Normal and Customary Documents for Construction

By John Turner, P.E. | March 19, 2020

We all joke about construction plans sketched on a napkin.  Thanks to readily available design software, far too many have become “Architects” and “Engineers.”  Enter Zoning Restrictions, Shoreland Protection and ever-changing, ever complex Codes, and it’s even a challenge for properly licensed design professionals to create perfect design plans!

We were asked to help with a project recently – a complex renovation to a waterfront property.  Our initial scope was limited to structural design.  Construction on the project began without proper and complete architectural plans.  Missing plans like architectural sections and elevations proved to be very problematic when the steel fabricator attempted to create shop drawings for the structure. During construction, there were architectural questions that no one was willing to take the responsibility for or answer and more construction (i.e. more expense) was needed than initially thought. It was a great reminder of how important complete construction documents are to a successful building project.

Another project we recently were asked to create a vision for, included an accessible entrance to Saint Stanislaus Church in Nashua, NH. Unlike the previously mentioned project, we were contracted to design the architecture and structure for this project. Things went much smoother because existing conditions were properly documented, structure was accounted for during the architectural design, and having a one-stop-shop answering all questions made the design and construction process much smoother for all parties involved.


When creating a proper set of Construction Documents, we suggest this list to be included:

  1. Civil Engineering Plans:
    1. Existing Site Survey
    2. Proposed Site Plan
    3. Proposed Utility Plan
    4. Erosion Control and Construction Details
    5. Zoning and Shoreland Protection Overlay
    6. Septic Design
    7. Storm Drainage
    8. Landscape Design
  2. Architectural Design:
    1. Existing Conditions
      1. Floor and Roof Plans
      2. Elevation
      3. Sections
    2. Proposed Design
      1. Floor and Roof Plans
      2. Elevations
      3. Sections
      4. Details, including wall sections, insulation, etc.
      5. Window and Door Schedule
      6. Detailed Bathroom and Kitchen Design
      7. Specifications for Proprietary Products
      8. Energy Code Compliance
  3. Structural Design
    1. Floor and Roof Framing Plans
    2. Details, including design loading, connections, etc.
    3. Calculations
  4. HVAC Design
    1. Plans
    2. Equipment Details
    3. Equipment Schedule
  5. Electrical Design
    1. Plans
    2. Details, including lighting fixtures, switch locations, etc.
    3. Equipment Schedule
  6. Plumbing Design
    1. Plans
    2. Details, including drain locations, drain slopes, etc.
    3. Equipment Schedule
  7. Permits
    1. Local Permits, including Building Permit and Local Zoning
    2. State Permits, including Septic and Shoreland Protection

Check them all off and you have a much better shot of a successful construction project.

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