3 Nov 2023

App Publisher Spotlight: Plex-Earth


Accelerating the early stages of design

Poor project data is responsible for 22% of all construction rework in the United States, costing the industry more than $14 billion annually. It stands to reason that better project data reduces errors downstream and increases profitability. That’s a pretty good incentive for exploring ways to improve data at every project stage.

Autodesk partners are developing solutions that optimize how you create, manipulate, and share model data, tackling some of the biggest pain points in project design and delivery. You can find these solutions in the Autodesk App Store. A  great example of an app that helps you gather project data is Plex-Earth.

Preliminary design: Better visibility for better models, using the GiD framework

The Plex-Earth app has its roots in 2009 when Lambros Kaliakatsos was a civil engineer designing roads, water treatment plants, and other infrastructure.

“I noticed that many errors were related to the early stages of design,” Kaliakatsos said. “When we have missing data on site conditions, we’re designing with wrong information from the start.”

Plex earth construction cycle diagram

This diagram illustrates that the ability to redesign is highest, and costs are lowest, in the preliminary phases, emphasizing the importance of early planning to minimize costs and disruptions

The problems back then were not only the lack, the delays, and the costs of finding valid GIS data but also the difficulties in embedding the data into the CAD workflow. From digitizing hard-copy information to file format conversions and processing, all such things required the necessity for advanced GIS skills.

The challenge was great enough for Kaliakatsos to walk away from his design career and build Plex-Earth, an AutoCAD and Civil 3D plug-in that brings aerial imagery and terrain data  into models in seconds. The goal is to provide you with a crystal-clear view of your site—every bump, dip, channel, ridge, or obstruction—without you leaving your desk.

Everything about Plex-Earth is based around a novel framework, one which emphasizes comprehensive site understanding from the very beginning of an AEC project. Hence they have named the framework Geospatially-informed Design, or GiD. 

There are 3 principles to GiD, The Principle of Data Accessibility, The Principle of Field-Design Integration and The Principle of Sustainable Design Integration.

Satellite image vs. orthophoto

Left: Normal satellite image in Google Earth (building facades are visible)  Right: True orthophoto from Nearmap

When Plex-Earth launched, Google Earth was the main aerial imagery game in town. Plex-Earth has since expanded to more partnerships, including with Airbus, Maxar, Hexagon, and Nearmap. Plex-Earth now provides the full GiD framework for engineers across the world.

As a brief example of the GiD principles in action and making impossible project deadlines possible, consider the 60 km road project tackled by HHO Consulting Engineers in Zambia. From their base in South Africa 2,000 km away, the engineers fast-tracked preliminary designs that accounted for Zambia’s rugged terrain before a survey team ever hit the ground.

Plex Earth Terrain image

Terrain models inside AutoCAD with analyses based on elevation, slope and direction respectively

“The accuracy of the contours provided by Plex-Earth was impressive and only required us doing a global change of 1m to all the preliminary generated levels,” said Graham Demmer of HHO Consulting. “This helped a very pressurized team achieve a deadline in a part of Africa we have never worked before.”

Below is a short teaser video showing the basic functionality of Plex-Earth, by head of customer service Nick Chanakoulas:



To see more details and to download a fully-functional 7 day free trial, click here to see Plex-Earth on the App Store

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