When the design team’s efforts are poorly coordinated, drawings of one discipline may not align with that of another. If such errors make it onto the construction drawings, there is a chance that the building will end up with a deficiency, or a change order will be needed to resolve the issue. To avert consequences of this nature, it’s imperative that architects and engineers harmonize their efforts and ensure that their drawings interface properly.
Architectural designAn architect is responsible for designing a building’s appearance and function according to the client’s vision and the applicable codes. The design process starts after a consultation with the client, during which the project’s budget, expected finish date, visual appearance, spatial requirements, functional program, and other design objectives are addressed.
Having established the client’s expectations, the architect gets to work on the drawings and specifications. At a minimum, a full set of architectural drawings should comprise floor plans, roof plans, elevations, sections, and perspective drawings.
Floor plans are vertical orthographic projections which show a building’s room layouts and other physical attributes for each floor. These drawings depict interior walls, doors, windows, appliances, equipment, and the use of all spaces.
Roof plans show a top view of the building’s roof, including slopes, hips, valleys, parapets, skylights, vents, drains, roofing materials, equipment and other features.
Elevations are the horizontal projections that show a building’s exterior, and sometimes interior as seen from the side.
Sections depict a view of the building as though it’s been cut along an imaginary plane.
Perspective drawings show a three-dimensional view of the building, and may depict the interior, exterior, or both.
Structural designBasing their work on the preliminary architectural drawings, structural engineers design a structure to support the building’s dead, live, and environmental loads, thus enabling it to remain upright.
Generally, a building’s structure consists of vertical and horizontal elements, such as columns and slabs, and the connections between them. The structural engineer’s job is to tailor these features to fit the architectural design.
Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) designMechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems must also make their way onto drawings before the latter are issued for permitting and construction. Having access to established structural and architectural layouts, the MEP engineers get to work on their respective drawings and specifications.
Other disciplinesOther disciplines contributing to the overall drawing package may include landscapers, civil engineers, communications engineers, acoustic and specialty consultants and others whose involvement may be required depending on the complexity of the project.
Common coordination issuesCoordination issues, also known as clashing, arise when the drawings don’t align well with one another. Common examples of clashing include columns obstructing views or passage, misaligned slab edges, mechanical ducts running through structural members, and other instances where a disagreement between disciplines creates an unbuildable scenario.
How to improve coordinationTo ensure effective integration between disciplines, the right expectations must be laid out before the project begins. The architect and the engineers must agree on a set of deliverables that will facilitate their teams’ coordination efforts. These may vary from project to project, but at a minimum, the architect should commit to furnishing the engineer with some of the following critical information:
- locations of slab edges
- floor-to-floor heights
- cavity depths and ceiling interstitial spaces
- parapet locations and heights
- unique architectural features
- areas where the design is expected to change in the future
- locations and sizes of columns
- locations of shear walls and other seismic resistance mechanisms
- locations and types of expansion joints
- structural implications of proposed floor spans and openings
- opportunities for improving the efficiency of the structure through changes to the architectural design
Today, modern technology offers a great way to improve the efficiency of interdisciplinary coordination. Processes such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) integrate various design inputs, facilitating and improving the accuracy of clash detection. Peer reviews are also helpful in identifying systemization flaws and getting them fixed.
With the aid of BIM and construction management practices such as peer reviews, project teams should be well equipped to enhance coordination between design disciplines. As well, for complex projects, it always pays to hire a professional construction manager to oversee the project’s planning phase.