An architectural drawing is a manual for a building. The architectural drawing is an illustration of what the final product will look like plus an instructional tool on how to achieve it. Architectural drawings can be devoted to depicting an overview of the building (i.e. an elevation) or they can focus on a particular element (a detail). All pieces of an architectural drawing give accurate information on how the final product.
Architectural drawings originated out of pieces of art rather than the detail oriented blueprints they have become today. In Europe's Italian Renaissance, famous painters, sculptors, and artists created vivid drawings of buildings and structures they imagined. Many of these depictions (such as a Sistine Chapel) where then turned into an actual structure. In those times, architectural drawings did not possess the measurements and notes that they have today. They were simply an illustration of what the artist had in mind and it was up to the construction team to figure out how to best achieve it.
Architectural drawings provide a guideline for how a structure should be built. They ensure a structure can operate as intended and also be durable for years to come. Without architectural drawings it would be up to the builders to decide how a building should be designed. This would inevitably lead to much rework in the building process if one method was later proven to be unsuccessful. Architectural drawings allow issues to be resolved prior to the start of actual construction.
There are various types of architectural drawings. Some drawings are more conceptual in nature rather than technical. These include renderings and site plans, both types of drawings are intended to provide a broader overview of the project rather than specific details. On the other hand, drawings such as cut sheets and details provide extremely specific project information and are ridden with dimensions, notes, and guidelines. This type of architectural drawing is intended to specifically direct construction technique.
A central benefit of architectural drawings is that a schedule and budget can be generated prior to the start of construction. Without architectural plans, much of the building's components would be up in the air until construction began. This would prove difficult for a general contractor to provide accurate pricing on the project or develop a realistic schedule. Architectural drawings show the majority of aspects involved in a project and allow a builder to plan accordingly. Contractors can verify required supplies, labor needs, and equipment preferences from architectural drawings.
Although architectural drawings may seem thorough and complete prior to the start of construction, there is often missing information. This missing data can lead to schedule delays or unexpected costs. It is recommended that even the best of drawings be reviewed by a general contractor or project manager before starting on a job. Often, questions will not arise until encountered during the course of construction, the architectural plans will then need to be amended by the architect to solve the problem.