Between the initial plans and the completed building, all construction projects go through changes and modifications. As the name implies, as-built drawings are illustrations that reflect how a project was actually built — after the many revisions that typically occur during the construction process. We’ll explore these documents and what subcontractors need to know about them below.
What Are As-Built Drawings?
Every construction project begins with initial plans, or shop drawings, which are completed before construction can begin. These drawings illustrate the building’s specifications and measurements, and must be approved before the construction commences.
However, throughout the construction process, changes and modifications are inevitable as the contractor and subcontractors face challenges around material availability, regulations, or fabrications. As-built drawings (also referred to as red-line drawings or as-builts) are revised sets of drawings submitted by a contractor upon the completion of the project. They reflect all the changes made during the construction process and provide an exact rendering of the finished product.
Ultimately, you can compare the as-built to the original construction drawing to see how the final building compares to the originally designed version.
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What Is Included in As-Built Drawings?
These drawings should illustrate any variations from the original construction drawings, including changes to specifications, dimensions, materials, and location.
As-built drawings should include:
- Dates and detailed notes of any modifications
- Changes to materials used (type, size, location, etc.)
- Changes to locations, including windows, doors, plumbing, etc.
- Any obstructions and solutions used
- Changes made after or in response to any inspections
- Work outside of the original project scope
- Final, exact dimensions
- Design changes
It’s important to note that as-builts can also include other supporting documentation, including written notes and pictures.
Who Creates Them?
Generally, as-builts are created collaboratively by the general contractor and the project architect or designer. During the construction process, the contractor will often mark color-coded changes directly on the original plans. The architect then takes those drawings and incorporates the changes into the final, as-built drawings.
(Note: Sometimes, those architect-created final drawings are referred to as record drawings, while the contractors’ notes are considered the as-built drawings. Other times, the terms as-builts and record drawings are used interchangeably.)
Why Are They Important?
As-built drawings are important for a few reasons. During the construction process, as-built drawings can help get subcontractors onboarded quickly, as they can review the drawings and quickly understand exactly where the project stands. This also allows subcontractors to spot and address any potential issues early in the process, as soon as a change is made.
Ultimately, for the general contractor and subcontractors, as-built drawings serve as a detailed record of the construction that was actually completed compared to the intended design. Equipped with these drawings, all project stakeholders know exactly what work was performed.
In addition, the final as-built drawings give the building owners an accurate representation of the completed project. If they ever decide to add on to or renovate the building, they will have the exact specifications of the work that was initially completed. When they need repairs or maintenance, they will be able to reference the drawings and retrieve any necessary information, such as shut-off valves, for example.
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What Subcontractors Need to Know About As-Built Drawings
While subcontractors aren’t generally directly involved in creating as-built drawings, they must keep detailed notes about any changes to materials or specifications during their work, so they can be incorporated into the drawings. When making a change to the original design or specifications, you must record the exact changes, including sizing, dimensions, materials used, and installation notes. To ensure your notes are clearly communicated, avoid using abbreviations, and follow any pre-established color coding (e.g., red for deleted items, green for additions, and blue for other changes).
Changes during the construction process are inevitable — but collaborating closely with the general contractor, architect, and crew to create accurate as-built drawings will ensure that the full scope of your work is captured and recorded.
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