Joshua Sukenick on Houzz

 

Drawings

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have quality work produced. You should be asking to see a "typical" drawing set or a set similar to your project when interviewing your architect. It is the best way to see what kind of result you should expect. A well organized, easy to follow set shows care in craft and attention to detail; whereas a set that is not organized well will often hint at a larger underlying problem with overall quality. Your drawing set provided by your architect is the most important part of any project- even more so than hiring the best contractor! While hiring a bad contractor can cause headaches and hassles, without a good drawing set, even the best contractors cannot perform to their highest levels. Your drawing set serves as your best line of protection against costly problems. It is not only solving the aesthetic problems, but is providing an insurance policy against poor craftsmanship.

Most contractors will tell you that an architectural set of drawings is rarely reliable in the field. Too often, the architect handles the set more as a guideline than as a blueprint for how the building should go together. This leaves a lot to be decided in the field, which makes it more difficult to obtain permits and accurate bids from contractors which can lead to costly errors. Providing you with a good set of drawings should be the architect's primary focus. Aesthetics should come a close second. Therefore, your drawing set is the most important aspect of what an architect provides and you should not pick an architect without reviewing a typical drawing set. Doing so will also help you appreciate the amount of time and effort necessary for your project and help you better understand why an architect's fee is not just a few hundred dollars.

Purpose

Your drawing set serves four vital roles in the process.

  1. It is necessary to have a complete set of sealed drawings to obtain your building permit.
  2. It serves as a portion of your contract between you and the General Contractor. Every contract signed should refer to the specific set of drawings that the contract is associated with.
  3. It will guide your contractor in the field, supplying them with the vast majority of information they need to build a quality product.
  4. Any time problems arise, your drawing set is the first place everyone will look for the answer. If the answer is not in the drawing set or if it is showing inaccurately, it becomes much more likely that the client will be responsible for the costs associated with whatever item is in question. In extreme cases where lawsuits develop, your drawing set is your best defense against having to spend additional money to fix a problem that you didn't create.

Good Vs. Bad

Since every architect approaches each project differently, it can be hard to know what a good drawing or drawing set looks like compared to a bad one. In general, the more information shown, the better the set will be. Simple things like dimensions being accurate, especially on renovation work, is often a problem that can be avoided by taking additional care in early stages of the project. But a general lack of information on the drawing set is a problem seen far too often. See the two images below for examples of the same drawing done well, and done poorly.

Typical Drawing Set

It surprises clients to know how many drawings are required for even a "simple" addition. The codes and the township inspectors require a minimum amount of drawings be done for even the smallest projects. A minimum set of drawings is REQUIRED to have a Site Plan, Demolition Plans, Foundation Plans, Floor Plans, Roof Plans, Structural Plans, Elevations (Fa├žade drawings) and at least one Section. Most townships are also requiring Electrical and Power Plans and Energy Compliance information. In commercial work, Life Safety Plans (or Egress Drawings) and ADA compliance is also required for any drawing set.

To these minimum drawings, there are often a whole series of other drawings that are necessary to convey information to the contractor. These might include Interior Elevations, Details, Finish Information and often many notes and descriptions will be added to the drawing set to provide clarity.

Understanding what drawings are required often helps clients to understand why an architect's fee isn't just a few hundred dollars.

Specifications

Specifications are typically included in every drawing set. Often, they are issued as separate 8.5x11 sheets in a book/binder format. With the computer age, some Architects are now including them as part of the large sheet drawings sets. Specifications provide additional information which goes into more specific detail about each product or type of product being used. Specifications further define the scope of work covered by the drawing set and often address quality of work. In legal cases the specifications will almost always overrule the drawing set. A good way to understand the purpose of them is to think of them as the "fine print" of the drawing set.

Details

Details are drawings of specific areas, and are shown to provide clarity and specific guidance for construction. They can serve to provide critical building information (structural and construction details) or may simply serve to convey aesthetics and material changes. Details are time consuming drawings, but are required to provide the contractor the information needed to have the task completed correctly. In residential work, details are usually saved for specific conditions that are not "traditional" construction. It is rare to find a lot of details in a residential drawing set. In commercial work, the details often represent a sizeable portion of the drawing set. Usually there is more details provided in a commercial set as there is less of a "standard" for commercial construction, so it is necessary to provide more specific information.

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