Plot Plans / Site Plans For Permits

How to Read a Site Plan

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How to Read a Site Plan

 

 Being a project engineer means doing a lot of planning. When working in construction or architecture, one small planning error could lead to catastrophe. Because of this, it’s vital to craft a site plan that is thorough, accurate, and ideal for your specific project.


But what exactly is a site plan, and what does it entail? How does one read a site plan? Let’s cover all the basics so you can be prepared for your upcoming project.


Related: 10 Best Floor Plan Software of 2019

What is a Site Plan?

A site plan refers to a building or architectural plan in the form of a document or drawing. Site plans usually portray building footprints, foundation, sewer and water lines, lighting, landscaping, and other proposed elements. It is essentially a set of construction drawings that a contractor can use to build a property or make improvements to an existing property. Site plans are also used by cities or counties to properly verify that the building development is up to code, and also as future historical references.


Most of the time, a site plan maps out the area of a future building site as close to scale as possible. For any one project, two site plans are usually used. These include existing site plans (which show the site in its present pre-building state) and proposed site plans (which show what will be changed and what the end result will look like.)


Site plans are usually prepared and designed by design consultants, project managers, architects, land surveyors, engineers, and contractors.


Need a site plan for your project? See what MySitePlan has to offer!


What Can a Site Plan Contain?

In some cities, a site plan requires nothing more than property lines and the building. However, site plans vary and can also contain a detailed list of elements for the benefit of the contractor or planner. These elements include:


  • The overall shape of the site or future structure.
  • The overall size of the site or future structure, shown using a scale.
  • The orientation of the site or structure. (Which way is east or west, etc.)
  • Any and all variations in structure height, which are usually shown as contour lines.
  • The space that is going to be covered by the structure, and any other structures the designer is planning on building on the site.
  • The precise location and footprint of any existing structures on the site pre-structural building.
  • Any additional relevant features of the space surrounding the building site. This usually includes things that might cause issues for site access or construction.
  • The geographical location of the site or future structure.
  • The exact positions of things like trees, poles, signage, rocks, etc.
  • Any parking lots, sitting areas, easements, rights of carriage, tunnels, driveways, existing and future water drainage, etc.

The site plan will include all of these elements in drawn form for accurate visualization, along with text to accompany different areas of the site plan.


Related: Site Plan Everything You Need To Know In 2019


What is a Title Block and Why Is It Important?


A title block is a block of information that almost always appears on any given site plan, usually at a corner of the page. The purpose of the site block is to provide important details about the project for administrative purposes. These details usually include the name and contact information of the builder or designer, the name of the drawing itself, the drawing number or revision number, signatures and initials for all relevant parties involved in the project, and relevant dates.


It would be wise to include a title block in your site plan for filing purposes, but also so relevant parties (such as clients, county representatives, co-builders, etc.) can contact the designer and builder in charge of the project when needed.


Need a site plan for your project? See what MySitePlan has to offer!


Orientation, Scale, Callouts, and Cross References


Orientation is important for site plans because the help the viewer understand what position the proposed building will be facing. This is important because it provides a broader picture of where the site will be and how to get there. Orientation is usually in the form of a little compass somewhere on the page.


Scale is also very important for the purpose of understanding just how large or small the building will end up being with all structures, lots, and landscaping. Graduated or granulated scales are usually included near the orientation compass to provide a visual representation of the size and distance of the site.


Callouts and cross references will tell the viewer where they can find more in-depth information about a specific area of the site plan. Ideally, the drawing itself should have a minimal amount of text on it to make it easier to view the physical representation of the proposed site. A callout or cross reference can be placed in areas that need more thorough explanations. Typically, the top half of the symbol will note the sequence number of the diagram or drawing, and the bottom half of the symbol will note the page number where the viewer can read more about that specific area.


Related: How Do I Draw A Site Plan?

