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What Are As-Built Drawings?

It is not unusual to implement changes on a project throughout its lifetime. The changes can be minor or very significant. Due to these changes, it is common for clients to request as-built drawings. A contractor marks up the changes from the original drawings and prepares a set of as-built drawings. Therefore, a contractor prepares as-built drawings and submits them to a client after completing a project. Sometimes, we overlook as-built drawings, but they are essential for maintenance, renovation, or new construction after project completion. As-built drawings are not part of the standard services a contractor ought to offer, and if provision is to be made for them, it should be set out in the tender documentation.

What are as-built drawings?

As-built drawings are also known as red-line drawings or record drawings. They are a record of the actual construction undertaken by a contractor. The contractor marks the changes in red to give a detailed version of m the completed works. The as-built drawings reflect all changes made during construction, exact dimensions, location, and geometry of the completed works. These drawings also include shop drawing changes.

As-built drawings also go together with as-built surveys. As-built surveys build maps used during construction to track changes in the landscape and project progress. It is easier to make as-built drawings with dedicated as-built surveys as it is easier to record the project’s progress at a higher level of detail.

Who creates as-built drawings?

The contractor, architect, or project designers create as-built drawings depending on the project type. The project stakeholders are most familiar with their specifications, making them most qualified to reflect the project changes. It is easier to make as-built drawings if detailed notes cover all the minute details. This way, you will manage to track and record changes instead of struggling to recover these details later. You can use construction software to track these changes.

After making the as-built drawings, the contractor submits them for review to the project manager. The project manager will ensure that the drawings meet all the project’s minimal requirements and note deviations from the original specifications. The variations from the original drawings should not be too drastic.

After review, the project submits the as-built drawings to the client for approval. Contractors are free to use as-built drawings in interviews to show their prowess and professionalism. Showcasing their work is an excellent way for contractors to stand out from other parties.

The importance of as-built drawings

As-built drawings are not mandatory on all projects, but they are an essential component that may improve a company’s image and success after completion.

As-built drawings give a legacy of a project showing what was built. When there are changes in land ownership or the necessity to build on top of the old works, people might want to familiarize themselves with what was built. Below are the main reasons for making as-built drawings:

  1. Saves time: As a project continues, new subcontractors need to be added. It is easy to quickly access the correct information with the necessary as-builts, minimizing project delays.
  2. Shows a record of change: As-built drawings show change, making it easy to solve issues faster. The efficiency of operations from as-built drawings saves money and improves the speed of construction.
  3. Makes issuing permits easier: In some cases, government agencies request as-built drawings before issuing permits.
  4. Improves renovations: When owners want to conduct renovations, they do not need to waste time learning about the existing conditions heavily.
  5. Improves a contractor’s reputation: As a contractor, you might not feel the need to invest in as-built drawings. However, developing as-built drawings enhance the quality of your services. They also improve a contractor’s reputation by showcasing a contractor’s work. They show a contractor’s ability to complete a job successfully. It not only helps project owners, but it also helps you land future jobs.
importance of as built drawings

What to include in as-built drawings?

To have conclusive as-built drawings, you need to have the following components and any other relevant changes in your drawing.

  • Locations: As-built drawings need to show all locations of windows, doors, plumbing works, and any other necessary features.
  • Materials: The drawings need to show specifications for all the materials used in the building and any changes from the original plan.
  • Dimensions: Any modifications to the dimensions of the building elements need to be correctly shown in the drawing.
  • Installations: The as-built drawings also show the specific alterations made to building features such as windows, electricals, and HVAC.
  • Fabrications: These drawings also need to indicate all building elements prefabricated offsite. These include columns and beams.
  • Extra works: We should also record all additional field works added to the project.
  • Arising problems: We should record the unexpected issues in the project and how the contractor overcame them.
  • Shop drawings and appendices.
  • Changes resulting from final inspections.
  • Dates: We should note the dates when the changes were made.

How are the drawings created?

There are steps you need to follow to have reliable as-built drawings. It is easier to make as-built drawings if you have detailed notes covering minor details. Below are the steps you need to follow to make these drawings:

1. Reference from the original specifications

To have practical notes in your drawings, you need to refer to the original specifications. Referencing the original project drawings makes it easier to compare when you produce final drawings. You can take pictures of the specifications during construction to make it easier to craft the as-built drawing.

2. Documentation

During the construction process, the construction manager should regularly document the changes that the stakeholders agree upon on-site as soon as these changes are implemented. To save time, you can write these updates using shorthand to ensure you do not record the changes. You need to include the corresponding date to each change you note, as you will use these documented changes as a reference point in the future. It will also help if you make understandable notes.

