per year over the next 50 years. Instead, the island has already sunk more than 43 feet in less than 10 years.

Rising sea levels were also a concern for the expansion project at China’s Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport. The project involved the addition of a third runway located between the second runway and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Riverside Expressway, a heavily trafficked highway.

The project not only had to take into account the active runway and highway but also be environmentally sensitive and recognize the potential for flooding due to climate change. The project could not interfere with flight operations on the existing runways and traffic on the expressway, which was only 60 meters away at its nearest point.

Perhaps nowhere was the application of Autodesk technology more critical than in the environmental design stage. Designers used tools such as Civil 3D to create flood simulations for the development of advanced drainage plans, with 3D geological models used to visually inspect the soil layers.

The geological models were key in the creation of a mud disposal plan to guide the dredging in each region. The plan minimized seawater pollution from silt diffusion and airborne particulates that could have interfered with takeoffs and landings on the adjacent runway.

Using these technologies helped to keep the project on track, while also keeping the environmental impact to a minimum.

Shenzhen Airport
Shenzhen Airport Terminal 2/Image Courtesy of Shenzhen Airport


2. Under One Roof: BIM + GIS for Infrastructure

When the architects behind the Denver Airport expansion started working on the five-year project, they used Building Information Modeling (BIM) to guide the creation of virtual models for the 595-room hotel and transit center next to the airport’s south terminal.

The model-based design and construction workflows enabled the team to meet an aggressive project schedule, resolve conflicts virtually, reduce errors and omissions, and improve project communication. The terminal is known for its iconic fabric roof supported by a steel cable tie-down system, and models guided them in moving six of the anchors without compromising the roof structure.

By integrating data from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into the design tools, team members could share a common, more complete picture of the project throughout the lifecycle of the asset. Today, Denver Airport planners and design teams use BIM and GIS data on an integrated basis, providing for a more comprehensive project information model for the airports on-going construction and maintenance activities.

Denver Airport Infrastructure
Denver Airport/Image courtesy of Gensler and DEN


3. Keep ‘Em Moving: Crowd Simulation

The recent expansion of the Oslo airport doubled the size of the terminal, increasing airport capacity from 20 to 35 million passengers. The project included an update to the existing train station, which enables 70 percent of the passengers to reach the airport via public transportation.

The new terminal improved passenger flow with a maximum walking distance for passengers of approximately 450 meters, much shorter than most other large airports. The new terminal pier houses domestic and international areas one on top of the other, allowing all travelers to use all gates for a flexible passenger flow. Overall, the compact layout of the building and open spaces enhance visual legibility and way-finding, reducing the stress associated with air travel.

Launched in 2009, the Oslo airport project leaders made the unusual decision for the time to design the entire project using BIM. Analysis and simulations were critical to keep the project on time and on budget and to foresee any impact on the existing terminals, which had to remain in operation. Crowd simulations in the early stages pointed out passenger flow bottlenecks. They used Revit to analyze sun/shadow, air capacity, sprinkling and other factors. The existing terminal was laser scanned and modeled in Revit to visualize conflicts with existing operations and aid in future remodeling projects.


4. Getting There: Airport-City Transportation

The passengers’ journey doesn’t start or end at the airport terminal doors — it begins and ends at their homes. Transportation to and from the airport as well as the city is an essential piece of the puzzle of future airports – even when they are built outside of urban areas.

Cities are looking for ways to provide fast mass transport linking city centers and airports, with rail capacity growing at many airports. One of the most innovative visions today is the Virgin Hyperloop One, a high-speed rail system in a tube linking Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports through downtown Paris. A journey that would take an hour by car could be made in a few minutes in the tunnel train. One of the project’s goals is to give back time to busy travelers and reduce road congestion.

The team used Autodesk AEC collection to create designs based on mathematical models, using BIM products to create the corridor design. It’s one vision for the future of airport transport that could change the way we commute in urban spaces.



5. From Old to New: Renovating Existing Infrastructure

In many cases, building the airport of the future means renovating existing infrastructure to handle more passengers in a limited footprint and with minimal impact on existing operations during construction.

For the replacement of Calgary International Airport‘s 20-year-old domestic baggage handling system, the design team turned to Autodesk software. The baggage handling system occupied 22,000 square meters and sorted more than 8,000 bags per hour, supporting 16 million passengers moving through the airport on a yearly basis. Construction of the new tote-based system was completed in phases to ensure uninterrupted operation during the replacement.

