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Is there a quick way to get surface area?

  • 1.  Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 06:02

    I have struggled with finding a quick way to get the surface area for a specific region for awhile now. I have tried using both the Earthwork report and the Surface information report. Both have their short falls. The need for this is to grab quick surface ares for things such as slopes for seeding quantities. This is a critical quantity with my field crews working with field inspectors. 




    In the Earthwork Report, you can not run a stockpile/depression calculation using an a surface that has a boundary applied to it (See the video). This report also does not give the user surface area, it only gives planimetric area.



    The surface information report will give the user both planimetric area and surface area but the user would have to make the area of concentration its own surface or manipulate with surface boundaries. Not a smooth or quick process either. 



    This is a calculation that we use a lot especially with out field crews on state projects. I think it has enough value to be its own report or add the necessary capabilities to the Earthwork report to obtain this.


    If I am missing an easier process, please let me know but I have not found anything yet. 

  • 2.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 06:45

    Following - The SIR is the only way I know how.  I do wish I could pick 20 surfaces and run a surface information report on many at one time instead of individually when running several erosion mat surfaces/topsoil areas for "finals reporting" for a project.

  • 3.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 06:51

    I agree with that.


    I think a smart text option for surface area might be useful as well.

  • 4.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 10:38

    I agree that a better way of getting surface area is much needed.  I have played around with the Surface Information Report and it can give you the surface area quantity you are looking for but, as you know, you need to apply your boundaries to the surface first.  This isn't as good as it could be. 


    On another note I did not encounter an error when using a boundary with the stockpile/depression volume report.  I wonder if it might have to do with your surface being named Finish design which is a default surface name if you are using the Takeoff commands.  Maybe it has to do with its surface classification?

  • 5.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 14:00

    I think it has something to do with when there is data that goes beyond the boundary, demonstrated in the video. 


  • 6.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 10:45

    I do this using the Surface Information Report but there is a Trick to get what you want. I assign Surface Textures to the different areas of my Project on the Finish Grade Model and then when you run the Surface Information Report on Page 2 it lists all of the Textured Areas by Texture Type - if you have say 10 Grass Areas then you need to give each one a different Surface Texture if you want the areas broken out within a single type (a little less than convenent if you have a lot of areas of the same type I agree - but if you create an MSI Manager with 10 Grass Areas if you need 10 different areas it is not that hard once you have an MSI Manager set up for purpose. Create a SI Material Category called FG Texturing and place all of the Texture Items you want in there.


    The enclosed video explains how to do this





  • 7.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-03-2018 14:18

    Thank you for this Alan, this is definitely helpful. I think this is also very valuable because it gives you a good visualization of the areas being quantified. 


    I still think there is a need for a quicker way of getting surface area for those on the fly calculations and to help novice users. I also think the Earthwork report should give the user the surface area. In quite a few cases 


    I think there is also a need for a clean report for those values. As demonstrated in your video, the surfaces areas showed up on two different pages. This would then require me to import this into Bluebeam and then perform some photo editing before this would acceptable as backup for a pay requisition. Whether a dedicated surface area report is created or the bones for a custom surface information report is added to the custom report editor, there is a need for a clean printed report. We use this weekly, if not daily, on our state work and clean, quick backup is a must to ensure timely payments. 




    I am still trying to figure out how to create custom rdlc reports. I have got close but I have not been able to keep the original and add my custom templates, its either or the other.  I am hoping to find someone at Dimensions that I can discuss this more with. 

  • 8.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-04-2018 13:57

    @PATRICK L'HEUREUX, I completely agree with you.  The surface texture boundary is the best work around as mentioned by @Alan Sharp but we really need a simpler way to just click around an area or pick a boundary and get the surface area within that boundary(s) quickly with out having to do setup in the MSIM and changing linestring properties and adding textures.  I'm not holding my breathe as this is a issue that I and at least a few others I know of have been asking for for awhile now.  But I am happy to see I am not the only one and hopefully the more times Trimble sees this issue they will consider adding it as a feature.

  • 9.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-08-2018 08:07

    All great stuff in this thread.  It sure seems that if we could have a smart text label for surface area - the problem might go away.  I will be trying the surface texture trick - thanks for the great feedback everyone!