Additional Example Abbreviations for Site Plans


Because site plans are so visual, it’s difficult to manage accompanying text with the drawings without crowding the image and making it difficult to understand. Because of this, many designers and architects use a series of abbreviations and symbols for different elements of the site plan they are drawing up.


The following are a few basic abbreviations you can use in your site plan, though designers will often use their own symbols and abbreviations for their specific project.


  • AB - Air brick
  • ASPH - Asphalt
  • AT - Acoustic tile
  • B - Basin
  • BHD - Bulkhead over
  • B/I - Built-in
  • BK - Brick
  • CAB - Cabinet
  • CF - Concrete floor
  • COL - Column
  • CW - Cavity wall
  • D - Door
  • DP - Downpipe
  • FA - Floor area
  • FFL - Finished floor level
  • FL - Floor level
  • GM - Gas meter
  • GPO - General purpose outlet or power point
  • HTR - Heater
  • HW - Hot water unit
  • INSUL - Insulation
  • KIT - Kitchen
  • M - Meter
  • MSB - Master switch board
  • PBD - Plasterboard
  • RL - Reduced level
  • RWH - Rainwater head
  • RWP - Rainwater pipe
  • RWT - Rainwater tank
  • SD - Sewer drain
  • SS - Stainless steel
  • U/G - Underground
  • U/S - Underside
  • VENT - Ventilator
  • VP - Vent pipe
  • W(#) - Window + window number
  • WB - Weatherboard
  • WC - Water closet

Need a site plan for your project? See what MySitePlan has to offer!


Additional Ideal Details of a Site Plan


It’s fairly obvious that a site plan should include outer walls, landscaping, parking, and outside structures. But it is also extremely useful to go into more detail for a site plan’s interiors and additional outdoor details. In addition to the basic features we’ve covered thus far, it’s also vital to include the following elements for a site plan in order to make it extremely readable, detailed and useful:


Inner Walls


Inner walls provide a more solid primary layout for each level of the proposed structure, designating what is considered a “room” in the structure. If the site plan is being drawn for a renovation project for a room or hall, then a “before and after” type of drawing is highly suggested. It’s recommended to include dotted or dashed lines for what is already in place, and solid lines for the proposed changes. Usually, closets and hallways are also included in inner walls.


Stairways and Staircases


Stairwells and staircases are a very important inclusion to a site plan that is often overlooked or not made extremely clear visually. Staircases can take up a significant amount of overall space in a residential or commercial space, so it is highly recommended to include a drawn representation of where stairs will be in your site plan. 


Be sure to use arrows to depict if a specific stairwell goes up or down, or consider adding a specific label.


Patios, Balconies, and Garages


An exterior or outer site plan may include these structures, but an internal floor plan might also include these if they are adjacent to the level of the building being presented in the site plan.


Interior Structures and Structural Features


Fireplaces, whirlpools, saunas, storage areas, and cabinetry aren’t technically rooms, but they are spaces that should be clarified as part of the interior layout of the site plan. Use abbreviations or simple symbols to note these features.


Entrances, Doors, and Doorways


Entryways to all rooms in the site plan need to be included, as they provide a visual representation of the flow of the building and various access points. It’s also extremely important to show doorways and exits in your site plan for safety purposes. 


If a specific door is on a hinge, then depict it as open with an arched line to show which way the door opens.


Major Appliances


Refrigerators, stoves, laundry machines, dishwashers, water tanks, and generators should be included in a site plan. For bathrooms and washrooms, make sure you include depictions of all bathtubs, showers, toilets, and sinks.


Even if these appliances are removable, and even if they may not necessarily be included in the construction of the building (example: laundry machines may be moved in later in the project but are not built into the foundation of the building), including their imagery in the drawing can help the viewer put together a more realistic image of the end result of the project.


To clarify, a site plan can be quite extensive, but this is more of a guide of what CAN be included in a site plan but not was needs to be in a site plan. Some cities require nothing more than property lines and the building.


Need a site plan for your project? See what MySitePlan has to offer!

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  • Ryan Crownholm
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