Architectural drafters play a key role in every stage of the design process. From sketching out preliminary concepts, to preparing finalized construction documents, they help bring building projects to life.
Working under the supervision of an architect or engineer—or in some cases, consulting directly with clients—architectural technicians produce a number of documents, each with a distinct purpose and goal.
This post walks prospective students through 5 of the design docs they will learn to create in architectural design school, using both hand-drawing techniques and computer-aided-design (CAD) software.
1. Site Plan
The site plan is a two dimensional drawing that shows where a proposed building will be located on the construction site, including some of the surrounding streets and structures. This document is presented from an aerial view; it looks down onto the building and shows how it fits into its environment. Here's an example, with the building area outlined in red:
Creating the site plan is a crucial part of the design process. It happens right at the beginning, as soon as the building site has been evaluated. The site plan is required to obtain permits for both brand new projects, and additions or renovations to existing structures.
The plan typically includes a lot of information, including property lines, parking diagrams, driveways, landscaped areas, accessibility for disabled persons, fire hydrants...and of course, detailed dimensions and measurements.
2. Schematic Designs
Architectural drafters create schematic designs during the first phase of the design process. These often begin as rough, hand-drawn concepts, developed in consultation with the client. You might prepare a few different drawings to show various possibilities, and adapt them several times, before the client makes a final decision.
Here's an example of two schematic designs, created to show two possible concepts for the same building ("Scheme A" and "Scheme B"). These hand-drawn sketches show exterior and floor plan views:
Once a final design has been agreed upon, the drafter produces a more detailed schematic using CAD software. This document will show plumbing, ventilation, electrical and other building systems. It will also include details on materials and an updated cost estimate.
3. Floor Plans
Floor plans provide an interior view of a building from above, showing the relationship between rooms, and the location of important fixtures within those rooms (such as closets, sinks, appliances, windows, doors, etc.).
An architectural technician will include a range of other descriptive elements in the floor plan, including the dimensions of rooms and walls, and material finishes. This design document is included in permit applications, along with the site plan, elevations, and other key construction documents.
FLOOR PLAN OF A HOME
4. Exterior elevation
This type of drawing also shows the outside of a building, but this time, from a head-on (versus aerial) view. Elevations are drawings of a building's sides, from the north, south, east, and west. Architectural designers create these documents to communicate with construction teams about which materials to use for a building's exterior, and how the finished product should look. Here's an example:
Architectural designers are responsible for ensuring the exterior elevations (and all other building plans) comply with the local building code. Students attending architectural design school in the Toronto area study the Ontario Building Code, and are required to take the Building Code certification exam.
5. Isometric Drawings
Isometric drawings are a kind of three dimensional drawing. In architectural design, isometric drawings are used to communicate how parts of a building (different rooms and levels) connect to one another. Here are a few different examples:
These design documents provide detailed views of building interiors and components, so construction teams and clients can visualize the final product. Once a very time-consuming manual process, architectural drafters now use CAD software to quickly create isometric drawings with multiple views.
Interested in learning more about how architectural technicians help bring buildings to life? Take a look at this blog post for a helpful breakdown of the 5 design phases, and how drafters contribute at each stage.
Looking for some guidance on how to begin a career in architectural design?
Take a look at Herzing College's Architectural Design diploma program. Visit the program page for a list of coursework, possible career paths, admission information—and to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!