In the planning stage, the team developed a highly accurate 3D representation of the existing terminal building to guide a systematic clash detection process down to the millimeter. All systems were coordinated in three dimensions using a combination of Autodesk Revit, Autodesk Recap, Navisworks Manage, and Autodesk AutoCAD. Simulations optimized the baggage handling and sorting efficiency by routing the bags to and from the airplanes and baggage carousels in the shortest amount of time.

The preparation paid off: During the project, the Calgary airport did not experience any downtime. Now the airport can handle an additional 1 million passengers per year, and airlines track bags individually during their journey on 7.2 km of baggage lines that handle more than 1,500 totes. The system can process 99 percent of bags in less than 20 minutes, reducing wait times for passengers.


Model view of the coordinated screening area showing existing structure (red), Beumer’s system (dark blue), new platform steel (orange), mechanical (light blue), electrical (yellow), architectural stairs & guardrails (white)/GEC Architecture
Technology Key to Future Airport Design

Whether it’s geological or site-specific challenges, the integration of BIM and GIS information, crowd simulation, transportation options, or renovation and general improvement projects, these examples show how important technology is in driving solutions and tackling the challenges facing the modern airport industry. As airports must continue to grow and respond to passenger needs, flexible technologies such as Autodesk’s AEC Collection will play an even larger role in the planning and design stages. After all, the right models and data can help ensure passenger safety and airport efficiency during construction and operations!


Get more information about the AEC Collection

arrowExplore ways to integrate land development in your projects

arrowStart your BIM journey

arrowLearn more about transportation design

arrowRead on to learn how you can simulate pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows using Mobility Simulation

arrowMake better design decisions by connecting BIM & GIS 

Eiffel Tower: Experience the Site In 3D

The Mayor’s Office of Paris decided to conduct the design of this site around the Eiffel Tower by using BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology, i.e. a process that involves the creation and use of a 3D model.  This solution, especially on such a large-scale, clearly facilitates the collaboration and exchange of ideas between the City of Paris and the project management teams, allowing a more “immersive” visualization of the project throughout the planning and design phases.

Autodesk, the design software developer, is supporting the City of Paris by producing very precise topographic measurements, in 3D, of the entire area around the Eiffel Tower project, between the Trocadéro Gardens and the Champ de Mars, as well as along the Quai Branly between Pont de l’Alma and Bir-Hakeim (54 ha).

Read on to discover the story of the 3D model and the different phases of implementation.

First phase:

Capture the site in 3D

Before being able to start the planning and design phases of a project of this nature, it is essential to gather information and data on the site’s existing conditions. This involved “digitally capturing the site,” the first phase to entering the 3D world.

Autodesk called upon Gexpertise, a French topographic engineering and modeling company, to collect the 3D data. This allowed them to create a robust and accurate model of the site.


Gexpertise surveyed the Eiffel Tower site for several weeks. Visitors to the site most certainly came across them with their strange backpacks between the months of January and March 2018! These experts took photos, used laser surveying technologies (LiDAR), drones, and other relevant methods to create a 3D “photograph” of the site’s existing conditions. Due to all this information, they were able to create an extremely precise dataset of the site.

In figures, that works out as:

  • Thousands of hours of data capture encompassing a 54 ha territory
  • 194 point clouds comprised of 10m x 10m sections and totaling more than 10.3 billion points
  • 342 GB of data were used to accurately produce the model’s 3D elements

Second phase:

Model the site in 3D

The area surrounding the Eiffel Tower is a vast, complex site with many challenges to overcome: shared public space, historically significant access to public transportation, visitor safety, environment conservation…But also public services such as restaurants and cafés, restrooms, etc., as well as access to the Eiffel Tower itself.


Using reality capture software (Autodesk Recap Pro) and 3D modeling tools, the team used the surveying data to model the surrounding terrain, buildings, street furniture, trees, and various surfaces in order to integrate them into a unique, final 3D model. This 3D model is being used to identify and explain the site constraints, as well as better conceptualize design solutions. It is also being used to analyze pedestrian access, circulation, and line areas.

Third phase:

Develop a VR model

“Discover. Approach. Visit.” Through these three words, the City of Paris emphasizes how much the user experience is at the heart of this project. Currently, immersive reality technology, like Virtual Reality, is the best way to virtually submerge visitors into what the Eiffel Tower site will be like in a few years.

To accomplish this, WSP’s visualization team joined Autodesk to develop a virtual reality model of the site that is interactive and realistic, reflecting the existing conditions of the site.


