The Architect’s Construction Drawing Guide

Construction drawing can be complex, often consisting of hundreds of pages of drawings and specifications. I have found over the years in my practice that there are a lot of folks who either have a difficult time reading construction drawings or have a hard time finding specific information related to the project. This is why we have put together the “Construction Drawing Guide.” The construction drawing guide  below will give you the basics. Learn more about real world applications in this video. Here we outline why it’s so important to have your architect on-site to carry out constructions drawings.

Sheets and Drawing Organization: 

Today we’re covering the different types of sheets you will find for designing and building a project. Under each type of sheet are lists of what’s included.

 

General Construction Drawing From the Architect:  “G Sheets”

General drawings and sheets are typically reserved for information that is applicable across all trades. G Sheets as they’re known provide a good jumping off point for engineers, designers, contractors, and more.

Cover Sheets

Cover sheets typically include a table of contents and other general information related to the drawing set. You will also find contact information for each team member.

Building and Zoning Code Reviews

Code reviews are usually conducted at several stages throughout the design process. The most recent review is sometimes placed in these sections. Take a look at our building code basics article to learn more about this phase. We also covered zoning basics back in 2019!

Area Plan / Life Safety / Fire-Rated Plans

These plans provide information about size and building code which contributes to the overall safety of the structure.

Pro Tip: Area plans are a good way to keep everyone organized when it comes to the size of the project. Sometimes it’s hard to know if folks are talking about conditioned areas, gross area, outdoor area, covered area, etc. Area plans keep territories designated and concise among the team.

 

Civil Engineering Construction Drawing: “C-Sheets”

Erosion Control Plan

These drawings communicate to the contractor strategies to prevent erosion and water from affecting surrounding properties during construction. 

Grading Plans

Grading plans help the contractors prep the soil. The primary information communicated here is the shape of the land before and after construction. 

Drainage and Stormwater Plans

These plans indicate where to place underground piping for controlling rainwater. 

Utility Plan

Utility plans indicate where utilities need to be placed. These typically call out gas, water supply, sewer, and electrical.

Civil Details

Civil engineering details show a wide range of information related to stormwater, erosion, and more.  

 

Architectural Construction Drawing: “A-Sheets” 

Demolition Plans (Renovations and Additions)

Demolition plans are used to indicate building elements to be removed. 

Foundation Plans (Architectural Version)

These plans indicate structural requirements and building element positions relative to the foundation. The architectural foundation plan will indicate position, while the structural foundation plan will indicate specifications of elements (size, reinforcing, etc). 

Fire Rated Plans and Details

Sometimes found in the general drawings, fire-rated plans indicate the location of fire walls, fire barriers, fire doors, and more. 

Floorplans

Architectural Floor Plans are the heart of the construction drawing set and typically lead the viewer to other drawings to understand more detailed information. Floor plans are broad and indicate the layout and position of major building elements. 

Pro Tip: Make sure you see furniture in your floor plan early on in the design process. Furniture offers you a sense of size and can clue you in on whether a space is too large or too small.

Attic plans

Similar to a floor plan but for an attic. These plans indicate areas of storage and fire protection related to the attic. Smoke and fire loves to travel up and through an attic space. Some buildings need a little extra explanation in these areas. 

Roof Plans

A view of the roof. The primary purpose of this plan is to show roof drainage information. 

Exterior Elevations

A 2D view of the project indicating the exterior finish materials.

Pro Tip: Try not to focus too much on the exterior elevations. Instead, ask for lots of 3d images. No one experiences a building in 2D. A straight-on front view does not exist in real life and could lead you to make poor decisions about finishes. 

Building Sections

What you’ll notice is these construction drawings cut through the entire building showing the overall assembly of the structure. 

Wall Sections

These drawings are typically linked to a building section and represent a zoomed-in area of a specific part of the building section. These are used to communicate the individual components of a wall and can be used to illustrate how walls are attached to floors and roofs. 

Details

These drawings are typically linked to a wall section or building section and offer a closer view and more specific information of the individual components in that section. 

Door, Window, Finish, and Assembly Schedules

Door schedules offer a brief overview of the door specifications in a table format. They connect the floor plan (showing door position) with the door specifications.  Window schedules offer a brief overview of the window specifications in a table format. They connect the floor plan (showing window position) with the window specifications. Assembly schedules offer a brief overview of the assembly specifications in a table format. They connect the building sections (showing assembly position) with the assembly component specifications. Finish schedules offer a brief overview of the finish specifications in a table format. They connect the elevations (showing finish position) with the finish specifications.  

