InfraWorks for Architects: Putting your Designs in Context

December 19, 2022 Jeff Morris

Architectural design is best understood in the context of its surroundings, may it be an urban neighborhood or the rural topology. Getting the design into such an environment often presents technical or financial challenges for the architect, or they need to engage outside services and consultants. How could the architects handle this themselves?

Might I suggest InfraWorks?

The Autodesk InfraWorks software creates data-rich models using information about the existing environment. Using these models supports more informed decision-making and an accelerated design process. You can create multiple design alternatives in one model.

ASCENT describes various methods of creating such models in its Autodesk InfraWorks: Fundamentals guide.

Model Builder

InfraWorks has a Model Builder tool. You enter your location and outline the area for your model and InfraWorks will find relevant information and create a basic model with topology draped over aerial images, roads, waterways, and some buildings.

The resulting base model from the above selection:

Enhance the Base Model
There are a variety of tools within InfraWorks to enhance the base model:

  • Vegetation – either single plants, rows, or stands of plants. You can adjust the density of the latter.
  • “City Furniture” lets you add additional details to a model, including buildings, landscaping, vehicles, people, and other common urban elements. These features add context and offer a degree of familiarity to the model.
  • Other distinguishable landmark models are commonly available on the Internet and can be imported.

Embellish Models with Roads, Bridges, Roundabouts, and Tunnels
While InfraWorks offers a high degree of civil engineering detail that can be overwhelming to a novice, features such as road decorations (street lights, bollards, etc.), bridges, intersections, and tunnels are easily incorporated to offer more realism.

Links to Revit and AutoCAD
Many 3D computer models can be imported into InfraWorks. This is convenient for buildings designed in 3D programs (AutoCAD Architecture) or BIM applications (Autodesk Revit). Such models can be refreshed in InfraWorks so that, as the design matures and changes, the updated model can be studied in the InfraWorks model.

Analysis Tools within InfraWorks

Vantage Points – The terrain within InfraWorks is quite accurate. As such, you can demonstrate the vistas available at certain vantage points or, conversely, what is hidden from view. You can also study what visual impact your design will have on the area.

  • Sun Studies – Not only is the terrain accurate within the model, but so is its geographic position. As such, you can study and show the exact sun paths and shadows being cast for any specific date and time. This goes a long way to alleviate any NIMBY (not in my back yard) concerns.

  • Animations – The tools provided in InfraWorks for creating effective animations are intuitive and effective. They range from walk-throughs, drive-bys, or fly-throughs to moving cameras focused on stationary targets. Such animations can be exported to high-quality video files.
  • Easy effective rendering can be shared via the Internet or exported to high-quality image files.

  • Different visual styles allow for wireframe views of the models or the terrain, can incorporate contours on the terrain, or give degrees of transparency to the terrain.

Seeing is believing. A picture is worth 1,000 words.

In order to better understand (and design) buildings, context is required. InfraWorks is an elegant tool to create such context. In a few steps, you can create a base model, enhance it with effective content to create context people can relate to, and then demonstrate the effectiveness and intent of your design.

About the Author

Jeff Morris

Learning Content Developer<br><br>Jeff specializes in infrastructure tools such as Civil 3D and Infraworks, delivering training classes and contributing to the learning guides for these Autodesk software applications. Jeff has worked for several Autodesk resellers and has had roles of both CAD and BIM Manager with Civil and Architectural firms.

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