There are times when people make the assumption that the architect’s drawings are sacrosanct and that if they where drawn on a sheet of paper – or even approved by the local building department then they must be RIGHT. WRONG!
When you are designing a single family home or a small building it is likely your architect will be in charge of architectural design; structural; mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP). In larger projects the architect is in charge of the building floor plans which he then hands off to the structural engineer and MEP engineer to “layer” their systems into the proposed building.
Ideally, once all the disciplines complete their work there is a coordination meeting where the architect, structural and MEP engineers sit down and resolve any conflicts of risers, shafts, ducts, structural elements, etc. that arise from these plans.
Another way to lessen the chance of these conflicts is to have the three disciplines use special software such as REVit that designs in 3 dimensions -not many small to medium-sized firms know how to use it. This program will take the architectural drawing and add 3D layers of structural and MEP and will flag any conflicts where systems intersect. But even REVit is not perfect.
Tracks laid out on a residential building
In a medium to large scale residential building, my preferred methodology is to design in REVit and then have the contractor lay out floor tracks of where the drywall is supposed to go. This will help the developer visualize the layout and make minor tweaks as he sees fit.
“Visualizing” the floorplan in a residential Building
It will also allow the MEP and the building trades to ensure that the plans are actually “build-able”. I can’t tell you how many times a “perfect floor plan” did not account for an electric riser, air conditioning condenser line, dishwasher drain, etc. Or a sink that sticks out too far and will get ruined due to the proximity to the shower.
Sink and vanity conflict
In an office building where walls are typically fixed by the end user and not the developer and where most mechanical systems run up and down the building and are distributed in the ceiling of each floor my approach is a bit different. I will have the sprinkler, air conditioning, electrical, low voltage, ceiling tile contractors all take a chalk-line of different colors and mark the finished ceiling slab where their respective system will be located (for example red for sprinkler, blue for HVAC, yellow for ceiling tiles, etc). After that is done I have the owners representative, architect AND mechanical engineer sign-off on the layouts.
What I like (or LOVE) most about this approach is that simply requiring this from these professionals will make them tremble. They will fight you tooth and nail, tell you they are experienced and have never needed it before, that its not their responsibility to lay it out like that. The reality is that they fret about it because they don’t want to sign-off something and then be wrong because at that point they will be responsible to pay to make it right. And why should they do it if NOT doing it will land the risk – and the cost on YOUR lap!