  • 10.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 09:11

    Can I ask a few questions / make a few comments here that I would like to get answered to get this discussion to a set of specific requirements


    1) Are the boundary Areas that you want to apply to a Surface in order to get Surface Areas a part of the surface - when we calculate surface areas we count the area of the triangles that fall within the boundary (like when we texture an area, we are basically painting the triangles that go together to create a surface area). That means the triangles need to follow the boundary line precisely - which is why we say set the elevation of the boundary to the Surface elevation and add it to the surface as a surface member. The Texture Boundary just allows us to quickly flood an area with a Surface Attribute that can be counted quickly - and that is why each area that you want reported separately has to have a different Surface Texture applied - otherwise they get aggregated together into one number e.g. Grass Seed etc. This report runs quickly because all we do is sum up the Plan and 3D Areas of the Triangles. If we are being asked to pick a surface and then a number of closed polygons that are not a part of the surface, then we would have to basically do a lot of behind the scenes data manipulation to get you what you need e.g. create a copy of the surface, drape the selected boundaries, add them to the temp surface and then find the Triangles that have their centroid inside the boundary and then count the areas of those triangles and report the sum area by boundary etc. This would be a slower report but still possible depending on what you all really need. If the Boundaries are not a part of the surface, then triangles will sometimes have a part inside and a part outside the boundary, and we don't quickly or easily calculate partial triangle areas - so this would either be less accurate and a little unpredictable based on the triangulation - so I guess the real questions are


    a) Do you have issues with having to drape / change elevation of the boundaries and add them to the Surface Model or do you absolutely need us to do all the background stuff to get you what you need from a Surface and Boundary Set selection where the boundaries may or may not be in the surface model?


    2) You say you want to run a Surface Information report on many surfaces at the same time and for each surface you want to be able to select multiple boundaries. There are of course some UI challenges with making this quick and easy to do such as


    a) In line with the Question above - if the Boundaries are in the surface and have been textured this would be easy to do because each surface has all of the information in the surface to do what you want

    b) If the Boundaries are included in the surface, we know they are "Breaklines" at that point - we dont specifically know whether they are Open or Closed and whether you do / dont want them counted. If you have to select boundaries then how do we know which boundaries go with which surface? Assume that some surfaces and boundaries may overlap? do we double count them.

    c) If you wanted to pick 10 surfaces and 4 boundaries with each, then you would have to have a UI that creates a "Batch Process" for Surface 1 and then Surface 2 etc. Creating a UI that allows the selection of an unknown number of pairs is not impossible (would have to be a Table like selection where you can add lines and then pick Surface Pick Boundaries for that line - and keep adding until you have everything set up in order to run the report (this is then getting to be a pretty specific and specialized report (compared to creating the Boundaries, Draping and Texturing the surface areas and then selecting 10 surfaces to run a single report etc.


    Let me know what you think here - the simpler and faster this is to do the more likely we can get it done sooner rather than later, the more sophisticated the report needs, the more developer and QA time required and the less likely it will hit the top of the priority list.


    I want to help here but also don't want to Over Engineer this if we don't have to.


    Please not that my questions here do not constitute a commitment to implementing this, however it does appear that this is important to a number of you.


    Could you give me a little more background on how you use the Surface Area information - there have been some references to Field Use and I am sure there are Estimating Uses also - would like to understand where you see this being used.


    Once I have your input, I will mock up a Report and share it back to get your input.


    Please also give me input as to what information is needed / useful / not useful on the Surface Information Report for each surface. For Me the following may be useful


    Report Data

    Report Date / Time

    Report Type Surface Information Report

    Trimble Business Center


    Project File Data

    Project Name

    File Size:

    Date Modified

    Time Zone

    Reference Number


    Comment 1

    Comment 2

    Comment 3


    Coordinate System





    Vertical Datum

    Calibrated Site


    Surface Details

    Surface Name

    Surface Classification

    Measured Date

    Horizontal Alignment (If One Applied)

    Alignment Based Surface Yes / No

    Densify Surface Yes / No      Include VAL Yes / No      Tolerance = X.X'

    Source of Surface (If Imported from a file give file name) (Applies even if you added data to it) (If created from CAD or Point Data then No Source defined in properties)



    Surface Control Properties

    Max Edge Length

    Max Edge Angle

    Adjust Flat Triangles Yes / No      Tolerance = X.XX


    Surface Information

    1) Number of Triangles (not specifically useful)        Number of Vertices

    2) Number of Breaklines         Number of Drapelines (not specifically useful)

    4) Min Coordinate N, E,Z   Max Cordinate N, E, Z    Differences N, E, Z

    4) Maximum Slope

    5) Minimum Slope

    6) Total Plan Area

    7) Total Surface Area

    6) Surface Area Perimeter


    Surface Sub Area Information

    7) Number of Material Areas

    7a) Texture 1 Area Name (taken from the Boundary Name)

    7b) Texture 1 Area Texture (taken from the applied Texture)

    7) Texture Area 1 Plan Area

    8) Texture Area 1 Surface Area

    9) Texture Area 1 Surface Area Perimeter

    10) Would Max Min Elevation and Max Min Slope of Texture Area 1 Be Useful?

