Guide to Construction Layout

February 27, 2023

Accuracy is critical to building large-scale structures, starting with the design phase, layout process, and installation. If conflicts are not identified quickly, or mistakes are made during manual layout, the entire budget and schedule of the project can be derailed. Until now, collaborating with architects and multiple trades has posed difficulties, and there hasn’t been a better way to conduct multi-trade layout. However, BIM-driven robotic layout is changing the way construction is done.  

In this blog, we’ll introduce the basics of manual construction layout and explore how robotic technology is automating multi-trade layout, eliminating errors and compressing construction schedules.

What is Construction Layout?

Construction layout is the process of marking the building design on the construction site to enable installation. Layout is used to guide the construction process, showing what types of installation need to be done and exactly where it needs to be on the construction site. Construction layout includes the locations and orientations of the building structure and interiors, as well as engineering specifications for all the trades involved in the project, such as drywall, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Why is Construction Layout Important?

Laying out the building correctly the first time is critical to staying on schedule and budget –  setting the groundwork for a successful project. The accuracy of the layout determines the success of the installation because the layout decides the exact location and orientation of the various building and engineering elements. If there are errors in the layout, there will inevitably be issues in the installation process. Often these layout mistakes aren’t realized until it’s too late, which results in expensive, labor-intensive and time-consuming rework. With a growing labor shortage and rising construction costs, producing an accurate layout the first time is more important than ever before.

What is the Process of Layout in Construction?

The process starts with a construction layout survey where the contractors measure and stake out elements of the building based on the initial control and reference points established by surveyors. Once the concrete is poured and the foundation of the building is established, each interior trade is responsible for laying out its lines and labels. This includes the interior trades of drywall (framing) and MEPF (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection). When done manually, each of these trades follows this basic process:

1. Clears the construction site of all other trades to allow for the manual layout

2. Consults the architectural drawings (either on paper or via a tablet using a solution like Procore or PlanGrid)

3. Measures out the appropriate dimensions using a measuring device (either a tape measure or total station)

4. Marks reference points using a pencil or marker

5. (Optional:) Snaps a chalk line to connect the dots to mark layout lines

While this process is similar between trades, the types of lines and labels used in the layout differ based on the needs of each trade.

Drywall Layout

Wall layout is used to inform drywall crews where wall installation will take place, and what types of walls are to be installed in each location. During manual drywall layout, contractors will snap their own reference lines and may additionally mark labels for the following components:

  • Framing
  • Drywall finish
  • Ceiling heights
  • Wall type labels
  • Door rough openings
  • Radius wall layout
  • Backing locations
  • Soffits

Once the wall layout is complete, the installation is ready to take place. Likewise, the installation of these components will rely solely on the manual measurements and markings made during the drywall layout. Keep in mind, it’s critical that the drywall layout aligns with the layout completed by the other trades, such as the MEP layout.

MEP Layout

MEP layout guides the installation of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing components of the building. When MEP layout is done manually, the contractors for each trade will mark points and create labels for the following features:

  • Hanger point locations
  • Wall penetrations
  • Full ductwork runs
  • Equipment labels
  • Piping and fire sprinklers
  • Electrical devices

Pending the completion of the MEP layout, the construction is ready to proceed. However, manually conducting layout poses numerous challenges and risks for all of the trades involved in the project.

What are the Challenges with Manual Construction Layout?

Manual construction layout is slow, error-prone and costly. Each floor must be kept clear for the duration of layout, consuming time on the construction schedule and serving as a gating factor to start the installation. Mistakes made during manual layout often go undetected until well into the installation phase, at which point remediation (rework) is required to repair the problem.

Moreover, manual layout is one of the most physically demanding parts of a foreman’s job. Bending down to mark the floor thousands of times a day takes a toll on worker health and safety. With the most experienced workers on the job site typically assuming responsibility for layout, this process causes work-related injuries that shorten the working lifespan of these most valuable workers.

Until now, these challenges have been nearly impossible to avoid in the construction industry. However, the construction industry is changing. Robotic layout technology can now automate the layout process, eliminating errors, compressing construction schedules, and improving worker health and safety. Read on to learn how robots can improve construction layout and installation.

How to Improve Construction Layout

Dusty Robotics’ FieldPrinter autonomously prints all trades’ layout directly onto the construction site surface with 100% accuracy. Robotic layout is 5-10x faster than manual layout, with no errors.  Instead, automated layout is fast, accurate and reliable. Potential conflicts can be identified and resolved farther upstream, during the design phase instead of in the field. With clear instructions for the field team, installation can proceed sooner and without the need for burdensome rework. Let’s dive into how Dusty’s FieldPrinter works.

Using the latest BIM model or CAD file, Dusty’s FieldPrinter lays out the exact dimensions and labels for all trades’ layout onto the construction site surface. The FieldPrinter is compatible with BIM LOD 200 - LOD 500, and the higher the LOD, the more detailed the layout. By printing this exact design data onto the construction floor, errors are eliminated in the layout process and communication across trades is significantly improved. Dusty’s FieldPrinter is trusted by the largest GCs in the US, with proven success expediting construction schedules, ensuring layout accuracy and improving trade communications.

Explore Dusty’s Top Construction Layout Projects.

Dusty Robotics Team
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February 27, 2023