The existing conditions 3D model will be used to create visualizations and animations, allowing the City of Paris, and the various stakeholders, to better understand the appearance and the functionality of the different proposed solutions throughout the project’s life-cycle. The existing conditions 3D model offers users the chance to experience the different views and perspectives in a more immersive way. For example, when it is time to make the final choice between the four finalists of the design competition, the 3D model will give the City a realistic and more coherent view of each design proposal, thereby making it easier to compare them.

Visual animations will be produced to illustrate the point of view of pedestrians and to create the experience that visitors will enjoy when walking around the future site.

The 3D virtual reality model consists of:

  • A 54 ha site
  • 8,200 trees of different species
  • 1,000 buildings
  • 4 bridges
  • 25 statues
  • 560 light fixtures
  • 425 benches
  • 100 trashcans

Step into the VR experience

arrowDownload the VR model

Click this link to discover the existing conditions 3D model developed for the City of Paris. To experience the model, download and install this game-like application. Load the VR model, and you can start to explore the site! Please note, the application requires the use of a powerful computer and a good graphics card.

arrowLearn more about Autodesk’s Context Modeling Solution

arrowGIS and BIM Integration Will Transform Infrastructure Design and Construction

arrowWhat Is Reality Capture?

3 Best-in-Class Infrastructure Projects of 2018

With the demand for infrastructure at unprecedented levels, these 2018 AEC Excellence Award winners showcase how the future of infrastructure is taking place right now and in incredible ways.
Empresa Desarrollo Urbano de Medellín (EDU)

A public entity, the Empresa Desarrollo Urbano de Medellín (EDU) used BIM tools to plan safer communities for people living in these areas.

Project stats:

  • Project size: small (less than $100 million)
  • Planning area: 40,000 square feet at 1,500 meters above sea level
  • Software used: Autodesk AEC Collection, InfraWorks, Revit, Navisworks, Civil 3D & Insight
  • ROI of using BIM: The team estimates that the planning process took 45% less time and 28% more efficiency and constructibility of new housing.


Read the story


China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group

More than 50 design and engineering professionals from the China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group joined to work on the Wuhan to Xi’an high-speed railway project.

Project stats:

  • Project size: medium ($100 Million – $500 Million)
  • Planning area: 8.3 kilometers of a railway passenger line
  • Software used: Autodesk AEC Collection, Civil 3D, Revit, Vault, Inventor, BIM 360 & InfraWorks
  • ROI of using BIM:
    • The team estimates that the use of VR and 3D printing helped to reduce the rework rate by as much as 10%.
    • Collision analysis helped save nearly $500,000 on a single portion of the project.
    • 6 tunnels and 10 bridges in just 6 weeks. 60% faster installation of key equipment.


Read the story


Chongqing Municipal Research Institute of Design 

The Chongqing Municipal Research Institute of Design relied on BIM to deliver design for the Parallel Line of the Fourth Diversion Expressway in Chongqing, China. The expressway will add much-needed transportation capacity to the growing mountainous city.

Project stats:

  • Project size: large (over $500 Million)
  • Planning area: 28 kilometers of a mountainous city with river crossings
  • Software used: Autodesk AEC Collection, Revit, Navisworks, InfraWorks & Civil 3D
  • ROI of using BIM:
    • Map data collection and initial planning completed in 5-7 days with less environmental impact projected.
    • BIM design in 3 months vs. 6 months with traditional methods
    • Design time shorted by 15% due to close collaboration across Autodesk tools
    • Achieved a whole-project view across more than 5,300 files


Read the story


Discover the winners in the other categories.

The New Bridge Design: Building Before Building

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Colas SA is using BIM for virtual planning and construction of the Rivière des Galets Bridge on Reunion Island. Autodesk software—including ReCap, Civil 3D, Revit, 3ds Max, Navisworks, and BIM 360—is helping the firm and all the project stakeholders better plan, coordinate, and carry out construction.

Rivière des Galets bridge project

Reunion island’s Rivière des Galets rises on the western face of the extinct Piton des Neiges volcano and runs northwest to the Indian Ocean just south of Le Port, the island’s main seaport. As it nears the ocean, it crosses under N1, one of the island’s major highways and the only motorway connecting its two largest cities, Saint-Denis and Saint-Paul. At Le Port, the riverbed itself is very wide (close to 300 meters) but usually only has a few channels of running water. However, during the annual tropical cyclones that are common to this area, the rainfall can completely fill the river to its banks.

The existing Rivière des Galets bridge is being replaced to increase traffic flow.

