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Using MiTS To Design Standard-Compliance Infrasites

Why MiTS is necessary? #

Road– urban or rural– design can be a tricky subject to get right, despite the simplistic appearance. The engineers have to consider multiple factors such as guideline compliance (REAM, ATJ 2015 or to some extent, AASHTO), cost consideration, soil condition and the impact on the ecosystem. The designed road must be pleasing to drive at, it must not disturbed existing ecosystem too much, the land owner must be willing to relinquish the plot of land… and so on, and so on.

Setting all the political and ecological issues aside, just to consider the design aspect alone, engineers have to deal with road authorities who are meticulous, and clients who are demanding, cost conscious, fickle minded and who anticipate awe all the time. Therefore having a good software that allows the engineers to quickly iterate on design is of paramount importance. There are meetings upon meetings, and during each meeting client can change his mind and demand tweaks to the existing design. The problem is that even though the change might be minimal,  it’s hard to keep everything in sync all the time. Take for example, even a small change on the gradient of the vertical alignment can render the vertical alignment drawing, the cross section drawings, the cut and fill calculation and even the location of drains invalid. That’s why without good software the consulting firms –who are always running on tight deadlines and always running short of staff and funds–will have a hard time to cope.

It is under this context that TC Consult decided to adopt MiTS for the Road and Earthwork design. Since then MiTS has become the de facto infrastructure design tool for TC Consult and is heavily used in the design office. We would like to thank TC Consult for their support!

What are the salient characteristics of MiTS that makes it such a useful tool? Here are a few points:

  1. Ease of use
  1. Standard compliance
  1. Impressive 3D views
  1. Tools to minimize construction cost
  1. Fast support

We select two TC Consult projects to better illustrate these points.

Project 1: 10 km Hilly Ural Road Within Northern Part of Perak (~40,000 survey points) #

Ease of Use #

MiTS is easy to use, particularly compared to Civil 3D because it is built with design engineers in mind. For Road, MiTS adopts string-based input, so the users will just have to point and click on the screen in order to input the horizontal and vertical alignment. The full 3D road profile can be generated after all the alignment properties, road width element and superelevation properties are inputted.

A particularly challenging project that TC Consult did was an over 9.0km (39446 surveyor points) rural road within the northern part of Perak. It was located at a very hilly area, therefore the cut and fill slopes were very significant. The slope must match the ground level exactly at every point, so that the interface of slopes and the ground level will form a continuous line. And of course, the software must be intelligent enough to tell which areas are cut, which areas are filled on its own without the manual intervention from the users. On top of that, changes upon changes to obtain the best suite correlation between the road alignment as well as the existing terrain would require repeated process of fine tune between the road horizontal and vertical alignment as well as the slope gradient in which MiTS software would be able to generate with ease.. All these requirements and the iteration of design would be a challenge if the underlying software is not robust enough. 

MiTS, on the other hand, is built precisely for this purpose and this day. For example, slope creation. In MiTS Slopes are auto generated when your horizontal and vertical profiles are done, and the software will be able to match the slope level to the ground level exactly. It’s a one click process. The users don’t need to fiddle much in order to get to their desired outputs.

What about assigning different cut and fill ratios along different chainages? In MiTS we have a very simple way of doing it, you can just select a batch of Road Platform via Polygonal select command, and you can change all of the cut and fill ratio on the selected road platforms at one go.

To further aid users in iterating their design, we have a Shadow Slope feature that somewhat retains the tracing of previous slopes. This is particularly useful when you have to “force stop” the propagation of slopes after a fixed number of berm levels, because you want to replace them with other types of platforms. 

All these commands gave TC Consult tremendous power to craft the road design they desired, and to iterate on it quickly. We were blown away when we saw the 3D view of the Road coupled with the slopes. It gives us immense pride in being able to deliver such a useful tool to our users and let them come up with such a beautiful design so easily and quickly.

Standard Compliance #

In Malaysia, Road design usually follows ATJ 2015 8/86, or REAM guidelines, and occasionally AASHTO. When the guidelines aren’t clear or seem mutually contradictory, it would be up to the Road Safety Audit( RSA) to interpret the clause. 

We are thankful that the RSA for the project was very meticulous. He took great pains in ensuring that the design standards governing the curve widening and the spiral transition length were properly followed. I can particularly remember an instance whereby we followed a certain table for Spiral Length in ATJ, but the RSA officer didn’t quite agree; he preferred another table in the ATJ. The texts in the ATJ are ambiguous on this. In the end we just took an easy way out: we just support both ( and allow users to input any custom length).

