January 30, 2024

Creating an Optimal Site Plan in Terrain Data

Written by: Amanda Lind


Many construction plans begin with finding or building a relatively flat location to minimize the required earthworks for digging a foundation or setting a concrete pad. Modeling these sites ahead of time with Global Mapper’s extensive terrain analysis tools can help users save time, money, and effort by providing a way to begin planning without spending resources on field visits and excess surveys. Within this terrain modeling toolset, the Create a Flattened Site Plan tool is a popular and simple method for preplanning the best location, elevation, and required earthworks for creating a flat surface.

A flattened area feature on a terrain layer.
The Create a Flattened Site Plan tool in Global Mapper measures required soil volume changes and models flattened sites in terrain data.

Use any polygon to designate the area where the flattened site will be constructed and a terrain layer to represent current ground conditions. Global Mapper will use these to create a 3D model representing the best elevation for the pad that limits the amount of soil moved. If you have a prespecified elevation for the construction, use the ability to create the pad at the specific elevation. Regardless of the method used, the volume measurements for the pad will be saved in your computer’s clipboard and can be pasted anywhere, including outside of the software.

Terrain of a river bed with a flattened site of oil tanks.
Modeling the position of a flattened site can provide the opportunity to optimize the use of existing soil, creating a site that doesn’t require additional fill or removal.

A new option in the tool, Optimize Placement of Pad Site, can take advantage of any flexibility in the exact placement and orientation of the flattened zone. Global Mapper assesses the terrain in a specified location to find the optimal placement and orientation for the site that requires the least amount of earthwork. Once the optimal site has been calculated, the tool will provide measurements of the soil volume to be added or removed to create a level surface and a break-even elevation. The flattened site plan optimizes the cut-and-fill values and evens out the landscape into a flat surface using only the soil on site, minimizing soil or fill transportation costs.

A flattened site plan with les distinct slopes than the previous 2 images.
The Optimize Placement of Pad Site option finds the best location for the site based on the least amount of soil to be moved.

Once the plan has been created, you can export it through one of Global Mapper’s many supported file formats, including those supported by standard drafting software. See the full list here. Would you like to send the 3D viewer to someone who doesn’t have Global Mapper? Export the flattened site plan as a 3D PDF. This file will open in your PDF reader and provides basic functionalities such as rotating the data, labeling, changing lighting, etc.

Try the Flattened Site plan tool in the rest of Global Mapper with a free 14-day trial today! If you have any questions, please contact us!

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