A Small House

In this exercise you will be planning a small house.  The house will be a single story structure and will have flat or simple geometric roofs. A grid will be used to establish locations for walls and other building components. The drawings will be drawn at their full size, but scaled in the viewport to a smaller size.

A photographer named Julius Shulman captured some of California's modern masterpieces. There is a documentary film on the photographer that may interest you. Here is a link that introduces the film. Visual Acoustics. Below are links to some of his photographs.

Kaufman House by Richard Neutra

Chuey House by Richard Neutra

Walter Bailey House by Pierre Koenig

Stahl House by Pierre Koenig

Objectives/Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

Students will acquire and demonstrate: 1.) technical competency in working with basic drafting tools, scaled viewports, and block creation and insertion, 2.) sense of craft through precision and care in the presentation of the work, 3.) design aptitude in the ability to solve an organization problem and explore possible solutions, 4.) judgment in the composition of objects within a field. 5.) consideration of limitations and constraints in the problem solving process.

Steps - Part 1

SH.1. Make a new file by making a copy of your titleblock. Name the file with your last name followed by your first name followed by Projection.  Fifi Ortiz would name her file FifiOrtiz_SmallHouse. Open the renamed file.

SH.2. Create new layers as described below

Layer name, Grid; color, any color (click on the printer icon so the layer does not print)

Layer name, Cut; color, 4 color

Layer name, Uncut; color, 6

Layer name, Fill; color, 253

Layer name, ConstructionLines; color, any color (click on the printer icon so the layer does not print)

Layer name, Doors; color 6

Layer name, Frames, color 5

Layer name, Glass, color 7

Layer name, Sill, color 8 

Layer name, Blocks, color 8'

Layer nae, Overhead, color 6, linetype Hidden2

CH.3. Change the units to Architectural. Type UNITS at the command line to open the Drawing Units Manager. This will allow you to enter feet and inches. 

SH.4. In model space draw a square that is 56 feet x 56 feet using the RECTANGLE tool. Make the lower left corner at 0,0 and the opposite corner at 56’,56’.

IMPORTANT: To input units in feet, include a tick mark after the 56. It would look like this 56’. If you leave out the tick mark, AutoCAD will assume you want to draw in inches. If you were to input 56’6, AutoCAD would understand that to mean 56 feet and 6 inches or 56’-6”.Note also that fractions are input differently than they are written on drawings 56 feet, 6 inches and half an inch would be input as 56’6-1/2 in AutoCAD. On a drawing it would be written as 56’-6 1/2”.

SH.5. Offset the 56 foot square 50 inches toward the inside. This will leave you with a 47'-8" square. Type OFFSET at the command line. Input 50. Select the 56 foot square. Click to a point inside the square.


SH.6. Subdivide the offset square into thirteen  44 inch divisions. One way to do this is the use the DIVIDE command along the two edges, but first you must explode the square so that it becomes 4 separate lines. Type EXPLODE at the command line. Note: use caution with the EXPLODE command. Some components are best left together. You can also use the ARRAY command.

SH.7. Use the DIVIDE command to divide one of the edges into 13 divisions of 44 inches. If you do not see the divisions change the value of PDMODE to 3 by typing PDMODE at the command line. The various settings for PDMODE change how points appear. In the image below the points appear as X's because PDMODE was set to 3.  Also, the image below shows a value of 12 for PDSIZE. 

SH.8. Complete the 44 inch grid using the COPY command. You may want to turn on the object snap for Node.


SH.9.  This gridded drawing will be a plan view as if you are looking down at the ground.  On the gridded plan you will be arranging walls. You may want to plan out your walls using paper and pencil before drawing them in AutoCAD.

The following are required:

Living/Dining room: 4 x 7 grid squares

Kitchen: 3 x 4 grid squares

Bathroom: 2 x 3 grid squares

Bedroom: 4 x 4 grid squares

Entry and hallways to connect rooms as required.

The front door must enter into a hallway or entry vestibule.

And one more requirement... Your house must touch all edges of the gridded square, but your rooms can not exceed the sizes described above. In the pan below, the rooms touch the east, west, and north sides of the square and a large roof extends to the south side. The roof is represented by the dashed lines. That area under the roof is outside space.

Below is an example of a house plan. Develop your own design for the arrangement of rooms. Exterior space can be made into patios or open yards.

H.Skalska_Plan For a Small House

H.Skalska_Plan For a Small House

The image below shows the beginnings of a layout for the arrangement of rooms. The rooms are shown with the gray X's. The X's can be used in the planning stages and erased later. IMPORTANT: This is only one possible arrangement. You are asked to generate your own arrangement of spaces.


SH.10. Lock the grid layer. This will keep you from accidentally moving it.


SH.11. There are different types of blocks. Some are graphic symbols. They are drawn the size they would appear on the printed sheet. When those types of blocks are inserted, they are scaled according to the scale that the drawing will be printed. Others are drawn to their full scale. A chair for example, is drawn to its full size. In this exercise, you will be drawing the second type of block like the chair that is drawn to its actual size.

