Site Boundaries with Bearing and Distance in AutoCAD Architecture

Architects will often get electronic site plan drawing files from a civil engineer that already contain the property lines and site boundary information.  However, that is not always the case and the Architect will need to create the site boundary themselves.  When drafting site plan boundaries, it is usually necessary to enter the information in a format that includes bearing and distance. This format is not utilized on architectural drawings, so some modification needs to be done to the drawing settings to enable this capability.


Initiate the DDUNITS command to open the Drawing Units dialog box.

  • In the Length Type list box, select Decimal.
  • In the Length Precision list box, select the desired precision.
  • In the Angle Type list box, select Surveyor’s Units.
  • In the Angle Precision list box, select the desired precision level which is typically N 0d00’00” E.
  • Make sure that there is NOT a checkmark next to the Clockwise option.
  • Select the Direction button.
    • In the Direction Control dialog box, select the East option for Base Angle.
    • Pick the OK button to exit the Direction Control dialog box.
  • Pick the OK button to exit the Drawing Units dialog box.



  • Use the LINE command or the PLINE command to start drafting the boundary, and utilizing relative polar coordinates to specify the points.
  • The syntax for the relative polar coordinate and angle is as follows:
    • Enter the @ sign first, which means that it is relative to the last point.
    • Next comes the distance.
      • The distance is entered in units with no feet or inch notations being entered.
        • Boundaries are nearly always shown in decimal distances representing feet.
      • Civil engineering drawings generally utilize 1 unit = 1 foot, whereas architectural drawings generally utilize 1 unit = 1 inch.
        • If the AutoCAD drawing being used is a typical architectural drawing where 1 unit = 1 foot, then the boundary is actually being entered in inches instead of feet.  If this is the case, the boundary will need to be scaled up 12 times after it is drawn.
    • Next comes the < symbol which specifies that the distance is at a polar angle from the last point.
    • Last is the bearing.
      • The bearing will always begin and end with a direction – N,E,S, or W.
      • The actual angle will include degrees (D), minutes (‘), and seconds (“) and must include the appropriate symbols after the number.
    • An example is @120.25<N30D10’15”E.


Enter the following information at the command line exactly as shown:

(Pick a point with the cursor to start the line)


14 thoughts on “Site Boundaries with Bearing and Distance in AutoCAD Architecture

  1. Thanks so much! I never learned this in school, and am teaching a drafting class in a high school. I would never have been able to figure this out!

    • AutoCAD Release 2010 is pretty old software, but I assume that it will work if you set the UNITS like I describe in the article and then use the LIST command on the line.

    • If you are using Imperial units, this should work. It may not work for Metric units if you are using that format.

  2. I am a Landscape Architect with a similar problem. I need to identify the bearing and distance of a line. I have changed the units as you state above and I have tried the LIST command, but it isn’t listing bearing and distance? Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • I just checked it on AutoCAD Architecture 2015 and it works/looks exactly like the instructions and illustrations above. The Direction button is at the bottom of the “Drawing Units” dialog box.

  3. Thanks a great deal,but please i need more details on the angles with minutes and seconds,or can i send pics for further explanations

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