Typical drawing production hours CAD & hand drawn

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Typical drawing production hours CAD & hand drawn

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 20 total)
  • Author
  • #162266

    I work for a small landscape design build firm.  I joined the company recently at a time when the owner was looking to convert from hand drawn site plan designs to CAD generated drawings, and I have ended up being plunged in the deep end of taking care of all drawing production.  We typically produce Residential masterplans & planting plans at 24×36 size drawings showing a fairly high level of detail in B&W but no construction drawings or elevations/sketches. My boss has very little experience in CAD and so defaults to my limited experience to give estimated hours for potential projects.  Problem is I ALWAYS under estimate and I have a feeling I’m spending way too long producing what was previously produced by hand at a fraction of the time….. (which the boss reminds me of all to frequently!)


    Can anyone offer any advice on typical drawings times for residential type projects typically for front and back yards 100×200′ lots or similar?  Obviously these will vary depending on scope of design etc but some ballpark figures would be great!


    Our typical design process involves site survey then CAD baseplan 1-2 hours, hand drawn concept design on trace 1-2hours, followed by reviews with clients, and then inputing final revised design to CAD – ranging from 2-4 hours for small backyards up to 10 for larger deisgns.  Planting design and input to CAD is then additional.  As I am fairly new to this and am not involved with pricing jobs I really have no reference for how long this should take.


     Typical times for hand drawn B&W plans would also be informative… any help would be greatly appreciated.



    Wes Arola, RLA

    It is tought to come up with numbers untill you have some experience. My main suggestion would to be to start to develop a library or set of standards. Have all your linetypes and blocks setup, so that you can copy and paste those into your plans and that will speed up production a lot. Have the hatches you use, trees, etc. all setup so that you can copy those right into your base plan. Thatll make you twice as fast.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Hard to say… The CAD drawings in my folio generally took 3 days 24 hours. They are pretty detailed, have a lot of elevation changes, walls, stairs, etc. Those same plans with CDs took another week to 2 weeks, depending on the degree of custom features. Most of the built projects were in the $500k – $1mil, so a few weeks is not an unreasonable amount of time to commit to the plan and details… then you get into design review committees… that’s a whole other story…

    Like you, I was starting with no CAD standards. As Wes pointed out, the first thing to do is get your “system” in order. This part takes time and the “old school” guys don’t understand how necessary it is. To them it looks like you’re not doing anything because there is no product, you’re just setting up CAD to be efficient, before you can even start drawing (Much like walking into a wood shop or a mechanics bench that isn’t organized. Before you can work, you need to put things in place).

    Without seeing an example of what you’re doing, it sounds like your times are accurate for a small residential project, even a bit on the fast side… Think about it in terms of money first, then time. Lets say you’re doing a $50,000 project. Your boss might take $5,000 – $7,500 in design fees. If he gives you 10% of that ($500 – $750), then, at $20/hr you have 2.5 to 3 days to get the plan done.

    I would try and think about it in terms of being profitable for your boss. Talk to him/her about it. They should know how quickly you need to get a plan done in order to be profitable. That will tell you if you’re fast enough, more than anything else. If you’re profitable, good. If not, take a look at your work-flow / system and see where you can make improvements in efficiency. The most important thing with CAD is having standards and sticking to them.

    Scan the sketches (if they were done to scale) and scale them in CAD. Then you are basically just tracing, which is pretty quick…

    Jason T. Radice

    I also depends on what CAD system you are using. I takes a lot more time to set up AutoCAD for doing LA plans because you a starting with a blank slate. As stated above, you need to get your standards together. Drawing blocks, standard details, sheet layout and such all take time. Other CAD systems are avaialble that are set up right out of the box that may be better suited for residential design work. The plant symbols are already there, and usually in color, you can do quantity takeoffs easily, and same w/ hardscape materials. And it all prints out in color, sometimes, even 3D. You can buy some nice software for not a lot of money. Commercial work is a different animal altogether though…and these packages are not designed to accomodate that type of project.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Drafting time and design time are two different things. So much of the time that you spend “in the drawing” is experimentation, critical thinking, asssessing and adjusting, …. I think that may a lot faster by hand in the early stages, but a little quicker when you get down to details in smaller space.


    The hardest adjustmet that I had switching to CAD was adjusting to zooming in and out and having a sense of scale while drawing. Consistency in how you draft builds familiarity within the drawing – such as using the same symbols drawn at the same size, offsetting perimeter lines of buildings a certain distance, … this gets you comfortable and connected with your drawing which definitely keeps you from having to think about it.


