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How to layout a building



 1 Introduction
 1.1 Temporary Bench Mark (TBM)
 1.2 Baseline
 1.3 Horizontal controls
 1.4 Vertical controls
 2 Building layout
 3 Trenches
 4 Reduced level excavations
 5 Framed building
 6 Find out more
 6.1 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
 6.2 External resources


The process of laying out (or setting out) a building or structure is an important part of surveying, as it
enables the works to proceed on site exactly according to the prepared designs.

Accurate setting out is fundamental part of the construction works, and errors can be very expensive and
time consuming to correct. It should only be undertaken by competent persons, and all work should be
thoroughly checked, preferably by different personnel.

Setting out is usually undertaken once the site has been subject to a condition survey and desk study,
and has been cleared of any debris or obstructions. Works necessary to create required levels may also
have been completed before the layout process begins.

The position and orientation of the structure is generally described in architect's or engineer’s drawings
and defining precisely how the layout should be arranged.

Controlling dimensions and references on the plans will determine the positioning of the building, and in
particular its foundations. These include; overall length and width, distances to road centre-lines and to
other structures, internal structural measurements, approaches and rights-of-way and so on.
The controlling points of the structure can then be marked so that the construction team is able to easily
identify them. This usually consists of marking the building’s corners, horizontal and vertical positions,
using stakes, batter boards with string lines, drill holes, cut-and-fill notations, and other methods.

Temporary Bench Mark (TBM)

The TBM is a fixed point on a site to which all levels are related and should be established at an early
stage. Where possible the TBM should relate to an ordnance bench mark. On the site, it could relate to
any permanent fixture, such as a manhole cover or firmly-driven post.


Typically the first layout task is establishing a baseline to which all the setting out can be related. The
baseline is a straight reference line in respect to which the building’s corners are located on the ground. It
often coincides with the ‘building line’, which is the boundary of the area, or the outer boundary of a road
or curb, often demarcated by the local authority.

Horizontal controls

These are the points that have known coordinates with respect to a specific point. Other points such as
layout corners can then be located. Plenty of control points should be used so that each point of the plan
can be precisely located on the ground.

Vertical controls

These enable design points to be positioned at their correct levels. The vertical control points are
established relative to specified vertical datum – often a timber post set in concrete.

Horizontal and vertical controls are generally established during the levelling phase using a theodolite or
similar instrument. For more information, see Surveying instruments.

Building layout

For a simple building layout, such as a rectangle, the outline of the building is marked by cord fixed to
corner posts. A theodolite, site square or builder’s square is used to turn off 90-degree angles for the
remaining corners. Ranging rods may be required to establish a straight line between corner posts.

Corner posts are usually 50 x 50 mm timber posts driven firmly into the ground, with a nail in the post’s
centre. The outline may be marked on the ground with dry lime or similar powder. Timber profile boards
can be used at the corners. Profile boards are typically between 0.6-1 m in height and comprise two 50 x
50 mm posts driven at least 600 mm into the ground, with a 150 x 38 mm crossboard.
Where the outline of a building is more complex than a simple rectangle, it may be necessary to establish
a range of points in the same way as for laying out a simple rectangle. However, great care is required,
as small errors are more likely to be introduced as more points are positioned. Often the easiest way of
laying out an irregular building shape is to first lay out a large rectangle which will enclose the entire
building or the greater part of it. Once this is done, deductions and alterations can be made to obtain the
precise layout required.


The layout of trenches establishes the excavation size, shape and direction, as well as the width and
position of walls. Trenches are excavated once the building outline has been set out. The width is often
marked with a line of dots of dry lime powder for accurate excavation by hand, whereas the centre line is
marked for accurate machine excavation.

Outline profile boards are often used to control trench positioning, width and depth. In order that they do
not obstruct the excavation work, profile boards should be set up at least 2 m clear of the trench
positions. The level of the profile crossboard should be related to the site datum and fixed at a convenient
height above ground level, often with cords strung between two profiles at either end of the trench. Bands
can be painted on the crossboard for identification purposes.

Pegs are often driven into the bottom of the trench to mark the top of the concrete strip that is
subsequently poured.

The corners of walls are transferred from intersecting cord lines to mortar spots on the concrete
foundations using a spirit level for accuracy.

