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The Builder's Guide

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Construction Plans & Specifications

Construction drawings are the core documents that communicate what the client want and what the building contractor needs to build, without building plans a construction project can quickly become a sea of confusion, frustration and arguments. Some people think that building plans are just pretty looking drawings that may not always be necessary, but believe me they serve a far more important purpose. Remember the last time you were involved in a dispute over anything, chances are you prevailed if you had some form of tangible written evidence that proved your statements were true.

 

Before construction work begins, modern buildings involve a team of different specialist disciplines and communication at an early stage is essential to keep the design moving towards a coordinated outcome. Architects and other designers start investigating a new design with sketches and diagrams, to develop a rough design that provides an adequate response to the particular client design requirement.

 

All too often people argue about spoken words that frequently turn into broken promises, simple misunderstandings, or worse yet deception. This misery takes place everyday in the work place, people get into heated disputes with each other about any number of issues, the sad fact is a vast majority of construction disputes can be settled quickly and efficiently, with clear construction plans and specifications developed long before the first spade of soil is turned at the building site.

 

 There are many reasons why perfect construction plans and specifications never get developed, often the client is unwilling to pay for the time and effort to produce the documents, another common reason is the customer looks at a set of prints and thinks they are quit sufficient without ever seeing a first-class set of construction drawing. I can see why they might feel a deficient set will make do, after all, if they are good enough for the building department then they must be good enough for all involved.

 

Perhaps a few examples of dispute issues might convince you that you need first class building plans and specifications for your project. Imagine if you will, having a discussion between you and your contractor about roofing material, you said you wanted a specific type of roof, the contractor agrees and draws one simple squiggly line on the building plans in the cross section and adds "roof" with an arrow pointing to the line.

 

Later while visiting the building site you see a different type of roofing to the one you wanted, you grumble and wonder why the contractor didn't install the roof that you preferred, as you walk into the kitchen you shake your head and wonder who in the world put the cabinet on the opposite wall over there, it is barely reachable. Fortunately the carpenter who installed it walks in and you ask about the placement of this fixture, he simply states that is usually where he always puts them. Need I go on?

 

The failure to develop good building plans and specifications can also lead to cost overruns and limited product selection. A good set of plans include specification on the type and quality of finishes required, numerous interior elevations that show you in two dimensions what a kitchen layout will look like when it is finished, knowing what you are going to see before it happens can often prevent costly change orders.

 

There are two basic elements to a building plan design, the aesthetic and the practical, the aesthetic element includes the layout and visual appearance, the anticipated feel of the materials, and cultural references that will influence the way people perceive the building. Practical concerns include space allocated for different activities, how you enter and move around the building, daylight, artificial lighting, acoustics and traffic noise.

 

Plans and specifications that do not include the actual selections of all roofing material, kitchen cabinets, countertops and fixtures etc, can cause you problems if you try to decide what you want during construction, the contractor may ask you to visit the tile store two weeks before he needs the floor tile, but once there you fall in love with a particular tile that is on special order and would take four weeks to deliver, who will pay for the time delay should you decide to order the special tile?

 

There are hundreds of scenarios that can be described, but one thing is for sure, detailed construction plans with clear and precise specifications, that outline each and everything you want will save you time and additional expense.

 

 Floor plan

The floor plan is the most fundamental architectural diagram. A view from above showing the arrangement of spaces in a building, the same way as a map but showing the arrangement at a particular level of the building. Technically it is a horizontal section cut though a building (conventionally at three feet, one metre above floor level), showing walls, window, door openings and other features at that level. The plan view includes anything that could be seen below that level: the floor, stairs (but only up to the plan level), fittings and sometimes furniture, objects above the plan level (e.g. beams overhead) can be indicated as dotted lines.

 

Site plan

The site plan is a specific type of plan, showing the whole context of a building or group of buildings, site plan also shows property boundaries and means of access to the site, nearby structures if they are relevant to the design. The plan may need to show adjoining landmarks to demonstrate how the design fits within the site boundary as well as an overview of the entire scope of work. It shows the buildings (if any) already existing and those that are proposed usually as a building footprint; roads, parking lots, footpaths, hard landscaping, all the services connections: drainage and sewer lines, water and other utility supplies.

 

Site plans are commonly used to represent a building proposal prior to detailed design, drawing up a plan is a tool for deciding both the site layout and the size and orientation of the proposed new buildings. It is used to verify that a proposal complies with local development practices, including restrictions on historical sites etc. In this context the site plan forms part of a legal agreement, and there may be a requirement for it to be drawn up by a licensed professional.

 

Elevation

An elevation is a view of a building seen from one side, a flat representation of one façade, this is the most common view used to describe the external appearance of a building. Each elevation is labelled in relation to the compass direction it faces, e.g. the north elevation of a building is the side that most closely faces north. Buildings are rarely a simple rectangular shape in plan, so a typical elevation may show all the parts of the building that are seen from a particular direction. Geometrically, an elevation is a horizontal orthographic projection of a building on to a vertical plane, the vertical plane normally being parallel to one side of the building.

 

Detail drawings

Detail drawings show a small part of the building at a larger scale, to illustrate how the component parts fit together. They are also used to show small surface details, for example decorative elements. Section drawings at large scale are a standard way of showing construction details, typically showing complex junctions (such as floor to wall junction, window openings, eaves and roof apex) that cannot be clearly shown on a drawing that includes the full height of the building. A full set of construction details needs to show plan details as well as vertical section details. One detail is seldom produced in isolation, a set of details shows the information needed to understand the construction in three dimensions.

 

 

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