Undersized and aging infrastructure

Nearly 70,000 vehicles a day cross over the river on N1 via two existing bridges: a two-lane concrete bridge carrying traffic south to Saint-Paul, and a two-lane metal carry traffic in the opposite direction towards Saint-Denis. These two-lane bottlenecks can cause heavy traffic backups. In addition, the age of the metal bridge (built in the 1950s) poses safety concerns, particularly during cyclones when the river flow becomes dangerously powerful.

A new bridge over Rivière des Galets

To solve these problems, Reunion Region (France’s regional administrative division that governs the island) commissioned Colas to build a new bridge. The 430-meter mixed metal structure is being built between the two existing bridges to keep traffic moving during construction.

The aging metal structure is a safety concern during cyclones, when the river flow becomes dangerously powerful

The new bridge will have three lanes in each direction, plus a pedestrian and bicycle lane. It will be supported by four piers with foundations in the bedrock below the river’s alluvium sediment. Once the new bridge is in use, the existing metal bridge and its piers will be demolished, as will the entrances to the existing concrete bridge. The project is scheduled for completion at the end of 2020.


Building the new bridge between the two existing bridges means all the various trades have to be carefully coordinated, as do the physical movements and storage of equipment and materials. During the dry season, construction is accelerated—creating even tighter movement and space restrictions.
Moreover, the large cranes required for construction are located in the riverbed itself, which during the rainy season can quickly become a raging torrent. As such, water flow in part of the riverbed must be diverted throughout the construction process.
These conditions require precise construction planning and sequencing throughout the project. In addition, there must be close collaboration between the various trades and extended project teams.

“This is Reunion Island’s first major BIM infrastructure project and it has been a huge success, helping us overcome the many challenges related to the bridge’s technical and environmental constraints. All the project stakeholders and contractors have fully embraced BIM because it gives us the ability to virtually build before building!”

– Maud Guizol, Corporate BIM Manager, Colas SA


Model-based design

Throughout design, Colas relied on BIM processes and intelligent 3D models. These models are now the basis for ongoing project coordination, collaboration, and construction planning. The firm created a series of discipline-specific design models for the project. The bridge itself was modeled with Revit, as was the project’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems. The earthworks, road, and utilities infrastructure were modeled using Civil 3D. During design, these models were combined in Navisworks for multi-discipline project costing, coordination, and clash detection.
Colas also used cameras mounted on drones to survey the existing conditions of the riverbed and ReCap was used to process this photogrammetry data into a 3D point cloud. The point cloud was used to produce an extremely precise digital terrain model in Civil 3D, helping Colas more accurately design the pier foundations, implement water diversions, and optimize earthwork cut and fill.

Virtual construction

Now in construction, Colas uses Navisworks to link the 3D models to a construction schedule for 4D planning, phasing, and schedule simulation. The models are constantly updated by the individual trades to reflect current project situations and changes, leading to improved project coordination and collaboration.
In addition, Colas performs regular photogrammetric surveys to track construction progress and detect changes to riverbed conditions due to rains—enabling the team to better monitor and manage construction and earthworks. The models and other project data are also uploaded to BIM 360, supporting cloud-based project communication and facilitating better informed decision-making.


BIM software and digital 3D models have already helped Colas optimize its design for the new bridge and produce a more accurate project bid. With construction underway, these same models are now enabling all the project stakeholders to:

• Understand the project more fully,
• collaborate more efficiently,
• make better technical choices,
• control risks,
• and deliver the project more cost-effectively.


Learn more about the power of the AEC Collection

Related Articles:

How Civil 3D Tackles Tomorrow’s Challenges

InfraWorks for Bridge Design

What Is Reality Capture?

How Civil 3D Tackles Tomorrow’s Challenges Today

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

A rapidly growing population, resource constraints, and an urgent need for climate-resilient infrastructure… civil engineers and architects face a host of challenges as we approach the next decade.

But what if you had to build a city for 600,000 in less than six months right now?

At a time when countries worldwide face unprecedented migration crises, this is the kind of challenge that’s already a reality for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in Bangladesh. The country is in a state of emergency due to the many Rohingya, mostly women and children, who came to seek protection from violence and persecution. Most of the refugees arrived within three months of the crisis, putting enormous strain on Bangladesh’s resources. To make sure they had access to shelter, clean water, and sanitation, UNHCR needed to establish a settlement—the largest of its kind in the world—fast.Architect and site planner, Phoebe Goodwin, and her team met the challenge head-on with the help of Civil 3D and InfraWorks software. Site planning in crisis situations involves determining where to put shelters, emergency latrines, roads, footpaths, bridges, and access. “It is an exercise in town planning,” says Goodwin. UNHCR also has to build camps to last. The average refugee camp remains active for 17 to 20 years, as most of the world’s refugees can’t return home for decades.

