The Case for Digitization of Engineering + Architectural Drawings
Engineering and architectural drawings are the lifeblood of any construction project. They consist of architectural (elevations), site, structural (columns, beams, footings and reinforcement details), plumbing and electrical plans. Prior to the 1980s, 2D engineering and architectural drawings were sketched by hand on paper or mylar. Although precise and well-detailed, drawings were typically large-format, hard to store, and vulnerable to aging and damage.
Today, engineers and architects use computer-aided design (CAD) software such as AutoCAD or Revit to create 2D and3D drawings. Both are cloud-based systems that allow users to manage mountains of interrelated data such as dimensions, utilities, and finishes. CAD files are invaluable assets—data repositories that carefully guide construction at every stage of the process.
Over time, all buildings undergo some transformation in floor plans, electrical, and plumbing, or sustain façade modifications (e.g., picket vs glass rail, architectural embellishments). In each renovation, new drawings are created, often by different consultants. This creates a hodgepodge set of drawings that, although chronological, are difficult to organize and cross reference.
Fortunately, it is simple to convert old paper or mylar drawings to an intelligent digital format with the use of a flatbed or large-format scanner. Digital drawings are easy to preserve—in .pdf, .tiff, or .jpg format—and share, but they do require redrawing for any future work. That’s where digital transformation shines, allowing endless updates to a single set of interconnected drawings.
All kinds of engineering and architectural documents such as drawings, maps, and hand sketches, and even survey notes, can be stored as data in CAD files. The benefits of paper-to-digital conversion are:
- Accessibility and Sharing. CAD indexes data such as drawing #, material types, and drawing name. Digital files are easy to search, copy and share, saving valuable time and improving collaboration.
- Consistency. Digital drawings maintain consistency of design approach and style (e.g., colors, text, borders) across disciplines, project change orders, and future renovations.
- Storage and Document Integrity. Digital drawings are much less expensive to store than paper and mylar hard copies and are not subject to degradation over time.
- Flexibility. Digital drawings are easy to rework or update, streamlining change processes and speeding renovations.
- Details. CAD designs allow for the addition of audio or video to individual elements, providing an extra level of detail (e.g., materials, site layout, construction processes).
- 3D. Revit 3D models go beyond AutoCAD drawings. The Revit model incorporates all disciplines in one file and allows users to view structures from many different perspectives and cross sections.
Digital transformation—It has been a buzzword for several years, but it has never been more important in the architecture, engineering and construction space. Converting paper-based design documents to data-rich electronic files improves preservation, organization, and storage, and increases future project efficiencies and productivity. Having a wealth of interrelated data at one’s fingertips is an invaluable asset. Now is the time to convert paper documents to digital assets.