Reduced level excavations

The overall outline of a reduced level area can be set out working from a baseline. Corner posts are fixed
to the outline of the excavation area and the outline marked with dry sand or similar material. To control
the depth of the excavation, sight rails are set up at a convenient height and at positions which will enable
a traveller to be used.

A traveller is a profile board with a fixed height, used for controlling excavated levels between profile
boards. By placing the traveller in the sightline between two level boards, it is possible to see whether or
not the excavation has been carried out to correct levels. The height of the traveller is the desired level of
the sight rail minus the formation level of the excavated area.

Framed building
Framed buildings are usually related to a grid, often set out from a baseline. The intersections of the grid
lines mark the centre points for isolated or pad foundations.

The layout of the grid is established using a theodolite and the grid intersections marked using pegs.
Once the grid has been set out, offset pegs or profiles can be fixed clear of any subsequent excavation
work. Control of excavation depth can be by means of a traveller sighted between sight rails or by level
and staff related to a site datum.

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Layout of Building
November 1, 2015 Adnan Sharif Construction 0

Layout of a building or a structure shows the plan of its foundation on the ground surface according to its
drawings, so that excavation can be carried out exactly where required and position and orientation of the
building is exactly specified. It is set out according to foundation plan drawings and specifications provided by
the engineer or an architect.In order to understand layout or setting out of a building we must understand some
of the technical terms related to this job which are described below.

A baseline is a straight reference line with respect to which corners of the building are located on the ground. It
may be outer boundary of a road or curb or boundary of the area or simply a line joining any two points.


Horizontal controls are the points that have known co-ordinates with respect to a specific point. These points
are then used to locate other points such as corners of a layout using various techniques. There should be
plenty of control points so that each point of foundation plan can be located precisely on the ground.

In order that design points on the works can be
positioned at their correct levels, vertical control points of known elevation relative to some specified vertical
datum are established. In practice, 20mm diameter steel bolts and 100mmlong, with known reduce levels
driven into existing steps, ledges, footpaths etc. may serve as vertical controls.

Once points specifying the layout are located on ground pegs are driven in the ground at that spot. Once
excavations for foundations begin, the corner pegs will be lost. To avoid these extra pegs called offset pegs are
used. Batter boards are normally erected near each offset peg and are used to relocate the points after the
excavation has been done.


Starting from a baseline (line AB in Figure 4-1) that is parallel to construction, establish the maximum outer
borders (AB, CD, AC, BD) of the building area.
Suppose we know the co-ordinates(x,y) of the points X
with respect to point A then we can locate it by measuring their x distance along line AB and y distance along
line AC and BD respectively to locate them. These two points can be joined to make line XX. To locate point
G and H, straight line are set out using 3-4-5 triangle rule and distance XG and XH which is known is marked
on those lines. After the four corners (X, X, G. and H) have been located, drive stakes at each corner.
Dimensions are determined accurately during each step.

Where the outline of the building is other than a

rectangle, the procedure in establishing each point is the same as defined for laying out a simple rectangle.
However, more points have to be positioned, and the final proving of the work is more likely to disclose a
small error. When the building is an irregular shape, it is sensible to first lay out a large rectangle which will
includes the entire building or the greater part of it. This is shown in Figure 4-2 as HOPQ When this is
established, the remaining portion of the layout will consist of small rectangles, each of which can be laid out
and shown separately. These rectangles are shown as LMNP ABCQ, DEFG, and IJKO in Figure
Since the corner pegs of the building are to be removed during excavation these points are transferred outside
that periphery by extending lines and driving pegs in the ground. The following procedure applies to a simple
layout as shown in Figure 4-4, page 4-4, and must be amended to apply to different or
more complex layout problems:

Step 1: After locating and dipping stakes A and B. erect batter boards
1, 2, 3, and 4. Extend a chalk line (X) from batter board 1 to batter

board 3, over stakes A and B.

Step 2: After locating and dipping stake C, erect batter boards 5 and
6. Extend chalk line Y from batter board 2 over stakes A and C to
batter board 6.

Step 3: After locating and dipping stake D, erect batter boards 7 and
8. Extend chalk line Z from batter board 5 to batter board 7, over
stakes C and D.

