Reading construction drawings is a key skill for contractors to have, as the drawings show what work is to be performed. This introduction to construction drawings will tell you what construction drawings are and describe the many types of drawings that are used in a construction project.
What are construction drawings?
Looking for a construction drawings definition? Construction drawings are used to represent the design, dimensions, materials, and methods required to build a project or perform construction work. They are similar to a detailed instruction manual telling contractors what work needs to be done, how to perform it, and the materials that are to be used.
A construction drawing is created by a member of the design team, an architect, engineer, or interior designer, usually. The drawings are often created using specialized software.
Drawings are particularly important in a construction project because they define the scope of work and are usually made part of the contract between the project owner and the general contractor.
Types of construction drawings
There are many types of construction drawings, but they can generally be broken down into three categories: plans, shop drawings, and as-builts.
Plans, also called blueprints or prints, are graphical representations of the work that needs to be completed during a project. They are called blueprints because the initial technology that allowed drawings to be replicated created a drawing with a blue background and white lines and typeface. These days most plans are sent electronically or plotted on a large format printer and are no longer blue.
There are several types of drawings that are used to show the work to be performed. They include floor/site plans, elevations, sections, details, and schedules. Each of these drawing types shows a different view of the building or site. Floor plans show a building or portion of a building from the sky, looking down. A construction site drawing or site plan shows the plot of land a project is on, detailing the position of the building and the site amenities, like curbs, sidewalks, and landscaping. Elevations look at the exterior or interior of the building and are used to show finishes like paint, stucco, siding, etc. Sections slice through the building vertically and show the structural elements. Details focus on a smaller area to provide more information, and schedules provide a list of the materials or equipment that are to be used on the project.
In a set of drawings, which is all the drawings for a specific project, there may be several disciplines represented. Those disciplines include architectural, structural, civil, landscape, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and interior décor or furniture. Some or all of these disciplines may be included in a set of drawings, depending on the type of work required by the project.
Shop drawings are used to detail a specific installation or assembly, showing how it will be built. These drawings include information like dimensions, finishes, and material types or specifications. Instead of being produced by the design team, they are often created by manufacturers, suppliers, fabricators, or contractors. They may be created electronically, or hand drawn.
As-built drawings are created at the end of a project and show the work as it was actually constructed. During a project there are often changes made in the field, and those changes are documented on the as-builts for future reference. These drawings are important for future maintenance, repairs, and renovations, as they show the building or site conditions as they were actually built, not what was planned.
Construction drawings are a key tool in any project, as they tell contractors what work needs to be performed. Estimators use drawings to figure out how much a project will cost by quantifying the materials and labor needed to complete the work.
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