11 Nifty Measuring Hacks for Architects

11 Nifty Measuring Hacks for Architects

Believe it or not, architects are just like everyone else! They love a shortcut in their tool belt to accomplish a task. Whether it's in the office or out in the field, all architects have a handful of tricks up their sleeves. The following are ten measuring hacks you can introduce to your daily routine. You can thank us later. 

1. How Big is This Room?

An architect will typically be sitting in a space whether it be a doctor’s waiting room or a restaurant (it doesn’t matter what the space is!) and ponder how big it is. The architect will typically look for a visual clue to do their calculations. The most common and easy one is to count the ceiling tiles. These tiles are typically 2ft x 4ft or 2ft x 2ft and are easily counted while sitting during their wonderment.

2. How Tall is This Building?

Courtesy of Aric Gitomer Architect

Visual clues are everywhere! Not just in the ceiling. On the exterior of the building, an architect can count bricks, siding exposure or masonry units and easily calculate the height. Whether it is a window opening or the overall height with minimal information it can be done. With one incremental measurement, an architect will take a photo and back at the office count away!

3. Body Parts

Courtesy of Aric Gitomer Architect

Know your physical body measurements! Luckily, for this architect, my foot is exactly 12 inches which makes it easy to calculate floor measurements in one-foot increments one step at a time. Architects typically know their own stride, the span of arms, etc. One architect told me he keeps an index card in his wallet with his fingertip to fingertip spread eagle, thumb tip to index tip, height, stride, elbow to middle fingertip and a few other measurements!

4. The Grid Pad

An architect typically uses a grid pad in the field to complete a survey or create a sketch. The pad is not just to ensure the architect’s lines are straight. They are actually using the designated incremental grid as a proportion tool to measure. Most pads come in 1/8” or ¼” increments.

5. Width of the Foundation

Courtesy of Aric Gitomer Architect

If you ever took a look at a set of construction documents you may notice the foundation widths usually measure in a dimension that ends in 0”, 4” or 8”. The reason for this is because a typical concrete block is 16” in width and when you lay them out those dimensions will allow the mason to use a half or full block and minimize cutting.

6. .0833333333

Architects are always coordinating their drawings with their consultants’ whether Electrical, Mechanical, Structural or Site Engineers. The Site Engineer always has their dimensional nomenclature in feet (no inches!). So if an architect wants to coordinate the building elevations’ numbers with the site plans information the architect must convert the feet/inch by multiplying the inch component by .0833333. So, for instance, a 4” dimension multiplied by .0833333 equals .33’. This makes sense since 4 inches equals one-third of a foot.

7. How Many Acres is That?

Courtesy of Aric Gitomer Architect

Every architect knows the number 43,560! That is such an odd number (well actually it is an even number). So why does an architect know this number? If the architect is drawing a site plan his/her cad program will typically list the area of the drawn property in square footage. To convert this number into acres the architect simply divides by 43,560!

8. Decimal Equivalents

An architect has favorite decimal numbers and they are; 125, .25, .375, .5, .625, .75 and .875. You may be saying that’s crazy, who has favorite decimal numbers? Well, when an architect is inputting data into a cad drawing to draw it is much easier to type in the decimal equivalent. The above list corresponds with the following fractions; 1/8, ¼, 3/8, ½, 5/8, ¾ and 7/8.

9. Division

Courtesy of Aric Gitomer Architect

If an architect is drawing by hand, (many actually still do this!), and the architect wants to easily divide a room into even spaces a favorite tool is the architect’s triangular scale. But let’s say the room is 9’-7” wide and you want to divide it into five equal spaces what can you do to make that an easy task? You take your scale and place it over the drawing at an angle so that one end is at zero and the other end is at a number easily divided by 5 and tick off the increments. So if you put the scale at an angle so one end is 10 feet you would tick off every two feet! Let’s say the architect has a messy desk and cannot locate his scale (happens all the time) you can do this trick with a rubber band. Tick off equal segments on the rubber band and then stretch it out.

10. Know What’s in Your Pocket (or Bag)

It’s great if you are aware of other items that you typically have handy, such as a dollar bill. Did you know a dollar bill or any other US denomination scales 49 feet by 21 feet at 1/8” = 1’-0” scale? Or an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper comes out to 34 feet by 44 feet at ¼” = 1’-0” scale.

11. Use Your Engineer’s Scale for ¼” = 1’-0” Drawings!

If you are drawing in ¼” = 1’-0” and you want to tick off 16” spacings in a hurry grab your engineer’s scale flip it to the 1” = 30’ side and you will see that every 10’ is equal to 1’-4”. Great for laying out those floor joists!

Courtesy of: Aric Gitomer Architect

About this author
Cite: Aric Gitomer. "11 Nifty Measuring Hacks for Architects" 01 Oct 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/880435/11-nifty-measuring-hacks-for-architects> ISSN 0719-8884

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