How To Read Architectural Plans

How to Read Architectural Plans

Architectural Drawings are an essential part of any design or build project. They are a type of Communication. Translating the ideas of the client or designer into a collection of drawings and documents that clearly and accurately outline WHAT is to be built, WHERE it is to be built, and HOW it is to be built. Architectural Drawings are the primary set of drawings that govern the construction of any new building. They provide information and specifications to not only the client, but any additional consultants required on the project. The architectural plans will be used by your Builder, Engineer, Energy Assessor, Building Certifier, Council etc… the list goes on!

Architectural Drawings can be prepared by a registered Draftsman, Building Designer or Architect. And with effective design and communication, your plans should translate EXACTLY what you are wanting to build.

But Architectural Drawings can contain a lot of confusing and complex information, so let’s breakdown what is needed in a set of Drawings and how to understand them without breaking your brain!

Architectural Drawings can typically be broken down into two stages.

1. The “Preliminary” or “Concept” Stage - This is where the client and building designer go back and forth deciding on how the design is to come together, taking into account things like your build budget and any restrictions on the property. This stage of drawings requires less information.

2. Then “Working Drawings” or “Construction Drawings” Stage – Once the preliminary design has been locked in, more information is applied to the plans. Things like dimensions, and constructions specifications are used to communicate accurately, how the design is to be built. These are the plans that are endorsed for a Building approval, and eventually the plans your builder will use to price from and construct your home. Usually, changes to the plans at this stage will incur a cost from your designer due to the extensive information that is affected by altering the design.

A typical set of Architectural Plans will contain the following:

-        Site Plan: This is a drawing of the building on your Site. The property boundaries are drawn accurately, and the location and coverage area of your proposed construction is shown in relation to the boundaries. These plans will show dimensions or “setbacks” from the boundaries, and any other site components such as Trees, Driveways, Paths, Pools etc…

 Site Plan Example

Site Plan Example


-        Floor Plan : This is the layout of the building itself. This will show Walls, Doors, Windows, Room locations etc. A floor plans shows all dimensions of Walls and Rooms for the Builder to set out, and is also used as the primary design reference for the additional drawings to follow. A floor plan will also contain things like plumbing fixtures, floor surfaces and anything else the builder needs to aware of before construction.

 Floor Plan Example

Floor Plan Example


-        Elevations : These are the External views of the building. Typically referenced as North, East, West and South. This shows what the building will look like from the outside, including windows locations, overall building heights, cladding materials and roof forms.

 Elevations Examples

Elevations Examples


-        Sectional Views : Sectional Views are an imaginary “Cut” through the building. This allows the designer to show the construction components within the building. Things like Wall, Floor and Roof construction are shown. The Sectional Views will include more detailed information about the construction itself. This is also where “Details” are referenced, allowing for close up drawings of connections, and construction components that need more detail.  For example, How a roof connects to a wall or how the floor slab sits on the ground.  

 Sections and Details Example

Sections and Details Example

-        Additional Drawings that can be included in a drawing set, but are not essential are things like, Electrical Plan, Window Schedules, Ceiling Plans, Interior Elevations etc. These types of drawings are considered to be “Construction Drawings”, and although not essential, they are utilised to show more detail on the project, that way things like Lighting Fixtures, Window Sizes and other relevant information are communicated. This allows the client more control over what is documented, and therefore leaves less grey area come build time.

If you’re not looking at construction drawings regularly, they can seem confusing and overwhelming, but with some attention to detail you can quickly wrap your head around the project. But for those who are either struggling or just not interested in looking at construction documents, a 3D rendering can be a great tool for showing the design. Ask your Building Designer if they can provide a 3D for project, to do away with some of the headache in understanding architectural plans.

BA Design is a registered, Custom Building Design and Drafting Service based in Brisbane. We prepare Architectural Drawings and 3D Rendering for our clients, to help them achieve their project goals with ease and efficiency. Contact us if you have any questions about your project, we’d love to help.