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Still consider myself somewhat of a beginner when it comes to this software and my ability with elevations is terrible. Our house plans are finished on a flat level surface, however our actual property is anything but. I'd like to add in our property elevations and grading so we can get a better idea of what it will look like but I struggle to even do simple landscaping work in this software. Is there anyone out there who feels they have simplified the instructions, or could help me through this?

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I think the biggest stumbling block that people seem to have with Chief Terrain is that it requires real data.  If there is no overlapping data and the terrain is something you could walk on it should work out ok. 


Mark3D did a video not long ago that has some of the basics.



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My tips are:

Don't use Elevation Points - use Elevation Lines/Splines.

Use Elevation Regions as much as possible.

Don't overlap elevation data.

Don't use Retaining Walls - use Terrain Breaks and normal walls placed after.

Use Elevation Data instead of the Terrain Modifiers.

Don't use Automatic Subfloor Height Above Terrain.

Tile a 3D view with the terrain plan as you work so you can see the immediate results of your input.

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To add to and expand upon what Glenn and Chop have already said...


-The “real data” (as Chop called it) is key.  You need to actually provide useful information to Chief.  Every bit of this initial responsibility is 100% on us...the designers.  You will always struggle if you haven’t taken the proper steps to gather and wrap your head around the ACTUAL elevation data.  If you don’t have it you can’t give it to Chief, and if you don’t understand it, you’ll never be able to troubleshoot it.  

-Keep it simple.  You need to give Chief proper and accurate data to work with, and you need to provide enough data to get your desired end, but don’t input more than you really need.  If you have a flat spot at the top of the lot that has a perfectly flat slope to a lower flat spot at the back of the lot, use 2 Elevation Regions (which by the way are essentially just closed elevation polylines with the optional ability to make the inside flat) and don’t place any additional elevation contours.  The extra elevation lines would just be a waste of time and add extra data to deal well as the related increased potential for problems.  

-I have to somewhat disagree with Glenn’s second to last statement.  My advice would be to UNDERSTAND the difference between Elevation Data and the Terrain Modifiers.  Always DEFINE your terrain FIRST with elevation data.  If necessary you can then use Terrain Modifiers.  Just remember the terrain modifiers will always do what they do based on the underlying terrain definition.  They don’t define anything.  They only tweak it.   It’s like sending someone to make a flat spot for a 2ft. diameter area at some random spot on your lot without bringing in any fill, without taking any fill out, and without disturbing anything outside the immediate vicinity.  The overall depth on one side, drop on the other, and vertical elevation will all depend  ENTIRELY on the height and contours of the terrain on that specific area of the lot.


-Don’t get hung up on the vertical location of your house as you’re tweaking the terrain.  It’s easy to move the house/terrain up/down at any time.  Instead, keep your focus on the overall contours of the land.  You shape your terrain and you change the Subfloor Height as it relates to that terrain.  Just don’t try to change your elevation data to fit to the house.  You’ll just be chasing your tail.  

At the end of the day, what I ultimately found is that terrains are FAR easier than most people think. You just have to go at them calmly and methodically, making sure you think through what you are actually telling chief.


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