2020 | 026 – Site Modeling – Importing A Site via PDF or Manual Drawing

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ARCHICAD Training Lesson Outline

Import A Survey as PDF or Create One Via Manual Dimension Input


Surveys are sometimes provided in PDF format rather than DWG or XYZ data. There are two types of PDF, raster and vector. Scans of paper drawings produce raster images with dots that look and print OK but cannot be snapped to. PDF created from a CAD program can be vector-based, and in recent versions of ARCHICAD can be snapped and optionally exploded into linework.

Import of a PDF is usually made in a worksheet. Setting the right printing scale for the worksheet is usually helpful, since ARCHICAD will place the PDF at 100% relative to that scale size, which makes the drawing scale correctly. 

You may open the PDF before importing it using any standard viewer, and see if there is a scale factor identified such as 1" = 20'-0" or 1:200. If you see one indicated, use that scale for the worksheet; otherwise make a reasonable guess (you can adjust it later).

Place the PDF using the File menu > External Content > Place External Drawing. After placement, use the Measure tool (keyboard shortcut "m") to verify that it scales properly. If it does not, you may use the Edit menu > Reshape > Resize command to stretch or shrink it so that it measures correctly; this will change the Drawing Settings to a different percentage enlargement (vs. the original 100%). Ideally, one should calculate the ratio difference and set the View scale so that the PDF works properly at 100%; consider changing the scale, undoing the import, then reimporting to make it work perfectly.

In this lesson, I take several example PDF files and show ways to place, measure and resize as needed.


It is possible to input survey boundary lines manually following surveyor measurement conventions for bearings. Be sure to set the North direction in the Options menu > Project Preferences > Project Location before doing this in order to make sure the bearings are set correctly relative to other elements in the model.

While you can theoretically draw a single polyline as the boundary, it is often easier to place individual lines and arcs then unify them into a polyline after the fact using the Edit menu > Reshape > Unify command.

The Options menu > Project Preferences > Working Units command is used so that model distances may be entered and viewed as decimal feet or meters, with angle measurements in surveyor’s units.

Property lines may then be easily entered using the Tracker. Type in the distance first, then hit Tab and enter the bearing angle with “s” or “n” followed by the number of degrees, a “space” to separate, then the number minutes, another space then the number of seconds, and finally an “e” or “w” before hitting Enter to conclude the input.

ARCHICAD Training Lesson Transcript

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