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Last edited 20 Jul 2020
Types of drawings for building design
Many different types of drawing can be used during the process of designing and constructing buildings. Some of the more commonly-used types of drawing are listed below, with links to articles providing further information.
On building projects, it is common for changes to be made during construction because of circumstances that emerge on site. As a result, it is common for as-built drawings to be prepared, either during the construction process or when construction is complete, to reflect what has actually been built.
The contractor will generally mark up changes to the ‘final construction issue’ drawings on-site using red ink, and these can then be used by the consultant team to create record drawings showing the completed project.
Assembly drawings can be used to represent items that consist of more than one component. They show how the components fit together and may include, orthogonal plans, sections and elevations, or three-dimensional views, showing the assembled components, or an exploded view showing the relationship between the components and how they fit together.
Block plans usually show the siting of a project in relation to Ordnance Survey Maps. Conventions are used to depict boundaries, roads and other details. Depending on the size of the project, recommended scales are:
- 1 : 2500
- 1 : 1250
- 1 : 500
Generally, components are ‘self-contained’ and sourced from a single supplier, typically the complete unit provided by that supplier rather than its constituent parts. Component drawings provide detailed information about the individual units. They may be drawn at large scales such as; 1:10, 1:5, 1:2, 1:1, and so on. They may include information such as component dimensions, construction, tolerances, and so on.
Concept drawings or sketches are drawings, often freehand, that are used as a quick and simple way of exploring initial ideas for designs. They are not intended to be accurate or definitive, merely a way of investigating and communicating design principles and aesthetic concepts.
Working drawings or construction drawings provide dimensioned, graphical information that can be used; by a contractor to construct the works, or by suppliers to fabricate components of the works or to assemble or install components. Along with specifications and bills of quantities or schedules of work, they form a part of the 'production information', that is prepared by designers and passed to the construction team to enable a project to be constructed.
Design drawings are used to develop and communicate ideas about a developing design. In the early stages they might simply demonstrate to the client the ability of a particular design team to undertake the design. They may then be used to develop and communicate the brief, investigate potential sites and assess options, develop the approved idea into a coherent and co-ordinated design, and so on.
Detail drawings provide a detailed description of the geometric form of a part of an object such as a building, bridge, tunnel, machine, plant, and so on. They tend to be large-scale drawings that show in detail parts that may be included in less detail on general arrangement drawings.
An electrical drawing, also known as a wiring diagram, is a type of technical drawing that provides visual representation and information relating to an electrical system or circuit. They are used to convey the engineering design to the electricians or other workers who will use them to help install the electrical system.
The term ‘elevation’ refers to an orthographic projection of the exterior (or sometimes the interior) faces of a building, that is a two-dimensional drawing of the building’s façades. As buildings are rarely simple rectangular shapes in plan, an elevation drawing is a first angle projection that shows all parts of the building as seen from a particular direction with the perspective flattened. Generally, elevations are produced for four directional views, for example, north, south, east, west.
Floor plans are a form of orthographic projection that can be used to show the layout of rooms within buildings, as seen from above. They may be prepared as part of the design process, or to provide instructions for construction, often associated with other drawings, schedules, and specifications.
An engineering drawing is a type of technical drawing used to define the requirements for engineering products or components. Typically, the purpose of an engineering drawing is to clearly and accurately capture all geometric features of a product or component so that a manufacturer or engineer can produce the required item.
General arrangement drawings (GA’s, sometimes referred to as location drawings) present the overall composition of an object such as a building. Depending on the complexity of the building, this is likely to require a number of different projections, such as plans, sections and elevations, and may be spread across several different drawings.
Installation drawings present the information needed by trades to install part of the works. This may be particularly important for complex installations such as plant rooms, data centres, ventilation systems, underfloor heating, and so on.
A location plan is a supporting document that may be required by a planning authority as part of a planning application. A location plan provides an illustration of the proposed development in its surrounding context.
Perspective drawing is a technique for depicting three-dimensional volumes and spatial relationships based on the eye level and vanishing point (or points) of the viewer. It can give a realistic impression of what a volume or space will look like in reality.
Constructing perspective drawings of buildings is extremely complicated, but has been much simplified recently by the development of computer aided design (CAD), building information modelling (BIM) and other forms of computer generated imagery (CGI).
Production drawings illustrate how to manufacture a product, providing information about dimensions, materials, finishes, tools required, methods of assembly and so on. They are used as instructional reference documents by workers and their supervisors on the shop floor or production line to manufacture the products required.
Scale drawing is a generic term used to describe any drawing that illustrates items at less than (or more than) their actual size. This is generally necessary where the items is so large or small that it is not useful or convenient to draw it at its actual size.
A section drawing shows a view of a structure as though it had been sliced in half or cut along another imaginary plane. This can be useful as it gives a view through the spaces and surrounding structures (typically across a vertical plane) that can reveal the relationships between the different parts of the buildings that might not be apparent on plan drawings.
Shop drawings might be prepared by contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers or fabricators. They generally relate to pre-fabricated components, showing how they should be manufactured or installed. They take design intent drawings and specifications prepared by the project design team and develop them to show in detail how the component will actually be manufactured, fabricated, assembled or installed.
A site plan is a large-scale drawing that shows the full extent of the site for an existing or proposed development. Site plans, along with location plans, may be necessary for planning applications. In most cases, site plans will be drawn up following a series of desk studies and site investigations.
The term ‘technical drawing’ has a very broad meaning, referring to any drawing that conveys the way that something functions or how it is constructed. Technical drawings are intended to convey one specific meaning, as opposed to artistic drawings which are expressive and may be interpreted in a number of ways. Most drawings prepared during the design and construction of buildings might be considered to be technical drawings.
 Other meanings
The word 'drawing' can also refer to: 'Mechanised methods of extracting a cylinder or, more commonly, a sheet of glass from a melt. Sheets were drawn from tank furnaces using equipment that gripped a layer of glass as it started to solidify.' Ref Archaeological Evidence for Glassworking, Guidelines for Recovering, Analysing and Interpreting Evidence, published by Historic England in 2018.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Construction drawing
- Working drawing
- Detail drawing
- Floor plan
- Design drawings
- As-built drawings and record drawings
- Section drawing
- Scale drawing
- Site layout plan.
- Symbols on architectural drawings
- Engineering drawing
- General arrangement drawing
- Technical drawing
- Bill of quantities BOQ
- Production drawing.
- Site plan
- Shop drawings
- Concept drawing
- Component drawing
- What is design?
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