Construction documents (CDs) are a detailed set of documents that include the final specifications, materials, and other details required for managing a building project. They are created during the third phase in the architectural design process, which takes place after design development but before bidding.
Typically drawn up by architects and engineers, CD sets are important because they allow you to apply for a building permit and also provide details for how the building should be constructed. Typically, the documents are labeled using the United States National CAD Standard so that everyone involved can quickly determine which documents are for them.
This post covers what you need to know about construction documents, including 15 common types, their purpose, and their role in the design process.
Where Do Construction Documents Fit into the Architectural Design Process?
The architectural design process involves five phases, with phase three being the construction documents.
- Phase 1—Schematic Design: The first part of the building design phase is schematic design, which provides rough sketches of different design options for the project. These drawings can be accompanied by a rough cost estimate for each option.
- Phase 2—Design Development: During this phase, the design team will revise the sketch according to the comments and modifications generated during phase one. This phase also includes updated cost estimates.
- Phase 3—Construction Documents: The documents developed in this phase include detailed drawings of the final design project, along with notes and construction specifications so that contractors can prepare for the next phases.
- Phase 4—Bidding: This phase involves selecting contractors to bid on the project. The contractors will use information from the final construction set to submit their bid.
- Phase 5—Construction Administration: Once the set of construction documents has been approved and a contractor has been selected, construction will begin. At this point, the architect will begin the administration phase, ensuring that the building conforms to the design intent, making visits to the jobsite, handling any problems that arise, and ensuring delivery of a high-quality product.
In short, construction documents formalize the scope of work, architectural design, and construction specifications in order to begin the building phase.
Types of Construction Documents
While the exact construction blueprints required will vary from project to project, they typically include the following:
1. Cover Page
Cover sheets provide general project information, such as the project name, team members (owner, designer, engineer, and so on), building type, site map, and the list of drawings in the CD set. These pages are an important part of the construction documents because they summarize the details at a glance.
2. Site Plan or Survey
This document provides a detailed representation of the entire project site, including locations of buildings, roads, utilities, and so on. The site plan provides contractors and other members of the project team with an understanding of the access points, drainage, and landscaping to be in compliance with legal regulations.
3. Demolition Plans
This sheet shows the current state of the building, including existing structures and floor plans, elements that need to be demolished or removed, and elements that need to be protected or preserved. It’s important because it details what needs to be demolished and where, to ensure both correct construction and proper safety.
4. Foundation Plans
Foundation plan drawings provide a plane view (from above) of the design and layout of the building and its foundation. These important documents show the dimensions, location, and internal composition of essential structural elements such as walls, columns, footings, and supporting beams, using floor plan symbols.
5. Floor Plans
Floor plans detail the layout of each level of the building, including rooms, walls, and doors from above. They show how rooms relate to one another and where elements like appliances and furniture may go in a room. These drawings are important because they provide the contractor(s)/engineer(s) with an understanding of where everything will be in the finished building. They are also essential for real estate agents and prospective home buyers to visualize the layout of the house.
6. Framing Plans
This sheet shows the structural beams, columns, and joists that support the building’s roof and floors. Framing plans guide the installation of the load-bearing elements to ensure stability and compliance with engineering standards.
7. Roof Plans
The roof plan is used to show the layout of the roof, its shape, slopes, and location, including skylights and vents. It’s important because it ensures that the roof is designed and built properly for both drainage and aesthetics.
8. Exterior Elevations
This sheet displays the building’s exterior details, features, and materials. It communicates the overall design intent (roof height, windows, doors, decks) to all stakeholders involved in the project. It’s also used for aesthetic evaluation, in other words, to see what the building will look like from the outside.
9. Building Sections and Wall Sections
Section drawings show vertical “slices” of the structure to indicate building composition. These documents are important because they detail correct dimensions, techniques, materials, and construction execution necessary for proper wall installation.
10. Interior Elevations
Interior elevation drawings show flat views of a building’s completed interior walls, including finishes, built-in furniture, light fixtures, and the heights of various elements. Interior elevation sheets allow you to view information not conveyed by floor plans, such as materials, decorative trim, cabinetry, drawers, counters, outlets, switches, chandeliers, and other fixtures.