3D views

3D views are used to offer a clear picture of the design.

Architectural Specifications

Specifications describe the specific product selections and can even describe installation requirements. 

 

construction drawing or "rendering" of a building

Structural Engineering Construction Drawing: “S-Sheets”

Information provided by The Structure Company 

3D Isometric View & Drawing Index

A 3D isometric view of the structure can be very useful to the folks out in the field building the project to visualize the end goal. This sheet also includes the Drawing Index, which lists the sheets in the drawing set, in the order in which they appear. Having a Drawing Index is vital to make sure that every sheet in a drawing set is present.. If you notice a sheet listed in the Drawing Index that is not in the actual drawing set, you should immediately contact their Contractor or Architect and let them know.

 Structural Notes

The Structural Notes specify the Building Code for the project and the year that the Building Code is being used for the project. This sheet also includes the Design Criteria used for the project such as Building Risk Category, Dead Loads, Live Loads, Snow Loads, Wind Loads, and Seismic Loads (including site class of the soil being built upon and Seismic Design Category). The Structural Notes should also include information for each different structural element and material being used on the project. If the project utilizes concrete, CMU, steel, and wood, each of these materials should have a section in the Structural Notes that specifies how that material is being used in construction, how to properly build with it, and any other pertinent information the Design Team, Contractor, or Owner should know.

 Quality Assurance Plan

The Quality Assurance plan specifically explains the responsibilities of the Special Inspector and Contractor for the project. Like the Structural Notes, there should be a section in the Quality Assurance plan for each type of material being used for the project.

Under each material’s section in the Quality Assurance plan, a “checklist” for the Inspector and Contractor is given. For the Inspector, it may state how often something needs to be observed, periodically or continuously. For the Contractor, it may state which manufacturer’s Certificate or Compliance should be submitted to the Structural Engineer of Record for review.

 Structural Specifications

Specifications outline the specific product selections and can even describe installation requirements. As with the Quality Assurance Plan and Structural Notes, there should be a section in the Specifications for each material being used on the project. In each material’s section, the following items are explained: the code references that should be followed, the shop drawings (submittals) that should be sent to the Structural Engineer of Record for review, the products that are acceptable for use on the project, and the execution or installation of those products. If anyone involved in the project (Design Team member, Contractor, Special Inspector, Owner, etc.) wants to know what to install and how to install it, the Specifications will have that information for them.

Foundation Plan (Structural Version)

These plans indicate structural requirements and building element positions related to the foundation. The architectural foundation plan will indicate position while the structural foundation plan will indicate specifications of elements (size, reinforcing, etc.).  The Foundation Plan can also show deep foundations (drilled piers and micro piles) and shallow foundations (spread or continuous footings and slab on grade). If a project utilizes micro piles for deep foundations, typically a structural engineer will give loading criteria on the Foundation Plan so that a delegated designer of the actual micro pile can decide how many are needed to support the given loads.

Framing Plans

Framing Plans are the central hub for the structural drawings and indicate the floor or roof framing direction of the framing members. The Framing Plans will show the joists, rafters, beams, and other structural members to support the elevated floor systems being utilized for the project.  

Details

Structural details are similar to architectural details but focus on the structural elements only. These details can include welding and/or bolt specifications. The details are important for the folks in the field to know how to attach something to comply with the structural requirements of the project.

 

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) Construction Drawing: “M,E,P-Sheets” 

Mechanical Plans

Indicate the location and size of ductwork in a plan view.

Equipment Schedules

Equipment schedules offer a brief overview of the mechanical equipment specifications in a table format. They connect the mechanical plans (showing equipment position) with the equipment specifications.  

Mechanical Details

Mechanical details are similar to architectural details but focus on the mechanical elements (ductwork, plumbing, etc) only. 

Sanitary Plumbing Plan

Indicates the location and size of sanitary (waste) plumbing. 

Water Supply and Gas Plans

Indicate the location and size of water lines, and plumbing for running gas.

Fixture plans

Indicate the location and types of plumbing fixtures. 

Plumbing Schedules

Plumbing schedules offer a brief overview of the plumping equipment specifications in a table format. They connect the plumbing plans (showing plumbing positions) with the pipe and fixture specifications.  

Electrical Power Plan

Indicates the location of electrical outlets, breaker panels, and electric meters. 

Lighting Plan

Indicate the location of lighting, lighting control panels, and switches

Pro Tip: Look at the door swings relative to the light switch position. Sometimes these can be placed in awkward positions when the design professional isn’t thinking about the user’s experience. 

