Drafters like me aren’t very interesting. We spend a lot of time with our heads down, drawing the details of commercial architecture and interiors projects. Everything from floor plans to elevations to wall sections — and lots and lots of details. All of the details needed to convey to the contractor what’s going on. That’s the purpose of construction documents (CDs) after all. So while what drafters do may not seem sexy, it’s critical to getting the project completed on time, in budget, and without mistakes.
So what’s the big secret to great construction documents? I promise I’ll get there. But before I do, we need to start with the design process.
The Devil Is in the Details
Let’s say we’re starting with an existing commercial building, so we have to do the survey of it to know what’s there right now. Once we do the survey, we’ll draw the existing building as it is (e.g., creating as-builts). From there we do space planning, where we work to figure out the best layout to help the user get their work done. And if we’re doing a remodel, we have to work out how to fit the new design to make it work with the old.
Take a restaurant design project like Erbert and Gerbert’s, for example. Restaurants require a lot of space planning, because you have to fit a lot of equipment in a typically small space, while keeping in mind clearances so the staff can get around and work efficiently.
Once the space planning is complete, we move on to the building details. Things like parapet caps, how the roof membrane goes up and under the cap flashing — all that detail-y stuff the contractor needs — can be pretty monotonous and time-consuming to draw. Like most of us in the world of commercial real estate, I prefer slimmed down CDs as much as possible. Why draw nine sheets of diagrams if you can do it in two, right?
Solving Real Estate Challenges
But that only works if you have a good relationship with the contractor. If you’ve never worked with the contractor before (or if the contractor isn’t particularly good), it’s better to overdraw the CDs than under-draw them — adding more details and really specific notes. This isn’t just about where things go in the space, but how everything goes together. More often than not, the CDs have to be really thorough for the project to turn out right.
That’s the secret: great construction documents are created to solve real estate challenges. If the architect and the contractor have a strong history and the contractor knows what the architect is looking for in a design, then the CDs don’t have to be as detailed. If not, or if the design is particularly unique, then it pays to have a drafter spend the time to get the details right. It will definitely cost less to draw thorough CDs than for the contractor to have to figure it out in the field.
Jon Paulsen serves as Design Technician for PlanForce Group.