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terrain modelling using BIM

Terrain modelling using BIM software and a land survey CAD file: Casa del Viento project

How to address terrain modelling using BIM software and a land survey CAD file. Here's a detailed video showing how it was done with the Casa del viento project.

BIM (Building Information Modeling) digitization has shown multiple strengths. Applying BIM methodology to the various design phases, from the topographic land surveys, through to excavations and consolidations, all of these phases can now be fully optimised.

When needing to approach terrain modelling aspects with a BIM software, for example, a digital terrain model can be quickly generated even from a complex topographical land survey by simply importing a topographic DXF or DWG format CAD file. Even cartography images representing land surveys, with referenced contour lines, can be used to trace upon, or an even more sophisticated elevation map import tool can be used with a direct acquisition from Google Maps ® completing it with satellite imagery in a simple click!

It's possible to get accurate and professional results in an extremely simple and intuitive way by working in 2D floor plan views or directly in 3D with specific objects.
In order to address these aspects in more detail let's take a look at how a typical terrain can be modeled with Edificius, the BIM software for 3D architectural design.
This particular project was inspired by the 'Casa del Viento' project, a contemporary residence located in Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico and designed by the A-001 Taller de Arquitectura architectural firm.

Tracing the land perimeter with a BIM software

  • 00:00 - We're in the Edificius-LAND environment and in the land survey level where we'll import the building's "footprint" to use as a background.
  • 00:20 - now we'll start tracing the terrain perimeter using one of the many drawing aids, such as the parallel guide lines, previously inserted; from the 3D view, we can now set the terrain "Origin" point in correspondence with the building.

Defining the contour lines with Edificius

  • 00:00 - Atthis stage we can start of the modelling phase by importing a .DWG CAD file so as to generate the contour lines of our land plot.
  • 00:28 - By selecting the contour lines tool, we'll use the automatic recognition function from DWG/DXF. A quick selection box around the area of interest, will then automatically recognise the altitude values and map the terrain's altitude profile.

Earthworks with a BIM software

  • 00:00 - In the Project Levels, we can can now start to define the landscaping works with various modelling tools. Here we can see the cut & fill area defined around the building's perimter
  • 01:05 - Once completed, directly from the 3D view, we can specify the appropriate depth by linking it to the base of the building.

Inserting details into the terrain model

  • 00:00 - The next step is to add an escarpment with depth of 2.5 meters that connects to the building, and therefore the previously created earthwork entity, with the surrounding terrain that is at a lower altitude. The next step is to assign a texture to our entire plot of land (grass).

Adding vegetation with a BIM software

  • 00:00 - As you can see from the 3D view, this staircase is partially covered by the ground. As a first step we'll add a further project level.
  • 00:14 - Now we'll insert a further Earthworks layer that follows the stairs object perimeter. Setting its relative elevation (-0.6m), the program automatically removes any excess terrain.
  • 00:48 - Now we add our vegetation and basically follow two different procedures: the first is to use the Vegetation function by simply tracing a polyline in plan view. Edificius will automatically distribute shrubs, trees or bushes according to the kind of vegetation that we want to use in our project.
  • 01:40 - We can now enter a preliminary edit mode to modify their characteristics and change arrangement, intensity, size and scattering parameters.
  • 02:06 - The second method is to insert these vegaetation types individually by choosing them from the specific Objects Library.

Below is a summary video of the various phases involved with a view of the end result in the Edificius Real-Time Rendering environment.

Click here to download Edificius, the architectural BIM design software