    Definitely get consistent with your line weights, text sizes, dimensioning, hatching habits, and building a library of blocks.


    It sounds like you are using CAD files from surveyors to work off of. Chances are that those are in either 20 or 30 scale and you are more likely in a ten scale. I have a lot set up in my tool palettes now, but to keep it simple, you might want to make a drawing with all of your blocks, linetypes, texts, and dimension styles in it that you can insert into the base drawing. You can instantly erase it, but all of those blocks and entities will be in the drawing. The first thing you want to do is save the survey plan under a new name and convert everything to your scale.


    Those are some of the time savers that worked for me making the transition many years ago.

    Christopher Patzke

    Great response!  I think one of the challenges in th profession right now is the technical generation chasm.  As a broad generalization based on experience, the more experienced generation does not know how to work with AutoCAD and does not understand the challenges of using AutoCAD and the younger generation does not think/design in the same way the older generation does.

    AutoCAD is a great tool for construction documents, but it is not as flexible as hand drawing.  Sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to sketch a design idea than it is to put the linework in CAD.  The older folks are going to expect that speed.  The younger folks may not have the hand drawing ability.  One drawback to sketching things out is that it’s easier to “fudge” alignments in a sketch than it is in AutoCAD.  That not-so-sraight line hand drawn line is going to give an impression that an alignment can be achieved when, it fact, it can’t.

    I think Henry’s response is great because it is a way of working that will help the junior person and the senior person understand the strengths and weaknesses of each way of thinking/designing.   

    Thomas J. Johnson

    I like most of G’s response but I have to politely disagree with the last bit.

    1. You do not want to save the survey plan under a new name. Keep all consultants file names the same as you received them, that way, if there is an issue, you can communicate with them. You don’t want to go, “um, well, I think it was Site_1011 but I changed it to Base_1012…” Leave their naming standards as is.

    2. You should not have to convert their drawings to your scale. Everyone should be drawing in full scale, IE, 1′-00″ = 1′-00″. If they are not drawing in full scale, welcome them to 2011… scaling happens in paper space (layout) not in model space. That goes for your details too… If you’re doing it any other way, you’re just making life difficult for yourself (or they are making life difficult for you).

    3. Do not ever copy a drawing and bring it into your drawing to get your layers, etc. That should all be set up in a drawing template file (part of a sheet set) IE. Title block, base, planting, paving, layout, etc… Over the course of the history of a firm, that drawing that you bring into your drawing will change. Within a few years, with multiple people working off of that drawing, it will change. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing a bunch of extra crap into your drawing. Create a Drawing Template that is read only. If you’re doing a title sheet, open the title sheet template and “save as” under the naming standard for the project you’re working on. Now you can update the fields without modifying the original…

    See? It’s complicated. It’s a puzzle. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Have fun! Also, if you’re establishing the standards for your firm then you’re going to have to educate other people about the standards and you’re going to have to enforce them. You’ll have to be a bit of a CAD Nazi but it’s in everybody’s best interest…


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    1. I meant that you should save the original file unchanged for reference. Saving it under a new drawing name keeps the original in tact. (I think you and I mean the same thing)


    2. Definitely draw in real units. I mean that typically all of the text and viewports that the surveyor or engineer will have set up are for displaying at twenty or thirty scale – text, hatches, and linetypes are going to look huge at a ten scale and the text will take up too much realestate. What I really mean is to adjust your texts and other variables that need to display right at the scale that you will print it at.


    3. If you are using base file from someone else, you will do ne of three things – put your drawing into their drawing, their drawing into your drawing, or xref. The latter adds unnecessarily to the complexity of a 20k SF residential landscape plan for a new CAD user and anyone else for that matter.. I agree that it is better to insert the civil plan into your drawing mostly so that you have your paper space tabs set up. Now that you can “copy with base point” it is also easier to bring in only what you wat to out of the base plan all in one paste. I like to work the way I described so that the drawing origin stays the same any any proxy objects that I can’t see remain in the cad file. I also dropped using a border block with attributes for a title sheet so that I can float the title and my logo wherever it is most convenient when laying out the sheet.

    You don’t usually have too mch back and forth between CAD files on a residential landscape design to worry much about collecting historical clutter. More often than not, you are called in when the construction of the house is well on its way. If you are brought in early for permitting, the landscape is usually on hold for revisions until the house is well on its way. At that point it is usually little more than the buildings and driveway that you need to paste into your drawing. It is pretty basic. (It is the poor bastard in the CE office who has to deal with most of the crap).


