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Scale: What is it and Why it is important for your site plan.

Scale: What is it and Why it is important for your site plan.

  The significance of “scale” is all around us. From the homes we live in to the sky scrapers we stand in awe of,

every one of these structures started out as a piece of land and a dream. How did these dreams become reality? In this article we will

discover how the concept of “scale” is vital to the development of not only these structures, but how important it is in creating site plans for each of our clients.

We will also study an engineer scalevs. an architect scaleand what exactly the difference is between them.


  What is Scale?

  In drafting, architecture and engineering the term “scale”

has two meanings. Scale, as a concept, is a standard range of values forming a standard system for measuring or grading something. How does this translate into a design? These dimensions are used by a drafter to accurately represent the structure shown in a plan.


A “scale” is also a ruler used in drawing and measuring architectural and engineering plans.

There are two types of scales, or rulers. An engineer scale and an architect scale.



Engineer Scale vs. Architect Scale


 The architect's scale is used by architects and builders for obtaining measurements from scaled drawings of buildings and other structures. It is typically three-sided with 11 scales or flat with 4 scales. It is available in lengths ranging from 4" to 36" although 12" models are most common. Once made primarily from wood, most architect's scales are now made from plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel.

Common scales for a triangular architect's scale are: 16 (full), 3, 1-1/2, 1, 3/4, 1/2, 3/8, 1/4, 1/16, 1/8, 3/32. Major divisions of each scale represent feet which are further subdivided into 12ths or 16ths. A scale labeled 1/8 translates to 1/8" = 1' or 1/96 scale. The 16 or full scale is a standard ruler with each mark representing 1/16". An architect's scale is read from the left or right side depending on the scale being used.


The engineer's scale, also known as a civil scale, is used for measuring length and transferring length measurements at different scales or proportions of actual length. It is triangular in cross-section with each of the three faces containing two different scale markings for a total of six scales. In North America, the scales are labeled 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60, with the graduations representing decimal fractions of an inch. Thus, one inch on a drawing equals between 10 to 60 feet.

The engineer's scale is usually made from plastic and is slightly over 12 inches in length, but with only 12 inches of markings, leaving the ends unmarked. The extra length accounts for wear and tear over time and prevents the end ticks from wearing off. 

What is the Difference?

Although similar in appearance to an architect’s scale, the engineering scale is designed to be more precise and has a decimal scaling scheme whereas an architect's scale uses fractional scaling. It is designed to only be read from left to right. An architect's scale can be read from either the left or right side.


Scale and Your Site Plan

Remember that dream and a piece of land? Having the correct scale will directly determine how walls become rooms and dirt becomes roads.

 Scale drawings assign each object the same scale compared to the actual objects. The space outlined on a scale drawing is also reduced by the same ratio as the objects included in the plan. If a drawing isn't to scale, there's no guarantee that each object on the plan will fit into the real space. An accurate scale drawing lets you see exactly how each component will fit and how much space you'll have, both empty and filled.

 Whether you are addressing space concerns, adding or rearranging components or even working on multiple designs, scale will always play a key role in the planning of your project. 




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  • Heidi Chandler
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