CivilGEO: Automating Mapping with GeoHECRAS

Chris Maeder, Engineering Director
The variety and abundance of solutions in the current GIS landscape makes it difficult for civil engineering companies to choose an appropriate software package to fulfill their requirements. “CIOs are generally locked into one or two vendors providing GIS platforms,” begins Chris Maeder, Engineering Director at CivilGEO. The GIS platforms available in the market today are generalized and require training for the employees to operate seamlessly. Modeling geographic terrains with the help of a general GIS platform involves an immense amount of manual work to complete civil engineering tasks. On the other hand, many powerful but costly platforms demand add-ons and extensions, post deployment. For automating the tedious workflow cost-effectively, CivilGEO, an engineering and environmental modeling tool developer, provides GeoHECRAS, a GIS platform that eliminates manual work by automating the collection of data from disparate sources like GIS, CAD, and survey data.

With the collected information, GeoHECRAS uses Building Information Modeling (BIM) to efficiently construct Army Corps HEC-RAS models. “From a CIOs perspective, there is no requirement for any kind of training before using the platform, unlike other products,” says Maeder. “GeoHECRAS takes the data and travels from the inception of an idea to a production ready model for a civil engineer.”

GeoHECRAS incorporates automated GIS mapping functions that merge data from Google, Bing, and FEMA flood maps. The solution empowers the user to develop terrain models and compute water surface profiles for steady and unsteady flow models. An engineer can define bridges, culvert roadway crossings, FEMA floodplain encroachments, inline reservoir structures and other features in the HEC-RAS model. “A civil engineer can run the analysis of the HEC-RAS model and present the end result in the GIS environment,” says Maeder. Additionally, the platform enables the user to modify corrections made in the visualized environment with the undo and redo feature.

A civil engineer can run the analysis of the HEC-RAS model and present the end result in the GIS environment

GeoHECRAS features polygons or orthophoto-based image processing that allows users to view the geographic environment in 3D. The image processing capability enables the software to re-project data if it is in a different coordinate system. “If the data is not geo-referenced or not in a proper projection, the software has tools that re-project it in correct projection or align it accordingly,” says Maeder. The seamless switching between 2D and 3D viewing perspectives helps the engineer clearly identify modeling issues and make changes accordingly.

Daniel Ahn, Engineering Team Lead at Stantec, grew frustrated with the inefficient generation of flood reports using traditional tools and looked for a solution to improve work efficiencies. With GeoHECRAS, he immediately noticed an improvement in the processing speed of the HEC-RAS model. “The semi-automated method in computing the FEMA floodway has really reduced the time required to complete a floodway analysis,” says Ahn. The solution minimized the time consumed in performing post-processing, especially in floodway analysis, by 50 percent.

For staying ahead of the curve, CivilGEO works regularly with the customer to determine their needs. The company has also established satellite offices in several locations and is planning to expand geographically. CivilGEO is trying to develop software that incorporates some of the uncertainties associated with climate change and complex infrastructure. “With our innovative approach, the client will be able to address climate change in the computer simulation easily and rapidly. For designing infrastructures, clients can incorporate multiple sources of information to include in the simulation environment and hence, come up with a cost-effective design,” concludes Maeder.


Middleton, WI

Chris Maeder, Engineering Director

Develops advanced engineering and environmental modeling software for civil engineers worldwide