Planning in crisis with Civil 3D

To plan a site that would safely house hundreds of thousands of people, Goodwin and team turned to Civil 3D. From planning to design, Civil 3D’s plan production tools provided the construction documents she needed.

As if planning a 600,000-person community in less than six months wasn’t enough of a challenge, UNHCR had to ramp up production to prepare for monsoon season. UNHCR received an expansion area of about 800 acres to use for a contingency plan. Civil 3D’s geospatial data and visualization features helped Goodwin plan for massive landslides and floods. “I can take contour maps and I can see, for example, a flood-prone area analysis,” she says.

Expansion area of approximately 800 acres

“We’re basing a lot of our pre-monsoon contingency planning on this analysis. We can determine the approximate number of households that may be affected by flooding and who we need to prioritize for pre-monsoon relocations to higher ground.”

Microdesk senior consultant, Jessica Chambers, who trains UNHCR staff on Civil 3D, says the software helped site planners more easily adapt to the ever-changing camp conditions. “It really highlights the need to use data effectively; so the tools we’re developing and going to implement use as much information as possible to inform design within the software,” she adds.

Screenshot of performing an analysis in Civil 3D

“That includes GIS information, any type of analysis that’s been done in the past to overlay on their plans, gathering topography, and analyzing the surface. Showing site planners they can pull that analysis out and show steep slopes—that is going to be essential at this site to prioritize what needs to be moved first on the steepest, least stable slopes.”

Civil 3D features that tackle tomorrow’s challenges

Even in non-crisis mode, these Civil 3D features can help civil engineers build tomorrow’s infrastructure today:

  • Effective use of simulations, visualizations, and water analysis tools to improve communication, project delivery, and decision-making.
  • Design to build: Seamless end-to-end processes when handing over site data to architects and design data to the construction team.
  • Connect design processes to the cloud: Using Autodesk BIM to capture existing design information and import it to Civil 3D for enhanced design, teams around the globe can access information, enhancing efficiency.

During a refugee crisis, no site plan ever becomes a concrete blueprint, Goodwin said. Civil 3D gives her the flexibility needed for a dynamic, ambitious project that brings a better quality of life—most likely for years—to hundreds of thousands of people.

Let’s tackle the world’s design challenges together. Learn more about Civil 3D.

Under the Hood: The Promise of VR in High-Speed Rail

By Nigel Peters

Every month, an Autodesk expert gets technical and provides an overview of the AEC Collection’s most powerful workflows. Read on to learn how one group of rail designers created a VR experience with Autodesk solutions.

rail station image

Imagine traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than two hours. Or heading 200 miles up the coast to see the redwood trees and still be back in the city for dinner. All while avoiding highway traffic and the hassle of the airport.

High-speed rail is being used by countries around the world to speed transportation between cities in an eco-friendly, cost-efficient way. Commuters can travel from Tokyo to Osaka in less than three hours or from London to Paris in little more than two hours. This transportation mode also has great potential in the U.S. It’s a country with large distances between population centers, yet Americans tend to rely more on automobiles and air travel. The reasons are complex—enormous costs, getting stakeholders and the public to endorse, no mechanism to visualize or see the vision.

High-speed rail can connect us much more efficiently than roads or airports while improving reducing our impact on the environment. Imagine a state-of-the art rail experience where residents, politicians, and other stakeholders could visualize what high-speed rail would look and feel like before construction even begins. Nowhere is this more apparent than in California where the Association for California High-Speed Trains (ACHST) has been working with the state to promote the benefits of an upcoming high-speed rail project set to open in the next decade.

The California Experience

ACHST partnered with Project Buccaneer, a group of engineering, transportation and technology professionals. Their charge – create a virtual reality experience that would show Californians how the high-speed train would work and impact their lives. Dubbed The California Experience, the VR simulation is a collaboration among Autodesk and transportation engineering and design firms HNTB and WSP.

The project allows people to virtually ride the train going 150 miles per hour and visit dozens of landmarks across the state from Santa Monica Pier near Los Angeles to Redwoods National Forest in Northern California.


The buccaneers team photo
The team demonstrating a VR model of California High-Speed Rail at the Global Climate Summit in San Francisco.

