Reference article 09/2014

Making pollution visible

A small addition turns AutoCAD Map 3D and AutoCAD Civil 3D into a convincing communication tool


When industrial plants pollute soil and groundwater, properties in the surrounding area are often affected. However, those affected often feel the remediation measures more than the poison. UDS GmbH has adapted the GIS software AutoCAD Map 3D to clearly show laypersons why even unpleasant measures are necessary. The result is a tool that can be used both to convince and to document the progress of remediation work.


Urban Ingenieurteam
Lübecker Straße 1
22087 Hamburg

Phone: 040 / 41 32 73-0

Ignorance or negligence? - Time and again, industrial companies damage the environment, and often this damage is only noticed years later, for example when people fall ill. Today, at least in many parts of Europe, companies have become more aware of this issue: Waste water is purified and pollutants are disposed of properly. And yet, time and again - often unexpectedly - contaminated sites emerge. 

Renovation requirements

An industrial company wants to erect a new building on its site, for example. The plans are drawn up, the excavator arrives, and after a short time all the windows close because the smell emanating from the new excavation pit is unbearable. A short time later, the environmental engineers are standing next to the excavator with their measuring equipment. Their findings: Several years ago, metals were degreased at this site using vinyl chloride. The highly toxic liquid was simply allowed to seep into the ground. Years later, not only are the soil and groundwater on the site contaminated, but private properties in the surrounding area are also affected.

Well or broccoli?

The necessary remediation measures are initiated - and suddenly there is a lively protest in the neighborhood: no one wants to eat poisoned carrots and lettuce from their own garden. But the idea of a huge vertical auger destroying the entire garden and then having to put up with an ugly concrete slab instead of a bed of broccoli causes even more displeasure. Why at my place and not at the neighbor's or on the street in front of the house? In addition to engineers, communication specialists are now also in demand. If you could show the neighbors how much of which substances are stored where in the ground and where they move around, you could certainly persuade them to help. They would understand where the wells need to be installed - and what the consequences would be if the wells were not used.

Contour lines become load indicators

In this specific case, the existing overview and site plans of the site and the surrounding area were the starting point for such a comprehensible communication tool. The industrial company brought UDS GmbH on board as a consultant, and the geoinformation specialists actually had an idea: the plans were converted into a digital terrain model. With the help of AutoCAD Map 3D, now AutoCAD Civil 3D, this model can be used to display various thematic maps, including those with contour lines. These lines can be redefined: They no longer represent the height of the terrain above sea level, but symbolize the degree of pollution and the type of pollutants at the respective location through the color and type of line. The programmers at UDS have added a new input mask to AutoCAD Map 3D. This can now be used to enter pollutant names, measured values and, of course, measuring points - very easily and after just a single day of training for the entire system. With an app for cell phones and tablets, measuring points can now even be entered precisely on site.

The standard software does the rest

The standard functions of AutoCAD Map 3D / AutoCAD Civil 3D evaluate the data and display the maps in color. The digital terrain model, DTM, has become a digital contamination model, DKM. The representation is so clear that every garden owner immediately understands why their broccoli bed has to make way for a remediation well. In discussions with local residents, the new maps are an indispensable basis for argumentation. But the experts also appreciate the new presentation. "It's simply much easier to see what you're talking about," explains the engineer in charge.

Documenting renovation work

As the system is so easy to use, it is also worth recording the other measurements and having the current DKM calculated in each case. In this way, the progress of the renovation measures can be documented. The burdens of the past will be completely eliminated over time - and with the help of Autodesk's customized geoinformation solution, this path can be communicated convincingly.

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