The situation repeated itself on the curve widening values for road width: how do you handle the case of lane thickness not exactly on the curve widening table in the ATJ? Obviously there are a few ways of handling it; you can either linearly interpolate the values in between, or just round it up or round it down. After the discussion with the RSA officers and TC Consult, we decided to support different modes of interpretation, to make everyone happy. 

This is how software advances; not through writing it once and expecting it to work forever, but through continuous stress testing it in the real world scenario and going through refinement from time to time.

Project 2: Preliminary Site Design In A Highland #

Earthwork and Road, All In One #

The design of MiTS is such that you can model Earthwork and Road together in the same input screen. To give you a spatial understanding of your design, in MiTS we have an All-In-One 3D view that encompasses all the roads, earthwork platforms, drains, drainage, sewerage and water pipes.

A site design in a particular Highland best illustrates the importance of having an Earthwork platform and road modeling fully integrated ( the design is still in the preliminary stage, so we are not able to divulge the location). On the 2D input mode, You can see immediately whether your road is overlapping with your residential platforms or other types of platform.

Real-time overlap error messages to notify users

The 3D view serves as a sanity check to ensure that the roads must be properly connected to the platforms. For this project, the 3D view is notable because of its splendor and elegance. With the blending of hilly original terrains and manmade structures, they really look spectacular.

Not only that, you can easily recover back the original terrains ( before being modified by humans) by simply toggling on ( and off) on the relevant layers. This would give you a feel of the extent of your modification. Are you cutting too many hills? Or importing too much fill soils? Sometimes it just takes a glance to tell.

A lot of clients don’t care about your design; only about costs. But almost all human beings will be impressed by magnificent and splendid things. Imagine showing your clients such a beautiful 3D view, they will definitely be blown away by it.

MiTS Aids In Construction Cost Minimization #

Still, for businessmen, ultimately everything has to come down to cost (aesthetic be damned!) Can you reduce the earthwork quantities? Can you squeeze more development area out? What about reducing the road shoulder for the purpose? These are the perennial questions that you have to field as consulting engineers. 

In MiTS Earthwork, we have an AutoBalancing option that would strive to balance out the cut and fill quantities. This option will raise or reduce the platform elevation levels by a constant value so that the overall cut and fill will get as close to zero as possible. This feature is especially handy during the preliminary stage of the design, whereby the clients want to have a general feeling on how the constructed site will look like subjected to the constraint of the minimization of cut and fill quantities.

Another factor that frequently goes into the cost consideration is whether you want to use slopes or just retaining walls. In MiTS we allow the user to specify the type of retaining walls according to the wall height, and a summary of the wall area will be presented at the cut and fill contour.

We also have a cut section tool that allows users to draw a line ( or a zigzag of line) across terrain, so that the difference between the original levels and the platform levels are visible. By tracing out a zigzag cutline along the end of the road shoulder boundary, one can see the level of differences along the road chainage, and decide which part of the chainage is to use retaining wall, and which part is to just use slope.

Example of the cut section from the zig-zag Master Strings

Also note that the development must not happen at slopes that are too steep, which is why the slope classification view is important.

These tools enable TC Consult to iterate through the preliminary design on this project. Without modern software tools it’s hard to imagine how one can devise the solution for the clients quickly.

MiTS Killer Feature: Support #

TC Consult discussed with us frequently on the problems he was facing. Our discussion didn’t just encompass software issues, but also general ideas on software improvements and the authority requirements. We just love to talk to our users, because they are the source of our inspiration for software improvement.

For the users, they don’t just get their issues resolved fast, they also get continuous upgrades to the software for FREE ( within the same version). This actually comes at a great cost to us because this means that we are supporting the users who might not be buying from us again in the future, but we feel that this is a good way to build goodwill. We definitely hope that we can continue on this business model for good, but only time will tell whether we are too naive.

About TC Consult #

TC Consult is an established international engineering consulting firm with ISO9001:2008 certification which is located in the city center of Kuala Lumpur (KLCC), providing consultancy services in Civil, Structure and Geotechnical Engineering.

Besides the Infra projects we mentioned above, they also have housing projects in Kuala Lipis, specifically Bandar Baru Kuala Lipis. Spacious land area, chilly air and most importantly, no traffic jam, these are the properties you can consider owning and living in for the glory of quality of life.

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