How Technology is Evolving Construction Drawings

Hana Block


If building materials were the ship, construction drawings would be steering it on where to go. 

Construction drawings are the lifeline of any building project. No one can build without them — they’re an essential reference for everyone working on any construction project.

The drawings provide crucial elements and information about a project. Nowadays, this information comes in graphic, written and digital forms. 

A Quick Look at the History of Construction Drawings 

The Early Days

The concept of construction drawings dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. The blueprint as we know it today started to appear in its earliest form during the renaissance and medieval times.

One of the oldest known surviving architectural plans is the plan of St. Gall. This 9th century drawing is considered by some historians to be the very beginning of the history of blueprints. 

Fun fact: The monastery was never actually built.

14th Century to the 17th Century

It was during the Renaissance when the drawings looked a lot like the modern blueprints as we know it today. It was during this time that the father of the modern blueprint, Filippo Brunelleschi, was said to have rediscovered the principles of linear perspective.

The method of sketching a front with the sides withdrawing into the background created the illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat surface. 

Filippo Brunelleschi is best known for designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral.

18th Century: Introducing the Blueprint

The concept of construction drawings dates back to the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. To many people’s surprise, these drawings often included descriptive specifications. However, the birth of the blueprint changed the course of drawing production forever.

The cyanotype printing process , commonly known as ‘Blue Print’, was invented in 1842 by the English astronomer Sir John Herschel.  Cyanotype printing is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print.

Originally intended for Herschel to reproduce his mathematical notes, it was also used for reproducing technical drawings. This process involved making architectural drawings on a semi-transparent paper. After undergoing a few chemical processes the drawing became blue, while the drawing lines remained white.

19th Century

Until the mid 19th century, architects were relying heavily on draftsmen (a skilled professional who produces technical drawings based on the designs of architects or engineers) to faithfully create their drawings. 

However, the era started to see a shift in better, highly specialized architectural tools that made producing drawings more accurate and productive for draftsmen.

During the 19th and 20th century, inventions in chemical and mechanical processes created a massive push forward in the evolution of construction drawings. One example being the Diazo process — which gave us the white print. 

Drawings originally needed large plotters to print full-size and scale-size drawings. Typically, this required a third party print house and large drawing tables.

Often this required a dedicated project coordinator or assistant to maintain these drawings; both on the site and in the office. When revisions were made, the old version of the drawings had to be physically replaced and redistributed.

Today’s Construction Drawings: the Era of Digital Construction Plans

Gone are the days of hand-drawing plans and storing stacks of documents including building permits, application forms and so on. Today’s construction drawings have evolved from being paper based to other mediums such as Virtual Reality, “the cloud” or BIM. Here are some of the ways that construction drawings have changed. 

  1. Augmented Reality reality technologies offer 3D glimpses of real-time construction 
  2. BIM files have replaced the traditional CAD drawings and cloud computing allows architects to work from various destinations worldwide. More than 3D Modelling which involves width, height and depth, BIM also expands to other dimensions such as time (4D), cost (5D), and as-built operation (6D).
  3. Although the construction industry is still largely paper-based, it is quickly changing with the introduction of cloud-based drawing document management software. Users can store and access construction plans online, and also make markups in real time. 

The Wrap Up: How Interactive Colour-Coded Drawings Can Benefit Your Business

Gone are the days of losing or forgetting where the construction drawings are stored. In Matrak all project drawings are in a digital format, making everything much easier.

With Matrak, every material and tasks statuses and checkpoints are customised and colour coded at the start of a project. They’re then digitally linked to the floor plans and made interactive so materials and tasks can be updated and tracked visually off of project drawings.  

As the project is underway and teams update their work, these coloured statuses will be reflected on the interactive drawings in real-time. Teams can then visualise site progress and ensure the project is staying on schedule.There is also the ability to digitally share construction drawings in various file types. Additionally, project teams can access the drawings from anywhere, at any time, and can distribute them to other teams or clients in a matter of minutes.

And if real-time distribution is not enough, the team can revise or add drawing revisions into the project set without ever needing to leave their desk. Because of this, there is no longer the need to reprint technical drawings, and project assistants or coordinators don’t need to spend hours maintaining a set of drawings.

Site teams can open drawings immediately and can see changes in real-time as the drawings for the project evolve. Likewise, Matrak’s interactive drawings provide site teams with the ability to annotate drawings directly from any handheld device, just like they would on traditional physical drawings. 

Many different platforms offer various solutions for digital construction document management. Having the right tools for the job can completely change the project’s profit. These platforms are also changing how construction drawings are made. And with the way technology is going, it’s anyone’s guess on what construction drawings will evolve into next. 

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