Blueprints / what are they – what are they good for

FSB Blueprint Chickasaw Visitor Center

Blueprints-what are they

The term “Blueprint”  is a common name for printed building plans that actually grew out of the printing/developing process that rendered a large sheet of paper blue resulting with white lines on a blue background. This was replaced by the diazo print process that used ammonia gas as the developing agent and changed the look to blue lines on white background. Young graduates were delegated to running the prints when needed and there are many from that era that surely passed out on occasion from the obnoxious ammonia fumes. We gladly shoved the FSB ammonia printer out one of the upper floor windows years ago when the new technology introduced electrostatic plotters that produce a copier quality product on a large paper format which appears as black lines on white background.

Blueprints-what are they good for

Well, they are good for a cool wrapping paper for gifts. I used to take piles of blueprints to my kid’s daycare; they loved to color on them. I probably unknowingly spawned an influx of future architects into the profession. But, actually they are good for constructing stuff like buildings. While the prints are no longer a blue background with white lines, the term “blueprint” stuck as a common term for a detailed plan. For the architecture/engineering profession, the plans are more widely referred to as construction drawings and are part a broader body of information known as construction documents.

The construction documents (CD’s) are the bridge between design the built project and are used to transform the design into bricks and mortar. The CD’s represent the formal method of communication between the design team (architects, engineers, interior designers, special consultants, etc.) and the construction team (contractor, sub-contractors, suppliers, vendors, etc.). This doesn’t mean that the teams don’t communicate verbally as well which is equally important.

The CD’s consist of the construction drawings and specifications. The drawings are a graphic representation of the project consisting of floor plans, building elevations, sections, details and schedules and the specifications are a written description of the project that outline materials, the level of quality and standards that the construction must meet. The construction drawings and specifications complement each other and hand in hand they fully communicate how the project is to be constructed.

Every discipline is represented and there are drawings and specifications for civil, structural, architectural, interiors, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, data/communications and fire protection. The disciplines must work together every step of the way going back the design phases to make sure the various systems are properly integrated, coordinated and tell a complete story. There will likely be over 100 sheets of construction drawings in the final set.

The way construction drawings are produced has also changed drastically over the centuries; but that’s another story. We will take a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of the CD’s in future posts.

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Filed under Construction, Design, Materials

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