How to Get Essential Site Information for Architecture Projects

Featured image_ How to Get Essential Site Information for Architecture Projects

One of the most important steps in an architecture project is gathering site information. In this tutorial, we’re going to show you how to get information about the site when you don’t have a survey. A quick note to keep in mind is that this is a very rough estimate! You don’t want to use this information in place of getting an actual survey. For example, you might only use this if you’re roughing out a concept for a proposal or you just want to get a quick estimate of what information the surveyor might need specifically for you. But don’t ever use your own survey instead of getting an actual survey because you’ll regret it!

Assessment Map

One way to get the property line information is to look at an assessment map which is basically the tax information for a property. Some counties make this information available online, but if not, you can go to the city and ask for an assessment map. If you are lucky enough to find the assessment map online, you can often then use the measuring tool from the site to measure the property line.

measure property line of site information

Import Image. Zoom out of the assessment map so you can see the entire property line. Take a screen capture and save it as a jpeg. Then, go back to Sketchup and import your image. Place it in your Sketchup model with the uploaded geo-location of your site.

Gathering Site Information in Sketchup

Scale. Use the line tool to trace the property line. Select the image and the line you just drew and right-click. Select “make group.” This way when you scale the image you won’t be scaling the entire model. Double click on the group. Hit “T” to open the tape measure tool. If your tape measure tool has a “+” symbol in the bottom right, hit ctrl to get rid of it. Then click and measure the property line. Type the actual measurement you got from the assessment map. Make sure you include the feet or inches increment. Hit “enter.”

import image for site information

A message will pop up asking if you want to resize the active group. Click “yes.” Your imported image should now be the same size as the original map.

Camera > Parallel Projection. Navigate to the camera tab and select “parallel projection” from the dropdown.

Camera > Standard Views > Top. Go to the camera dropdown again and select “standard views” > “top.”

Select the assessment map, press “m” to move it, and then tap the “up” arrow key to move it in the Z (blue) direction above the original map. Then move the assessment map along the green and red axis so that it covers the original map.

overlay assessment map site information

Window > Default Tray > Show Tray. Navigate to “window” and select “default tray” > “show tray.” Make sure “materials” is selected.

In the default tray, go to the “select” tab. Use the eyedropper tool to select the assessment map. Go to the “edit” tab in the materials tray and adjust the opacity so you can see through the image you imported. From here, you can position it so that it lines up with the image below. It won’t match perfectly but just line it up as close as you can!

adjust opacity of site information

Trace. Trace the entire property line. Right-click on the assessment map and select “hide.”

Explode. Click on the original map and select “unlock.” Then right-click again and select “explode.”

Make Group. Select the property shape that you traced and right-click to select “make group.”

Tools > Sandbox > Drape. Select the property outline. Navigate to the “tools” > “sandbox” and select “drape.” Click on the original image. Now, you can see that the property line is being projected on the original image.

project property line of site information

Now that you have the property line visible on your site, you have some fundamental site topography and property line information for your project! If you found this tutorial helpful, be sure to check out our other hacks on our tutorials page.

Happy Hacking!


  1. allstarcarpetandtiles June 24, 2019 at 10:31 am #

    Great tips. I’m bookmarking this page. Its a great resource to keep. Thanks for sharing.

  2. hamzakhan17826 May 19, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Ok sure, I will follow your steps before going to do exams. I hope your article will help me more.

  3. karlmistos May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely share this with my classmates at de la salle zobel.

  4. classboat01 October 17, 2018 at 7:37 am #

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  5. mikemoreno September 5, 2018 at 3:48 am #

    thank you very much, verry helpfull…

  6. jogesh12345 August 14, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Very effective and informative article.Thanks for sharing such an important tutorial.

  7. FLMIMA August 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Really helpful website

  8. Rumi July 15, 2018 at 7:16 am #

    I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

  9. RJennings April 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Thank you for this website. The practice questions are helpful.

  10. Scott March 22, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Taking this test on Saturday. Last 4.0 exam to complete for the trio, then on to 5.0. This site is my go-to place when organizing what materials I’ll be studying

  11. shozab January 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

    Hi , very good article.

    thanks for sharing, keep up the good work

  12. dyba January 27, 2018 at 1:08 am #

    Good advice. Best of luck to all!

  13. KendraShirley January 16, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    This is my favorite site for practicing for my tests! Great advise and super helpful.

  14. reximagetrim January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Nice post to read. A complete guide that can help all of us.

  15. tylerstockholm December 17, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Nice one… very helpful! Thanks!!!

  16. Aartiwalvekar November 21, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Nice post

  17. Aartiwalvekar October 9, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    Great post!

  18. Tony August 30, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    In the NCARB ARE 5.0 handbook they reference Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods in both of their example questions for cost estimating. Unfortunately there isn’t a specific chapter on cost estimating, it’s woven throughout the content.

  19. Spencer August 30, 2017 at 1:15 am #

    What is the best reference for cost estimating for PDD.

  20. Amy July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks! Great advice

  21. Tony June 29, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Deciduous trees should only be used for shade (especially in temperate climates). Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and will have little protection against wind in the winter when it is most needed. Likewise, the leafless trees allow solar heat gain in the winter when it is desired, and shade in the summer.

    Coniferous trees are only to be used to block wind and views. Since they don’t lose their needles, they work great for these two items year-round.

  22. Shahid Logan June 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    Hello. My name is Shahid. This comment is for anyone who would like to reply. On the Siteplanning test. To block the wind, can you use a Deciduous tree or must you use a Coniferous tree?

  23. Mike January 4, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Tony,

    I need to take 5.0 PPD & PDD. Do you plan on posting notes such as “Caroline’s Notes” that you had posted for the various 4.0 exams for either of those sections? I found those notes to be some of the best resources in studying for the 4.0 sections. If so any idea when? Thanks

  24. Stephen October 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    Any updates on the SS exam ? If there’s an expected release date ? Thanks

  25. DesignerHacks October 4, 2016 at 12:11 pm #


    We are releasing practice exams for the SS exam later this fall.


  26. Paige October 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Will you have SS questions on here at some point?

  27. Daniel September 9, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great post, very helpful with the lists of suggested materials, I just passed CDs in July and am taking PPP in November so I definitely needed the list.

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