How to Get it Started – The Importance of Site and Architectural ‘As-builts’

Joe is generally a trusting person, so when his landlord gave him a set of drawings for the building he was going to rent, his assumption was that the drawings reflected the space that he was going into. Wanting to save costs, Joe didn’t ask the architect to complete ‘as-built’ drawings; rather, he gave the drawings to the architect with the directions to use the provided drawings. When the design passed the building and safety department, Joe thought that all was well, until construction began. The inspector, upon coming through the building, realized that there were walls that were not shown as “existing- to be demolished” on the plans, as well as other conditions that were not permitted. Joe’s work was halted by the inspector until the plans were revised, at the cost of thousands of dollars in delay for his business going into the space, as well as the architect’s time in revising the drawings and the building and safety department’s need to re-check the work.

if Joe had been willing to have the architect, on the front end of the work, complete his own ‘as-built’ drawings, he would have in the long run saved thousands of dollars and months of time.

This could never happen to you, right? But, for the sake of saving a couple hundred dollars now, many times people tend to neglect the very thing that could help them later.

When you, the client, provide drawings to the architect, the architect is entitled to rely upon those drawings as though the drawings represent everything in the current state that it exists. This reliance could result in overlooking items that could end up being costly for you and delay your project… there are simply too many things that having ‘as-built’ drawings could reveal in terms of the design of the project to leave it up to plans that may or may not be accurate in the drawings you obtain from the landlord. I like to recommend that all people, whether they ultimately become a client of mine or not, when undertaking their work, have the architect perform this simple procedure that could end up saving them time and money.

‘As-builts’ are typically an ‘additional service’… meaning, they may not necessarily be required in order to complete a job, especially if you have drawings on hand already. But, they can be invaluable when problems arise, as problems often do.

I like to charge $.25 per square foot in order to document an existing building’s floor plan. if I need to do elevations / sections, etc., those will be a little more, but I think the peace of mind that comes from having the entire building documented as much as possible makes sense. Also, in going through the building, the architect will have the time and the opportunity to see additional conditions and be made aware of potential problems in the design and construction of the new work if he documents the existing conditions of the building.

The Process of Doing As-built Drawings: Eight Sensible Steps for Accuracy and Precision

The process of completing a set of ‘As-Built’ drawings is quite simple, actually. Below are the steps that one should take in completing the drawings that document the conditions of the site:

  1.  Take the existing Plot plan of the area, and with a rolling measuring wheel, begin to verify the outside dimensions of the boundary lines of the property
  2. Document the distance from the boundary line to the built structure or structures on the property by at least two dimensions. Since these are property lines, and if the features on the site include items that will acutely impact the design, such as sloping land features, water features and other items, it may be necessary to hire a professional land surveyor, who will provide updated and accurate measurements based on satellite imagery and other records that he may specifically have access to.
  3. Verify that you have the external overall dimensions of the building documented accurately. Double and triple check these dimensions, and if there are any land features that are present on the plot plan, you can use these features to help you locate the structure relative to the property lines.
  4.  I like to use the Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer in order to document the building. Its accuracy is within 1/16th of an inch and has a 130 ft. range. These are quite handy, rugged and durable devices that I have found to be extremely helpful in documentation. Having a standard tape measure also is helpful in order to document certain conditions. In some cases, I have gone to a jobsite with my son, John, to help me do things like hold the measuring tape securely on one side while I document the extent of the building on the other side of the tape. Taking a pad of ‘Post-its’ is also helpful, because they can serve as a ‘stop’ for the laser measuring system.
  5. Although I haven’t researched all of the ones out there on the market, there are a few ‘virtual reality’ systems that weave together images that allow you to document what one would see from any given vantage point (Veho VCC-100-XL MUVI X-Lapse 360-Degree Photography Accessory for iPhone). Additionally, having a digital camera is indispensable in documenting the existing conditions. I use my Apple Iphone 4s, which seems to do the trick quite well.
  6.  Begin taking dimensions from exterior known items, such as doors, windows and major ‘landmarks’ or features. Relate all of these to the perimeter of the building, which you have already documented.
  7.  Document the inside, checking to insure that you have locations of interior features related to those you have already documented on the outside. If you do this, you can at times ‘check’ major variations in the depths of wall thicknesses, thus tipping you off to the variety of structural impacts that may be present as well.
  8. After finishing, realize that you may need to come back and get a few more measurements. There are literally thousands of items that you may need to document, so being able to come back to the jobsite is critical, especially after you have finished the major drafting effort. Check and double0check your work.

So, these are a few steps that I take in order to document the existing conditions of the site and building, if such a thing is needed in order to get the job done, or if it is required by the client to proceed. The importance of following these steps should not be understated, because their impact is so critical… even if they serve to verify the existing drawings, at least as the architect, I can be assured that my work is as true-to-real as possible.


Affiliate Disclaimer

(It is said, “No Man is an Island” – that maxim is true. We are all influenced by others in a number of ways. As an experiment and from time to time and in various places in this Blog, I will have links to Amazon for products that have either helped me or that I find interesting or may be helpful to you. Obviously, you are under no obligation to buy anything, but if you do so from clicking on any of my affiliate links, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. When you do this, it allows me to free up time so that I can deliver more helpful content to you on this website. I appreciate any support you may give through purchasing through these links.)

Leave a Reply