AutoCAD/Sketchup – Quick software calculation of DDA compliant levels

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums TECHNOLOGY AutoCAD/Sketchup – Quick software calculation of DDA compliant levels

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #151909
    neil morbey

    Hi, Someone MUST have created a software or addon that quickly calculates DDA compliant levels. I use a combination of AutoCAD and Sketchup currently, along with a useful excel sheet to calculate them, but there has got to be a quicker way. 

    Can anyone recommend an easy-to-use software for this?

    Or can we generate spot heights in Sketchup somehow?



    Eric Gilbey

    Neil, I’m curious to talk with your more about the verifications your are needing, but I believe the site information modeling in Vectorworks Landmark software would meet your needs. Integrated 2D/3D site specific design/modeling with built in worksheets which report from the objects you are designing. Including grade objects which can act like a calculator for allowable slopes and can also modify the surfaces to the expected slopes. Let me know if I can help further.

    neil morbey

    Eric, yes please message me if you wish

    neil morbey

    Here is an example of the situation I want to improve upon:
    We are provided with (i) an AutoCAD topographic model of a site and (ii) a building design with a FFL (level).
    We want to take spot heights form both (fixed points) and within a design of paths we want to
    a) Have cross-falls not exceeding 1:40
    b) Drain away from the building and into soft landscape areas
    c) Ensure no path exceeds 1:20 grade
    d) Ensure no soft areas exceed 1:3 grade.

    What I want is a software which will model the landscape with these parameters. Perhaps one way would be to set ‘fixed levels’, ‘pedestrian zones’ and ‘soft landscape zones’.

    And I would like the ability to change the design and have the levels adjust for me.

    If your software can do that I’d love a demo.

    Andrew Spiering

    Would like to see the solution to this, as well.  

    Eric or Neil – Can you post it online so all can benefit?  Thanks!

    andrea valdez

    Could you please explain how it worked for you? Even I have studied AutoCAD, I don’t have any practical experience.


    I KNEW……it was just a “matter of time”, when I would see that young Landscape Architects would begin to search for
    COMPUTER SOFTWARE programs that would actually DO the Landscape Architectural Design work FOR THEM. IF we had software programs that could do all of the skills and had very creative design abilities……we could just eliminate ALL 70 U.S. University Landscape Architectural Degree Programs.

    OK, I’m being a little bit “tongue in cheek” here…..but, some on people… need to LEARN the necessary skills to practice Landscape Architecture. I had a very busy, intense and rewarding 40 year career practicing Landscape Architecture in over 14 different States…..and I produced drawings for nearly 600 projects that were ALL “hand drawn”….ZERO autoCAD and ZERO computer software programs.

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    …. and somewhere along the way different professionals started sharing files.

    The LAs who still draw only by hand either have no idea or don’t care that everything has to be re-drawn in CAD if it is going to be precisely laid out in the field. Hand drawings are great, but you can’t snap survey points in them in ten minutes, load it in a data collector, and send a field crew out to precisely lay it out. Times have changed.

    I spent a lot of time in civil engineering offices re-drawing landscape architect’s hand drawings into CAD so that the work could be staked in the field. That all costs their clients money and wastes and delays projects. Those developers who figure it out find LAs who send a CAD file to the surveyor/engineer, or skip the LA altogether in the interest of time. Reality these days is that drawings get shared and in most cases an LA drawing can no longer be static and isolated.

    Expectations have changed because technology exists and with that is speed and efficiency. If some can turn things around faster than others it raises the expectations for everyone else. If you can’t meet those expectations and someone else can, you’re all done.

    And the next thread will be more about trying to solve the mystery of why other professionals are getting “our work”.

    You have to play the game as the game is being played.

    Leslie B Wagle

    I think back to the original issue, however you hand over the results, the process is basically to start from the FFLs, analyze where the places are around the perimeter or edges of natural areas that you have to match or want to save, then work on the most critical surfaces (pedestrian entries, approaches), next the the moderately critical (drives, parking which can warp lots of ways to inlets), then allow the most flexible areas to accomodate the others (lawns and ground cover areas, etc.) trying all along not to rely on expensive fixes like retaining walls. Depending on the project, you may even get to tweak the FFLs. Gradually by relating all the components to each other, it will come together. Even with a responsive software, that would be my guess about the guiding hand part of it, and it gets more intuitive with experience.


    I’d like to respond to your comments on this topic, Andrew.

