What Are As-Built Drawings and Why Are They Important?

Blueprint

Construction projects are complicated, with many moving parts that must align just right for the finished product to come out as planned. Issues inevitably arise during construction, and the best contractors prove their skill by adjusting to necessary deviations from the original design.

This is where as-built drawings come in. While they aren’t always mandatory, most clients will require a complete set of as-built drawings (also known as record drawings) at the conclusion of a project. Providing these drawings is part of the conclusion of the construction management process, and they often prove useful in the future. As a result, all contractors should be familiar with what goes into the creation of clear and useful as-built drawings.

First, we will review what as-built drawings are before explaining why they are so important for ensuring a successful project lifecycle long after the initial building phase. We will then conclude this post by detailing how to create a clear and useful as-built drawing that will signal a high degree of professionalism and earn repeat business from satisfied clients.

What Are As-Built Drawings?

An as-built drawing is a revised drawing created and submitted by a contractor after a construction project is finished. They contain any changes made from the initial drawings during the construction process, and provide an exact rendering of the building and property as it appears upon completion.

As-built renderings should detail the shape, dimensions, and precise locations of any and all elements within the scope of the project. Any modifications, whether minor or major, should be included, along with a record of approvals to go along with the changes.

Even small details like materials used should be documented if they differ from those indicated in the original plan, with the intended but unused materials simply crossed out, to allow future reference to the changes that emerged throughout the construction process.

Who Is Responsible for Creating As-Built Drawings?

Since architects and designers create the original plans from which the as-built drawing is based, they are the most qualified to put together the final as-built drawing. However, typically, they will have only limited involvement with the day-to-day construction. This means that they will not be aware of most of the changes undertaken throughout the project’s completion.

As a result, the contractor will most often be responsible for the accuracy of the final as-built drawing. This makes sense, as the contractor is responsible for the actual construction and is able to clearly document changes as they occur. Unfortunately, many contractors shirk their responsibility to create a high-quality set of as-built drawings, opting to dedicate their time and resources to other tasks until the last possible minute.

In the event that there were many changes over the course of a project or that those changes were poorly documented, working on as-built drawings at the last minute may be too late.

When to Start As-Built Drawings

The creation of useful as-built drawings requires careful attention to detail and meticulous tracking of project development from start to finish. With that said, producing them doesn’t need to involve a heavy burden of time or energy, outside of what is necessary to successfully bring a project to completion in the first place.

It’s a good idea to actively track and log any changes from the initial drawing as they occur. This makes the purpose of each deviation clear, and makes the job of putting together the as-built drawing relatively straightforward. Being able to document any changes in construction also signals a degree of professionalism that is sure to be appreciated by your client.

On the other hand, failing to document changes that arise throughout the construction process can not only lead to a frantic scramble when your project nears completion, but may also result in an inaccurate final drawing. If you had to make several changes to any aspect of the project, there is a strong chance that the deviations will compound, rendering your final assignment borderline indecipherable.

Why Are As-Built Drawings Important?

As-built drawings can be useful to each party in a construction project for different reasons.

For contractors, as-built drawings provide a clear record of the changes pursued in the interim stages of construction and make it easier to clearly visualize the next steps. This makes it much easier to notice complications introduced by the changes and solve the problem in advance.

For clients and building owners, having a complete and detailed set of as-built drawings is essential. Since as-built drawings contain records of all installations, they are an invaluable help if the owner decides to modify the building in the future, or if problems arise that the owner needs to troubleshoot.

Because as-built drawings are also valuable to the future buyers of the property, they’re a useful part of the final sale. They provide a clear testament to what exactly is being sold and purchased and serve as a foundation for any future development or modifications.

How to Create Effective As-Built Drawings

Now that we’ve covered what they are, let’s dive into what goes into the creation of a useful as-built drawing.

As mentioned, as-built drawings should chronicle any changes made from the original design during the construction process. These changes should be explained clearly in writing, along with the date on which the change was made. Any deviation from the original plan should be specified, whether the change was in design, location, materials used, or all of the above.

A procedure must be specified in advance whereby different line functions share information and the as-built drawing is systematically maintained. Details such as a color code, drawing scale, and the format of changes logged are all important for the sake of consistency and a useful final product. Messy as-built drawings can confuse future users. Providing an unclear as-built drawing is almost as bad as providing no as-built drawing.

Completing a set of as-built drawings used to require pen and paper and a laborious and difficult-to-maintain workflow procedure across various project functions. The digital revolution has greatly simplified the process. Now, typed documents and drawing plans can be shared via e-mail. Furthermore, software is increasingly providing project management functions like version tracking, document monitoring and permission validation.

About ABM

As a leading Chicago engineering consultant, we have long understood the value of as-built engineering and have made it our goal to stay on the cutting edge of construction project management. To that end, we employ industry-leading 3D scanning services to create as-built management drawings in a fraction of the time it would normally take.

Please get in touch and request a consultation today to learn more about how our dedicated team of professional project managers can help you complete your project ahead of schedule and under budget.

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