This guest post is by David Jefferis.
In these posts, I will focus on general techniques of standardized representation and strategies for producing construction documents so that our conventional drawings can be exceptional.
An important but rarely discussed part of starting an office is establishing a set of effective graphic standards for communicating design intent through construction documents. Most design websites and blogs show multiple rendered perspectives, plans and sections of their featured projects, and it takes only minutes to download a huge catalogue of images as reference material. However, conventional architecture working drawings are much more difficult to find and, when shown, are often stripped of their dimensions, notes, keys, and labels.
This imbalance is understandable. After all, a primary purpose of renderings is to be beautiful, to seduce and convince. In the construction document hierarchy, on the other hand, beauty often takes a distant third place behind accuracy and completeness. The argument I will make through these posts is that beauty, the coherent graphic expression of a design, is not a subordinate category but is instead an important part of what makes a drawing accurate and complete. Given the flexible and efficient organization tools and object editing available in modern modeling software I believe that beautiful construction drawings can be, if not effortless, than at least easy.
About two years ago I reached a milestone in my career where drawings began to appear naked unless clothed with an array of keys and notes. I like to think of drawings as a comic strip: you can read the words, or you can look at the pictures, but you need both to get the point. The prevalence of many notes on even the smallest set of drawings means that an effective notation system must be in place so that notes are written and can be read consistently, accurately, and efficiently.
The first style, Full Text Notes, is one familiar from historical working drawings and is the type I used as a residential designer. Individual callouts on the drawing are fully written out each time they appear on the drawings. This style of notation is easily legible, and does not require someone reading the drawing to look back and forth between graphics and text.
However, complex or unusual details can become very crowded with long, detailed notes. This in turn requires more time to write and organize drawings. A greater problem for someone reading the drawings is that this style of note has no hierarchy: since every note is treated in the same way, it can be difficult to call attention to unique conditions. In addition, this style of notation can become time-consuming and inefficient when redlining a large project as each note on each drawing must be checked for accuracy.
In my experience smaller firms primarily engaged in residential projects use this type of note. In my own work I typically use Full Text Notes for small residential or commercial projects with a minimum of unique conditions.
Unlike the Full Text Note, the Full Keynote is highly efficient to create, check and correct. Since each note is written out once per page and linked to a number the note has to be checked only once for accuracy. Verifying that each reference number indicates the correct assembly is much faster than verifying the accuracy of many Full Text Notes. The small size of the reference numbers also gives you greater flexibility and speed in arranging notes on a drawing.
However, like the Full Text Note the Full Keynote has no hierarchy. This is exaggerated by the fact that the Keynote numbers have no clear relationship with the assembly they describe. In addition, like the Full Text Note unique details and conditions still tend to get lost in a sea of numbers.
I was introduced to this style of note when I worked for firms doing large commercial and institutional work. This style of note will become more prevalent in residential work as architects must increasingly rely on standardized proprietary products for roofing, framing, insulation, lighting controls, and other building systems. Recently I have been working on commercial projects with many standard details and have found this style of note to work very well.
In my next post I will describe my preferred style of notation, the Hybrid Note.
About the author:
David Jefferis is a licensed Architect and principal at Grayform Architecture in Houston, Texas. Though ArchiCAD is his preferred program, he has extensive experience on multiple modeling and rendering platforms. His primary interest is in general techniques and theories of standardized architectural representation, with a specific focus on the ways in which BIM software alters the way these drawings are made by expanding the amount, availability, and types of graphic and textual information.