What are Construction Documents?

You need Construction Documents (“CDs”) for three main reasons:
  1. Municipalities require drawings to issue a permit (this varies and we’ll help identify what’s required: this is usually less than what a contractor needs. We call it the “Permit Set.”)
  2. General Contractors (GCs) require drawings to estimate the project
  3. GCs require drawings to build it

The Construction Documents phase of the project is often a bit mysterious for clients. We’ll have fewer meetings during this phase because the major decisions have already been made.

Documenting a project appropriately takes a bit of time and a lot of care. Thankfully, we have our past work and broader disciplinary knowledge to build upon, but every project has unique aspects. We’ve found that it’s better to spend the time on a good plan than to scramble on site.

The following is meant to help make this part of the process less mystifying by explaining the various architectural components of a typical drawing set.

The Cover Sheet orients everyone.
It shows:
  • An abstract rendering of the project
  • A dimensioned site plan
  • Key zoning & code information
  • A drawing list

Specifications outline the expectations for the contractor. They spell out assumptions related to process, quality, & communication.

Renderings, while abstract, give a perceptual view of the project.

These aren’t typically required by municipalities, but we find that it helps bridge the gap between 2D drawings­ and reality. We’re in favor of anything that helps create clarity from ambiguity.

Floor Plans are the drawings people are most familiar with. They show:
  • Room names & relationships
  • Keys to other drawings (like section cuts & interior elevations)
  • Keys to finishes, windows, doors, & fixtures
  • Locations of electrical & plumbing fixtures
  • Roof slopes
  • Floor, roof, & foundation elevations

Reflected Ceiling Plans are exactly what the name suggests. Its as if you laid on the floor, looked up at the ceiling, and then mirrored that. They show:
  • Light fixtures, smoke detectors, ventilation fans, & similar fixtures locations & tags
  • Outlet & light switch locations
  • Which fixtures are controlled by which switches
  • Ceiling heights, slopes, & materials

Elevations, flattened views of the exterior, show:
  • Overall building & floor heights
  • Window & door sill heights
  • Keys to finishes, windows, & doors

Sections are cuts through the building (the “doll house view”). They show:
  • Overall building & floor heights
  • Key mounting heights for wall fixtures
  • Keys to finishes, windows, doors, & details

Interior Elevations are flattened views of interior walls. They show:
  • Key mounting heights for wall fixtures
  • Keys to finishes, windows, doors, & details
  • Additional detail at kitchens, baths, and other high-investment spaces

Wall Sections are detailed cuts through the building’s envelope showing the:
  • Foundation assembly
  • Floor and / or slab assembly
  • Exterior wall assembly
  • Roof assembly
  • Critical details at junctions

Details are large scaled drawings describing key moments in the project such as:
  • Window & door openings
  • Cladding
  • Roof to wall transitions
  • Interior trim
  • And many more!

Schedules are detailed tables & drawings which describe the following components of the project:
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Finishes
  • Interior Wall Assemblies
  • Fixtures: lighting, plumbing, accessories, etc

Extra Credit

Because you made it this far!
For residential work the drawing set typically includes framing plans & details from a structural engineer.

For commercial work the set will include that, as well as detailed drawings from Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, & Fire Protection Engineers. Sometimes there are others—Lighting Designers, Civil Engineers, etc—but these are scope-dependent.

In both cases, we love working with landscape architects. They understand grading, plant selection, and broader ecological patterns that greatly benefit most projects.

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