Step 4: Extend line O from batter board 8 to batter board 4, over stakes D and B.
Where foundation walls are wide at the bottom and extend beyond the outside dimensions of the building, the
excavation must be larger than the laid-out size. To lay out dimensions of this excavation, measure out as far as
required from the building line on each batter board and stretch lines between these points, outside the first
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How to Set Out a Building Plan on Ground with

Home » Tips » How to Set Out a Building Plan on Ground with Procedure?

A building is set out in order to clearly define the outline of the excavation
and the centre line of the walls, so that construction can be carried out
exactly according to the plan. The centre line method of setting out is
generally preferred and adopted.

Procedure for Setting Out a Building Plan on Ground

Fig.1: Example plan to be set out on the ground

1. From the plan (fig 1), the centre line of the walls are calculated. Then the
centre lines of the rooms are set out by setting perpendiculars in the ratio
3:4:5. Suppose the corner points are a, b, c, d, e, f and g which are marked
by pegs with nails on top.

2. The setting of the corner point is checked according to diagonals ac, bd, cf
and eg.

3. During excavation, the centre points a, b, c, d, e, f, g may be removed.

Therefore the centre lines are extended and the centre points are marked
about 2m away from the outer edge of excavation.
Thus the points A1, A2, B1, B2 and likewise, are marked outside the trench.
Centre line are shown clearly by stretching thread or rope. The centre points
fixed 2m away from the excavation are marked with sit out pegs.

4. From the plan details, the width of excavation to be done is also marked
by thread with pegs at appropriate positions.

5. The excavation width is then marked by lime or by with furrow with


6. If the plan is much to complicated and follows a zigzag pattern, then the
centre pegs are kept at suitable positions according to site conditions.



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Setting out of foundation trenches done by the following steps:
(1) First of all, the corners of the building are marked and then the lengths
of the sides are checked by diagonal measurements.

(2) The axial lines (center lines) of the trenches are marked with the help of
profiles, sighting rails, strings and pegs.

(3) The off-sets are measured from axial lines and the frontage lines are
placed in their correct position relative to local requirements.

(4) The position of cross walls should be measured along the main walls and
squared from these wails if desired, the total width of trenches being
carefully outlined.

The following points should he observed while setting out trenches:

(i) Profiles, nails, strings and lime are used for Setting out the foundation
(ii) Sight rails may be erected at the corners of a building to determine the
correct position of trenches.

A theodolite may be used for marking accurately the axial lines ‘or’ center

Strings are tied and stretched to the nails on profiles ‘or’ on pegs for
horizontal control of dimensions.

(v) Vertical reference pillars are erected at a distance of 1 meter from the
edges of excavation for vertical control of building during construction.

All the levels on site should be obtained from a fixed datum previously
determined by the Surveyor. The depth of trenches and other levels should
also be regulated by measurements from this point.

