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Architectural Drawing Types Explained: Plan, Section and Elevation

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Architectural Drawing Types Explained: Plan, Section and Elevation
Draw it up! Housing authorities issued more than 1.5 million building permits in February 2023 alone. This statistic may make getting a permit or building a home sound easy, but it can be tricky. Most housing boards require you to have architectural drawings to receive your permit. 

But they have good reasons to do so. Architectural drawings are your best tools for laying out your home and figuring out how you can perform a renovation. Here is your guide on plan drawing architecture and what you need to build a new addition or roof.

Plan Drawings

Plan drawings have a birds-eye view of a property. They illustrate the features inside a building, letting the viewer know where rooms and furniture will go in the interior. They also provide information on the size of each room, though most people do not draw plan drawings in perspective. 

Roof Plans

A roof plan is a plan drawing that a person draws from above, focusing on the roof. You can see how the roof line will look and what materials your building team will use for it. Some plans will mention what equipment your team will use, which can help you prepare for the noise the team will create. 

Site Plans

A site plan covers the entire construction site, including the surrounding landscape, utilities, and roads. Some people draw site plans above the building as though they are showing a roof plan. Others make drawings like first-floor plans, showing how the exterior affects the interior. 

Related: Which Site Plan Is Best for You?

Reflected Ceiling Plans

A reflected ceiling plan (RCP) is a drawing of the ceiling inside your home. You can see where lights will go and how high your ceiling will be.

Plan Callouts 

A plan drawing may have a quarter-inch scale, where a one-quarter inch of a line represents one foot of the property. A plan callout has a larger scale, usually a half-inch scale, so details are more apparent to the viewer. A callout may be helpful for planning a kitchen or bathroom so you know where to place items.

Plan Details

Plan details have an even larger scale, sometimes three-quarter inch scales. They are most useful for construction, as they can identify the materials used to build a room or structure. 

Section Drawings

a section drawing with a ruler

As the name suggests, section drawings illustrate parts of buildings. They offer views of structures as though they have been cut along an imaginary plane. Some drawings let you see buildings as though they have been sliced in half, which can be very helpful for figuring out the overall layout of your home. 

An artist may use various techniques to indicate specific parts of your structure. Some artists use cross-hatches or shading to show where floors or roofs are. The scale for section drawings varies depending on what the view of the structure is.

Related: Types of Section Views

Full Sections

A full-section drawing shows what the entire building will look like from a plane. If the plane cuts through an object or room, the artist uses dotted lines to show what half of the thing looks like.

Half Sections

Artists can draw two half-section drawings to show objects from two different angles. These drawings are best for examining symmetrical rooms, like rectangular bedrooms.

Offset Sections

Offset sectional drawings have planes that do not form straight lines. These drawings let you see features in different parts of a room, and they can help you envision L-shaped or ovular rooms. 

Removed Sections

A removed section drawing lets you see part of a building by itself. This type of drawing is helpful if you have trouble envisioning a window wall or patio area. Your architect can figure out how to design that space by itself and then work on the rest of your home. 

Broken-Out Sections

Broken-out sections show small parts of a room’s interior without using a straight line. These drawings are helpful if you’re renovating or fixing a portion of one room. 

Revolved Sections

Revolved sections also show small sections of an object or room. The artist draws the thing as though they are rotating it 90 degrees, helping you see it better. You can see what problems could occur if the object shifts, which can be helpful for maintenance and future repairs.

Elevation Drawings

drawings and a model home

Elevation drawings offer views from a vertical plane looking at a building’s exterior or interior surface. Many drawings show the outside of a home as though you are looking at a photograph of it. If your drawing shows the front of your property, the artist will include notes on the height measured from the natural ground level.

Artists do not draw elevation drawings in perspective or with foreshortening. Most drawings show the sides of structures at a 1:100 scale, though you can find images with other scales. 

Some images focus on certain parts of a room, like the locations of cabinets in a kitchen. Elevation drawings can be very helpful for renovations and interior design of spaces like offices, and you can use them alongside site plans.

Related: A Quickstart Guide to Your Custom Site Plan

Your floor plan may have an arrow with a number pointing to a section of a room. This arrow refers to an elevation drawing you can look at to get more information about that section.

Many elevation drawings have symbols and stylistic traits to provide further details. Arrows on doors point toward hinges, letting you know which direction the door opens. The thicker the line is, the more critical the architectural detail is. Shading can show depth, like looking through a window. 

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  • Ryan Crownholm