We often get telephone calls literally asking questions like “do you do blueprints” or “how much for some plans.” This is largely related to residential work but occasionally comes up on a commercial project. Now, I have had many reactions to these calls and I must admit the general ignorance on public’s part to what architects do frustrates me. However, I suppose part of that is somehow our fault as architects; maybe it’s entirely our fault. So it inspired me to write a series of posts to address some of these questions.
Let’s start with “do you do blueprints?” For starters, the term “blueprint” is an archaic term occasionally still used by laymen to describe technical construction drawings (also called working drawings, construction drawings or prints). It originated because of the “blue” drawings made by a development process of copying an original drawing made on translucent paper onto chemically treated paper. Light was passed through the translucent paper onto the copy paper. The chemical turned blue leaving white lines where the ink or pencil blocked the light. A later process was the reverse with a white background and blue lines developed with ammonia (often referred to as a “diazo” print). At my first job for an architect, there were many a day where I got a headache from being in the print room with the ammonia smell developing prints. I don’t miss that.
We now refer to these technical drawings as “prints” or simply as drawings, construction drawings or construction documents. To be very precise they are part of the “contract documents” between the owner and contractor. Nevertheless, the reference to technical drawings or the preparation of documents used for construction is a part of an architect’s typical service; however, it is a result of a design process. Yes, we can ultimately provide our clients with construction drawings for a project, but first we must talk about the design no matter how simple. An architect cannot jump to technical drawings without knowing the “what” or more importantly, the “why” of the building design.
Another related question is “can I get some plans” or “how much for a set of plans?” Again, architects offer a service, not a product so even quoting a fee is dependent on the many questions that arise in defining the service needed and design requested. Architects review each unique project specifically to determine the degree of service needed or requested by each client. If someone is looking just for a set of drawings to get a building permit (i.e. similar to stock house plans) without really caring about the design process, then they are misunderstanding the difference between purchasing a set of drawings as a product and hiring an architect for their service. An architect’s service is a systematic process through which the architect endeavors to achieve the client’s construction goals within their budget regardless of the size or complexity of the project. The production of contract documents or construction drawings is an important component of an architect’s service. It is where the artistic meets the technical. But that part of the process cannot be performed separately from a design process with the same successful results. Construction documents are a detailed and organized set of drawings and specifications that record the many decisions made and information gathered through a (thorough) design process between the client and the architect. In some ways leaping directly into construction drawings would be like a doctor providing a prescription or treatment plan without doing the diagnosis.
Yes architects can provide the necessary documents for your project whether it is a commercial or residential project. Now quoting a specific fee requires a bit more information. We will have a few questions first.
We’re good at questions.