The importance of Shop Drawings

Aljosa Vukovic on August 30, 2018

What are the Shop Drawings?

Shop drawings, or Technical drawings, are drawings or set of drawings that are produced by fabricators, contractors, subcontractors, manufacturers, or suppliers. They include plans, elevations, views, sections, and many other details and are typically required for prefabricated components. Examples of these include elevators, structural steel, trusses, pre-cast concrete, windows, appliances, cabinets, air handling units, etc.  

This article aims to emphasize the importance of Shop drawings related to increasing the productivity of the work of designers. 

Shop drawing is the drawing version of the information shown in the constructor’s construction documents or the manufacturer. They usually provide more details than construction documents. Their purpose is to explain the fabrication and installation of items to the manufacturer or installation staff. They include drawings by the designer and specifications prepared by the project design team. They are developed to show how the component will be manufactured, fabricated, assembled, or installed in a more detailed form.

A shop drawing is essential for the exchange of communicating ideas in industry and engineering. To make the drawing easier to understand, people use familiar and common symbols, units of measurements, page layouts, etc. Many of the symbols and principles of Shop drawings are defined and codified in an international standard ISO 128.

Most of the technical and engineering profession requires Shop Drawings such as:

  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Plumbing and other installations
Sandwich Wall panel


Shop Drawings through the history

Since the beginning of historical time, people would create sketches and drawings before building any structure. At first, those were drawings in the sand, and then we moved to paper. Nowadays, computer software makes more and more drawings, and some are not even placed on the paper for designer purposes. Every building comprises a set of components. All of these components have distinct specifications and measurements. Shop drawings are the detailed versions of these components and help identify how they will fit into the building structure. More importantly, the shop drawings are made before the start of a construction project.

Drafting software replaces the paper, pencil, T-squares, and eraser crumbs of a previous generation with a computer screen and a mouse. Designers can create technical documentation for products, buildings, and structures quickly and easily, focusing more on concept and creativity instead of computation and clutter. 

There are various kinds and types of Shop drawings. Many of them include drawings, diagrams, illustrations, schedules, performance charts, brochures, and other data intended to illustrate details of a portion of the work provided to the registered professional of record. Regarding their preparation, the contractor may be engaged in the preparation of clearly identified shop drawings per conditions from contract documents or as the registered professional of record may reasonably request. They are prepared by fabricators, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, subcontractors, contractors, or their representatives. The time for the development of shop drawings starts after reviewing the drawings, specifications, and contract documents supplied by the registered designer, professional, and other project consultants. Also, after solving any inconsistencies or requested changes in the project documentation, conditions for the development of shop drawings are provided. Efficiency has increased as technology has simplified.


The importance and use of Shop Drawings

Their primary focus is on the particular product or installation and excludes data concerning other products and installations unless integration with the subject product is necessary. The main thing which makes them important in engineering works is the fact that Shop Drawings tend to focus less on the design intent and instead put emphasis on know-how the final product will be manufactured. Project specifications are always needed, so there can be no doubts related to the demands of clients. Depending on the phase of works and part of the construction, there are Elevation view drawings, Section view drawings, and Detail view drawings. 

Elevation view drawings generally show as if someone is standing directly in front of the item. 

The section view outlines essential parts of the construction. These drawings show construction and gaps between elements. 

Detail view drawings are depicted on a significantly larger scale than Sections. They are produced to call attention to the minor details required in producing a given component. 

Regarding various types of Shop drawings, it is important to note that their creation in AutoCAD and similar software is highly supported by precious and handy tips and guidelines in the mentioned software. It is a lot easier to use commands such as Array, Offset, Trim, Extend, MultiLine, Block, etc., to make needed changes and corrections on drawings in a more precise and faster way during their development phase. Besides menu commands, it is important to mention that common keyboard commands, which we all know while using MS Office and similar software, can be highly useful in the creation of Shop drawings! 

Shop drawings must provide the reference to the appropriate design drawings produced by the registered professional of record by indicating drawing number(s) and revision number(s) and the appropriate section of the specification. The design loads or quantities specified by the designer professional must be clearly shown on the shop drawings. The shop drawings must indicate the codes that have been used in their preparation are to avoid any kind of misunderstanding and confusion. Some details can be too complicated to engineer, and Shop drawings are needed to ensure all of the information is accurate.

Precast concrete wall panel

The purpose of Shop Drawings

They are not Contract Documents. Their purpose is to demonstrate how the Contractor proposes to conform to the information given and the Contract Documents’ design concept for those portions – phases of the Work included in the Contract.

Shop drawings and use-related software are essential features: Structural Detailed Drawings, Structural BIM Modeling, Co-ordination Modeling, Quantity and Estimation, Material Takeoffs, Structural Allplan Drafting, Rebar Detailing, Construction Drawing, Structural Steel Detailing

Benefits of drafting practice in engineering processes include reduced costs, improved delivery schedule, improved productivity, reduced capital investments, increased market reaching, increased flexibility, enhanced overall performance, competitiveness, and improved client satisfaction.

Technical drawings such as Shop drawings can be prepared based on general project designs saved in any file format or printed. Their preparation is outsourced where the supplier does not have the appropriate skills, software, hardware, or resources necessary, or can obtain lower rates or faster turnaround. Collaboration is integral to the creation process. While the Shop drawings depict the building’s original design, the construction drawings are modified from time to time. They include the revisions a building has undergone while the construction process is underway. One of the fundamental characteristics of Shop drawings is that they are not limited to the building’s outer structure. They are also helpful in identifying what kind of materials will be needed for the construction process.

Every project demands a unique approach and dedication to its realization. Therefore, the precise and reliable Shop drawings and other kinds of technical drawings make this realization possible. 

The software packages today are efficient, they accomplish tasks quickly, and data retrieval is a breeze. Tasks are no longer dependent on the realms of office use. The drawings can be observed using various technology devices. Bits of Advice, suggestions, and changes can be made and tracked in a short time while providing all stakeholders to follow up with revisions and changes in drawings. 

The shop drawings can be submitted electronically. The experience of preparing a complete set of drawings provides an opportunity for someone to reflect on cost and constructability issues as inevitable parts of the project. 

Steel details

Benefits of Shop Drawings

Their accuracy and precision are vital to the success or failure of an engineering project. The contractor is responsible for their production and is required to review the shop drawings before transmitting them to the architect/engineer. The Architect/engineer is not obligated to review any shop drawing unless the contractor has reviewed it. With the advancement of computer-aided drafting and 3D modeling technologies and electronic submittals and review processes, positive steps have been taken to enhance shop drawings’ overall process. In the long run, when all the parties involved in the process can share their data and their 3D models so that all parties can work off the same database, it can immensely improve the shop drawings’ accuracy and quality. 

The traditional role of design development is as a step in a continuously increasing effort that leads to construction documentation, which is the climax of the design effort. A by-product of the new technologies used in architecture practice is the alteration of this process, as described above. 

It is also important to know that these drawings are self-explanatory, and the contractors will understand the dimensions, materials to be used, timelines, installation process, and everything else. Characteristics of Shop drawings make them unreplaceable in all important stages of construction works, including all its participants. 


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