User-Friendly Design Plans

            As a construction superintendent or project manager, one of the activities I typically did at the start of a new project is to cut-up an entire set of plans.  I then make reduced copies of architectural and structural details, make reduced copies of door, window, shear panel, and other schedule tables, and then clear-tape them judiciously on the appropriate backside pages of another clean set of plans.

            I use colored pencils to color-code and highlight detail call-outs on the plans such as anchor bolt spacing, hold-downs, post anchors, shear-panel nailing, 3” thick mudsills, similar door sizes, similar window sizes, structural beams and posts, etc.

            Finally, I would sketch various parts of the building that I think are more clearly illustrated in three-dimensions, make reduced copies, and clear-tape these illustrations on to the appropriate backside pages of the working set of plans that I am also adding reduced details to with color highlighting.

            I do this cut-and-paste operation at the start of a new project because it prevents having to continually flip pages back and forth from the floor plans to the architectural and structural details, with the possibility of missing some important information. 

            This process of mine tells me that building design plans as traditionally formatted are not organized to provide the optimum clarity and ease of use for the people who count the most: the supervisors, forepersons, and tradespeople in the field who assemble the buildings.

            At the start of every new project, many mistakes occur simply because someone did not follow the chain of information all the way through five or six different pages of the plans, and thus missed a particular detail or note.

            If our goal is to improve the construction by minimizing potential construction mistakes, then the format and layout of the physical building plans needs to become more user-friendly.

            People in the field are using physical print sets of plans, and are not carrying around a laptop computer or a tablet device containing the plans in digital form on a screen.

            Considering the costs of correcting construction mistakes in terms of time and money, everything possible should be done to make building plans clear and easy to follow. 

            Why should assembly instructions for children’s $20 or $30 plastic model airplanes or battleships be better illustrated and more foolproof than design plans for a $20 million tract housing project?

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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