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Conceptual design
21 April 2021
Rony Fernandes

Approaching Concept Design/Working Drawings

Why are we here? What is our purpose? Esoteric questions such as these are likely to be understood only by an elite group of philosophers with specialised knowledge or interest in certain concepts. Architects, with their brand of specialised knowledge, germinate and develop architectural concepts as concept design drawings, and concept drawings constitute the stem from which all other drawings will flower, growing into a tree of working drawings. Too symbolic? Let’s look at a more practical approach.

Firstly, what is an architectural concept?

Much like the answer to philosophical queries, an architectural concept provides the meaning and reason for a project. It is an idea, a philosophy, a belief, a theory or a thought that springs from inspiration. The design process develops and proceeds once the concept is sowed in the minds of the designers and the owners. Seeds of the concept may vary and so may the final outcome, but once decided, the concept stays consistent till the project is complete.

Architectural concepts and the corresponding architectural design services are greatly influenced by three key areas:

  • Site– Climate/weather, orientation (compass direction), views, access, history, boundaries, shape, site features and site analysis
  • Design Brief– Client and building requirements, priorities and arrangement of spaces, end users’ needs, budget, context, restrictions, challenges, functional or aesthetic needs
  • Building Typology– Type of building, structural requirements, typology appraisal, studying precedents and history and understanding its use

Concepts can be inspired and generated from building use, cultural factors, technological features or to evoke emotions. This is why site analysis is crucial for the development of architectural concepts and later architectural drawing services. Design brief and building typology also lend their support to sound concept design.

A building’s narrative, or the story and ambience it exudes on completion, will be determined by its conceptual development.

So, how do design concepts help projects progress?

Almost every aspect of a projects is determined by the concept. Design concepts influence the following components of a project:

  • Exterior and interior– Decides the orientation, size, shapes, window, door and skylight openings, height, lighting
  • Landscape– Use of hard/soft surfaces, types, scale and location of vegetation or greenery
  • Finishes– Colours, styles, textures, materials
  • Fixtures and fittings– Themes, styles, sizes, number, materials and textures
  • Structure– Light/heavy, traditional, modern, artistic, new wave, ethnic, regional
  • Materials– Use of colours, hard/soft, weathering, types, locally sourced

When the concept design is discussed, debated and finalised, project stakeholders have a clear direction and framework to work with while making design decisions. It guides the progress of the project, fulfilling what could be considered the role of a rule book.

During moments of doubt and unforeseen challenges, consulting concept design drawings can help make informed design decisions and maintain design intent, bringing consistency and richness to the design.

How is an architectural concept created?
  • The information mentioned above is collated and transformed to usable data.
  • Site analysis information can help trace the site boundary, typography, existing and adjacent buildings, trees and vegetation, solar orientation and paths on a site plan.
  • A drawing is created to represent the building’s size and individual spaces, the number of stories it will have and all its constraints and needs, heavily influenced by the project’s budget.
  • This first drawing is further edited, again and time again.
  • Project constraints will determine design limits and principles.
  • A simple plan can help create a 3D model to experiment with and check simple volumes and the location of spaces.
  • Public and private spaces can be positioned.
  • Then, the levels of importance, basic orientation, etc. are determined, further defining the concept.

Once these concept drawings are finalised, the design process progresses with a number of drawings until working drawings are created. For instance, luxury brands have fixed design standards for retail spaces. They require working drawings rather than concept drawings.

A design brief, complete with pictures, information, what the client wants and how they want it is given to architectural CAD services companies, and a design is prepared and perfected. To deliver DD drawings, or design development drawings, the architectural support team:

  • Works in AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp, 3Ds Max, etc. to develop the design
  • Needs to understand the site
  • Provides basic hand sketching, which includes the sun path, directions, wind direction, etc.
  • Incorporates sustainable design principles
  • Provides CAD sketches

Where concept design drawings are a germination of an idea, the DD set includes practical possibilities and incorporates local codes. Finally, CD sets or construction drawings/working drawings are developed.

Working drawings are a major part of production information, which is essentially designer-provided data that is passed on to construction teams so that they can build according to plan. This information is embedded in tender and contract documents as well.

Typically, production information includes:
  • Working drawings and other relevant drawings
  • Specifications
  • Bills of quantities or schedules of work
Working drawings include:
  • Graphical data with dimensions, used by a contractor to construct or by suppliers to fabricate, assemble or install components
  • Architectural drawings, structural drawings, civil drawings, mechanical drawings, electrical drawings, etc.
  • 2D orthogonal projections, such as plans, sections and elevations, prepared using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Can include Building Information Modelling (BIM) 3D building representations, or virtual construction models (VCM) or 3D architectural modelling
  • Title blocks, dimensions, notation and symbols, consistent with industry standards to be precise and clear.
  • Specification information
  • Scale drawings with the correct level of detail
Knowing what they consist of, why do we need working drawings?

Working drawings are prepared for:

  • Statutory approvals
  • Contractors to plan construction work
  • To provide accurate, up-to-date instructions on site
  • Procurement of components
  • Preparation of shop drawings
  • Appointment of sub-contractors

It is vital that construction drawings convey the relevant data clearly. This may involve separating information into sections, specifically customised for separate parts of the construction, specific components or different suppliers or trades.

The packages for components that take longer to manufacture, such as switchgear, chiller units, lifts, escalators, bespoke cladding systems, service diversions, demolition, setting out details, underground drainage, piling and groundworks, can be provided earlier.

As a vast amount of precise detail is required, working drawings must be of significantly high quality. Lapses in preparation and coordination may result in errors, disputes and delays, thus increasing costs.

Thus, it is imperative for working drawings to be:
  • Well-coordinated
  • Well presented
  • Free of errors and omissions
  • Clear, concise and sent to the right people

Updated working drawings can reflect ‘as-constructed’ information, showing all relevant changes during the construction process.

Working drawings or architectural construction drawings require a high degree of accurate detail, must be thorough, well-coordinated and well presented. Producing such architectural design drafting requires a high level of expertise and experience. Certain elements may be developed by specialist contractors and coordinated by lead designers. Other responsibilities frequently lie with the main contractor.

Contractors may thus need the support of reliable and high-quality architectural design services to provide precise architectural CAD services, 3D architectural modelling and architectural construction drawings to take the design and construction process forward smoothly. Thus, the approach to concept drawings and ultimately working drawings needs careful thought, accurate and detailed architectural design drafting and seamless design support.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing architectural design services and architectural design drafting services for leading architectural and design consultants. Our range of services for building design firms across the world include architectural construction drawings, 3D architectural modelling, architectural drawing services and other architectural CAD services and we offer retained teams when required. We create these models, drawings and renderings by using Revit, AutoCAD, ArchiCAD and BIM Collaborate Pro for cloud collaboration.