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Construction Layout - A Foundation for Success (Part 1 of 2)

Jonathan Terry, P.L.S.

Course Outline

Whether you're a professional engineer, land surveyor, construction layout contractor, entry-level employee working in a construction layout crew, party chief, construction manager, superintendent or architect, you'll benefit by a better understanding of this unique, essential component of any significant construction project.

By walking the reader through a typical, mid-sized project, covering bidding, contract negotiation, paperwork, interpersonal relationships, procedures, documentation, billing, site reconnaissance, geometric computations, and applying specific layout methods, the reader will not just be told about things but will see and experience the broad spectrum of construction layout and related disciplines through the eyes of its author. This approach makes remembering what's presented so much easier.

Tips (maybe even trade secrets) are freely shared - important lessons and experience learned by a surveyor licensed in 7 states, who's been an employee of developers, construction managers, architects, engineers and surveyors since 1963 and possesses a wealth of knowledge gained through founding and operating a successful construction layout business.

Neither fear nor swelling pride fosters success in this unique business. And, both attitudes are more common to providers of layout services than a quiet confidence born of real understanding. This course seeks to establish the latter.

Construction layout is a specialized, demanding function. It deserves study and the sincere respect it seldom gets. Its demands are uniquely complex and its rewards generous. This course is not merely the presentation of technique and processes (though these are included); it's an equipping, enabling source of knowledge and understanding.

This is Part 1 of 2 on Construction Layout - A Foundation for Success. The author strongly recommends that you take both parts of this course to have a complete understanding of the topic.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, licensed engineers and surveyors, their technical and field personnel and contractors performing construction layout will have gained a better appreciation for the unique demands of construction project control and will better manage the business, procedural, technical and relationship aspects of construction layout - and, will hopefully enjoy construction layout as much as I do.

Intended Audience

This course is designed for engineers, land surveyors, architects, contractors, or anyone contracting, providing, reviewing or specifying construction layout services.

Benefit to Attendees

This course teaches both technical and practical skills, contract and business considerations, staking and grade sheets, client relations, functioning in and with the design/build team, and relates countless tips and trade secrets learned only through solid, real-world experience.

Course Author

The author of this course is a Licensed Land Surveyor who's obtained professional registration in eight states and served as assistant construction superintendent, teacher, writer, civil technician, site planner, land surveying department head for mapping firms, civil/consulting firms and developers, created and managed the construction layout division of a large construction management firm, founded and operated a successful construction layout business and separate land surveying business and worked as the employee of civil, surveying, and architectural firms, developers and state government. His career began in 1963.

Such a diverse background is rare and provides a breadth of understanding beyond that normally experienced in any single profession. Construction layout is viewed from many perspectives not commonly experienced by the land surveyor.

Construction layout is like a unique and fascinating jewel having many facets, each unique and worthy of careful study. As an object of study, construction layout must be placed in its proper setting - that is, in its relevance and relationship to the design/build process and the professional team that gets thing built. Understanding construction layout from this overview yields success. This is our goal.

This course provides an overview and perspective of critical value to land surveyors, but it's purposefully aimed at any person working in the disciplines listed below. It's not just for surveyors, but most surveyors should obtain a deeper and broader understanding of this challenging and rewarding discipline. The course will increase knowledge and broaden horizons of understanding.

Course Introduction

Construction Layout Part 1 presents "Foundational Principles for Success." It conveys knowledge that's taken decades of experience to learn - information and principles that most who know such things won't share freely with others. 'Trade Secrets' may be too strong a term for what's conveyed in this course, but much of the information is at least of the flavor of trade secrets. Success at construction layout is not achieved through technical expertise or measuring skills alone. Construction Layout exposes the architect, engineer or surveyor to a culture different from its own - to priorities and viewpoints unique to its genre, to a team experience requiring cooperation, effort and communications quite different from most other interactions within the professional design team.

Part 1 lays the foundations for understanding the 'world' of construction layout. For many who serve in design and surveying professions, experiencing the construction environment is like visiting another planet. It's a planet that has a lot to share with us, a lot to teach us. It's a fascinating place that functions to the rhythm of a drum beat starkly different from the drone of quiet designers' cubicles. It's the last step between conception and reality. On the construction site, dreaming ends, theory meets the real world and anything that doesn't work gets modified until it does.

When a design reaches the stage of construction, things get real. Construction layout is just plain fun!

But, it's a dangerous vocation, prone to frightening levels of liability exposures. Construction layout happens on a playing-field where the blame-game is played with high stakes. Many are afraid to perform construction layout services, and they're right to be cautious. It's not for the faint-hearted, for timid souls or novices. There's a lot to know besides cogo calcs and measuring skills.

This course introduces the big-picture - what you need to know to survive and even prosper performing construction layout - foundational principles for success.

Course Content

The course content is in a PDF file (0.9 MB) Construction Layout - A Foundation for Success (Part 1 of 2). You need to open or download this document to study this course.


Congratulation on completing Part 1.

We've covered lots of topics, haven't we? Taken together, they serve as foundational elements in building a solid, productive construction layout service or business. Your course author realizes that not all readers will apply every principle exactly as presented. This material is offered as food for thought, to provoke your own thinking on these matters and to focus your attention on ways that benefit your own area of practice.

The thoughts and principles presented in this course have greatly benefited your author by creating meaningful and happy business relationships, making money (quite a bit of it, really) and rewarding diligence with personal satisfaction through jobs well done.

This course continues in Part 2, where the course material transitions into specific guidance on typical layout methods and strategies. Part 2 uses the above material as a foundation and builds further to include:

Part 2 is the other half of this course, and your instructor strongly recommends studying the remainder of the course to obtain the greatest benefit and fullest understanding. Part 2 builds upon the information and principles you've just studied.

Thank you for taking the time to study the course. Your course author wishes you success and welcomes your comments and suggestions.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.