CAD layer standards for municipalities

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE CAD layer standards for municipalities

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    Graham Taylor

    Has anyone dealt with or heard of municipalities asking for CAD files of a project that match their layering standards?  How is this handled with the internal office CAD standards?  This has recently come up for us and it will be a large amount of work to change all our layer names including moving objects on different layers then previous.  There is then the added time of changing work flow and the chance that a different municipality may ask for a completely different layering system.      

    I was wondering if anyone has had this come up or dealt with this or something similar?


    Layer standards vary at each public agency.  Public agencies are not limited to just municipalities, but counties, townships, park districts, etc.  State and county departments of transportation, public works departments, engineering departments, may also have very specific CAD standards.  DOTs may refer you to their website and/or design manual.  Many larger agencies may have AutoCAD .dwt files to use.

    As for the petitioner (you), I would set up layer translators in AutoCAD for layers.  You may have to invest several hours of non-billable time to get this set up.  It’s not just layers, you may need to use certain fonts, hatches, dimension styles, etc.which have to be configured separately from merely a layer.  Hopefully, you don’t need to convert to a Microstation .dgn file, which is the CAD program preferred by many but not all public sector engineering departments (but that is a whole different conversation).  

    Hope this helps-

    Mark Di Lucido

    Graham, could be the municipality doesn’t understand, and/or have much experience with CAD and intellectual property. It could also be a holdover from the pre-PDF era when plotting was entity color-dependent and few submitters included plot files (in Autocad these are .ctbs) thus causing a plotting nightmare for the receiving party. In many instances, intellectual property laws prevent anyone from changing any CAD drawing you’ve created so the question becomes why do they require CAD files (matching layers) when they can get the same information from .pdf(s)?

    For a privately funded, stand-alone project submittal, original CAD files shouldn’t be required so that leaves the situation where a municipality issues an RSOQ for design services in which they can ask for CAD files w/ specific layering, but again, in my experience there is no legitimate reason for this. At the municipality where I work I’ve never used CAD files (they’re usually not available anyway), although I understand how they’d be useful within a very limited framework of accurately determining data (dimensions, quantities, etc.). If their use is specified as part of an RSOQ (perhaps for interfacing with other adjacent projects like a long linear project w/ stationing) this might make sense but certainly not as a stand-alone project. Have you asked them why?

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    I know of State DOTs that require this. None of the municipalities I’ve worked with, and now for, have though. I would not abandon your current office standards for other projects. Instead, I would ask this client if they could provide you a template file and the necessary pen table. If providing CAD files or a specific CAD layering system is not in your contract, you could question the need for this or ask for additional compensation. But if it’s a client you want to continue working with, I’d find a way to comply. After all, once you’ve made or acquired a template, your next project with them will be easier.

    Graham Taylor

    Thanks landscapeplanner.  I haven’t heard of the layer translators, but will check it out.  We realize it will be a lot of extra hours of work, which is why we are looking at our options.  Luckily, microstation files are not needed!

    Graham Taylor

    Thanks Mark.  The municipality has just started to request this.  I think it may be their GIS division and they haven’t fully thought of the repercussions for each private office.  Intellectual property is a whole other topic that is important as well.  We are getting all our questions and concerns together and will then get in contact with the municipality.  We can’t be the only firm this will affect.

    Graham Taylor

    Thanks Wyatt.  It is the municipality that wants this so I think we will have to do it.  We are looking at the easiest way to comply with the request while not changing the complete office standard.  Asking for a template from them is a good, and I think fair idea.


    As someone who works for a DOT (microstation) and has a side biz (autocad), I’m not seeing what the problem is with either handing over the cad files or matching the muni’s cad standard.  The project you’re designing is a public facility.  Different rules regarding ownership of project documents, including cad files apply.

    Imagine the muni needs to modify the project you designed after it’s completed.  Are they supposed to backwards engineer the project from the field measurements and paper plans?  No. They open your cad files, strip your signature off, and will make changes as necessary.  And because of this you have to conform to their cad standards.   I’ve done this a few times at work for major $$ CCOs.

    Rarely with public funded projects are you the owner what you produce.  And the theft of intellectual property is not a serious issue.  

    Do ask if there is a template available with the all the layers.  Also, if they have standard symbols, details, and legends, use them instead of your own and you’ll get through the redline reviews waaaay faster than using your own.  The worst that can happen is there isn’t anything available.

    Tosh K

    As others mentioned this is very common – we work two ways:

    1. using our standards to produce drawings then hand over after translating the layers.  It can be a bit tricky and you have to make sure the lineweights allow for the drawing to be read.  The thought in our case was that we wanted a larger range of lineweights than the template provided and to allow for ease of use across the office in CAD.

    2. use the standards provided.  We set up a plotfile to incorporate additional lineweights for us because we wanted finer lines than the finest on the standard.

    Jason T. Radice

    Pretty much every municipality should be using the National Cad Standards for CAD and BIM by now, as this is the exact thing they were developed for.

    This is what you should be using, and this is what you should tell the municipality to use as this is the preference of the GSA (Federal) and most state DOTs.  

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