Upon completing this section, you should be able to determine boundaries of building layout.

Before foundation and footing excavation for a building can begin, the building lines must be laid out to determine the boundaries of the excavations. Points shown on the plot plan, such as building corners, are located at the site from a system of horizontal control points established by the battalion engineering aids. This system consists of a framework of stakes, driven pipes, or other markers located at points of known horizontal location. A point in the structure, such as a building corner, is located on the ground by reference to one or more nearby horizontal control points.

We cannot describe here all the methods of locating a point with reference to a horizontal control point of a known horizontal location. We will take, as an illustrative example, the situation shown in figure 5-16. This figure shows two horizontal control points, consisting of monuments A and B. The term "monument," incidentally, doesn’t necessarily mean an elaborate stone or concrete structure. In structural horizontal control, it simply means any permanently located object, either artificial (such as a driven length of pipe) or natural (such as a tree) of known horizontal location.

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Figure 5-16.—Locating building corners.

In figure 5-16, the straight line from A to B is a control base line from which the building corners of the structure can be located. Corner E, for example, can be located by first measuring 15 feet along the base line from A to locate point C; then measuring off 35 feet on CE, laid off at 90 to (that is, perpendicular to) AB. By extending CE another 20 feet, you can locate building corner F. Corners G and H can be similarly located along a perpendicular run from point D, which is itself located by measuring 55 feet along the base line from A.


The easiest and most accurate way to locate points on a line or to turn a given angle, such as 90, from one line to another is to use a surveying instrument called a transit. However, if you do not have a transit, you can locate the corner points with tape measurements by applying the Pythagorean theorem. First, stretch a cord from monument A to monument B, and locate points C and D by tape measurements from A. Now, if you examine figure 5-16, you will observe that straight lines connecting points C, D, and E form a right triangle with one side 40 feet long and the adjacent side 35 feet long. By the Pythagorean theorem, the length of the hypotenuse of this triangle (the line ED) is equal the square root of 352 +402, which is approximately 53.1 feet. Because figure EG DC is a rectangle, the diagonals both ways (ED and CG) are equal. Therefore, the line from C to G should also measure 53.1 feet. If you have one person hold the 53. 1-foot mark of a tape on D, have another hold the 35-foot mark of another tape on C, and have a third person walk away with the joined 0-foot ends, when the tapes come taut, the joined 0-foot ends will lie on the correct location for point E. The same procedure, but this time with the 53. 1-foot length of tape running from C and the 35-foot length ruining from D, will locate corner point G. Corner points F and H can be located by the same process, or by extending CE and DG 20 feet.


If you would rather avoid the square root calculations required in the Pythagorean theorem method, you can apply the basic fact that any triangle with sides in the proportions of 3:4:5 is a right triangle. In locating point E, you know that this point lies 35 feet from C on a line perpendicular to the base line. You also know that a triangle with sides 30 and 40 feet long and a hypotenuse 50 feet long is a right triangle.

To get the 40-foot side, you measure off 40 feet from C along the base line; in figure 5-16, the segment from C to D happens to measure 40 feet. Now, if you run a 50-foot tape from D and a 30-foot tape from C, the joined ends will lie on a line perpendicular from the base line, 30 feet from C. Drive a hub at this point, and extend the line to E (5 more feet) by stretching a cord from C across the mark on the hub.


Hubs driven at the exact locations of building corners will be disturbed as soon as the excavation for the foundation begins. To preserve the corner locations, and also to provide a reference for measurement down to the prescribed elevations, batter boards are erected as shown in figure 5-17.

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Figure 5-17.—Batter boards.

Each pair of boards is nailed to three 2-by-4 corner stakes as shown. The stakes are driven far enough outside the building lines so that they will not be disturbed during excavation. The top edges of the boards are located at a specific elevation, usually some convenient number of whole feet above a significant prescribed elevation, such as that at the top of the foundation. Cords located directly over the lines through corner hubs, placed by holding plumb bobs on the hubs, are nailed to the batter boards. Figure 5-17 shows how a corner point can be located in the excavation by dropping a plumb bob from the point of intersection between two cords.

In addition to their function in horizontal control, batter boards are also used for vertical control. The top edge of a batter board is placed at a specific elevation. Elevations of features in the structure, such as foundations and floors, can be located by measuring downward or upward from the cords stretched between the batter boards.

You should always make sure that you have complete information as to exactly what lines and elevations are indicated by the batter boards. You should emphasize to your crewmembers that they exercise extreme caution while working around batter boards. If the boards are damaged or moved, additional work will be required to replace them and to relocate reference points.