What Are Working Drawings?

Architecture projects are full of drawings and plans. They are what’s needed to get the project started. There are different types of drawings used throughout a project. One of those being working drawings. What are working drawings?

Working Drawings

    Working drawings fall into the Design Development phase. This phase is started after the scope of work for a project has been drawn out which usually happens after a few consultations with your architect. This is where the design goes from an aesthetic work and begins to transition into technical information. In this phase, the mechanical systems, structural systems, and other important features are planned out in a general way in order to get a full understanding of how the building will be ultimately constructed. It should be noted, the deeper you get into the project the harder it becomes to change anything.

Mechanical Systems are the parts of a home or building that are used for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). When an architect is designing or engineering a Mechanical system he's working on the ways in which the building will keep a livable or comfortable temperature and clean air while having minimal impact on the design of the building. Mechanical systems include air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, whole house fans and more. Sometimes an outside consultant or specialist needs to be called in to help with these specific designs and plans since there are always innovations and improvements in the technology behind these systems. Mechanical plans will show the locations of each of these units and can get as detailed as showing the route of the supply or return ducts that go to and from that system and back out into the building and to the individual spaces within. This is a really important aspect of any home. 

Structural systems come in two types: custom and pre-engineered systems. Custom structural systems are rare and can require extensive review or study, even certification by the ICC in some cases, to be used legally in construction. Pre-engineered systems have gone through rigorous review and testing and are legally safe to be used in specific cases. For the most part, these systems are intended to support the structure of a building. A good example of a structural system is the Simpson Strong-Wall, which is a pre-engineered system designed to provide shear or lateral force resistance in the event of an earthquake. These walls are solid steel or wood and work in the corners or lengths of a wall to help make the structure stiffer and less likely to wobble back and forth. 

During the structural design phase of a project, the architect must take a step back from their design and begin to ask questions about what it will take to keep their newly designed building from falling down or breaking apart. This is a critical phase in any project since any failure or omission has the potential to lead to structural failures that can hurt or even kill people. Architects will often work with a structural engineer who specializes in this area to make sure all the bases are covered. Together, the architect and structural engineer must consider not only the structural systems required to keep the building up on its own but also that will resist other forces. Major weather events like earthquakes, tornados and snow storms can put enough forces on a building so as to cause a major structural failure. Same goes for everyday use by people and vehicles that gradually wear at the building's structure over time. All of the potential scenarios are taken into account when designing the overall structure of a building and structural systems, like the Simpson Strong-Wall, are put in place to counter-act or resist potential forces over and above what can reasonably be expected in a given area. The goal is a beautiful building that is safe and will stay standing for a long time. 

Working drawings are an important part of an architectural project. They provide the building department and general contractor with vital information on the project’s overall goal. If you have any questions during this phase, ask your architect. They are always there to help you!