Last edited 14 Aug 2018

Common mistakes on building drawings

Many different types of drawing can be used during the process of designing and constructing buildings, often prepared by different disciplines or teams, working separately from one another. There are several common mistakes that can be made when producing or interpreting drawings, so it is important that care and attention is brought to bear whenever conveying technical information in a form that may need to be relied upon. Mistakes on drawings can lead to costly delays and remedial work if they are not corrected.

A very common mistake is simply that drawings are not complete. This can be a particular problem where designers do not have the necessary experience, supervision, quality systems or time to produce the drawings required. Incomplete drawings can lead to requests for information and change orders when the works start on-site.

Designers may also omit some detailing during the design process, such as window details or roof construction details, intending to complete them later, and will instead provide notes about what that portion of the construction should consist of. This can become a problem If they do not return to update the drawings before construction begins.

Frequently, drawings do not coordinate with one another, in particular if they are prepared by different teams, for example, the information on structural drawings may not be consistent with ductwork drawings. This can result in 'clashes' such as ventilation ducts or running through structural beams (a hard clash), or insufficient space provision for installation works or access for maintenance (a soft clash). To try and void this problem, the design team should regularly review all up-to-date working drawings to ensure that they coordinate accurately.

Building information modelling (BIM) can help prevent clashes. Clash detection software can identify clashes between different discipline's BIM data and generate clash reports. However, this should not be relied upon as a fail-safe check, and should not be used to justify poor design co-ordination processes. For more information see: Clash avoidance.

There may also be inconsistencies between drawn information and written information such as that on schedules or specifications. It is important therefore that information is not duplicated between different types of document, but rather that one refers to the other. For example, a drawing may include notes referring to additional details in specification clauses.

In terms of the personal drawing style, designers may have in-house habits that are not understood by other teams or disciplines. This can lead to misinterpretation and mistakes. It is important therefore that drawings adopt standard methods and procedures for preparation, symbols, hatching, annotation and so on. These should be agreed at the outset so that early drawings do not have to be corrected.

This is particularly important when drawings are prepared using computer aided design or building information modelling. This can involve the federation of information prepared by multiple teams to create a single building information model. If the information is not created consistently serious incompatibilities can emerge that can be costly and time consuming to correct.

In terms of technical details, common mistakes include:

  • Incorrect or inconsistent scales being used across drawings.
  • Doors opening the wrong way or with insufficient opening space (i.e. open onto other doors, cabinets, windows, etc.).
  • Facilities located in impractical places.
  • Undersized, impractical or awkward spaces.
  • Poorly detailed junctions or abutments between different components or systems.
  • Incorrect symbols.
  • Inconsistent revision numbers.
  • Poor reproduction.
  • File exchange or conversion errors.
  • Software incompatibilities.
  • Unbuildable, or difficult to build elements.
  • Missing components.
  • Inconsistent information.
  • Illegible writing.
  • The use of acronyms that are not understood.
  • Notes that are not understood.

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