11. Door and Window Elevations and Schedules
These elevation drawings show the design and placement of doors and windows. The corresponding schedule is a detailed spreadsheet with information about all products required to order proper doors and windows and coordinate their installation for the construction project.
12. Structural Details
This sheet is used to detail the design and installation of the structural components, like reinforcements and supports. It’s important because it improves the accuracy in the construction process for building load-bearing elements.
13. MEP Details and Schedules
Used for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, MEP sheets include information on the following three systems and installations.
- Mechanical drawings: These drawings indicate the size and location of any mechanical equipment, the layout of ductwork, and specifications for various HVAC systems.
- Electrical drawings: The electrical set of drawings shows the locations of all data and power outlets, lights, and switches. They indicate the correct wiring and boxes needed to handle the lighting and to power any other equipment.
- Plumbing drawings: Plumbing drawings indicate the location and size of pipes to bring in clean water and take away waste. They also show vent risers that allow sewer air to leave the building safely and without odors.
MEP drawings are vital to proper construction because they ensure that the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems function together within the building to make it safe and habitable.
This sheet is used to provide larger views of critical areas in the building and other specific design complexities. It’s important because it details the specifics needed to execute accurate construction requirements.
15. Permit Set
This is a key subset of the CD, because it contains information on securing building permits. Permit sets typically include many of the construction documents mentioned above including a site plan, foundation plan, framing plan, exterior elevation drawing, building sections, and floor plans.
Construction Document Organization and Labeling
Make sure to follow the CAD drawing set organization for labeling the sheets so all parties involved can clearly understand which sheets are for them. You may have multiple discipline designators for various sheets based on the type of project you are working on.
The Sheet ID name format is as follows: AA-N-NN
- AA = discipline designator
- N = sheet type
- NN = sheet sequence number
The discipline designator shows the category the page falls under. If the designator is only one letter, it is considered Level 1. If it has two letters, it is Level 2, which is used for more complex projects.
These are the common Level 1 discipline designators.
|Character||Discipline Designator||Character||Discipline Designator|
|H||Hazardous Materials||W||Distributed Energy|
Level 2 discipline designators can be used as discipline modifiers. For example, AD means Architectural Demolition and AI means Architectural Interiors.
Discipline designators are followed by the sheet type, which is a single numberial character.
These are the common Level 1 discipline designators.
|Numeral||Sheet Type||Numeral||Sheet Type|
|1||Plans||6||Schedules and Diagrams|
|2||Elevations||7||User Defined Detail Sheets|
|4||Large-Scale Views||9||3D Representations|
Finally, the sheet sequence number is two-digits that shows where the sheet falls in a series of the same discipline or sheet type.
Putting that all together, the fourth sheet of a plumbing plan would be labeled like this: P-1-04.
What Is the Purpose of Construction Documents?
Construction drawings and documents are the first stage of any building’s completion. They help ensure the success of construction projects by doing the following:
- Providing clear communication to all parties involved: A successful construction project requires that a variety of disciplines — general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers, and others — coordinate their efforts and understand their jobs. Construction documents enable everyone to understand the building tasks and specifications as they pertain to their role in the process. These details increase the efficiency of the project management so that contractors maintain the workflow and avoid delays.
- Helping contractors understand the scope of the project: Construction documents outline the scope of the project, giving contractors enough information to submit a reasonable bid. Price estimations include the cost of procuring any necessary equipment, including whether to buy or rent equipment.
- Getting building permits: Construction documents are required to apply for a building permit from the city or other authority to build the structure.
- Meeting quality standards: Construction drawings and documents may include industry or governmental specifications and requirements such as building codes, zoning codes, and accessibility standards.
- Mitigating risk: Creating detailed plans allow architects, engineers, and contractors to identify potential problems early in the process. They also inform site specific safety plans and other essential documents.
The important construction documents outlined here form a key part of the architectural design process and the success of the construction project as a whole. Developed in phase three of the design process, CDs are essential for almost everything that comes after: procuring the proper permits, securing bids, anticipating equipment needs, ensuring proper construction execution, and risk mitigation.
If you’ve checked out the construction documentation for a project and realized you need to rent some equipment to complete your role, then check out the range of equipment from BigRentz.