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What are Architect Drawings?

By Darlene Goodman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Architect drawings are technical drawings created by professional architects to represent buildings, other structures like bridges and roads, or portions of both. These plans are typically highly detailed representations of many aspects of a building or structure. Architectural drawings can take many forms based on the level of detail the drawings are intended show.

The building and architectural industries in most countries prescribe certain standards for architect drawings. These standards apply to scales, paper sizes, and blueprint markups. The standards may also apply to which architectural drawings are included in a building plan.

Scale is a common issue in drawing for architecture. Many plans used in construction are drawn with a one-to-one scale. In the United States, many architect drawings use an Imperial scale which compares inches to feet, but most other countries use an equivalent metric scale called the System International (SI), which is based in millimeters. For example, a common U.S. scale for a floor plan is one-half inch to one foot, or 1/24th of full size, and the equivalent SI scale would be one millimeter to 20 millimeters, or 1/20th of full size.

There are several types of architect drawings. The first is the floor plan or horizontal cross section of a building. These drawings typically are a vertical view of the layout of the rooms in a building. Floor plans often show the sizes of rooms, the placement of doors and windows, and some furniture features. They typically show an entire floor of a building at once, so they do not often show a great level of construction detail.

Cross sections are architect drawings that show an internal side view, or vertical cross section, of a building. These usually show the full height and width of the building at once. Unlike a floor plan, these drawings can often show the way that floors in the building interact with one another. For example, a floor plan would be inadequate to show an atrium that extends three floors up, but it could be easily seen on a cross section.

A third type of architect drawing is the elevation. This type of plan shows the outside features of a building. Most building plans contain elevations of a building from all four compass points. For example, if the building faces north, or north is the closest compass point, then the front would be the north elevation.

The detail drawing is a fourth architect drawing. These often show builders the technical aspects of a smaller portion of a construction project. These portions are usually complex and need to be drawn fully in order to construct them, for example, one may be need to build the apex of a roof.

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