    I’ve done well over a hundred residential plans from CAD plans from eng/surv and it is very simple. Their plan is their plan and my plan is my plan. I deal with their jumbo text taking it from them, they deal with my tiny text getting it back should they need it for staking. I have the advantage of dealing with both sides of this issue (as an LA dealing with civils, and working in a civil office dealing will LA’s). It is much more difficult to be dealing with changes fromarchitects and/or LAs in the civil plans than the other way around.


    Learn to load and use the tool pallet, if you are using a new enough acad. dragging plant symbols, schedules, and other blocks into your drawing saves a ton of time. I save them all at 1′ diameter so scaling is easy either using the scale command or later on adjusting in the properties dialog box.

    Tanya Olson

    Your hours sound about right to me – and I’ve been working in CAD for 13 years with several years of hand drawing design from schematic to cds before that. My process is very similar to the one you use – base drawing in CAD, hand sketches, client review, final plans in CAD.

    My total design time for a small residential project is usually about 10 hours, including a meeting, measuring the site, design and drafting. I use more than half of that time for the sketches (drawing perspectives more than plan views), but the final plans take a surprising amount of time. I’m pretty organized about my drawing styles and use the design center a lot to import layers, dimstyles, blocks, etc. from other drawings, so that saves a lot of time.

    The real time and money savings in CAD are in changes to the plan, iterative design, details, sharing files, ease of printing, and easy borrowing from other drawings. The actual drawing time probably isn’t all that different.If you underestimate frequently, a good rule of thumb is to give yourself twice as much time until you are confident in CAD and with the process.

    Craig Anthony

    Don’t let the grey hairs fool you. There are decent amount of old timers around who can operate in AutoCAD. You just haven’t run into any. A lot of us got tired of the depending on junior staff to get work done and hearing b.s. excuses why something can’t be done because of the limitations of CAD. There are a number of us fossils (usually principals or senior staff at small offices) around that can operate circles around the youngsters in ACAD and then whip-out a pencil and a roll of cheap tracing paper and spank ‘em “unplugged”. But I’m always aware that there are some young hot shots out there that could teach me a thing or two, so I don’t get too cocky.

    Craig Anthony

    Like Thomas I’m a big fan of templates. I have templates for conceptual drawings, DDs and CDs. I have all my layers, title blocks, standard details and notes, etc. all loaded up in my templates. Dimension and lettering styles, CAD symbols are all ready to go. Just open up the template and delete what’s not needed before getting started.


    I’m also a big x-ref guy. I like to x-ref in the survey so that I can’t accidentally erase information on it with out it being obvious if I forget to lock the layer it is on. I x-ref in my title block on multiple sheet projects, so that I can make changes on all sheets by editing the one x-ref-ed drawing.


    I’m with you Andrew on editing a saved copy of the survey. I understand the argument of not wanting to touch anything on the survey, but you’re drawings end up looking chaotic and sometimes illegible. Even screening the survey back to #8 doesn’t really make things better. So I really try to just shut of unnecessary layers and convert those obnoxious 4” high fonts and mile long leaders created by the surveyor and engineer to a layer that I create called “off”, then I turn them off. This way I can turn them back on to check if I’ve missed something. I then submit a copy of the original stamped survey with any submissions.

    Craig Anthony

    Tanya – I’ve been using ACAD for the about same amount of years as you. I’m finding that now more and more during design development I go in and out of ACAD and hand drawing through scanning hand drawings into ACAD and printing out revised ACAD drawings and then hand drawing on them. Back and forth until I have a DD drawing in CAD that I can either draw and render over by hand, or render in photoshop, m-color, what ever.


    Back then it was more like we would complete the design by hand and then draft it into ACAD. It seems like we used it more like a drafting, dimensioning and word processing machine. Anyone remember digitizing contour lines into AutoCAD?

    Tanya Olson

    Yep- me too – to me the perfect example of what cad systems are for – not a replacement, but a complement to the process. A much more fluid process than we would have imagined in ‘the old days’! ha!


    ALEX P

    Why not just use cad as a base for drawings…kill two birds with one stone (or two depending on your design) I dont like hand rendering, but it sometimes looks good with a fusion between hand and computer. Its the ultimate duality between man and machine.

    Heather Smith

    You should not have to convert their drawings to your scale


    Shouldn’t have to but sometimes you do. My husband was given a file from a land surveyor and had to clean up some pretty sloppy work and bring it to scale.

    I haven’t use CAD for a long time…:P But I do know that you will get faster once you get your hatches, line weights, etc. all worked out. The Canadians in our studio had very strong technical skills and could draft plans up very quickly.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 20 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password