The Design Plans

            Nearly every construction activity is dependent upon some previous activity being done correctly.

For example, the installation of steel hold-downs for structural wood posts depends upon the anchor bolts being correctly placed in the concrete foundation or the concrete floor slab.

Adequate clearance space for door casing to fit inside a coat closet or in a narrow hallway…depends on the rough door openings being laid-out and framed correctly…starting with enough dimensional space given on the architectural plans.

Wood beams in the floor cannot be designed in the structural plans directly underneath the location of a bathroom toilet shown on the architectural plans.

Roof rafters and ceiling joists must be laid-out and framed so that ceiling flush lights…can lights…can be centered typically above bathroom sinks.

Thousands of other small details must be correctly implemented early in the construction in anticipation for activities that come much later in the construction.

Because the construction is divided up among so many different subcontractors and specialized building trades…the only person in a position to integrate all the pieces is the jobsite superintendent.

When the anchor bolts are slightly off correct layout…or placed too high or too low…or do not have all of the concrete wire-brushed off the anchor bolt threads…the concrete subcontractor may no longer be on the jobsite to hear the framing subcontractor complain about it…and might not be aware of these mistakes.

In some other cases…the framer may not personally like the electrician and does not care whether the electrician must chop out a quarter-inch on the side of a ceiling joist if it is in the way of centering a ceiling flush light.

For these and countless other similar reasons…the jobsite superintendent needs all the help better building plans can offer.

            Builders need to rethink how plans are drawn in terms of how the number of mistakes and problems could be reduced…if certain things were illustrated better.

Merely placing a particular detail somewhere on a back page…or writing a note with an arrow pointing toward some area of the structure…is not the optimum type of proactive, informative approach that can reduce the hours upon hours of analysis and problem-solving out in the field.

The subcontracted and highly specialized nature of housing construction today could benefit from better architectural, mechanical, and engineering plans.  Plans should be the product of analyzing the construction in reverse, and then filling in the many gaps and questions that exist between the various trades.

Instead of leaving items purposely vague on the building plans…to be resolved by the tradespeople out in the field…often requiring a foreknowledge of things outside of their narrow expertise…the new approach would analyze and illustrate everything on the building plans.

How to get a clothes dryer vent out through an exterior wall…or how to get a water heater vent through the various structural wood members to the roof…or the ceiling joist and beam layout to coordinate with can-lights, sound speakers, and other mechanicals for a coffered ceiling in a dining room…and how to get a kitchen range hood vent duct out to and through an exterior wall without having to frame a dropped soffit…these and hundreds of other questions should be pre-answered on the design plans, illustrated in three-dimensional views if necessary.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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