DESIGN DOCUMENTS and Liabilities – Part II

Post 494  –by Gautam Shah



Design Documents generated by a design organization are of many different types and created for many levels of exposures. Exposure to employees of the organization, consultants, clients, contractors-vendors and public is well-measured, because the documents mean different things to different stack-holders. As a result, design documents can create liabilities of wrong promises. In spite of aspirations to make design process transparent for all stack-holders, some degree of design maturation is necessary before the design is made public. Design maturation process means only one final version becomes part of public to protect intellectual rights such as copyright or patents.


In an earlier article (DESIGN DOCUMENTS and Liabilities – Part -I) several types of design documents and resultant liabilities were discussed. These were: 1 Personal Documents, 2 In-house documents, 3 Documents for Clients.

Consultant interactions

4 DOCUMENTS FOR CONSULTANTS’ ASSIGNMENT are of two levels: 1 Advice, option seeking or exploratory, an informal level of consultation, and 2 Formal or Action level, for the actual finalization of the scheme, and to decide the modalities of execution. In the FIRST case, the interim design documents that are schematically complete, but lacking in finer details may serve the purpose. However, if any alternatives are sought then these must be self-evident and marked with an order of preferences. For the SECOND case the documents must be very definitive and complete. It must also unambiguously state the consultant’s responsibilities and liabilities.

Wright brothers patent plans 1908

5 DOCUMENTS FOR PERMISSIONS / APPROVALS are very much a condensed version of the scheme, as the authorities wish to check compliance with existing rules and regulations. Such drawings have prescribed format of presentation, including content, scale and manner of expression. A practical rule is to show information that is asked for or absolutely required for the purpose.

Presentation of scheme

6 DOCUMENTS FOR PRESENTATION / PUBLICATIONS are created for the design office, client and other public agencies to market, publicize, generate a debate and solicit funds for the project. Preparation of such documents is often handed over to professionals. Provisions (sizes, proportions, scale), facilities and amenities, indicated on such presentations are frequently considered promise. This happens when presentations are created before, or in the early part of the project.

Component Details from Wikipedia, Author: Thorsten Hartmann

7 DOCUMENTS FOR JOB AWARD OR EXECUTION are of many different types, but mainly of 1. Set of working or execution drawings, specifications and quantity schedules, and 2. Site communications and Reports. Even where a job is simple, known or traditional, these must be formally defined. Contract documents have one major problem and that is consistency across the documents. A write-up on drawing sheets may be interpreted differently from the drawing, unless it is properly linked. A detail and component drawings are sometimes at a variance. The trades or the jobs are not distinctly recognizable, generating many quarries from the main contractor or vendor.


1 Set of Working or Execution drawings consist of following:

Layout Drawings, as the name indicates, are used for laying out the work on a site and specifying the whole work. This is the main or starter drawing, and so it establishes links to other drawings and details. It is used for conveying methods of interpretation for this and other linked drawings. Measures (dimensions, tolerances, fitments, margins, and measures like weights /mass /speed /time), which cannot be graphically indicated or linked to any particular graphical view are presented as a common write-up or explanation. Being the basic drawing, it provides a common ground to indicate, when and how a part or parts of drawing become execution worthy. Limitations and responsibilities of various agencies’ work, time schedules and inter linkups for start and completion of various items, parts, etc., are all specified in the layout drawing.

Architectural Details : Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WIS,28-WATO,1-

Detail Drawings are large scale (and so detailed) presentations of (vertical, horizontal or inclined) sections. Sections are recognized for the complete presentation of the building form, space entity, orientation and sequencing. Detailed sections often overlap at the edges, and care should be taken not to duplicate the details and dimension. These drawings are accessed by several trades’ persons or vendors, so delineate the work responsibilities for siting or laying their systems. The drawing also establishes the relationships (such as sequence of assembly) for various systems and component. The detail drawings include legends showing graphical vocabulary used for identifying various materials in sections and on their faces (elevations). It also includes graphical symbols to represent very small parts or standard components.

Component Drawings are accessed mainly by the specific vendor or contractor. The details consist of fitment conditions and operative parameters. Components’ details without siting specifications can mean that standard or the vendor’s conditions apply. Standardized components may also be indicated by referencing the recognized standards’.

Written details are of different types such as: 1. Within the drawings, 2. attached to the drawings, and 3. stand-alone documents that can be used independently, without reference to the drawings.

Written details within the drawings describe quality parameters of the parts or components such as finishes, procedures and schedules of assembly, required work precautions, etc. These are tabulated in terms of trade-job and scheduled in terms of start-end times.

As a separate document but attached or referenced through the Drawings: Where Specifications are not related to any particular drawing or a view, describe common materials and processes etc. relating to the entire work, and when are very lengthy; are supplied on separate sheets of paper accompanying the drawing. If necessary, mention of such sheets is made in the relevant drawing. Such sheets sometimes are bunched together as a catalogue of Specifications of Works.

■ As Memos and Short Messages: Site and Design Office continuously exchange messages of inquiries, clarifications, confirmations, rejections, acceptance, corrections, reporting, etc. Some such communications have an effect equal to a revision of a specification or initiation of a new specification. For this reason all messages, routed through whatever mode of communication must be Dated and Numbered with Author and Receiver’s Identity. It is often more prudent to separate out Communications that could have Consequential Effect, and reconfirm them in the weekly or periodical reports. Communications relating to a specification, must mention the relevant part, component, subsystem or section of the project and exact location (drawing, communication, tender etc.) where it was earlier referred to.

Haines Shoe House in Hallam, Pennsylvania