    11) Repeat 7,8,9,10 for Textured Areas

    12) Repeat all of the above for each selected Surface Model


    Area by Elevation Range Table

    Min Elevation   Max Elevation   Plan Area   Surface Area


    Area by Slope Range Table

    Min Slope   Max Slope   Plan Area   Surface Area


    Surface Warnings



    For the current Areas by Elevation and Areas by Slope - are those useful and if so are they only for the entire surface area, or do you also need those broken out by boundary / textured area?


    For Boundaries not Textured Areas (read the same)


    Is this report a Printed Report or an Excel Report where the data is needed for Estimating Purposes directly from the Excel File?


    Let me know what you all think here and I will see what we can do



  • 11.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 11:28

    @Alan Sharp, I very much appreciate your response to this.  To answer your last question first, I commonly need to measure surface areas of roadway side slopes for grass seeding areas and also for GRSS slopes.  Our local DOT (NY) has been designing a lot of roadway side slopes between the 1:1 to 2:1 range that are stabilized with geosynthetic material both horizontally from the face of the slope back into the slope a given distance, and over the face of the slope and back face of the excavation for the slope.  Of course the surface area needs to be calculated for the fabric quantity and also the final pay quantity of the reinforced slope itself is also commonly the surface area.  It is common for several of the slopes to be placed along the length of roadway and typically each one is named: Slope A, Slope B, etc.  


    So the break lines defining the top and bottom limits of the slope are going to be members of the surface but they will not be forming a closed boundary.  The way I would ideally envision it working is that I would copy the top and bottom breaklines to another layer called 'Slope Area Boundaries' then join them up to create closed boundaries and assign a name to each boundary linestring corresponding to the design name: Slope A, Slope B, etc.  Then continuing with the ideal, I would run a surface area command, select the surface I want referenced, select the boundary(s) I want computed, then get a report in table format that has columns in order of usefulness: boundary name, surface area, plan area, # triangles, min/max slope, etc., etc.


    Is this particular scenario, even though the boundaries are being derived from lines that are members of the surface running longitudinally along the roadway, I think they would still need to be draped on the surface in the background in order to account for the transverse portion of the boundaries at the beginning and ending of the slopes where the top and bottom have been joined to create to closed polygon.


    A separate task I frequently need to complete is to get a rough slope area for estimating temporary seeding.  In this task ideally I would want to just open up a surface area command, select a reference surface, then click around on the screen to digitize a closed polygon to compute the slope area within.  As an example, I'm thinking in a scenario where I have an original ground photogrammetric surface with an aerial image and I want to have a borrow pit located in a field, so I just click around an area by eye looking at the image and get the slope area.


    In regards to your question #2, it completely makes sense why that would be impossible to design a UI and I wouldn't have an issue with needing to run the surface area command multiple times, once for each surface I want areas from.


    Regarding the formatting and content of a surface area report, I think what you have shown is very good for the header info of the project, date, etc.  But as mentioned, I think a table format of the area results is much more usable rather than a paragraph of results for each boundary.  While speaking of tabular reports, it would also be very very useful if the earth work report could list its results in a tabular form as mentioned for the surface areas; when computing volumes of several boundaries it gets very difficult to find the corresponding volumes for the boundary name and I believe the same would be true of the surface area report if formatted similar to the current earthwork report.


    Thanks again Alan!  And @PATRICK L'HEUREUX, I hope I'm not stepping on your toes with regards to your original post, I just feel your pain very much and am curious to hear what you think about Alan's questions also.

  • 12.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-11-2018 08:02

    In the short term I would be really happy to get the surface area as part of the Earthwork Report similar to what you get when running a surface volume in SCS900.

    For a new Surface Area Command function I really like what Wayne described as selecting a reference surface and then being able to digitize a closed polygon.  I would also want to be able to select a closed boundary or maybe even be able to flood an area similar to the identify site regions or track region commands.  

  • 13.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-11-2018 10:24

    a. I would rather not drape and add boundaries to a the surface. I think this adds extra data that is not necessary when the only purpose of this line is for a boundary that you do not have to recreate if you want to rerun this calculation. I would rather have these boundaries on a layer that I would call: Data-BND-"whatever it is". Then, if I need to re run these, I can go back to that layer and I don't have to worry about it messing up my surface or something else getting screwed up. With a little strategy on the user ends, I think the combination of layer name and view filters, would make replicating data quick and easy.


