Drawing from the 1980s with 21st century tools

The adoption of BIM by consultants and the increasing demand by architects, owners and government bodies has led to the increasing development of projects in this space. But it is a great cost to the industry that no effort has been made to update the specifications or drawings standards in accordance with this progression.

Our profession must be educated on these changing processes. Up to date presentation specifications must be developed for those who build these designs to have a common frame of reference in terms of new standards for accurately describing buildings to builders.

The practice of symbolism, diagrammatic and concept drafting of complex systems is negatively affecting the production of drawings.

The world demands ever more concise and accurate data, but they also demand information presented in an archaic fashion, using of stencils, pencils, large machine copiers and hand building of 3D mockups.

This approach is especially prevalent in the Building Services Consulting area. Many a hydraulic or mechanical system was decomposed into a series of lines and symbols -representing little more than flow diagrams with no reliability for spatial requirements and setup. Only the largest and most complex projects required such spatial verification which was done by a physical mockup, or in the early 80s with advanced computer mainframes able to layout such piping systems before placement.

Many of the standards for the MEP (mechanics, electrical and plumbing) disciplines require work after the 3D spatial model has been to developed. Fake lines are drawn where ‘pipes’ are too close together, or symbols are placed in incorrect locations for power outlets because the other symbols are too large.

This process of developing symbolic data for the sake of tradition currently costs more rework then developing new workflows. Single line drawings still have to be developed from a complete model which wastes time. Nothing is being done to address these issues.

Arguably these issues could be traced back to the AS1100 technical drawing standards, which cover such ‘relevant’ requirements such as stencil characters, freehand characters and ‘machine made’ characters. Line types, line thicknesses and spacings were developed based on the requirement that these drawings would be microfilmed to be stored for future use. With the development of PDF and digital storage systems, more effort has gone into turn these hardcopy mini records into digital formats for future preservation. The lack of references to CAD, printers or computers in any context shows how out of touch this standard and the non-compliance within the industry.

It’s a big change, the gravity of which is not being denied. But so is the shift from 2D CAD or ‘machine made’ drawings. Let’s move both at the same time; update the standards, supply a reference to work with.

At this moment, the construction industry wants the familiar experience of a horse with the speed and power of a Ferrari. Shifting from one to the next will take a while. There will be new things to learn and workflow will be different – but at the end of the day you can only choose one.