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How To Read a Floor Plan and Blueprint

When engaging an Architect, you will, at one point, need to review the floor plan and blueprint of your project. These documents may look intimidating and difficult to interpret at first, but having the basics down pat will help ensure that your project meets your expectations upon completion. Here are some tips to help you better understand what you’re looking at the next time you view your blueprints.

What is a floor plan? What is a blueprint?

Construction Drawings on different types of paper

A floor plan is a two-dimensional (2-D) visual representation or projection of space from the top view. It shows the layout and composition of spaces, including the elements found therein (think walls, partitions, floor levels or steps, doors, windows, fixed cabinetry, fixtures, furniture pieces, and more). The floor plan is just one of the many drawings that comprise Construction Drawings.

Ground and Second Floor Plans

A blueprint, on the other hand, is a copy or a reproduction of an Architect’s drawings, which are originally printed on tracing papers. Blueprints usually come in large A2, A1, A0, and 20” x 30” sheets, and they’re the least expensive way to reproduce drawings. Nowadays, however, your Architect may opt to use whiteprints or softcopies/digital copies of blueprints because of their improved clarity, sharpness, and cleanliness.

Plans on blueprint paper

Something to note: The two terms above are used loosely and interchangeably, but the proper and more fitting term to refer to all drawings used in a project is Construction Drawings.

Why do I need to understand my floor plan and blueprint?

As a client, it’s important for you to have at least a basic grasp of these Architectural Drawings because it’s your Architect’s solution to your design requirements for the project. If the Architectural Drawings provide layouts or designs that are otherwise inconsistent with your requirements, then the finished project will most likely be unable to meet your needs. This is because you won’t be able to use the structure/space the way you intended or expected to. Understanding Architectural Drawings is a way of checking whether your Architect did a good or even fantastic job in understanding your project requirements and in applying appropriate design solutions to the project.

It is important to have an understanding of these drawings

Secondly, understanding Architectural Drawings helps clients realize what needs to be added, omitted, and modified before they are actually implemented. During the initial stages of the design process, these alterations are to be expected and are easily applied. However, once the project is past the initial stages of design, additional fees may be charged. This is because drawings and layouts from allied professions such as Civil Engineering, Plumbing/Sanitary Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering have already commenced. Any changes made during this stage, however minute, will require re-drawing, re-layout, or even re-computation, to all the affected drawings. These should be done with the consent and mutual understanding of both the Architect and the client. If changes are made to these drawings during—or worse, after—the construction of the structure/space, this can affect the target completion date of your project or inflate costs.

What are the things a first-time client should take note of when reading a floor plan?

When looking at a floor plan, first, take note of the proximity or adjacency of the spaces to one another. They must respond to or address your project requirements. Imagine yourself in the space and doing your day-to-day routine once the project is finished. Do you need certain rooms to be closer to one another? Which rooms need to be positioned further apart?

Second, take note of the areas or sizes (usually in square meters) and dimensions (usually in meters) of the spaces provided by the Architect. Do you need some rooms to be bigger or smaller? In which areas will you need more breathing room? Note that there are minimum areas for habitable rooms, toilets, and kitchens as provided by under the National Building Code of the Philippines (P.D. 1096). There are also minimum height clearances for any space, depending on the storey or level that the space is located. Anything lower than these standards is not only inhumane and cruel to the users of the space, but also outright illegal.

Third, check the circulations, accesses, and exits. Just like room sizes, there are minimum dimensions required by the Building Code and Fire Code for corridors, passageways, staircases, windows, and doors. There are also minimum required widths, arrangements, distances, and numbers of exits for each space or structure.

Check the plans for dimensions and space arrangement

Fourth—and this applies not only to floor plans but to any drawing in a set of Architectural Drawings—take note of the proposed materials and finishes annotated or labeled in the drawings. These indicate, for instance, whether certain parts of the house will be built with wood or concrete, or the type of paints and finishings that will be used to stylize the space. Sometimes, you’ll find a dedicated sheet showing a tabulation or schedule of materials and finishes proposed by your Architect. This helps you get a more graphic idea of what the structure/space will look like when finished. It also gives you a peek at the possible cost of the project.

Check the materials and finishes

Fifth, try your best to familiarize and understand what is written or stated in the General Notes and Legends, including Abbreviations. Usually, they are located at the corners of the sheets. They are not drawings per se, but they are guides or references to the client, the allied professionals, and even the contractor on how to read and understand the Architectural Drawings.

Check the legends on the drawings

General Notes exist because there are things that cannot be captured or explained through drawings. These usually pertain to strict instructions or directions from the Architects that must be complied with by the contractor during construction, particularly in implementing the drawings. Meanwhile, Legends and Abbreviations are listed because elements, components, or labels are considerably utilized during design. But because Architectural Drawings are technical and may alienate and intimidate any third person, including the client, Legends and Abbreviations are there to help you easily understand the meaning and interpretation of an element, component or label—and decide whether something should be added, moved, or removed entirely.

Check the Construction Notes on the drawings

If there’s something in your floor plan, blueprint, or any sheet in your Architectural Drawings that you have trouble interpreting, remember that you can always consult with your Architect. After all, it’s part of an Architect’s job to clearly explain the design and the drawings to their clients. And being aligned on the plans for your structure or space will ensure a smoother design process—and a finished product that you are satisfied with.

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