trouble with a terrain site permitter


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2 hours ago, felipecamacho said:



Hello, I've sought assistance before on this matter, but I'm still struggling to comprehend how to create a perimeter for a cul-de-sac terrain. Could someone please offer guidance and rephrase the instructions for better clarity?

What exactly are you trying to achieve? You can do all of what you are asking but using the CAD tools and converting your cad to Terrain features/Roads/Driveways

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I avoid setting the terrain perimeter to any specific length/width/shape, mostly because it impacts outside camera, but also limits ability to generate the terrain elevations in a way you may wish it to have because it would simply end at the property line.


I will use CAD lines to delineate non physical things on the terrain, such as property lines, URWs, etc. or mostly I just superimpose the house onto the survey like the one you show


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Are you looking to achieve something like I've attached?


Here we created preliminary isometric views of a house sitting on lot 6. 

  • We didn't include the road, since the sidewalk abuts the curb. 
  • We widened the terrain by 5' to either side, which is the minimum setback distance to the next home.
  • We added a fence at the rear side yards to show where the propertyline actually is.

If this is what you are looking for, here's two ways to do this fairly quickly,



  1. Follow SHCanada's CAD instructions in a separate file.  Create the terrain then adjust its shape to either fit the lot, extend a bit past the lot to include how much extra you want, or terrain the entire subdivision.  Last option will bog down 3D generation especially if you have elevation data present.
  2. Export a 3D model of your house, then import this and drop it on your desired lot.  Orient  the model how you want on the lot in 2D,  Just remember the model is generally 15" larger in all four directions due to gutter and overhangs. 
  3. Generate your 3D view and adjust the Z-axis of the model to intersect with the terrain  (I generally use 2' above to give me 8"-12" of exposed foundation.) 


  1. Follow SHCanada's CAD instructions in the same file as the house plan. 
  2. I typically will draw the lot first and isolate the build pad (the blue polygon is my buildable area after I follow all the subdivision setbacks.)  Then I draw the plan to fit inside the build pad.
  3. If the house is drawn first, I'd draw the CAD over to one side initially, or cut and paste it from another file.  
  4. Ideally the Plot Plan CAD should be on its own layer. 
  5. Either way, the Plot Plan CAD needs oriented (rotated) so that it matches how you want the house to sit on the lot.  This is easy with a square lot.  For cul-de-sac or curve lots, you need to pick an approach - centerline of lot (perpendicular to front) or match parallel one side of the lot are two approaches.  
  6. Generate your 3D view and you probably don't need to adjust the Z-axis much because Chief did that for you automatically based on its defaults.

Option 2 is how I did this for years, until we started designing subdivisions.  Option #1 allows me to spin the model and drop it on any lot in the subdivision file to see if it fits (if you have build pads drawn.)


Last drawing is our next subdivision.  The buildings are all models on different layers.  Only the roads, parking, sidewalks, power poles, ponds and landscaping are drawn in the file itself.  The image shows a 40 unit housing density in the upper left, but we also have 30 unit & 36 unit layouts on a different layer and can toggle between them.  This is a condominium project, so lot lines are fictional and we wanted the freedom to build 1-2-3 family dwellings in any grouping dictated by market conditions.


I hope this helps.





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11 hours ago, JiAngelo said:

Ideally the Plot Plan CAD should be on its own layer. 

this is what I do, I then dimension to the CAD line from the house foundation, and then move the CAD lines to get the desired setback. I do not move the house.


I personally am not that careful to draw the initial house inside the PLs, as I will move the PLs later anyway. In other words I will draw the house, I will draw the PLs on a seperate layer, and then I will move the PLs around to meet the setbacks. I do not draw them off to the side as they are on a separate layer


But I can see the advantage of Option 1 for multiple houses in a subdivision, as you could easily move them all around.


My two cents, option 2 for one house, option 1 for multiple houses


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On 11/5/2023 at 5:38 AM, JiAngelo said:

The buildings are all models on different layers.

