Design automation for infrastructure

Maria Lamas Maria Lamas September 8, 2023

3 min read

Age of automation

Automation is changing the AEC industry and introducing new and innovative ways of working for civil engineers, contractors, architects and those on the frontlines of today’s urgent infrastructure requirements. 

Infrastructure in a shifting world 

Population growth, aging infrastructure, climate change, and the call for economic and social recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating more demand for high-quality, sustainable infrastructure to accommodate a global populace that is predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050. 

The G20 nations-backed Global Infrastructure Hub estimates that infrastructure dollars needed to satisfy global demands will rise to $94 trillion by 2040–an investment gap that amounts to $15 trillion. 

Faced with challenges of unprecedented scale, industry professionals are turning to tools and technologies that empower greater automation, cloud collaboration, and data insights to boost efficiencies, reduce risks, and develop more sustainable projects. 

Civil 3D model: Automation is improving how we make things. 

Increase design efficiencies with automation 

Automation is an opportunity to make more things, make them better and with less negative impact on the world. “Automation is changing the very things we’re capable of making and how we make them,” says Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost “It is introducing new ecosystems, new jobs, and whole new ways of working.” 

Within a BIM-based process, design automation improves efficiencies by taking the repetitive and often manual work out of design workflows. By reducing rote tasks and rework, designers can spend more time focusing on design challenges. 

The Autodesk® Dynamo for Civil 3D® tool, a visual programming environment, helps make design automation a reality. It enables civil engineers to quickly build scripts that automate tedious and repetitive or complex tasks, facilitating more efficient design processes and better deliverables. 

Belgium’s TUC RAIL engineers have seen success with design automation. “Dynamo gives me the means to be more flexible and quick in solution adoption,” says Wouter Bulens, BIM manager. “This is simply next-level scripting with not just AutoCAD, not just Civil 3D, but geometry and data as a whole.” 

Image of zone constraints assessment in Grading Optimization. 

Advancing automation to Grading Optimization 

While design automation minimizes repetitive tasks, generative design accelerates the exploration of design alternatives. Today, architects and building engineers use generative design to assess multiple design options and make data-driven decisions. The release of Autodesk® Grading Optimization for Civil 3D® technology advances automation in civil engineering toward generative design for site design workflows. 

Nearly every infrastructure project requires terrain to be graded according to project requirements. Typically, this process is time-consuming, and once a grading plan is determined, it can be cost-prohibitive to do the work over. With Grading Optimization, designers can efficiently explore grading designs based on user-defined constraints to achieve an optimized plan. 

Automating this process of optioneering—evaluating designs against performance criteria—allows engineers to establish a balanced cut, fill, and volume earthwork earlier in the project, saving time and reducing material waste. Global infrastructure firm Gannett Fleming predicts that using Grading Optimization can slash grading design process times by up to 50%. 

“Grading Optimization for Civil 3D will help you take the manual process from your site grading workflow and […] conduct terrain Grading Optimization studies based on site conditions and your project requirements, helping you save significant amounts of time and minimize costs,” says Charlie Ogden, Autodesk product manager. 

Automation and generative design positively impact the envirmonment and local economies. 

Greater automation: shaping the future of infrastructure 

At a time when global demands for a better built environment are ever increasing, how infrastructure is planned, designed, and built are key to shaping a world that can accommodate the generations to come. 

Critical tools and technologies like automation, cloud collaboration, and generative design are opening a new world of opportunities. They are also introducing new and innovative ways of working for civil engineers, contractors, architects, and those on the frontlines of today’s urgent infrastructure requirements. 

Automation can help with the capacity problem that stems from the extra unneeded work and redesign, and it creates multiple workflow efficiencies that add up. No matter the size of the task, the time saved by eliminating extra work means that the industry can turn its focus toward what adds value—designing. 

Automation can further positively impact local economies. And it can balance the inevitability of demand and fewer resources—ultimately answering the global need for more engineers to design and build the infrastructure we need for a more sustainable, resilient future. 

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