    First & foremost, the “Design” has to be outstanding, creative, in budget and meets all of the clients’ criteria. During the Preliminary Design Process, IMO, you don’t need to be or shouldn’t be on computer software…if you don’t know HOW to sketch or draw/design “by hand”, you need to learn. Have you ever heard of Mike Lin (or his son Brian Lin?)…they are 2 of the TOP Graphic Designers in the World (Brian Lin is also a very accomplished LA)…together, they run the “Beloose Workshop” where they travel the U.S. teaching University students how to improve their hand drawing skills. EVERY LA should have strong graphic design skill…not just autoCAD or computer drawing skills.

    As for autoCAD, with all due respect, I have seen your company Website on-line (and, IMO), the sample autoCAD Planting Plan on your website is very weak. Well, it is.

    Over my nearly 40 year LA design career, I have designed approx. 600 projects in 17 different States “by hand”. A majority of those projects contained from 20 to 30 sheets. I began producing hand drawn Architectural Drawings in the 7th grade, so, a lot of experience with “hand drawn” Preliminary & Final Contract Documents. Trust me, all of those nearly 600 projects got built and built correctly…as I personally inspected over 60% of them as part of my contract agreement. I even had a few Architects & Civil Engineers who were reviewing my Final Contract Documents with me….ask me, “are these autoCAD plans”?…and I explained to them, “no, they are hand drawn, I don’t do autoCAD”. They were very surprised. Andrew, really, no disrespect intended….but, I would put my “hand drawn” plans up against your “autoCAD” drawings any day.

    I looked at your LAND 8 Profile for “portfolio samples”…and saw none. Why? I have posted many samples of my design .projects (photos and drawings). And, I have a FLICKR website that contains approx. 75 samples of my design projects.

    Yes, I do agree…times have changed and every design profession are all now using computer software programs. But, I have seen some autoCAD drawings produced by LAs with 10, 15, even 20 plus years of experience and their autoCAD drawings were very poorly drawn! Looked like spaghetti, because, those LAs don’t understand the importance of “line weights” or HOW to get their auto CAD drawings to read “graphically”, so that contractors in the field can read and understand them.

    Though I am now semi-retired, I only design “Residential” projects and if you go with 1/8 scale drawings…hand drawn plans will work fine. But, now, most of the design work I produce is for LA friends of mine (and what I design are mostly “Preliminary Plans”, such as pool amenity areas or residential masterplans that are 2D and sometimes in full color…along with a Preliminary Cost Estimate). I have learned over the years, that especially for Residential clients, hand drawn preliminary plans that are graphically bold and well drawn…are more appealing and have a more “personal” touch than a computer drawing.

    Like I said, I do fully understand the need for autoCAD and other computer software drawing skills in today’s design world…but, IMO, to some degree, computer drawings are over-rated. But, I also realize that few LAs would be offered a job without those computer drawing skills. But, I think you’d be surprised at how many LA firms also request (or require) hand sketching and/or hand color rendering skills.


    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    Andrew Garulay, RLA


    Have you looked at any GIS software to run a query on slope analysis to visually show you slope percentages. It has been 20years since I used GIS, but it was very easy and fast to isolate slopes between certain percentages at that time. I’m sure it is as least as easy today. I would not be surprised if there is a CAD/GIS program that could display color coded slopes in real time. Something to check out.


    My plans are not intended as a work of art and are neither used to market either my design services or as a sales tool for contractors. They are intended as a very efficient (cost and time to produce) plan that can be easily read and built by an experienced landscape contractor without flipping through 15 sheets of plans with muddy hands. I play the game as the game is being played and with the limited skills that I have. There is a huge market for this that I would encourage others to pursue especially if they are having trouble finding work.

    Your method of hand drawing a work of art and your assertion that every landscape has to be outstanding is what academia and retired landscape architects keep preaching to upcoming landscape architects. Meanwhile those qualities are not being pursued nearly as much these days as they used to be in the real world – mostly because other methods now exist. Consequently, clients are more often seeking out others to accomplish their needs and the prototype landscape architect is in much less demand. The choice is to accept that smaller market with a lot of competitors (and there is nothing wrong with that), or to adjust to filling existing needs in a wider market.

    I think you do great work and have a great skill set. What you do is not what I do. What Neil does is different from what you or I do. I would never tell either one of you to do what I do because I actually do respect what other people do.

    It is foolish to complain that the profession is being displaced by others while discouraging adaptation to compete for the work. There is a place for hand saws and hammers and another bigger place for air-nailers and table saws. One can respect both. I’m done with the pissing contest.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password