July 8, 2014

Autodesk InfraWorks 360: Round Buildings & Square Water Areas

Ideate Inc. has been part of the InfraWorks Participatory Design Council for a while now, and that has given us a chance to pick the brains of some of Autodesk’s best technical specialists to find out how to do things that we (and our customers) have been asking about. Here’s one of my favorites… 

Anyone who has been using Autodesk InfraWorks and InfraWorks 360 will know by now that the defaults in the program generate cornered buildings and rounded ground and water features. In reality, we also know that buildings can be round, and water and ground coverage areas can have corners. 

Although there is no built-in option from any menu that allows you to control this setting, there is a variable within the InfraWorks resource files (.JSON) that controls the value for corner radii. 

The value is called SmoothParam, and can be found in the .JSON files for the respective elements. Building settings are in the Buliding.JSON file and Water settings are in the Water Area.JSON file. The files themselves are saved as part of the individual InfraWorks model’s backup files, so you may have to do some digging to get to the folder. 

A typical path would be: <InfraWorks Models Folder>\<Model Name>\.files\unver\DrawTools  

The key folders to look for are <Model Name>.files, which is generated for every model, and the unver/DrawTools folder inside of that location that contains all the .JSON files. The image below shows the .JSON files for a model named Spreckles that was saved to my Autodesk InfraWorks Models folder.

Once you find these files, open the one you want using Notepad, and modify the SmoothParam value to adjust the corner settings for those elements. When working with .JSON data, there are some important things to know. 
  1. .JSON files are generated for the model when the elements are added in InfraWorks. For example, if your model does not include (and never has) any water features, the Water Areas.JSON will not exist. You’ll need to create an element of that type first so the .JSON file is generated, then you can edit the setting.
  2. The .JSON files are referenced by the model when the model is originally opened. That being said, any changes you make to variables within .JSON files require you to close and re-open the model before those changes take effect.
  3. The default values to use for SmoothParam are between 0.00 to 0.499. The default value for Buildings is 0.00 to create corners, and 0.499 for Water Areas to create fillets.
  4. You can use any number 0.00 or higher. You’ll get some funky shapes if you get anywhere near or above 1.0, but it is worth checking out just to see what happens. 
Here are a couple of samples. In the screenshot below, the SmoothParam for water areas was set to 0.00 and 0.499 for buildings. That produces Rounded buildings and square water features. There’s also a square ground coverage area which was created by setting that SmoothParam value to 0.00 as well.

The fancier looking buildings below were created in the same model using SmoothParam values between 0.65 and 0.99. Anything above 1.0 gets difficult to control. (I’ve already tried setting it up to 100.)

At this point, you may also be thinking that there’s got to be an easier way to do this than changing the value, saving, closing and re-opening the model every time you want something to look different. At least that’s what I was thinking. 

Fortunately, the Copy and Paste functions work from model to model in InfraWorks. That means you can spend some time creating a handful of custom objects in a file like I did above, then simply copy and paste them into a new model whenever you need it. On top of that, the components you copy remember what SmoothParam value they were created with, so you can edit them accordingly without having to change anything in the new model. You can also use the Add Vertex option after copying to modify the shapes as much as you want. 

Now you know how to customize your models a little more to include round buildings and square water or ground coverages. And, you’ve got an idea on how to save some time by creating a sample file with predefined custom elements that you can copy whenever you need them. 

Happy modeling! 

Matt Miyamoto, P.E.
Ideate AEC Application Specialist

Matt is a licensed Civil Engineer in the state of Hawaii. Matt obtained a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and has 7 years of private sector design experience which he applies in his role as an application specialist with Ideate, Inc. His project experience includes residential and commercial site development, private and public sewer, water and drainage systems, harbors improvements, and roadway improvements. While in Hawaii, Matt was involved in multidisciplinary projects for City and County agencies, State Departments, the Army COE and private developers. @MattM_PE

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