(vi) The bottom of all trenches should be well rammed before placing the
concrete in position.
etting out of building
2. 2. 2 The operations carried out once the site is handed over • Clearing the site • Setting out the building •
Establishing a datum level
3. 3. 3 What is setting out ? It is the process of developing the physical positions of corners and walls of a
building, and it’s done by transferring dimensions from the layout plan (also called as setting out plan,
demarcation plan) to the ground. The setting out clearly defines the outline of the excavations and the
centre line of the walls, so that the construction can be carried out according to the plan. When is setting
out done ? • when building a new house • when renovating an already existing one, especially an extension.
The process of Setting out is done by a contractor, and overseen by the lead project consultant engineer,
architect or any other qualified member of the project team. Function of setting out • To establish the
position of the trench and wall of the house as well as the position of corners and rooms.
4. 4. 4 METHODS OF SETTING OUT 1. Peg or rope method (commonly used). 2. Dumpy Level (Best for
big construction projects)
5. 5. 5 ITEMS REQUIRED IN SETTING OUT. • Timber, 75mm by 50mm or any appropriate size. • Round
poles/ timber to act as pegs or steel for hard ground. • Nylon threads (Manila rope). • Ordinary nails inch
and 2 inch. • White chalk or lime. • Clear hose pipe for determining horizontal levels. • Sledge hammer. •
Measuring tape • Builder’s square
6. 6. 6 DATUM LEVEL A point which serves as a reference or base for the measurement of other quantities
Where there are no benchmarks on or near the site, a suitable datum must be established. A site datum or
temporary benchmark could be a post set in concrete or a concrete plinth set up on site.
7. 7. 7 PROCESS OF SETTING OUT. • Setting out is done on the principle of whole to part. According to
this principle the largest possible rectangle of the building is found and set out. The rectangle is further
partitioned into small parts (internal rooms). • The first thing we need to establish is a parallel/ reference/
base line, to which all other lines can be related. This can be taken along an existing building close to the
proposed new structure/ boundary wall if existing/ kerb line etc.
8. 8. 8
lines are set from the kerb to the position of the building line. The length of the line is greater than the
width of the proposed building. Pegs are positioned at these points and a ranging line is fixed to these,
giving a position of the building line .
10. 10. 10 STEP 2: SETTING OUT FRONTAGE LINE/ BASE LINE After taking the dimensions from the
drawing, the frontage line is set out. This can be either on building line or behind it. The first corner peg
(A) will be positioned from dimensions given on the drawing which relates to site features such as distance
from kerb, gate post, boundary wall etc. Eg: the point A is positioned a distance of (D) from the boundary.
Following the position of first peg, the second peg (B) is positioned after carefully measuring the width
along the frontage line. The nail is knocked into each peg to determine the exact position of the corner.
line to the nail on the corner peg which will be extended well beyond the length of the wall to be set out.
Adjust the line carefully to cross the frontage line at 90 degree by using a builder’s square or the 3:4:5
method. When the line is correct, knock the peg with nail at the distance greater than the length of the wall.
12. 12. 12 RIGHT ANGLE TRINAGLE USED IN SETTING OUT One of the most important procedure used
in setting out is the process of ensuring that all right angle corners are properly aligned. One of the simplest
ways is to use the method known as 3:4:5 triangle method. PROCEDURE: 1. A peg with a nail is fixed
exactly at 3m from the corner peg on the fixed line. 2. A measuring tape is the hooked to the nail on the
corner peg and another tape is hooked to the nail of the peg on the front line. 3. Both the tapes are pulled
towards the end wall and with distance of 4m showing on one tape and 5m on the other tape. Where they
cross third peg will be fixed. 4. This will establish a line at 90 degree to the front line.
same length from the frontage line and set point D. Check the ranging lines before proceeding.
14. 14. 14 STEP 5: SETTING OUT OF FINAL BACK LINE Measure the dimensions of the building side wall
from the outer peg of the frontage line and set pegs parallel to the wall lines. Attach ranging lines to the
pegs to establish the back wall line. Pegs can be positioned at G and H, but this is not essential.
15. 15. 15 STEP 6: CHECKING THE BUILDING SETTING OUT The setting out will be confirmed if all
measurements are correct and the diagonals measure exactly the same. Measure the dimensions from A to
G and B to H. these should be same if the building has been set perfectly. If there is some difference in the
measurement, adjust the back pegs as per dimensions. The frontage line should not be altered.
16. 16. 16 STEP 7: SET UP PROFILES AND ATTACH RANGING LINES When the building has been set
out and proved by checking the diagonals, profiles can be erected to enable the corner points to be easily
located after the trenches have been excavated. The ranging lines attached to the pegs are extended by
holding the line to pass over the peg to the profile. The wall position is then clearly marked on the profile.
17. 17. 17 POSITIONING OF PROFILE The profiles are positioned well away from the proposed excavations
to allow an adequate working space. This is even more important when the excavations is to be carried out
by a mechanical means.
18. 18. 18 SETTING PROFILE LEVELS While setting up profiles, it is essential that they are as level as
possible. This avoids inaccuracies when re measuring the walls and diagonals before commencing work.
The profile is most conveniently levelled to the DPC level of the proposed building.
19. 19. 19 BONING RODS A boning rod is a simple device used to quickly position levelling pegs. It consist
of two pieces of timber nailed together at right angles. Boing rod can be used to transfer levels between the
two known points.
20. 20. 20 MARKING THE POSITION OF FOUNDATION TRENCH Before excavation begins, the position
of the foundation trench is marked on the ground. The original corner pegs can be then removed. The
foundation line is then marked using lime or a spray paint.