This case study describes a project assigned to a group of students from the the Burnley campus of Melbourne University in 2015. Here is the brief:

"The project scope includes, but is not limited to, a preliminary site review and analysis to determine future enhancement and use of this space. Designers shall provide a comprehensive report outlining the spatial use, issues, opportunities and a detailed concept design to direct future improvement of the historic Citriodora Court at Burnley Campus"

Students were required to prepare a comprehensive report outlining the spatial use, issues, opportunities and a detailed concept design to direct future improvement of Citriodora Court. There was a requirement that at least part of the assignment was completed using computer aided design (CAD) software. This paper describes some of the ways in which CAD might be used and adds links to various support materials.

Site location

The figure below shows a Google Maps/Earth view of the site.

Google Earth


Every landscape designer needs a logo. Students were asked to create one of their own with the aim of later turning the logo design into a CAD version.

This page provides instruction on how to approach the creation of a logo:


Title blocks

Every landscape designer needs a title block whether for hand drafting or CAD drafting. The title block will incorporate a logo as well as space needs for Project title, Drawing title, Client name, Site location, Designer initials, Drawing number, Date, Revision dates, scale, company logo and contact details and possibly comments.

Students were asked to find some examples of title blocks in landscape drawings and offer comments. Here are some examples.



title block



Work to a standard

Technical drafting in various engineering fields usually follows the recommendations in your country of origin. In Australia AS1100 - the Australian Standard for Technical Drafting. Architects and landscape architects usually deviate somewhat  from that standard form but we believe that you should adopt the majority of recommendations regarding title block layout as set out in the standard.


Title block This movie discusses the development of a title block suitable for sheet sizes commonly used in the metric environment. Click the image below to download a copy of this title block drawing. Note that a 'layering' technique has been used with all title block information contained to one layer (called TitleBlock).

Title block


What we do not like:

Inclusion of a North Point, inclusion of a scale bar.

Materials palette - vegetation

Students were asked to hand draw 5 tree species, 5 shrub species, and 5 ground cover species in both plan and elevation. These were then to be turned into CAD symbols.

Hand drawn


Using CAD - option 1. Minimal CAD use

Students who have no real interest in CAD might wish to hand draw their assignments (on an A1 sheet using a scale of 1:100), use the services of a copy bureau to scan the drawing. A drawing scanned as to an image file can be inserted into the CAD environment. The CAD drawing containing the scanned image can be printed to PDF and the design is ready to be emailed to a client or included in a PowerPoint presentation.

CAD software has the ability to insert scanned images in a variety of file formats. 

Tip: For this project, hand drawn documentation sheets are required on A1 size sheets. It is unlikely that you will have access to a scanner that will take those size sheets. However, commercial copy centers do have large format scanners, so you should factor in the time it will take to have the scan done. In order to minimize file size, a scan resolution of 150 dpi should be adequate. Make sure that the scan format is JPG or TIFF (uncompressed TIFF if possible).

Hand drawings This movie shows how to insert hand drawn plans into CAD software.

Hand drawn plan

The page below contains information (and movies) on how to insert scanned images in CAD drawings. It uses the gCADPlus software tool available from

Tip: Once the technique of inserting scanned images into layout sheets in CAD software has been mastered, it may be worth considering the creation of additional layout sheets and adding images of plants used in the design.

PowerPoint this movie shows how to export an image from gCADPlus and insert into a PowerPoint presentation.

Using CAD - option 2: Hybrid CAD/Hand drawn

It is possible to use CAD software to print a base plan of the site and then use hand drawing techniques to add landscape elements.

Tip: Print the base plan to a PDF file. Take the PDF file to a copy center for printing. It is a good idea to make several copies of the base plan in case you need to start over.

Here is a link to a base plan of the site. The floating viewport frame holding the plan has been set to a scale of 1:100. Enough room has been left at the right of page for you to add details such as planting schedule, title block information etc.

The image below shows the view when the file is opened.

Base Plan

This page provides instruction on how to print a drawing to PDF, ready to take to a copy shop.

This page provides instruction on how to create the PDF file using a high quality PDFwriter application.


Using CAD - option 3: Design and document the project using CAD

Learning CAD is not a trivial task. Here is a link an online course containing dozens of short 'how to' videos that will bring you up to speed with the use of landscape CAD software (gCADPlus in particular)

Tip: Allow plenty of time to learn landscape CAD. Master it and you will have a marketable skill.

It is possible to use a hybrid approach even in the CAD environment. the figure below shows how hand rendering can be applied to a B&W printed version of a CAD drawing. Coloring a strip across the design saves time.


If you do decide on option 3 and want to use CAD to document your design, the material below may be of assistance.

Site Assessment

It is axiomatic that landscape designers must visit a site prior to producing a concept plan for development of a site. Design solutions often suggest themselves as a site is viewed.

The figure below shows a typical site assessment 'bubble' diagram. even though it is for a smaller site and does not include details such as pedestrian and vehicular movement, it does provide a good base for a concept plan.


Here are some tips about things to do prior to a site visit:

Before leaving your office

Research the following?

Rainfall and climate of the site. 

