Site Plan: Critical Tools, and How to Make Them

Importance Of Site Plans

A backbone of most commercial, industrial, or residential drawing packages is the site plan. Generally used as part of the cover page, a site plan provides a simplistic overhead view of the site and primary objects of interest. It also commonly shows any other structures, streets, utilities, and natural objects around the point of interest, as well as critical legal boundaries, such as property lines. Knowing an object’s location and surroundings is essential for the establishment of the project’s geographical footprint and is a great method for giving all parties involved a birds-eye view (literally) of their project. If additional questions arise or you would like a more comprehensive training course on CAD procedures, ARY Engineering can be reached at 509-491-7865, or [email protected].

Site Plan Procedure – Creating A Reference

Source: Stock Images

The easiest way to start a site plan drawing from scratch is finding an image reference to be imported into AutoCAD. Your county or city will usually provide an interactive geographic information system (GIS) on their website, which manages highly detailed maps of the area with useful visuals and data, such as utility connections and traffic flow patterns. For example, if you need to find a building’s location in the City of Kennewick in Washington State, their GIS will show you an overhead photo of the building along with its parcel lines and utility lines.

Some GIS sites will allow you to print the parcel and its partial surroundings in PDF form. If that is an option, you can then IMPORT the PDF into AutoCAD, which will automatically make the printed site plan into CAD geometry. However, keep in mind that the imported geometry may need to be scaled, since the PDF does not automatically adjust the content’s scale upon import and conversion. Fortunately, most pre-generated PDFs from GIS sites automatically contain a scale that can be used as a reference.

However, not all GIS sites contain tools that can conveniently plot the content into a PDF. In that case, a screenshot of the area in Google Earth should be saved, enabling it to be used as an External Reference (XREF). If the web site doesn’t have PDF plotting capabilities, there should at least be measuring tools that allow you to find the length on one of the parcel lines. Alternatively, you can find the area of a specific parcel, to be used for further verification once your geometry is drawn in AutoCAD. Make sure that the Google Earth view is pointing directly north before snapping your screenshot (the GIS mapping should always be directed north). Take a note of the reference length you picked so you can use it as the basis to SCALE your XREF. Once imported and scaled, the reference can now be used as a basis for drawing the geometry.

Site Plan Procedure – Creating the Site Plan

If a PDF was imported from the GIS provider, then most of the work in terms of geometry has already been done for you. But as mentioned previously, the imported geometry does need some additional cleanup work before it can be used for the site plan. First, delete all unnecessary geometry. For example, if the building lines or annotations are combined with hatch patterns, DELETE the patterns, or set them onto a layer that can then be frozen for visual clarity. Next, assign all remaining geometry and annotation to their respective layers. The PDF import tool automatically creates several layers, some of which categorize the utilities, but it’s best to create new layers for specific content, rather than depending on the import wizard. Common layer separators for site plans are for legal boundaries, individual utilities, fencelines, structural elements, existing buildings, and proposed buildings. Once the layers have been set, take the time to adjust linetypes where necessary. For example, the parcel lines should be given a different LINETYPE than the rest of the geometry so it’s easy to pick out. You can load line styles from the home tab in the layer properties. If you are starting with scaled screenshots as a reference, start by creating the above-mentioned layers before laying out any linework. Once the categories area created, trace the image’s lines using the POLYLINE tool.

Site Plan Procedure – Additional Details

Once all the main geometry that you imported or reproduced is ready, the rest of the steps can be completed in paperspace. If you have a title block template, import the template, and activate your viewport to properly view the geometry located in modelspace. Take the time to adjust the view and set an appropriate scale based off the geometry and annotations, then LOCK the viewport once satisfied. Since it might not be clear which layers represent certain disciplines without looking at the original file, you’ll need to address the utilities through a color legend, which is just a simple table listing the utility name next to an appropriate hatch color. Next, create a legend that tells the user what each unique symbol is by listing the symbol geometry next to its definition. Lastly, create a simple triangle with an “N” annotation underneath to function as a north arrow to indicate the compass direction.

Source: Stock Images

Place these legends and the north arrow in spots where they don’t cover any important linework on the sheet, preferably in one of the corners. ARY’s “Untangling a Site Plan” demonstrates the benefits of a proper cover sheet and site plan in the comprehensive review of simplifying complex geometry into straight-forward tools to be used by operators and vendors alike.

Site Plans – A Critical Drawing Package Element

A site plan is critical for making accurate drawing packages, whether for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. By following the steps above, you can create your site plan from scratch, allowing you to communicate the project’s geospatial details in one well-designed page. Although a site plan rarely has internal details on the project’s geometry, whether a residence or industrial plant, it’s a critical part of a proper drawing package, giving the user an introduction to the details located in the package itself.

Stuck with a messy site plan entangled with unclear utilities? Need assistance creating a plan from scratch with limited online GIS resources? Would you like further training opportunities for AutoCAD and its tools? ARY Engineering can help! Reach out to us at 509-491-7865, or [email protected].