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The Value of Shop Drawings // Valerie Gaughan


The start of the Spring semester meant the start of final fabrication for the Johnson County Sunset Office Pavilion. Before the Winter break, the team had developed the shop drawings, set a schedule for completion, and acquired much of the materials we would need to construct the pavilion. One of the main concerns for the team was to insure a smooth process upon our return after the break. The efficiency of our team has benefitted and will continue to benefit from the creation and further revision of the shop drawings. The Means Illustrated Construction Dictionary Third Edition Unabridged defines shop drawings as drawings that, “illustrate construction, materials, dimensions, installation, and other pertinent information for the incorporation of an element or item into the construction.” The drawings aid in coordination amongst the studio, clients, and other resources. We gained deeper understanding and benefited from the drawings every step during the process; including, during creation of the drawings, for material and tool purchasing, for communication, and during fabrication.


The first step in the creation of the shop drawings was to have complete understanding of the structural drawings and design intentions. When questions arose about weld symbol meanings or specifications for bolts, we made sure to get answers. Next we had to find a method of organizing the shop drawings that would best explain the design components and connections from the big idea to the smallest details. An important factor in this process was to understand that the drawings are meant to be understood by individuals that may have no idea about the specifics of our design. We were to imagine as if we were handing off these drawings to someone else to fabricate. We found that by placing the drawings of the entire pavilion first and calling out the more detailed areas on later pages would give the view/builder the best insight into the design. During the layout discussions, we were also able to work out logistical questions about fabrication process and scheduling. Some examples of questions are: when and where we would build; the order in which we would complete each task; and w
long it would take to complete each task.

Another helpful outcome of the creation of the shop drawings was the ability to create a quantity list of materials we would need for the fabrication of the pavilion, as well as the tools we would need for the handling of those materials. We were able to collect the data for how many fasteners of the sizes and strength were needed; what size and strength of the various steel members were needed; and the materials required for the roof assembly. The team also compared the tasks at hand with the ability of the shop at Kansas State University. We needed to know what kinds of tools would be best to accomplish each task and if the shop was able to supply us with them. If not, we would need to research and acquire those tools prior to fabrication. The research process leads me to the topic of communication, which is another benefit of the shop drawings.


Good communication is key in any project. The shop drawings are a good way to fully communicate the design as a whole down to its details even without someone with experience there to explain it. We can use the drawings to check for consistency, reducing conflicts in the field. The documents aid in developing the most cost advantageous way of production to avoid potential costly mistakes. Shop drawings were an especially useful aid in communication during discussions with the shop technician. We were able to use the documents to call out special shop needs in preparation for fabrication. Three examples are: figuring out transportation and storage of materials; purchasing of welding materials; and purchasing of special tools for drilling and cutting. The shop drawings can also help build confidence in the client that we are capable and prepared to give them the best results. Shop drawings are key to organization and correctness during the fabrication process. All builders on the team have been tasked with exploring all parts of the shop drawings to gain full knowledge of the design and fabrication of the pavilion. Complete knowledge of the design details is vital to efficiency and good

I talked about the shop drawings specifically in relation to our project, but the idea behind the uses of shop drawings can be applied to any design make project. Shop drawings are a vital communication tool and, done right, will result in a positive outcome for the project.

Written by Valerie Gaughan

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