3. Create a clean drawing

After completing the project, you need to develop good drawings that are easy for you and other readers to understand. Many employees will handle your drawing, so consistency is essential. Using a uniform format of the changes logged, a drawing scale and a corresponding color scale can do this. Developing neat as-built drawings gives you good samples that you can show in your portfolio when securing future construction jobs.

In the recent past, architects and engineers developed as-built drawings by hand. However, you can now leverage construction software such as CAD to craft the drawings. This helps save time and makes it easier to share the drawings with project managers. Leveraging software solutions also prioritizes data portability, and the generated data is available digitally and physically. Anyone on the construction team can access the drawings, which establishes a single source of truth.

4. Save the drawings for future use

After completion, you can save the drawings in the cloud for future use. If you have the drawings on paper, you need to store them in a file. You can later use these drawings for review if you need to make enhancements or updates on the project. Following these steps saves time and money that you would have wasted searching for answers already noted in the drawing.

Tips to improve as-built drawings

If you want to improve as-built drawings, you need first to understand where they fall short. In the long run, as you will see, the problem with as-built drawings is shallow documentation. Most as-built drawings fail to capture deep data, provide backup statements and photographic evidence, and are sometimes very disorganized. They also fail to provide room for additional documentation. To avoid these shortcomings in present-day as-built drawings, we need to enforce the following tips to set us up for success.

tips to improve as built drawings

1. Set up a system before commencement of construction

Project teams scramble to develop as-built drawings at the end of a project. However, to streamline the process, the project stakeholders need to build a system for data capture before construction. The best way to do this is using the cloud to store all project plans and updates. The cloud is reliable as it provides for remote access, and teams can add changes from the field using their phones rather than wait till they go back to the office.

2. Develop a good culture in data capture

You cannot develop quality as-builts if the management does not adopt these new methods. You, therefore, need to establish a culture that assures you will have the highest possible quality of data throughout the project. You, therefore, need to educate the team on the importance of as-builts, train the project team on how to create them, and set the expectations on the standards you need for the as-builts. You should develop and standardize the protocols that the project team follows.

3. Take photos

Most people neglect photos when developing as-builts. As much as we heavily use drawings in construction, they do not capture data as effectively as a photo. However, images increase the level of detail and effectiveness of these drawings. Photos are even more reliable when coupled with GPS data, as we can use this level of data to pinpoint the location of a drawing accurately. This information is vital when assessing areas that are hard to access.

4. Improve the quality of data collected

The higher the quality of data collected in as-built drawings, the better. You can leverage modern technologies and software to create better as-builts. Some of these technologies are Building Information Modelling (BIM), Laser Scanning, and Data Interoperability software.

By adopting BIM in as-built drawings, the construction teams can visualize the components and stay updated on the appearance of the building. It also makes it easy when the team wants to conduct maintenance or perform repairs on specific project components.

Laser scanning helps accurately measure the distance between two points, subsequently saving the time that would instead have been wasted during the planning and prepping stages. This technology is instrumental in site surveys.

Data interoperability helps prevent the loss of critical data in a project. When the construction software is interconnected, it is possible to organize all construction drawings, documents, and models so that all the stakeholders will have a comprehensive and efficient digital record. Weak interoperability systems lead to data loss, project delays, and cost overruns. Data interoperability also makes all information readily available when the owners’ purpose of undertaking future renovations.


Below are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions on as-built drawings.

What is the difference between as drawing and as-built drawings?

As drawings are detailed drawings that show how a component will fit into a building. These drawings are made before the commencement of a project. On the other hand, as-built drawings are prepared after construction to depict how a building looks on paper.

Do I need as-built drawings?

Yes, it would be best to have as-built drawings to compare what you initially planned to construct and what you eventually constructed in the project.

How do you read as-built drawings?

As-built drawings come with different aspects that depict the construction elements of the project. You, therefore, have to read these drawings progressively. Each drawing has its abbreviations and symbols. The first step is reading the abbreviations and symbols. The next step is reading the scale and then delving into details on the plans, elevations, and sections. Finally, read the schedules that list the products and materials necessary for the structure and the order to follow for installation.

As-built drawings vs. construction drawing

Construction drawings represent and communicate the graphical information on a project to the project stakeholders. These drawings also include Quantity estimates, work schedules, and specifications. As-built drawings show how a structure looks on paper after completing a project.


All construction professionals benefit from as-built drawings. Instead of having tons of papers, builders can utilize cloud storage software to store the drawings and record changes as they happen. It is now easy to edit these drawings remotely on the phone. Therefore, you should not shy away from these drawings but use the right tools to capture the best from your construction project.