Civil Engineering and You

This series of articles explores the connection between you as a young practitioner and your civil engineering profession. The inspiring and thought-provoking series is written by Ranjit Sahai, PE, F.ASCE, a principal at RAM Corporation, a consulting engineering firm specializing in traffic engineering design, stormwater facility inspections, and information technology projects. He is a member of the NCS Transportation Committee leadership team and a past president (2013-14) of the National Capital Section of ASCE. To contact him, navigate to THIS page and click Contact Form to send an email.

The use of spatial projection, i.e. visual projection in space, of design models is poised to transform every engineering lifecycle process that requires a visual interface with reality.

This article examines several engineering lifecycle processes and contrasts their existing with emerging functionality. The examples include processes in planning, design, construction and maintenance. These examples answer the question: Why will spatial projection transform such processes?

Depending on the value you assign to that which becomes possible with spatial projection, you will be in a better position to apply the "why" discussed herein, to plan your own path to process transformation that makes sense for your organization and industry. The examples are not exhaustive but were selected with care to serve as seeds for imagining processes that are more relevant to and worthwhile for your organization.

The example processes discussed include:

  • Seeking Community Buy-In
  • Designing in Dense Environments
  • Resolving Change Orders
  • Maintaining Structures and Pavements

The technology behind the emerging transformation discussed goes by the name of "mixed reality."

Before diving in, let's review a few concepts, including the definition of mixed reality, as used in this article.

Visual Interface
The concept visual interface, as used in the phrase, "every lifecycle process that depends on a visual interface", refers to the visual contact or interaction between spatially projected design and reality. For example, when you have a 2D design plan and its elevation, you have in hand the design's projection on planar surfaces--and that scaled projection is sufficient for you to visualize in your mind what the design will look like when built. In  other words, the mental vision developed from planar projections is conceptual, not perceptual--you cannot see the design but can conceive it in your mind. However, if the design were projected in space in a way you could see and interact with, the projection would enable a new way to observe, identify, assess and decide a course of action for parameters that depend on the design's interaction with reality.

Reality capture 

Seeking Community Buy-In


Designing in Dense Environments

—the overlay in space of proposed traffic signal control devices at street intersections they will modify, the movement in space (not a screen) of proposed and reality captured models to simulate a drive through project extents at public meetings, and resolution of utility conflicts from changed field conditions—

In that sense of process transformation, spatial projection is a revolutionary innovation in the field of digital model interfaces.

The emergence of this shift is evidenced by the list of currently active TRB research projects:

  • Traffic Engineering [link-to-projects]
  • Visualizations [link-to-projects]
  • Utility Conflict Resolution [link-to-projects]

Resolving Change Orders




Utility Conflict Resolution

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