    2. I wouldn't necessarily run surface information reports on multiple surfaces with multiple boundaries at one whack. Lets take loam and seeding areas for an example, I would probably merge all of the topo data into one big surface and then isolate my areas using surface boundaries. I would then use these surface boundaries as my distinctions for my surface area report. The picture I posted below is a good example of what we would be using it for. A few areas on a picture with linework to support and text supply you with your data. Nothing too crazy.


    If we had a smart text option, you could organize this manually in business center and get a table based on different surfaces and boundaries but that is more of an advance option that you can get out of the takeoff reports.. I think there definitely potential for rework with the more advanced surface areas but not as big of a concern to me at this point. My focus with this question is on the quick calculations. You have your laptop propped between your steering wheel and your gut and you are trying to get an area as quick as possible with as little steps as possible to give to subs or to get paid.


    as for parts a/b/d/c, keep it simple. That is above what I want to see in the short term. Long term yes but we need to get this simple surface area figured out first. 


    My requirements:

    • One surface
    • Multiple boundaries
      • Give us the ability to have inclusion and exclusion lines
        • donuts for slopes of ponds
    • Give a total surface area and give a break down for each boundary using the line name for delineation
    • Report Style
      • a simple pdf is necessary
        • I like @Wayne Welshans's table recommendation. Tables are good and easy to follow. 
      • an excel would be nice because then the user could easily copy this into another workbook for running totals. This would give more user flexibility
      • if this is a fancy word report, .docx, users could then modify to their liking
    • I like @Wayne Welshans's idea of the quick digitize area. With this option, I would say it should only let you do this once. I wouldn't imagine it giving the the capability to do multiple areas maybe just a cut out or donut. If the user is  going to go through that effort of multiple boundaries, they will probably create a linestring for these.
      • @Alan Sharp  We need a quick area digitizer in the the measure tools. That is something I have requested previously.
      • Maybe you add both:
        • Measure area
        • Measure Surface area:
          • Prompts you to pick a surface and then you can get into something real quick
    • Add surface area to stockpile,depression report
      • Surface area and volume sometimes go hand in hand, why should I need to run this twice



  • 14.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 12:02

    Not at all Wayne, the feedback and collaboration is great. It is paving season up here in the North country so I have unfortunately been reading these either late at night or on the fly. 


    I have been reading up but want to hold off until I can thoroughly go through these responses. 


    Short term we need a simpler way of getting a single surface area using selected boundaries. This is a common enough calc that should be easy to use and easily accessible (bids, takeoffs, pay quantities, progress tracking). Even if I have to do some word or pdf manipulation to compile data from multiple calculations. Most quantity sheets call out one area on the drawing and have the area on the side anyway. 



    Long term we should look into the ability to add multiple areas and all of the fancy stuff.  That sounds like it could be more involved, necessary, but more involved.


    I will look over this again by the end of the week and try to give a more in depth response. 

  • 15.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 12:26

    I assume that you all know that in Corridors you can create "Material Layers" for the items in Finished Grade that you want to calc the Surface Areas for (you double tag the instruction as Finished Grade plus e.g. Seeding Area 1 / Left etc). and that they will report out on the Corridor Earthwork Report as a result - just as an FYI if you had not found that trick - I use that for the needs to get finished surface areas or seeding qtys or MSE Wall Face Areas etc.



  • 16.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 12:33

    Yes I am aware, and I do this frequently.  However it assumes that the surface has been built in business center using a corridor.  Many times I am working with a finish grade surface supplied by an engineer or DOT and all I have is the surface with no corridor or templates.  Yes I could create a corridor, reference in the tops and bottoms of slopes, create templates, setup and assign material layers for every area needed, etc, but thats a good bit of work just to get a surface area and probably would be simpler at that point to go with my current method of creating a new surface containing only the area I'm looking for.

  • 17.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-10-2018 12:42

    You can also load the e.g. Top and Bottom of embankment Lines as Reference Lines in the Corridor, add the provided surface as a Surface Instruction and Limit it Left and Right to the Reference Lines for the Top and Bottom of embankment to get the surface area of an embankment from a TIN if you have the embankment lines etc. You can use the same surface multiple times if you have Left, Right and Median Areas you need to count. If you have the lines (2D or 3D) this is a quick way to get your areas out.



  • 18.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-11-2018 05:57

    Thank ALL of you for this. This is what we need in this forum. Excellent work from everyone!#gladtobehere

  • 19.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-15-2018 09:53

    Take a look at the enclosed video - I chatted to one of the developers and he has been working primarily on the TML Macro Language announced for v5.0 (Dimensions Time Frame) release that was announced last week by the Geospatial Division and will be press released this week at the Intergeo Trade Show in Germany by the CEC / Geospatial Divisions.