Autodesk’s Commitment to Rail Design

The project is part of Autodesk’s focused commitment to rail design throughout the AEC Collection portfolio. We’re helping customers realize the promise of VR visualization for rail by enabling more efficient and complex rail design. I’m excited to share that I lead a dedicated rail team at Autodesk that is responsible for expanding and enhancing our capabilities in this transportation mode. Engineers have always been able to design rail corridors in Civil 3D, however, the 2019 release is the first version to consolidate all rail features in a new rail ribbon within the core Civil 3D product for simple, easy access. Now, workflows for designing rails are streamlined and better integrated with other design pieces like roads, stations, parking garages, drainage, and crossings. In addition, it’s just as easy to migrate rail design between Autodesk solutions (from InfraWorks to 3ds Max, for example) as it’s always been.

We’re taking a multi-pronged strategy, focusing on track design, improvements to the product user experience, and integrating BIM to support and enable more advanced rail design workflows.

To this end, the Civil 3D product team delivered enhancements to the workflow, including:

  • Support for CANT – the ability to calculate CANT and create CANT views for track charts. Support of CANT offset and LANDXML alignments
  • Consolidation and expansion of rail tools – new spiral types, a new rail ribbon, and a new rail sub-assembly library
  • A unified project experience – full project integration for stations and tracks and seamless surface sharing between Civil 3D
  • A simple way to create a VR rail experience to better communicate, collaborate and educate people on what a high-speed rail experience would be like
Watch the rail design webcast below

The result: better collaboration, better design, better results.

Creating a VR Experience for Rail

Creating a VR experience using AEC Collection solutions couldn’t be easier. Let’s get under the hood and check out how you’d be able to do that.

Data Capture

The first thing you’d do is capture the real-world environment of your rail corridor services. You could do this with mobile LIDAR or drone capture and then import the data into ReCap Pro to create a point cloud of your environment. You can also create 360-degree photos of your destinations. This is actually what the Project Buccaneer team did to create the various stops for the California Experience. For example, people can get off the train and feel like they’re in a Napa Valley vineyard.

Rail Design

Next: design your rail corridor in Civil 3D using the newly enhanced design tools within the new rail ribbon. First, set your horizontal geometry and alignment and add elevation as necessary. Then you can lay tracks, build tunnels and bridges, add crossings and incorporate existing water and drainage analyses—all in a single tool.

Data Aggregation

Then you can bring all this into InfraWorks—which is what I like to call our data aggregator. It’s here that we combine the reality capture from ReCap and the rail design from Civil 3D to create a physical model. We can also bring in other elements like signals, passing automobile traffic, pedestrians, vegetation, and even wildlife. Other data points that you can import include GIS Data and Revit models of rail platforms or stations.


You can then export your physical model from InfraWorks as an FBX file and import it into 3ds Max along with your rail platforms or rail stations from Revit or Sketchup. You could create fly-through animation videos in InfraWorks, but at this point, you will create your animations in 3ds Max to represent people entering a coach, a car pulling up to a crossing or livestock grazing next to the track.

VR Experience

Once you are happy with your animations, you’ll need to import everything into 3ds Interactive (which is included with 3ds Max), Autodesk’s gaming engine, where you create your VR experience. It’s really as easy as pressing a few buttons, testing it on your local machine and then exporting to your VR platform of choice—whether it’s Xbox, Oculus or the HTC Vive.

Using VR to Win Projects

More firms are looking for the ‘It’ factor and VR is that innovative technology that up-levels project proposals. It really tells the story of the project so much better than traditional methods. We’re seeing that once a firm completes one VR experience, they want to do it for all of their projects. I know several folks that have created their own VR experiences to win projects and to convey a message. They’ve all done much better than somebody else trying to convey their vision on a piece of paper.

And the best part? Building a VR experience for rail is so easy with the Autodesk AEC Collection. Civil 3D is a powerful suite of tools that allow engineers to design across the full spectrum of infrastructure projects from roads to rail to buildings. Yet there’s a dedicated extension where all rail tools are consolidated on a single screen. From there, you just import your data and models through Autodesk workflows. Build your VR experience from ReCap to InfraWorks to 3ds Max. Your VR experience can be viewed by clients, the public and other stakeholders with almost any VR headset.

The key, of course, is simplicity.

Nigel Peters leads the enhancement of rail design and engineering capabilities across the AEC Collection portfolio.

Learn more about Civil 3D

Miss the Transportation Summit? Watch it here.

Infrastructure winners announced – AEC Excellence 2017