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The direct site model contour editing feature sparked a lot of positive feedback when it was launched last fall. It makes editing a site model easier than ever with improved site model settings and direct 2D contour editing, and users can modify each contour line as easily as editing a polyline.  

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Direct Site Model Contour Editing

We’d like to offer additional insight about this tool, specifically for those who have not yet tried it. Here’s what Holcombe Norton Partners Landscape Architect Stephen Schrader and Grey Leaf Design, Inc. Director of Design + Sciences Bryan Goff, two of our valued beta testers, had to say about the new capability in Vectorworks 2018.

What’s your best advice for getting started with this tool?

“Save a copy of your file before you start!” Schrader advised. “Pay attention to the dialogs, and don’t try to modify the contours in an area that is shaped by a site modifier. This tool is good for cleaning up irregularly shaped contours that occur between site modifiers. And be patient. The site model will still re-interpolate the contours, so you may have to try a couple of times to get the results you really want.”

Goff’s advice, for those not familiar with Digital Terrain Modeling (DTM) in general, is to “consider some brief Vectorworks training, walking you through the basics. This will get you heading the right direction and help eliminate confusion and frustrations that may arise.”

Has this tool impacted any of your projects?

“With the addition of this tool, my DTM workflow has sped up substantially,” Goff noted. “I no longer play with site modifiers to achieve the desired outcome. I now use the Stake tool to set some proposed points and then let the DTM do the math. From that point, I can double-click the DTM and adjust any of the contour lines to my desired look.”

“Keep in mind, less is better,” Goff continued. “Only adjust a few contours or even just one. The DTM will adjust the others appropriately. You can also eliminate points on the lines, cleaning up the DTM and blowing it to process faster.”

“I recently modeled a small infill subdivision plan with 13 houses in it using massing model objects for the houses and NURBS road objects for the streets and sidewalks, all while retaining wall objects and contour objects to create drainage swales,” Schrader shared. “It’s a small site, so there’s not a lot of space left over that isn’t affected by site modifiers. We were able to do some cleanup in the front and back yards of each of the house sites to make the slopes a little more consistent.”

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Shrader used site model contour editing with this small subdivision plan.

How do you plan to use the feature in the future? 

“I hope to try another exercise minimizing the use of site modifiers and working more directly in the site model, just to see what the results are,” said Schrader. “It’s still hard to get a computer-generated grading plan that looks like one you would draw yourself, but the speed at which the site model can be regenerated, it’s a great tool for studying overall rough grading and calculating cut and fill.”

“As working with the DTM becomes easier to manipulate, and modifications begin to feel like the old days of drafting by hand, terrain modeling becomes a joy,” said Goff. “Now all sites we work with, we work with a DTM. We now have moved from 40-50 percent of the projects working in a DTM to 90-100 percent. It is allowing us to have a true 3D workflow on all jobs and doing it cost effectively.”

How long have you used Vectorworks and how has this new feature changed or improved your process with the software?

“I have been a user for a little over 12 years,” said Schrader. “Any improvement that makes site modeling more intuitive and interactive makes it easier to complete studies and produce presentation drawings. 

Goff and his team have been using Vectorworks since version 11, but it was mostly with 2D design. “About 2010 is when we began really diving into the 3D aspects and especially site modeling, using the DTM,” said Goff. “Vectorworks and the development team have consistently improved upon various tools. In doing so, they have produced a software that allows us to create what we dream up, while producing it efficiently. Who knows what the future brings, but the one thing I can say for certain is our business will stay on the Vectorworks train — it’s gold for a design business!”