Common Architectural Scales

Updated March 23, 2017

A large part of an architect's job is to draw plans and/or make models of the buildings he or she is designing. All architectural plans are drawn. The models are constructed at a specific scale that depends on the size of the object to be constructed, the purposes of the plans or models and other factors. Common architectural scales range from a ratio of 1-to-4 to 1-to-128, rarely smaller, but occasionally larger.

1-4 to 1-16 Ratios Architectural Scales

Ratios of 1-to-4 to 1-to-16 is the larger end of the commonly used architectural scales. Just imagine a drawing or a model of a typical family home at a 1-4 ratio scale; that is just too large. 1-4 ratio scale drawings would be more typical for small objects, such as birdhouses or dollhouses. 1-16 ratio scale drawings would be about the largest you would typically see for single family homes, and more often 1-36 to 1-48 ratios.

1-20 to 1-64 Ratios Archtectural Scales

This range represents the most commonly used architectural scales used for drawing of plans for single-family residences or smaller commercial buildings. Ratios of 1-to-48 or 1-to-50 is a very common architectural scale for this type of project. Note that the scale notation of 1/4-inch, for example, means 1/4-inch on the drawings equals 1 foot of the actual building, or 1-48 ratio scale.

1-96 to 1-128 Ratios Architectural Scales and Higher

Larger architectural scales in the range of 1-96 to 1-128 ratios are used for commercial projects, such as larger office buildings and factories. And, occasionally, even larger scales with a 1-500 ratio or greater are used for drawings or creating models of larger factory complexes or multi-neighbourhood real estate developments.

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About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.