Readable Drawings

9m 11s

In this ARE 5.0 NCARB-approved Project Development and Documentation Exam Prep course you will learn about the topics covered in the ARE 5.0 PDD exam division. A complete and comprehensive curriculum, this course will touch on each of the NCARB objectives for the ARE 5.0 Project Development and Documentation Exam.

Instructor Mike Newman will discuss issues related to the development of design concepts, the evaluation of materials and technologies, selection of appropriate construction techniques, and appropriate construction documentation.

When you are done with this course, you will have a thorough understanding of the content covered in the ARE 5.0 Project Development and Documentation Exam including integration of civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and specialty systems into overall project design and documentation.

So we've talked about this a number of times already in different contexts, but just to clarify a little bit, what you're really trying to do is you're trying to make readable drawings. That's the whole point of what you're on about. You have a design intent, you're thinking about what the design of the building is, and that design intent, you're trying to communicate in a clear, readable way. So that should be pretty simple and straight-forward. Everybody should be able to understand what the point is when you lay that out. The whole point here is to be as clear and reasonable in the communication as possible so that the contractors, the clients, the code officials, the funders, everybody who needs to be able to get that information can get it easily.

But there are some times when you get into a bit of a set of relationships here that get a little confusing about which way the communication really wants to go. When we say something should be readable, does that mean that it's from a legal standpoint that everything is there and everything is in its place and that all the notes are in the correct locations and all the tagging is correctly done or are we saying that the gist of the information is very clear, that the manner of the communication system is as clear and readable as possible and that anybody who would look at this would understand the gist of what's going on?

Those sound very similar, but in fact are subtly different. When we say that people could have the clarity of the gist of what's happening, that means that we're probably talking about a set of drawings where the drawings are easily related to each other.

There's a clarity of how the wall section and the floor plan relates and the section in the details relate and all of these different elements are clearly, you feel the flow of information back and forth. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they are legally clear. Legal clarity has to do with a quantity of information and an order of information and certain types of information.

Give you one quick example. If I have a set of drawings and on the drawing, there's a detail that shows how two pieces of material are related to each other, and then there's a note on that detail and it points at that moment, and it describes it differently than the way the drawing has been drawn. What is somebody to make of that? From a legal standpoint, how do they understand that information?

Well the answer is, from a legal standpoint, the note always wins. If I have a drawing and I have a written note, anything that's been written out, that takes precedent from a legal standpoint. Same thing's true for doing a bid. If we have a bid package that gets put together and somebody says, "Yeah, we can do this project for $425,065." and it says $425,065 in numbers, and then it says next to that, 400 spelled out and 25,000, but then they made a mistake and it said and $700, well that means that the one that's their actual bid is the one that's been written out.

The other one is no longer their bid. And plenty of contractors have actually lost jobs because they made a little tiny typo mistake between those and they may have been the low bidder on the number, but not the low bidder on the written out number.

And because the written out number, in that situation, is the legal description, the other number just goes away if they're not the same. The reason that you would have both of them in that situation is just cause one's easier to read and so it's there as a convenience, but the official one is the written out one. Well, same thing with those details in those other drawings. If I have a note pointing at that drawing and that note is different than what the drawing is showing, the note wins.

So this is one of those examples where there is a legal clarity and then there's a sort of assumed drawing clarity, a gist clarity. In some situations, the drawing being more fluid in understanding the relationships, that's really gonna be the important thing because you're really trying to get across complex ideas and making sure people feel comfortable with what those relationships are like and how things are gonna get put together and how big things are and all of that.

But then there's gonna be other situations where well actually, it really is all about the legal relationships. If you're doing a project that has federal funds in it, for example, something like that, you really can't make that kind of mistake in it. The legal issues there are gonna be huge and problematic. Whereas if you're doing a project with a client that you've worked with before and they're working with a bunch of GCs who have worked on similar projects already with you, everybody sort of knows what's going on, the drawings are really meant to communicate a design idea and they're not really being used in that kind of legal way, in the same way.

Whereas in another situation, I have this federally funded project. I have a bunch of different bidders. There's a very strict set of rules about how the bids are opened and read and one contractor was looking at the drawing and the other contractor was looking at the note and therefore, they came in cheaper, well, they get the job even if the note is wrong.

And now the note is legally part of the project unless you go through and create a change order or something like that to fix it. So these situations will show up in very different ways. There's multiple ways to think about the idea of the readability of a set of drawings. Same thing would be true with specification sets, with the overall project manual. These communication systems, they seem like there's a set, standard way of doing things, but in fact, there's a lot of variation and that variation can be used to tune to a particular situation.

But you have to be very careful not to tune it to one situation, but it actually is a different one. So maybe you're working with one developer, you're thinking, well this is a lot like the last developer we were working with and so you're being fairly loose because it's sort of a conversation and you're trying to work with their contractors and so you're trying to leave a little wiggle room here and there for different things. And then suddenly, you're being sued three months down the road because the drawings didn't mandate certain things that you were expecting that the contractor would just be bringing to the situation.

So understanding the situation is actually part of understanding how the drawings need to be clear. Is this a situation where the legality of the communication is really what it's all about or is this a situation where it's just a communication tool and it's more of a negotiation back and forth? So something like a design build set of drawings where the designer and the builder are all one entity, well it may not be so much about the legality of the situation because they're all on the same team, they're communicating in a very different way than in a design bid build situation where there's an adversarial aspect that's been built into the system of contracts.

Or maybe it's a construction manager situation and the construction manager is working for the owner, but they're kind of in on the conversation of the design and they're doing pricing and they're trying out different pricing scenarios while you're trying out different design ideas.

There may be a sort of fluidity to the conversation back and forth that's not really about a strict legal understanding, but it's about getting ideas across and that would fit to that situation, but it wouldn't necessarily fit once it leaps from there into a bid situation. So, it's just a note here to say when we talk about clarity and readability in drawings, in the context of the exam, make sure that you're thinking about what the context of the question is to really understand what the expectation is.

In general, if it's not truly understood, there's not any extra level of information that's being given to you, in general, you should assume that when they're looking for the readability or the clarity of the drawing sets, what they're really talking about is legal understanding of that, that there's a very clear legality to the set of relationships and there's following all of the important rules of communications so that that is clearly a legal set of understandings between these various parties.

But, if it gives a context that is different from that normal, generalized understanding, then you might break from that and really see it as dependent on the specific situation. So maybe we're inside the design build world, Maybe we're talking to a construction manager. That might tip you in a different way to say it's not so much about the legality, it's about the communication.

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From the course:
ARE 5.0 Project Development & Documentation Exam Prep

Duration: 36h 18m

Author: Mike Newman