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1:100 Scale in Architecture: A Beginner’s Guide to Designing with Precision

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One of the most commonly used scales in architecture is the 1:100 scale. But what exactly does it mean and why is it so important? In this beginner's guide, we'll take a closer look at the basics of scale in architecture, the advantages of using the 1:100 scale, and how to apply it in practice.

As an architecture student, you need to know about the different scales architects use in their work. One standard scale is 1:100. But what exactly does the 1:100 scale mean, and why is it so important for architects to understand? 

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the basics of scale in architecture, the advantages of using a 1:100 scale, and how to apply it in practice.

Let’s get started

The Basics of Scale in Architecture

Two guys setting on a chair
Image by Milan De Clercq

First, let’s start with the basics. What is scaling in architecture?

Scale in architecture refers to the ratio between a model of a building or structure and the real-life version. 

We use different architectural scales for various purposes, such as 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, and so on. So, what does the number on the left mean, and what is the number on the right?

  • The number on the left (1) represents the model size
  • The number on the right (50, 100, 200, etc.) represents the size of the real-life version.

Let’s take the 1:100 scale as an example.

The 1:100 scale means that 1 unit on the model represents 100 units in real life. 

For example, a room that is 1 inch on a 1:100 scale model would be 100 inches, or 8.3 feet, in real life. But I’m no fan of inches; show me something in metric.

Using the metric system, 1 meter on a 1:100 scale is equivalent to 100 meters in real life.

The 1:100 scale may not seem like a big difference, but in the real world, it is.

When designing and planning large buildings or structures, it is essential to have precise, detailed models and architectural drawings that allow us to visualize the design. It is impossible to do so with real-world dimensions, which is why scaling is crucial. But how exactly will this help us as architects?

Advantages of Using a 1:100 Scale

  • Better communication with clients: This level of detail is especially vital when working with clients, as it helps facilitate better communication and understanding of the project.
  • Accuracy and detail: Scale makes it easy to imagine the building or structure. Architects can use scaled models to see how the finished building will look in real life, which can be especially helpful when making design decisions.
  • Save time and Money: Scale saves a great deal of time and money in the long run, as architects can make changes to the model before construction begins and anticipate and solve potential design problems before they become actual problems.

So, how do you apply the 1:100 scale in practice? 

Applying a 1:100 Scale in Practice

A photography of Falling Water House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
Falling Water House by Frank Lloyd Wright

One way to create architectural drawings at a scale of 1:100 is to use design software like AutoCAD or Revit. We can also draw them by hand, but that’s not what the industry does anymore. Only in architecture school

Not only do architects use the scale concept to create architectural drawings but also 3D models. We use 3D design software like 3ds Max or Rhino to make accurate, detailed 3D models. But I’m still no expert on 3D software.

Another technique to create 3D models is by hand, using physical materials such as foam board, balsa wood, or paper.

💡 Personal insight: When using the 1:100 scale by hand, it’s vital to follow best practices like measuring and marking the scale on the model and using the same units of measurement. 

It’s also essential to remember that the 1:100 scale is not appropriate for all types of projects, and architects should carefully consider the level of detail required for the specific project.

For example, if the project is a small residential home, a 1:100 scale model may not be necessary.

Now that you know everything about scaling, it is time to look at a 1:100 scale example from real life.

Let’s imagine the falling water house before Frank Lloyd designed it. 

After coming up with an idea, Frank Lloyd Wright would use scaling to make accurate architectural drawings. Scaling would help him see the building as a whole and help him make design decisions, such as where to put stairs and emergency exits. With scaled architectural drawings, Frank could be sure that the layout would work efficiently.

After that, I imagine he made a 3D scale model to show his idea to the client before starting construction.

It’s worth noting that the 1:100 scale isn’t the only scale used in architecture and construction; there are other scales like 1:200, 1:500, 1:1000, etc. So, how do we pick a scale?

Considerations for Different Types of Projects

We pick a scale depending on the size and complexity of the project. 

For example, a 1:200 scale model might be better for a large commercial building or skyscraper, while a 1:50 scale model might be better for a small residential project.

As a student of architecture, it’s vital to learn about the different scales used in architecture and to get a sense of when to use each scale.

By understanding the basics of scale in architecture, the benefits of using the 1:100 scale, and how to use it in practice, you’ll be well on your way to making accurate and detailed models, making better design decisions, and communicating with clients and workers.

What’s Next?

In addition to scaling, it’s a must to have the ability to read and understand architectural drawings and plans. 

Architectural drawings are the only way to effectively share design ideas with clients and coordinate the work of the different professionals involved in the building process. So how can we develop this skill?

Read this article
Learn How to read architectural drawings

Picture of Bahaa Aydi

Bahaa Aydi

I'm Bahaa, a Licensed architect specialized in Interior design & Archviz • Sharing my design days with you to help you design better space