Breaker Schedules

Breaker schedules offer a brief overview and organization of the electric breakers in a table format. They connect the power and lighting plans (showing electrical component positions) with specs related to wire size and breaker organization.

MEP Specifications

Specifications describe the specific product selections and can even describe installation requirements. 

 

Interior Design: “I-Sheets”

Reflected Ceiling Plans

Also known as “RCPs” these drawings are used to describe the ceiling finish, lighting positions, and specialty ceiling shapes. RCPs are similar to floor plans, only the view in the drawing is facing upward towards the ceiling rather than downward towards the floor. 

Interior Elevations

A 2D view of the project indicating the interior finish materials. These can show cabinetry, light fixtures, mirrors, and more. 

Details

Interior details are similar to architectural details but only focus on the interior finish elements. These details can include trim requirements, cabinetry elements, and more. 

Finish Schedules

Interior finish schedules offer a brief overview of the interior finish selections in a table format. They connect interior elevations with the finish selection and specifications. 

Fixture Schedules

Fixture schedules offer a brief overview of the plumbing and lighting selections in a table format. They connect interior elevations and RCPs with the fixture selection and specifications. 

Interior Specifications

Specifications describe the specific product selections and can even describe installation requirements. 

CW Rendering

Landscape Architecture: “L-Sheets”

Information provided by LTS Design Studio for the Construction Drawing Guide

Site Inventory and Analysis Plans

These plans are typically the first step in a large-scale development. Site Inventory plans document the existing conditions of a site, including existing vegetation, topography, water bodies, surrounding developments, sun/shade patterns, and zoning/land-use restrictions.  Site Analysis plans take the information collected in the inventory phase and distill it into a document that helps inform design decisions about the proposed development. This allows the design team to make informed decisions about building orientation and how to capitalize on the assets of a site.

Conceptual Site Design

These plans are a loose, preliminary look at how the site will lay out based on the desired development program, and allow the client and the design team to settle on the early ‘vision’ for the site.

Site Master Plan

These plans convey an overall understanding of the development and are found on large-scale projects with more than one building. Master Plans help make sense of the existing site conditions, the proposed improvements, and how they come together to create a unified vision for a property.

Site Development Plan

These plans typically accompany the Site Master Plan, or can stand alone on smaller projects, and provide a more detailed understanding of the development. Elements often included in the Site Development plan are the detailed location of buildings, driveways, hardscape/landscape areas, preliminary site grading, and existing trees to be preserved.

Site Grading Plans*

Grading plans help the contractors shape the site to prepare it for construction and ensure that water drains across the site are as intended. The primary information communicated here is the existing and proposed topography of the site. *Site grading plans belong in L Sheets if they weren’t completed by Civil.

Pro Tip: Landscape Architects (LAs) can oftentimes provide grading plans similar to civil engineering with an additional benefit. While civil engineers focus on the pragmatic aspects of the site work, LAs can offer an artistic vision as well. They typically combine the pragmatics of a grading plan with the artistic qualities of hardscape, landscape, and the overall outdoor experience. 

Fine Grading Plans

Fine grading plans convey the detailed elevations and drainage systems of hardscape/site areas for construction purposes. These plans can include elevations for patios, pool decks, stairs, retaining walls, and other site elements.

Hardscape Plans

Hardscape plans indicate the type, layout, and dimensions of the proposed hardscape elements necessary for construction.

Site/Hardscape Details

Site/Hardscape details focus on the specific materials and methods of construction for various site elements. These details can include pools, patios, stairs, retaining walls, decks, fences, site furnishings, and more. 

Planting Plans

Planting plans indicate the precise layout and position of the proposed plant materials  

Planting Details & Schedules

Planting details focus on communicating the proper installation of various plant types. These details can include trees, shrubs, grasses, ground cover, vines, and seasonal color plantings. Plant schedules offer an overview of the plant specifications in a table format. They typically include the common and scientific names of plant materials, proposed sizes at installation, and precise quantities of each plant type to be installed. They connect the planting plans (showing plant positions) with the plant specifications.

Landscape Specifications

Landscape specifications describe the specific plant selections, installation requirements, and notes regarding the proper preparation of soil and planting areas.

Irrigation Coverage Plans

Irrigation coverage plans indicate the various areas of landscape to be irrigated, and the type of irrigation (drip or spray) to be installed in these areas. This helps the landscape/irrigation contractor prepare accurate takeoffs for piping and irrigation equipment.

 

Construction Drawing Guide Contributors and Collaborators: 

The Structure Company: Nashville, TN

LT Design Studios: Nashville, TN

https://www.ltstudiotn.com/

 

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