Make a block that represents a column. Set your layer to the Cut layer. Draw an 5” x 5” square that is precisely centered on a grid intersection. Fill the column with solid fill. The fill should be on the fill layer. Keep in mind that your design may not require columns. 


SH.12. Make a block of your column. This time just enter B for Block. The BLOCK command is used instead of the WBLOCK command when the block will remain inside of the file. If you would like to insert the block into other files, it is best to make a Wblock. In this case the block will remain inside this file, so just use the BLOCK command.

SH.13. Name the block Column. For the Pick point select the grid intersection. Click on the Select Objects icon and make a window around the column. Click on Ok.

SH.14. If you click on the column, you will notice that the blue grip appears at the center. That is the insertion point. You can drag and place a block using the grip that appears at the insertion point.



SH.15. Set your layer to the Doors layer. Make a door panel that is 1-3/4” x 36”. Then draw an arc to form the doors swing using the ARC command, and the Start, Center, End option and selecting point in the order shown below.

SH.16. Make the door into a block called Door. Select point 2 above for the Pick point.


SH.17. Before proceeding to the next steps you will need to plan where you will have different types of walls, where you will have windows and doors, and where you will have connections between spaces. 

SH.18. Set your layer to the CUT layer for your walls. All walls must be centered on grid lines. Wall thicknesses for exterior walls must be 8", but they should not be centered on the grid. Instead they should be 2.5" toward the inside of the house. Wall thicknesses for interior walls must be 5". Interior walls must be centered on the grid. Notice the relationship of walls to the grid below. The interior walls are centered. The exterior walls are offset.

Walls must extend 2 1/2" beyond grid intersections. 



SH.19. If you have columns, use the Insert tool to insert the column block. If you click on the arrow next to the block name, you will see a list of all of the blocks in your file. Insert columns as needed. It is not necessary to include a column where you have walls. Place them where you have large areas of glass. If you have large expanses of glass, make sure that you have a wall or column every 4 grid modules. Once a block is inserted, you can make copies of it or you can continue to use the Insert tool.


In the image below a column has been shown in the line of an exterior wall. Notice how the column is centered on the grid, not on the exterior wall. 




SH.20. Determine where doors will be located to connect the spaces. Insert the door blocks. Use the Rotate and Mirror tools to modify their orientation. Center doors between grid lines.

Include 1-1/2" x 5"  frames between the doors and walls. Set your current layer to Frame. The blue rectangles are the frames in the image below. Notice how the door is placed relative to the frame. The corner of the door leaf meets the corner of the door frame.


SH.21. Insert frames, glass and sills using the graphics shown below. You can have large lengths of glass or smaller windows. Place frames (blue rectangles) at the ends and at grid intersections. The white lines represent the glass. Place the glass on the grid lines. The gray lines represent the sill below. Include sill lines at window frames and at the edges of the floors at your doors.


SH.22. Fill the Cut walls with solid fill on the Fill layer. You may want to turn off the grid layer before filling the walls. 


SH.23. Once the rooms are enclosed, erase the x’s. 

SH.24. Go to the Block Folder and download AutoCAD blocks as needed to furnish all of the spaces in your plan. Please note that there are blocks within the folders, but they may not appear immediately (not sure why, but I am working on this). Most of the blocks are plan views. Download the blocks before inserting them. Use the Insert tool to bring the block into your file.


SH.25. Kitchen counters are typically 25" deep. Islands and peninsulas are typically 36 inches deep. Spaces between counters should be no less than 42" but 48" is more comfortable. Draw the counters on a layer that prints lightly. 

SH.26. Upload the drawing file. There is no need to print at this time. 

Steps - Part 2

SH.27. In the same file as Part 1, begin setting up to construct the section and elevation of your house.

J.Jasso_Section & Elevation

J.Jasso_Section & Elevation

SH.28. Make a copy of the 56 foot square directly below the square surrounding the plan.  

SH.29. Establish the floor lines as shown in the image below. The top drawing will be a section through the house. The bottom drawing will be an elevation view. Use projection lines from the plan to generate your drawings. Keep in mind the following:

Roofs should be drawn 12 inches thick. A glass roof is also shown in the image above.

Cuts through walls, roof and ground/floor should be drawn on the Cut layer.

Objects that are not cut should be shown with a lighter line. You might need to make new layers for these lines. Colors 6 or 8 would be ideal. Color 8 is slightly lighter than 6. 

The graphics for windows in section are similar to the graphics for windows in plan.

Typical walls are 8'-0" high.

There are exceptions to all rules. 

SH.30. Fill your cut objects. Use the Fill layer for this. The ground/floor is cut as well. Show three feet of fill below the ground/floor line. Erase the line at the bottom of the fill after you have filled the area. Notice in the image below that there is no line where walls meet the ground or on the bottom of sides of the fill areas that represent the earth.


SH.31. Insert blocks into your elevation and section from the folder where you found the plan blocks. If possible, coordinate the objects with what you are showing in plan. Include the block you made of your bicycle.

SH.32. There is no need to print to pdf at this time. 

SH.33. Save your drawing file, close your drawing file, and upload it to your Google Drive folder.