Objects May Be Larger Than They Appear on Paper

Posted: December 3, 2005

One can get a whole new perspective while trying to locate a new dairy complex on a proposed site.

During a recent site visit as we were pacing out the proposed building footprint, locating building corners and shooting elevations a variety of things came into focus. Following are some observations from this visit:

  • We did not know what the setback or zoning requirements were.
  • There was a tall crop of weeds growing on the site that made navigation inconvenient and obscured a good visual examination of the site.
  • As flags went into the ground to indicate building corners the site began to shrink. Boundaries began to look a lot closer to the buildings on the site then they did on the paper.
  • Elevation changes on the site appeared larger when you walked up and down them than they did on the topo map and thoughts about excavation costs rose as fast as the back corner of the site dropped off.
  • When it was noted that the woodlots located on two sides of the project represented the edge of the site and were owned by others visions of several houses or a fancy country home plunked down in the midst of them brought up uncomfortable thoughts. Would this site provide enough buffer around the proposed dairy?
  • A wake up call occurred when the neighbor from the other side of the woods stopped by to ask various questions about the project; how many cows, how big would the barn be, where were they going to graze, what about the manure? The site began to look small again. What about trying to buy the neighbors house and property?
  • Walking the site is important and necessary but on a large site a four wheeler could save a lot of time.
  • A lot of good discussion occurs within the planning group while trying to stake out a building footprint.

We did not have a final location selected for the building footprint when we left the site but the day was not a failure or a waste of time. We had a much better feel for the site and just how big the building footprint might look when it was placed on the ground. Our “to do list” had become longer but also more focused and there was time to find answers to the new questions we had raised.

Through the years I have learned many things about site evaluation and building layout. This visit reminded me that:


  1. Once a desired site layout is established it’s a good idea to “stake it out.” Nothing can substitute for being on the ground and walking around driving stakes and imagining how the feed wagon or milk truck will maneuver in and around the buildings.
  2. The space required for buildings, set backs, water drainage, snow storage and roads to maneuver around the site are always bigger on the ground than they are on the paper.
  3. Get to know and maintain communications with your neighbors.



Robert E. Graves
Agricultural and Biological Engineering Extension