Introduction to Reading Plans
Have you ever tried building a new piece of furniture without reading the provided instructions? If so, at some point you probably have found yourself in some state of frustrated confusion which in turn drives you to look at the instructions. In a sense, the services performed for you by an architecture firm is the design and production of that instruction book but instead of a table, book case, or desk, you are building a house.
Reading The Plans
If there is one thing you need to know about architecture and home design it’s how to read and understand the various drawings and plans associated with your remodel, home addition, or custom home. Learning this skill will benefit you during planning.
Step 1: Schemes and the Design Process
The design of a home begins with what we call “Schemes”. A scheme is basically a conceptual floor plan showing the proposed construction project. These are very important as you can imagine. Throughout the design process (phase 1) you’re more than likely going to have several different schemes. These various layouts will differ in anything from room locations, room sizes, and the relationships between the spaces. To keep it simple Schemes are titled in the following manner: Scheme “A”, Scheme “B”, and so on as seen in the following example:
Step 2: Construction Documents
The Construction document package is the architect submits to your cities building department for review and approval. Without these you cannot get a permit or hire a contractor. The very first thing you need to know about reading Construction Documents is how to use the built-in navigation system. That’s right, this one comes standard with one built in. Take a look at the image below to see where the navigation system is.
Step 3: Title Block
The most notable part of the title block is located in the lowest section known as the “Sheet Number”. This number will appear as a letter followed by a number. For example “A-1” means the sheet you are looking at is the 1st sheet in the architectural section. Knowing this information will make it very easy for you to know what the plan is referring to.
A full set will include the following
Cover Sheet - “CS”
As you may have guessed, this page is the first thing you will see in a set of Construction documents. The data on this sheet may vary from one architecture office to another. You should find the Project’s title in big bold letters, a map of the property where the construction project will take place, an index of abbreviations used in the plan, and some general notes.
Architectural Drawings - The “A” Sheets
The “A” sheets are where most of the projects contents are located. You should expect to see things like the floor plans, elevations, and sections of the proposed structure. The “A” sheets will look most familiar to you as they are simply a more detailed rendition of what was created in the design process.
Structural Drawings - The “S” Sheets
The "S" sheets are a map for the contractors on how to build the structure. These sheets show specifications about building your new home according to the design you've chosen by working with the architect and the codes required by your city or county.
Electrical Drawings - The “E” Sheets
The “E” sheets are, power outlets, light switches, ceiling fans, and overhead lighting. Electrical wiring is indicated by thin arcing lines between the elements. This gives the electrical engineer the appropriate indications for installing electricity throughout your new home.
Once these drawings are complete and have been approved through the review process at your local city building department you are ready to seek bids from building contractors and start construction on your new property!