What are Construction Documents?
To put it in one word; instructions. As a follow up on our BIM post, we are expanding on a phase of design that sometimes gets little notice from clients and prompts the question, What are Construction Documents? Our lives are filled with instructions that we encounter on a daily basis, whether it be at the gym, ATM, or paying our taxes. However, with construction documents, they specifically focus on communicating the project’s design intent.
The Design: If you read in our Approach, we start the design process by goal setting and fact finding. These eventually translate into a concept, which in turn is developed into The Design. Along that process, priorities like energy efficiency, natural light, open space, and/or particular materials are identified and reflected in the design.
The Instructions: This is where construction documents step in. These documents specifically detail those priorities to effectively communicate the design intent to contractors, consultants, vendors, city officials, and so on. Without these details (instructions), certain aspects of the design may not be properly communicated or constructed leading to unsatisfactory results or unintended conditions.
The Ikea Example: To illustrate this, lets go back to the instruction idea. Most are familiar with IKEA and their concept of affordable furniture. One way they achieve this is by having the consumer assemble most of their products. This requires detailed and effective documents. Below is a page out of their assembly instructions for the MALM bed. It is complete with detailed images showing the types of components, fasteners, and quantities.
If we remove some of the detail (steps) like the edited page below, the process to achieve the goal of a completed bed gets a little vague. This works the same way with an architect’s construction documents.
A project’s construction documents may vary in the detail depending on scope, budget, and other factors. It is important to remember that these drawings become the centerpiece of executing the intended design and become a valuable asset in communicating with all members of a design and project team.
When hiring an architect a good strategy is to review a similar project’s construction documents to get a sense of the architect’s ability to translate a design concept into an important communication tool. For more considerations about hiring architects, please visit our FAQ page.