What Are “As Built” Drawings in Construction?

In construction projects, “as built” drawings are used to track the many changes from the original building plans that take place during the construction of a building. Also simply called “as builts,” these drawings are an important part of new construction, renovation, and maintenance. Although some refer to these as “as builds,” the correct term is “as built” because they refer to the project as it was actually built.

Before starting any construction project, it’s important to know what as built drawings are used for, what information they include, how they are created, and the difference between as built drawings and record drawings.

What Are As Built Drawings Used For?

In any building project, detailed plans are vital for success. Over the course of a project, features of the building are likely to change as the contractor faces obstacles with materials, the site, or governmental agencies. As built drawings are necessary to record these changes and maintain an accurate representation of the building as it actually exists, especially for commercial construction projects.

As built drawings have different uses for new construction, renovation projects, and building maintenance.

  • New construction: When constructing a new building that previously existed only on paper, contractors will face numerous challenges and must adapt their building plans in response. These drawings record these changes while construction is happening so that an accurate drawing of the building exists when construction is completed.
  • Renovation projects: Before starting a renovation project, it is important to have a detailed understanding of the building as it currently exists. Therefore, working with up to date drawings is essential for a safe and efficient renovation.
  • Building maintenance: Over the course of a building’s lifespan, small improvements and changes will be made. A building’s maintenance team is expected to update drawings to reflect any changes to the building so that an accurate drawing of the building exists at all times.

What Should Be Included in As Built Drawings?

In order to have complete and useful as built drawings, it is important to include any changes to the following elements:

  • Locations: Note all changes to the location of doors, window casings, plumbing, millwork, and any other essential features.
  • Materials: Record all differences in materials used when changes are made from the original plan.
  • Dimensions: Write down all modifications to the dimensions of all building elements.
  • Installations: List specific alterations made to installation of building features like HVAC, electrical, or windows.
  • Fabrications: Log all updates made to fabrications including columns, beams, and handrails.

include these changes in your "as built" drawings

One important note is that as builts can also include supplemental documents, written notes, and pictures, including photographs or satellite imagery.

How Are As Built Drawings Created?

In order to create excellent as built drawings, it is essential to make sure you know who is responsible for creating them and what process to use when creating them.

It’s important to know that as built drawings nowadays are most often created with construction technology and software like AutoCAD, which enables all stakeholders to have accurate plans of the building at all times.

Most often, the contractor responsible for construction will create the drawings for a project. Although an architect may sometimes be involved, this is less common, as they are not on the project every day to oversee the building process. Because the contractor is on site while the building is constructed, they are able to make frequent updates to the building plans as soon as changes are made.

When creating as built drawings, it’s helpful to keep the following process in mind:

  • Color coding: As built drawings use a standard color legend, with red for deleted items, green for added items, and blue for special information
  • Scale: It is vital that any modifications made on drawings keep the same scale and proportions as the original plans.
  • Dates: Any modifications that are noted on building plans should be dated and include supplemental documentation if necessary.
  • Obstacles: All obstacles encountered along the way, whether due to environmental factors, governmental agencies, or anything else, should be included along with drawings.
  • Physical features: While construction with earthmoving equipment is taking place, take special care to note any updates to elevations, grades, or other physical features that were discovered or changed during the construction process.
  • Underground utilities: Make sure to note exact locations of underground utilities that are installed during construction.

Here is how you can color code your as built drawings

What’s the Difference Between “As Built” and “Record” Drawings?

Often, the terms “as built drawings” and “record drawings” are used interchangeably, but there are important differences between these two documents.

As explained above, as built drawings are generally created by a contractor during construction, with color coded notes written directly on top of the original plans.

Record drawings, on the other hand, are created by an architect, who incorporates all of the construction changes noted on the as built drawings. All of the changes are used to draft an authoritative and exact plan of the building as it was actually constructed.

As Built Drawings: The Big Picture

Overall, as built drawings are a necessary part of any successful construction project. Inevitably, changes to the original building plans will be made during construction, and careful use of as builts will lead to satisfied stakeholders and an expertly completed project.

Follow all of the tips above, making sure to use a precise process and thorough account of all changes, and you’ll end up with an excellent as built drawing that will serve the building throughout its lifespan.