Unit 6: Construction Documents and Details


This unit provides an introduction to construction documents.

This unit provides an overview of the different types of project deliverables that are typical for structural engineering projects. The unit highlights the components that are typically found in a set of construction documents including plans, elevations, sections, details, schedules, and general notes. Each document provides a perspective on the actual design of a project.

Construction Documents and Details Objectives

In this unit, students will gain an understanding of:

  • the purpose of construction documents
  • the format of construction documents
  • the creation of construction documents

After completing this unit, students will be able to:

  • Define the different types of project deliverables.
  • Know the different parts of a set of construction documents.
  • Understand the relationship between plans, sections, and schedules.

Construction Documents and Details Overview

Each component of the construction documents can be thought of as a lens which focuses on different sections of a design to communicate different requirements. A representative sample of each type of document can be seen in Figure 1. In numerical order, the documents pictured are: plan view, elevation, detail, schedule, and plan notes.

Figure 1

Construction documents are the records that are shared with architects, owners, engineers, and other construction professionals to communicate a design. For example, architects and owners need to see floor plans, elevations, and 3D drawings of the design for approval. Engineers from other disciplines will want to see those drawings, as well as more detailed drawings, to help them understand the building model and how it affects their work. Construction professionals need all of these drawings, as well as schedules, to build the design. A construction document set (also called a drawing set or a sheet set) is a compilation of drawings created by each trade for construction purposes. Each sheet contains pertinent information required for the building design. 

The construction document (CD) phase is the last stage of the design process. Structural engineers focus on finalizing their drawings and specifications for the structural components and systems of the building so that their drawings can be included in the contract documents. A complete fully coordinated set of construction documents and specifications is made up of the different architectural, structural, mechanical, and civil engineering drawings. The contractor then uses these drawings to determine a guaranteed maximum price (often called GMP or G-max price or lump sum price), obtain necessary permits, and construct the project. A new emerging aspect of construction is that the design team also releases their models for the contractor to use in conjunction with the printed construction documents. This aspect of BIM is a large departure from the historic way of producing buildings. The use of the BIM software file as part of the contract deliverables produces great opportunities for efficiency, challenges for additional risk and liability, and potential for significant new revenue.



Building Plans

Building Plans

Plan views can be thought of as a map of a particular level of the structure with the orientation of the view looking downward from above. In structural engineering, a plan view for a floor uses a view range to isolate a specific floor.

Building Elevations

Building Elevations

A practical way of thinking of elevations is that an elevation is a side-view as viewed from the north, east, south, or west. Structural elevations are commonly shown in building plans to allow for the coordination of items, such as structural braces with window openings.


Building Sections

Section views provide an understandable representation of hidden or complicated parts of 3D models. This produces a view which shows what would be seen if one cut through the model and looked at what was cut.


Showing Dimensions

The required sizes of structural features are conveyed through use of dimensions. Distances may be indicated with either of two standardized forms of dimension: linear and angular. 

Videos: Construction Documents for Structural Engineering

Videos: Construction Documents for Structural Engineering

To complete the following exercises, students will need to download the datasets at the bottom of this page. They will also need headphones if they are in a lab setting among other computers.