floor plan construction documents

The Process of Design: Construction Documents


Each design project is unique, but the process of design here at Moss follows a well defined path.

Here’s what you can expect from each stage, from Program, and Field Measuring, through Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documentation and on to Permits and Construction Administration.  Between design meetings, we are working hard on your project at every phase.

This series of posts will explore our approach to the design process and give you an idea of how we might handle a future project of yours.

Construction Documents: The right information to the right people

Schematic Design sets up the general idea for a project and Design Development focuses and refines it.  Construction Documents fill in all the details.  The final set of drawings will specify every element of the project, from the structure to the paint colors.

Construction Documents serve two purposes: to apply for (and receive) a building permit from the city or other local authority and to construct the building.

Although the design of the building doesn’t change between those two uses, we generally prepare two sets of drawings for the two purposes – the Permit Set and the Issue for Construction Set – so that we don’t provide unnecessary information to either party.  The contractor won’t care about the life safety occupancy count, for example, and the building inspector isn’t interested in the way a decorative built in element is detailed.  For clarity we prepare two separate sets from the common pool of final design information.  The drawings below will be found in one or both.

Again, to illustrate, we’ll show content created for two recent projects – a house on Carmen Avenue and a new restaurant and specialty food market in Andersonville – which are slated for construction in the near future.

What belongs in the Construction Documents Drawing Set

Regardless of the building type or design, a drawing set follows a consistent pattern – to help permit officials, contractors and other members of the construction industry easily navigate the ocean of information that’s associated with each design.  The drawings below are what you can expect to find in any complete construction documents set.

A0 Sheets – Project Information

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Sheets/A3-1_A3-3.dwThe Cover Sheet contains all sorts of information that orients the project, names and contact information for the architect and engineering consultants, detailed information about the property, the zoned use, the building type, and the city pin number, a site map showing the location in the city and a code matrix showing all the applicable regulations.

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Sheets/A0-2_A0_The Accessibility Notes and Details sheet shows a bunch of different details that appear all over a publicly accessible building, showing reach ranges, door widths and size and location of important signage.  

This sheet usually isn’t included on a residential project.
The Site Plan shows the way the building sits on the entire property and (for a simple project) also notes any landscaping, concrete work and exit safety requirements of the project.

A more complex project might also require a Landscape Plan as well.

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Sheets/A0-2_A0_The Life Safety Plan(s) sheet breaks space down into different use types so that an Total Occupancy can be calculated and used to ensure the building has the right number and size of exits in case of emergency.  It also shows the paths of travel to exits from the most remote parts of the building.  Safety first!

A1 Sheets – Demolition Plans

The Demolition Plan(s) show the existing state of the building (a vital element for moss::: designs since we nearly always work with existing buildings) and is covered with notes for what will need to be removed (and protected/preserved) in order to make way for new construction.

A2 Sheets – Floor Plans

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Sheets/A0-2_A0_The Floor Plan sheets are the coordinated center of the set.

In addition to showing a general overview of where every element of the building will be located (with detailed dimensions) it is filled with keynotes, door, window and wall type tags and other types of callouts to drawings in the set.

To find out what those keynotes and tags are, check out Thursday’s post “Important symbols – a guide” for a complete breakdown of their meanings and importance.

A3 Sheets – Elevations and Sections

Elevations are the flat images of the outside faces of the building.  The elevations sheets show heights of existing and new building elements, detail the materials to be applied or preserved on the exterior and are covered with keynotes designating important info about the exterior construction.

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Sheets/A3-1_A3-3.dwSection Drawings show hypothetical slices right through the center of the building and demonstrate important things like wall and foundation construction, floor-to-floor heights and the height relationships between inside and the ground plane outside.

A4 Sheets – Finish Plans

There are a bunch of different types of Finish Plans.  The most important is probably the Reflected Ceiling Plan which shows a view up, to the ceiling, instead of down to the floor.  The RCP drawings show different ceiling material types (drywall, plaster, wood cladding, pressed tin, etc) and also the locations of most of the lights.  For the sake of convenience, they typically also show the locations of light switches that will operate all those ceiling mounted lights.

For residential projects (when the services of an electrical engineer aren’t needed) we also provide a Power Plan which shows the location of all the outlets and any data points for cable TV or internet access through the building.  We will note locations for power to all appliances and also convenience outlets for personal devices as needed.  For larger projects this information gets covered in the Electrical plans (scroll down)

The Finish Plans show what materials should be applied to the walls and floor throughout the building.  We do this by using finish tags (designations like F01 for the first type of flooring material, B04 for the fourth variety of baseboard, or W06 for the sixth specified wall finish).  These tags refer to a Finish Schedule, found in the 6 Sheets – a detailed spreadsheet which shows the manufacturer, product name and other qualities.

A5 Sheets – Interior Elevations

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Sheets/A0-2_A0_The Interior Elevations sheets show flat views of the vertical surfaces in a building – interior walls.  We use them to show wall finish types, new built in furniture, the locations of power outlets, lights and switches and the heights of different elements.  A typical restaurant project will need elevations for any built-in seating areas, for any decorative finishes on main walls, for all the kitchen equipment and for the each bathroom wall.

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Sheets/A3-1_A3-3.dwA residential project will certainly need interior elevations for each bathroom wall, for the kitchen and for any interesting built in furniture or shelving options.

A6 Sheets – Schedules and Wall Types

For a Construction Documents drawing set the word “Schedule” means a spreadsheet, not a timeline.  We use them to keep track of the various detailed product information for finish types, for sizes and types of doors and windows, and for any equipment used in kitchens etc.

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Sheets/A3-1_A3-3.dwThis sheet shows the spreadsheet listing all the doors in the project with their dimensions, materials, finishes, handles and other notes.  Below are drawings of each type of door showing how they open and the size and location of any glass or decorative elements.

A similar sheet details windows, another info for equipment and finishes, and a fourth sheet shows details of each type of wall.

AD Sheets – Details

These sheets show details that are standard throughout the building like how one type of flooring transitions to another or the way to construct a new staircase.

S Sheets – Structural Drawings

Provided by a licensed structural engineer, these sheets will contain a plan for each level showing concrete footing information, steel and wood framing locations and sizes, important structural sections and details of any important connections.

M Sheets – Mechanical Drawings

The MEP, or Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing, drawings are often provided by the same engineering company but still break down by discipline.  The Mechanical Drawings will show the location and size of any mechanical equipment, the layout of ductwork and specifications for all the different sizes and types of air handling systems.

E sheets – Electrical Drawings

The Electrical set will have sets of drawings showing the locations of all power and data outlets, and those of lights and associated switches.  They will specify the appropriate wiring and boxes needed to handle all those lights and power any other equipment.

P sheets – Plumbing Drawings

Plumbing drawings will show the location and size of pipes to provide fresh water and take away waste.  They’ll also show vent risers to let sewer air up out of the building safely and without smell.

Other Consultant Drawings

For a large or complex project the Construction Documents might include acoustical design information or content provided by a specialty kitchen consultant.

Now we’ve drawn it … What’s next

Once we’ve created the Construction Documents set for permit, there is an inevitable wait period while it is processed by the relevant authority.  The City of Chicago has a huge case load of building to approve and the process is necessarily labyrinthine.  It is common to employ an expediter to guide the application through and check regularly on the building as it progresses – we always go this route in Chicago.  As the Permit Set works its way through that system, we finalize the Issue for Construction set so that we’ll be ready to go for the contractor as soon as the building permit is issued.

Next step … Construction Administration