Just an FYI, far more dynamic and resource friendly to use reference displays with correct offsets. That way every plan is dynamically linked..instead of creating a bunch of high poly count models.

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@JiAngeloRene has setup a place for chief users with great information and answers. I have been using Chief since X4 and have taken classes, yet I still have learned so much more from his free site at discord.  "Referencing a 3D model" was one of the areas. Come on and take a look and learn. 

Here is the link

Take a look at the Community-support section

Best to you.


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You're going to need to be a bit more specific.  I ran around on discord for about a half hour.

The name fits it's definition. 

lack of harmony between notes sounding together.

I searched high and low for "reference a 3d model"  clicked through both links.... 

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Chief has a tech article about using reference display (there is a section about half way through on 3D) here:


They also have a video here:


These are both pretty basic though.  


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Thanks DB.  That helped me figure it out.  It works like Rene said, but there are a couple of major problems.


FIRST, Subdivision dwg/dxfs are in real world dimensions, based off a state plane coordinate system.  You can't "move them to the origin (0,0,0) in Chief because then when exported they won't show up in their real world location.  Like our surveyors, we have mobile tablets that tie into our state's satellites which enables us to walk around on site and verify lot lines, curbs, sidewalks, trees, utilities locations, etc.. in real time.  We can even overlay this with google maps in aerial view.  You can do the same thing with a mobile phone GPS but it is only accurate to about 12-32 feet.  Our tablets are accurate to 3/16" - 1/4" (~1cm).  We actually spent Friday morning staking out all water/sewer mainlines, curb valves and street light locations in another subdivision.


The subdivision isometric that I sent previously is located in our North Ohio State Plane, around X=22089396 7/16", Y=2501979 1/4", where Z=0 when we are not using the elevation data.  Otherwise Z=~900 in our area.  Here I've attached a zoom of the same isometric with two referenced floorplans in the ISO (circled in red), which brings us to problem #2.


SECOND, I gave both models the identical coordinates & rotation but they appeared in two different places (compare 2nd jpg with 1st.)  This tells me that I would have to go back through all floorplan drawings and set an identical origin point.  (The house on the right was drawn farther from the origin point because I'd first pasted some subdivision PDFS into this plan, then drew the house to the right of those PDFs.) 


THIRD, If all my floorplans had the same relative front left corner origin point, I would still need an excel table of my subdivisions 45 build pads stating their front left coordinate location and the angle of the front build line with said angle reflecting the direction the house is facing.  Here I used 180 for lots south of the road, which means 0 would be the angle for houses on the opposite side of the street.  However the road is actually running at  S87d19'6"E and build pads on the opposite side of the street then would be N87d19'6"W.  (meaning 0 is -2d40'54" and 180 is actually 177d19'6" to be perpendicular to the actual road.)  Since we can't import the excel table, cutting & pasting every coordinate and rotation would be required (4 x 45 = 180 operations) in the DBX-Floor-Reference.  


For me, it is much simpler to rotate, drag, drop multiple models, then copy with offset to adjacent lots, mirroring the units for lots across the street.  However, Rene is correct my method is extremely resource intensive.  My user library is over 250gb due to all the past models we've created. I've had to increase my OneDrive storage to 5TB (our tablets connect to it) and I'm getting ready to buy a new computer with several M.2 NVMe SSD's.


Last two images are the concept drawing we submitted to the City of Westerville and a google maps view of the completed subdivision.  All designed in Chief, including remodeling of the two pre-existing single family homes at the entrance.






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10 hours ago, JiAngelo said:

Last two images are the concept drawing we submitted to the City of Westerville and a google maps view of the completed subdivision.  All designed in Chief, including remodeling of the two pre-existing single family homes at the entrance.

So this is too much to handle in a simple text response, I might encourage you to purchase some training, but I could show you how to do all of this and do it very fast and very accurately using tab-input and edit offset as well as reference snaps. It honestly almost the same process as just placing a model.
Regarding the longetude and latitude data, veary easy to write a macro that reports the offset and even takes the circumference of the earth in mind.

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