    He created this prototype tool last week to provide a quick and easy Surface Information Area calculator tool - I would like your input here and whether or not you like it


    Let me know what you think and whether this is useful for you to do what you are all asking. It is not reporting the areas - but it will compute the areas and display them and label the areas on the plan view -


    it will work best if you use the Surface Texture approach or Site Improvement Approach first because that will shade the areas that you then can quickly query - knowing that the areas are bounded by lines correctly so that the textures do not flood out - and that will help when you are creating drawings to support the Areas that you have extracted.


    The Text can be copied and pasted into an Excel sheet while you are taking off the slope areas.


    Let me know what you think and whether it helps to solve the surface areas question



  • 20.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-15-2018 10:54

    Alan,  thank you again for your work on this.


    For me, The overall UI of this command is ok and certainly better than nothing, but ideally I would prefer it to be able to select multiple boundaries and generate a tabular report; however on the other hand I do like the way you set it up to select a location on the screen and have it shaded in to be able to see exactly the area I am getting.  Being able to select "any breakline" rather than a texture boundary is a necessity and I am happy to see that because it really just adds another level of complexity/convolution to the data to have to go the texture boundary route.  However, it looks like with what the gentleman showed us in that video that it would be necessary for the boundary of the surface area to be a part of the surface?  Which in itself is not a huge deal breaker for me, although it would definitely be ideal to have it not need to be part of the surface.  With what you have here it seems like it could cause an issue if your boundary has other breaklines within it.  For instance if your computing a seeding quantity on a roadway side slope that starts at the edge of pavement and goes to the toe of slope, but the slope has some breaks in it.  So I guess my question is if I pick a location with the "any breakline" option selected, does it look for a single closed boundary line to compute the slope area within or will it only show the area within any of the nearest breaklines (basically doing a track region outline command in the background)?  Ideally I would prefer the former.


    I hope that's not too confusing.  To sum it up in one line, yes I think what you have there is helpful and a good start, but not ideal for me.

  • 21.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-15-2018 11:12


    The Any Breakline or the Texture Boundary option do not require a closed Boundary at all, just an area that is surrounded by breaklines - so if you have a Corridor Model or a Surface made up of imported Breaklines, you would need to draw a Breakline (kind of a cross section) between the breaklines to close off the area that you want to calc the area for but not a closed boundary area - think of it as 4 sides of a square - where the 4 sides can be made up of 4 separate lines that together create the square - the lines also simply have to cross - they dont have to terminate at the corners of the square. When you click in the middle of the area it floods till it hits a breakline or a sharp and texture line and then stops. If there are small gaps it will flood through to the adjacent areas. 


    This approach minimizes the work that you have to do, but the Breaklines all have to be a part of the surface model, because the triangle edges have to follow the edges of the area you want to compute because we dont subdivide triangles to compute a partial surface area - just applying a boundary to a surface means a host of extra work and this does work fast and well.



  • 22.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-15-2018 11:27

    Alan,  ok I see what you are saying.  Knowing that, I think this command is helpful as is and would love to see it released, it would be a much welcome improvement over my current work flow for surface areas.  However if you all can justify the programming time involved; I still the previously discussed routine where the user selects a boundary or boundaries and a reference surface and then a surface area report table is generated where said boundaries are not necessarily part of the surface, would be the ideal.  I hear what you are saying about this taking substantial computation (time) in the background, but that is time I am willing to sacrifice for such a command.

  • 23.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 10-15-2018 12:13

    I concur with @Wayne Welshans. I think it is a great addition in the meantime and appreciate the quick turn around but I would like to see some further work on this because it is such a common calculation. Depending on how much time this command would take, it would probably still save me time from manually performing the same actions. So if it takes 10 -20 seconds, I can deal with that. If we are talking minutes, that would be a little overkill (which I doubt it would) but again it would save my time of manually performing this action and the repercussions of screwing something up unintentionally. 




    Ideas on the more advanced version of this feature:



    1. Selects boundaries


    BC would then 

    1. Drape the selected boundaries over the surface 
    2. Cut and copy the portion of the surface that falls within these boundaries
    3. Creates that temp surface you referred to before but hopefully this would be quicker because it is a smaller area not copying lets say the whole job
    4. Runs the report


    I have no idea if this would even save computation power so please forgive my ignorance if it would not. 

  • 24.  Re: Is there a quick way to get surface area?

    Posted 03-07-2020 05:40

    Make sure to check out the Trimble TML: Find Surface Area.


    Available to download through the TML Status provided by Rockpile Solutions.