Value in Site Design Software = Productivity+ Ease of Use + Cost


Autodesk’s move to a subscription only pricing model, combined with backward compatibility issues with Civil 3D have caused many users to evaluate the true value of Civil 3D to their organization. Many are now considering Civil 3D alternatives for the first time. Let’s compare Civil 3D to Civil Site Design a promising, feature rich road and subdivision design alternative that works as an add-on to Civil 3D or independently with both AutoCAD and BricsCAD.


Productivity is a measure of how quickly users can complete a design and generate design drawings. Each hour reduction in design time adds directly to a civil engineering firms bottom line.

Rather than using tutorial videos, I  created a preliminary design of a complicated 20 road subdivision, complete with curb returns in less than 1 minute.  These results were similar to those reported by Angel

Bottom line, Civil Site Design connected all of the roads, with curb returns and optimized profiles in under a minute on a $699 notebook with 8 GB of RAM.

Ease of Use:

Ease of use is a measure of how quickly a user can become productive with a product. It comprises:

  • An intuitive user interface
  • Design automation tools
  • Easy access to task based on-line training

New users to Civil 3D require extensive training – a 4 day introductory course is common.  A good example is this 11 part Civil 3D intersection design video series .   With Civil Site Design for Civil 3D or BricsCAD, basic intersection designs are automated. Simply provide a default radius and all curb returns are generated complete with profiles and direct links to the associated roads.

The design automation tools in Civil Site Design are the key to productivity.  When you create a road, the software gives a best fit, but editable profile in a separate window. There was no need to create separate profiles in the drawing for each alignment. The built in vertical grading editor allowed me to balance cut and fill automatically for each alignment.

Bottom line, the intuitive interface, design automation tools, provided tutorial and on-line e-learning tools allow users to quickly become productive with Civil Site Design.

Direct Costs:

While productivity and ease of use are the critical issues in software selection, cost is often a key motivator. Civil Site Design provides  users with  $2,885/seat in direct savings over  a 3 year period when compared to Civil 3D and provides a perpetual license.

1 Year Commitment 3 year Commitment
Civil 3D $2,100 $5,670
Civil Site Design $1,995 $2,785
Savings $105 $2,885

A secondary  benefit of Civil Site Design with BricsCAD is that high performance workstations with specialized graphics cards are not required.


Civil 3D has emerged as the de-facto standard for road design and highway design. Being the standard has some key benefits, particularly for inter-operability between organizations. It does not, however, mean that Civil 3D users are receiving true value.

Civil 3D users fall into 3 broad categories:

  1. Those who have invested in training and have incorporated the technology into their internal workflows. These users are generally comfortable with Civil 3D and are reluctant to change
    • These users gain immediate productivity benefits with Civil Site Design for Civil 3D.
  2. Those who have purchased Civil 3D but use it infrequently and have not received recent training. These users are the most frustrated. They attempt to use Civil 3D for a design but run into one stumbling block after another.
    • These users will see immediate benefits with Civil Site Design on Civil 3D, AutoCAD or BricsCAD
  3. Smaller firms who have never purchased Civil 3D because of the cost but must still perform road and site designs. These firm often use manual processes to generate their design drawings.
    • These users will see an immediate return on investment with Civil Site Design running on either AutoCAD or BricsCAD

About the Author

A professional engineer and solution architect with direct experience in a wide range of industries including GIS, water, sewer, power, transportation and oil and gas. Currently focused on delivering software for the civil engineers, surveyors, utilities, local governments and their supporting organizations.