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What are Architectural Plans?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Architectural plans are comprehensive drawings of buildings that represent the completed project. These may also be called blueprints or floor plans. In the case of a structure designed to serve as a residence, they may also be called home plans. Architectural plans will usually include any elevation changes, along with a possible list of materials and design notes.

Coming up with a good set of architectural plans is one of the first steps in designing a building. A site plan, or study, may be done first so that there is adequate knowledge obtained about the site before the final plans are made. Once the site has been inspected, the plans can be drawn up based on the available space. On occasion, this can radically alter the plans from the initial design, but most changes due to site limitations will be relatively minor.

The layout of the building in the architectural plans is the map the contractor will use to construct the building. The layout must note any elevation changes, such as those requiring steps or slopes, both within the building, and outside. The plans will need to be drawn to a scale that is uniform throughout the entire document, unless changes are noted. The scale may be enlarged to show more detail in some cases, but this detail is usually set aside from the main plans.

Architectural plans will often be very specific as far as the materials used. This is because the designer is going for a certain look, requiring strict adherence to the plans. Any deviation from the plans a contractor may wish to execute should only be done after a consultation with the architect or owner, and with good reason. Some changes may require an entirely new set of architectural plans so that the overall look remains seamless, but this is usually rare.

In most cases, architectural plans will be prepared by a licensed architect, and then approved by the owner of the project. This gives two levels of review before the plans are actually used in the construction process. Once the plans have been approved, different contractors may be asked to bid on the project. The plans are very important for the contractor, as the price quoted will greatly depend on what is shown in the documents. Without accurate plans, there is no way to determine a fair estimate for the work to be done.

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