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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2004 Issue

CAD Drawing Standards
Has the time come to get organized?

By Skip Graffam, ASLA

CAD Drawing Standards Igor Kopelnitsky/

Many design offices spend lots of time and effort ensuring that their project correspondence, accounting records, and product samples are organized and easy to use—yet one of the processes that produces the most revenue, CAD drawing production, remains an unregulated free-for-all.

Part of the problem is that most landscape architects enjoy standardizing office protocols about as much as undergoing oral surgery: Designers don't like to have restrictions placed on their creative processes. But CAD standards can have a significant positive impact in the office by increasing efficiency and accuracy in drawing production, improving staff morale, and generating a larger return on investment in terms of software costs and employee billable hours.

Consider this scenario. It's 5:30 on Friday, and the client has called asking you to send a full set of drawings overnight for review. Your project staff has just left, so you enlist an employee from another job to help plot out the latest sheets. With file names like "bobs_base_2b" and "site_notree," it takes an hour just to determine which files contain the most up-to-date information. After plotting, you find sheets that are missing text, dimensions you remember redlining, existing survey information displayed when it shouldn't be, and paving pattern line weights so large that your drawing resembles an enormous Rorschach test. The promised delivery suddenly seems much less likely. This is an all-too-familiar situation in which a well-organized set of CAD standards could prevent an ordinary request from turning into a crisis.

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