Expert Tips for Recording As-Built Drawings

A Critical Final Step of a Construction Project

Architect blueprint
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No construction project proceeds exactly according to plan, and it is critical for the contractor to keep a careful record of any and all variations to the blueprints and contractual specifications that occur during construction. The key document that records these changes is the set of As-Built Drawings.

As-Built Drawings Defined

The As-Built Drawings comprise a revised set of construction drawings that are submitted by the contractor when a complete project, or individual stages of a project, are completed. The As-Built Drawings should document all changes made to the specifications and design made during the building process, and they should show the exact dimensions and actual locations of all elements described in the original contract agreement and the related drawings and documents in the contract package.

As-Built Drawings are sometimes known simply as "As-Builts," "Record Drawings," or "Red-Line Drawings," although there are technical differences between these documents (see below). Contractors wishing to be precise will use the term "As-Built Drawings" when referring to this set of documents.

The final set of As-Built Drawings should be a very careful transcription of all revisions made to the original plans that occurred during the construction process. It should include all modifications, including design changes, change orders, additional work—every change that was approved and made during construction. The As-Built Drawings typically evolve as the project nears completion, changing as each phase of construction is completed. At any given moment, an up-to-date set of As-Built Drawings should be available for reference.

Tips for Recording As-Built Drawings

The contractor and management office representative should review the As-Built Drawings regularly for accuracy and completeness as part of the monthly payment process. At least one complete set of As-Built Drawings must be available on the job site at all times. To ensure accuracy, follow these guidelines:

  • Cross out words such as "equal to" or "similar to" and replace them with the specific information used during the construction process.
  • When adding detail to the drawings, make sure to use the same scale as was used in the original drawings.
  • Never remove old values or details, but rather just draw score lines or "X" through them. This will make it clear that changes have been made. If there is no room for the new value within the drawing, notes can be made in the margin, indicating what values are being replaced. 
  • Provide the exact details of changes or additional information, including (but not limited to) fabrication, erection, installation, location, sizing, material, dimension, etc.
  • Provide all necessary information on the contractor's designed systems.
  • Include elevations, grade modifications, and related information on piping utilities, earthwork, etc.
  • Record all unexpected obstructions or difficulties found on the job site.
  • The person preparing the As­-Built Drawings must date every sheet in the upper right-hand corner, whether or not there are changes in that plan sheet. The set of As-Built Drawings must be a complete package, not just a collection of the pages containing changes.
  • Make sure that supplemental pages containing plan modification sketches have been sealed and signed by the registrant author of those changes—for example, the designer, RE, or contractor’s registrant who is providing the sketches.
  • If an additional sheet is added to the drawings, try to use the same sheet size, scale, and legend as the one being replaced or being referenced.
  • Include all changes arising out of the final inspection process.
  • If possible, As-Built Drawings should be recorded with three base colors using a standard legend: RED = deleted items, GREEN = added items, BLUE = special information or details.
  • Refer to specific actions rather than referencing change-order numbers or related documents. The drawings should be a stand-alone package whenever possible.
  • Use a fully written explanation to describe changes. Avoid abbreviations or shorthand notes.
  • Use clear lettering when hand-printing notes on the drawings.
  • Be sure to add revision notes and corrections to the affected section view, general notes, specific notes, profiles, and schedules. Be consistent when adding notes and use the same figure or shape to denote changes or revisions.
  • Add all related shop drawings that are necessary as an appendix to the As-Built Drawings. On the applicable pages, make sure there are references to this appendix.
  • Update the index sheet to show the latest drawing changes or additions.
  • Be specific when making notes on underground utilities, showing the exact location, depth, and materials used.
  • When finished, stamp title sheet with "RECORD DRAWING AS-BUILT," including contractor’s name, date, and other relevant information.
  • If a sheet has not been changed at all or no mark has been added, label the sheet only "As-Built."
  • If a sheet has been changed or modifications have been added, label it "Revised As-Built."
  • Prepare a PDF of the As-Built Drawings. Where necessary, this can be emailed, posted to cloud storage, or copied to a final CD or flash-memory device.

Sometimes contracts call for a withholding a certain amount or percentage of money until the As-Built Drawings are submitted. Following these recommendations will ensure that the final payment is made quickly.

Software Solutions

The information provided above is mostly related to the traditional way of recording As-Built Drawings. However, there are different products and apps that will allow you to keep track of these important changes almost immediately. You can use PlanGrid, ArcGIS, FieldWire, and other apps that allow you to add photos and other information to simplify completion of these drawings. Some of these applications allow you to track changes immediately in the field, thereby avoiding errors and saving money and time.

As-Built vs. Record vs. Measured Drawings

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the AIA (American Institute of Architects) carefully delineates differences between three types of final drawings:

As-Built Drawings: As-Built Drawings are typically prepared by the contractor. They are more like interpolations done for construction purposes. On the original construction documents and drawings, the as-built changes are made by the contractor in red ink. Therefore the changes that the contractor makes onto the original design are called As-Built Drawings.
Record Drawings:
These types of drawings make necessary space for the contractor's changes. A record drawing is the final compiled drawing prepared by the architect himself/herself. These drawings mark the notes of the on-site changes that the contractor makes in the As-Built Drawings. They are usually drawn and compiled as an "architect approved" set of on-site changes made specifically for the owner as per the architect-owner contract.Record drawings are more reliable than As-Built Drawings because they have gone through the screening of the architect and are approved by him/her. These changes are then officially released, and they can be relied upon, and even help the owner against the architect in case of future inconsistencies.
Measured Drawings:
These drawings apply in the context of projects that involve already existing buildings. They are prepared during the process of undertaking a renovation or documentation of an already existing building. They are derived from the measurements taken of a standing building. These measurements and drawings are created from on-site project data.