Kathy’s Construction Document Tips
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a few helpful tips for completing construction documents that I’d like to share. These mainly apply to a Bid project; for example: an addition to an existing building.
Prioritize: Figure out long-lead work and get started ASAP. It could be a portion of a plan, a wall section, a material/method, or a unique structural or MEP issue.
Organize: On paper, or with a sketch software program, sketch what drawings, details, and schedules are needed, and place each on their proper sheet. This will give you a good idea on managing your time. Expect changes.
- Gather lots of field information, both horizontal and vertical, on the existing juncture area.
- Start a preliminary code check for sq.ft., capacity, fixture needs, etc. Continually check as drawings progress, especially for fire-ratings.
- Work out enough of a background plan to give to the engineers as soon as possible. Minor changes can be given as needed. Work out schematic layouts with them, so you know where large clearances are needed and issues might occur.
- A scale of 1/8” is usually sufficient, with 1/4” only for detailed areas. A key plan may be necessary.
- Water, liquid or frozen, is the enemy! Always figure out all the details to prevent intrusion vertically and horizontally. Pay attention to intersections with other materials or heights.
- Start schematic wall sections and details. Be sure to do enough of them, even if only partial. More and concise details and notes provides better clarification for bidders, resulting in closer bid results. It will also reduce or eliminate potential troubles during construction, with fewer Change Order requests.
- Concurrently, keep working with the owner on the plan and elevations, and any unique issues. Always respect the Owner’s suggestions. Even if not directly usable, it gives you an insight into what they’re hoping to achieve.
- Pay attention to the structure, especially the depth of beams, which must coordinate with ductwork. Keep a watchful eye on all possible conflict areas. Watch for objects or finishes, like sand-bed terrazzo, that requires a recess.
- Pay close attention to where the new meets old, in all directions, and especially related to the “water is your enemy” concern.
- Contact the sales rep for any questions and help. Most love to offer help, and that could cut your workload.
- Check for complete dimensioning. Decide on either “rough” or “finished” and keep exceptions to a minimum and note. For walls, keep masonry to a 4” module, and studs to 1/2” (1/4” at worst). Avoid tight tolerances, as they can be difficult to achieve in the field.
- Except for a few materials, color selections can be done last. The manufacturer and model or style number will be sufficient if you have a time crunch. Or select general color schemes only. If there must be more than one approved manufacturer for the project, the one the GC uses might not be your preference, so that’s time wasted.
- Try to provide full information in one location only (and then make references to it), and in Specs, or on Drawings only.
- Mentally, or with a 3D program, “stand” in each room and confirm that it can be built with the information shown, and that it is “complete.”
- Carefully coordinate Drawings and Specifications. Have someone not involved in the Project look it over when you feel it’s 95% complete.