Soil type - red brown earth, sandy loam etc. pH

As you leave

Made sure that your app for measuring height and KLM of site is working on your mobile phone?

Take pad, pencils, compass, mobile phone, long tape measure

As you approach the site

Note those species growing well nearby - make a list.

On site

Make a mud map - indicate direction of north. Indicate pedestrian and vehicle movements, jot down design ideas and opportunities. Could signage be improved, could students be provided with a meeting forum space etc.

Back in the office - load a base plan

A base CAD plan containing spot height values originally produced by a firm of surveyors was available. This makes for much easier work as it is not necessary to take detailed site measurements. It is however worth taking some measurements to help later in assessing the accuracy of the base plan.

Tip: The drawing was originally in AutoCAD dwg format and 4.3 Mb in size. That appears to be much too large for a drawing of this type.

Converting the dwg file into gCADPlus - a quick method

Use File > Open, change the files of type to dwg and load the drawing. Save the drawing in gCADPlus file format (.lcd).

The figure below shows the base plan in gCADPlus. 

Dwg conversion

This drawing is many times larger than it needs to be. Unless 'cleaned up', performance in any CAD software used to add subsequent landscape information will be poor.

Clean file This movie shows the steps that were taken in order to understand the way in which the base drawing was developed. We show how the file size can be dramatically reduced.

Check the layers

Note that the survey firm have used a large variety of layers. This comes about because the software they use is automated.

Separating spot level data from other survey data

The drawing shown above was produced by a survey firm and contains spot level data that is important in determining site drainage. It makes sense to shift spot level data to another layer and while doing so, apply Z values to each point.

Spot levels  This movie discusses the data associated with points and shows how to move the data to a separate layer.

Site assessment diagram

It is useful to have a set of symbols for site assessment that can be dragged into position taking their location for information jotted down in a site visit log book.

Click on the image below to download the base drawing (in gCADPlus format) complete with spot levels and symbols useful for site assessment.

Site assessment

After the site assessment diagram has been completed, it is time to develop a concept plan. At this point, we think you should consider working to a landscape standard.

Working to a drafting standard

This paper sets out the reasons why it is important to work to a drafting standard:

Burnley CAD standard

Layer names

The group uses layer names based on the system developed by the Task Force on CAD Layer Guidelines sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and other related professional bodies. The major groups are:

A  Architectural, Interiors and facilities management
S  Structural
M  Mechanical
P  Plumbing
F  Fire Protection
E  Electrical
C  Civil Engineering and Site Work
L  Landscape Architecture


The task force recommends a dash as a detail separator as thus L-IRRG rather than the non preferred underscore).

Layer Standard


Text styles

Text height

Borders, title block and logos

A possible drafting standard for this project

This paper sets out one possible drafting standard that could be used for this project:



Why this emphasis on spot levels?

We can do a lot with 3D data - move it to the SketchUp sandbox and generate some surface topography.

An aside - the value of 3D data - export and use SketchUp

Download gCADPlus - no money, email address or contact details required, it is a quick download.

gCADPlus web site [use search facility]

Help drop down menu system

Online help - Select the Help drop down menu while using gCADPlus

Windows Help file

YouTube [ visit and type gCADPlus in the search box.

Converting the dwg file - preferred method

Rather than opening a dwg directly in gCADPlus, it is preferable to use 3rd party software such as Teigha Convert (free) to create a DXF file and import it into gCADPlus. Unlike dwg, DXF is an open format and does not contain any hidden information of a proprietary nature. Here is a link to a discussion paper on the use of DXF files.

The figure below shows the converter interface. Clicking Start converts all dwg drawings in the folder C:\Burnley to DXF files (in ASCII release 14 AutoCAD format).


The resultant file can be imported into gCADPlus using File>Import DXF. Unfortunately, the cleanup steps discussed above are still required but conversion of dwg files to DXF provides us with much more confidence than simply opening the drawing.

Managing base files if changes to base information are likely

In this case, keep the base as a separate file. Start a new drawing and and use the BLOCKS command and then Insert the drawing as a block. If changes are required, the separate base file is edited and then reloaded in gCADPlus.


SketchUp Sandbox

Adding the Sandbox Tools

The sandbox tools allow you to create terrain models from contours with elevations and drape objects (roads, parks, buildings, water bodies, etc.) over the terrain model. If the snadbox toolbar is not visible, go through the following steps:

Windows: go to windows > preferences > extensions > sandbox tools,

Mac: go to SketchUp > preferences > extensions > sandbox tools,

now go back and turn on the sandbox tools at view > toolbars > sandbox tools.


As part of this program you will gain experience in using computer aided software applications as they apply to urban horticulture. gCADPlus CAD software is one such software program. This page gives some background on the use of CAD as it might be applied to urban horticulture.

1. Introduction to CAD in the urban environment

2. Relating CAD to plant databases

3. CAD software and arboreta

Argentinian arboretum

4. Aerial photography and topographic data

5. Bushland planting

6. Recreation park mapping

7. Landscape design and mobile phones

8. Reading GPS data

9. Store non graphic information in CAD drawings

10. gCADPlus user guide

11. Using Google Earth

 12. PowerPoint Placing landscape design plans in PowerPoint presentations

Base plans from others ~ a case study