Coffee With an Architect
Architectural Abbreviations Explained
Cryptic notes on architectural plans and drawings lose their power to baffle with this decoding help
Architects are not fond of words. We're a visual bunch typically, but occasionally we need to add notes to our images to explain the concepts to others. I think it's safe to say that "noting up" our drawings is the least favorite task of all architects. So, to save time, we use abbreviations. Unfortunately, we've forgotten that no one else understands them. So here's a brief disclosure of what this truncated verbal nonsense means.
Not to scale. Architectural drawings are drawn to scale. This allows the drawings to be accurately measured by the contractors when they use them to construct the project. However, I may not draw everything to scale. Typically, I'll do this for drawings that are intended only for use as reference. Surprisingly, these are the exact drawings used by the contractor for pricing purposes.
Typical. Which I write when I've said the same thing before or when I'm likely to need to say it again, typically.
Unless noted otherwise. I use this when I always want you to do it this way unless I tell you to do it another way at some other point in the set of drawings. I like to keep my options open. I might change my mind.
Equal. OK, sometimes I don't get around to making all the finish and color selections when I'm working on your drawings. Sometimes I just don't have the time, so I do what all self-respecting architects in my position do: I pick something that might work and slap an "or approved equal" disclaimer next to it. It works like a charm. But don't worry. I'll be available to consult with you as you purchase items to be installed — although I usually ask for two weeks to review those selections, even though the subcontractor is already on the jobsite waiting to install them. Next time, to save time, you could just pick the white one.
On center. This should really apply to everything in my life.
Minimum. I use this abbreviation when I need to note the minimum dimension required, because often it is absolutely critical to maintain a minimum clearance to meet a specific requirement of the building code. For example, a water closet is typically required to be a minimum of 1 foot, 6 inches O.C. from the adjacent wall to meet the requirements of a handicap-accessible fixture. So I'll write "1'-6" MIN." on the plans. Typically the contractor will read that note as 16 inches O.C.
Not in contract. This applies to things that I drew because I needed to show them for the project to make sense. But they are not part of the project. For example, I may need to draw the entire building next door to your project, because you want to know if the neighbors can see into your master bathroom. So I spend three days drawing the neighbor's house and add a note to clarify the reason, so the contractor doesn't get confused and demolish your neighbor's house and rebuild it based on my drawing.
The neighbors were pretty mad when I went over to check their view into your bathroom, by the way. But I'm not charging you for this, because it's "N.I.C." I need to rethink my business model.
Verify in field. Full disclosure: I write this whenever I can't figure out a detail. It's my way of letting the contractor know that I trust him or her. Plus, it's shorter than writing IGUYFIO.*
*I give up; you figure it out.
Ideabook updated on Jan. 15, 2013.
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