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The AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community (TAP) serves as a resource for AIA members, the profession, and the public in the deployment of computer technology in the practice of architecture. TAP leaders monitor the development of computer technology and its impact on architecture practice and the entire building life cycle, including design, construction, facility management, and retirement or reuse.

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Color use in Construction Documents?

  • 1.  Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-30-2020 17:37
    In our practice a question has arisen about using color in our contract documents.  Whether using 2D or 3D software to generate the "working drawings" they usually are issued to the construction community as PDF files.  Sometimes they are printed for use on the jobsite, but not always, or maybe just as a "rack set" while the crew uses tablets for everyday access to the files.
    So, on the one hand if we used color in the final documents they can be printed now at a minor upcharge over black line prints.  If used on PCs and tablets there is no cost to using color.
    In this case the idea is not for renderings and 3D images but for simple linework.  Drawings would be easier to decipher if, say, the column lines were blue and the dimensions lines were dark red, but the actual walls, doors, fixtures, etc., remained black lines. A test print would have to show that printing in black/white or grayscale is still legible as a working drawing, just in case.
    Have any firms experimented with this approach?  Has it been successful in practice?  Are there unforeseen issues?
    Thanks

    ------------------------------
    Sherman Aronson AIA
    Sr. Associate
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-31-2020 17:32
    Use of color in Life Safety drawings is becoming the norm, with good reason. In complicated projects (i.e. healthcare), colored lines in lieu of patterns make plans easier to read and distinguish. 
    I have also seen the use of a screened red fill in walls that are rated. When printed in B&W it reads the same as a grey fill, but at a glance of the pdf it's pretty easy to see where walls carry fire ratings.
    I'm all for limited use of color in drawings.

    --
    Michelle Hoffner, AIA, CDT
    Senior Architect, Associate
    Fishbeck
    Grand Rapids, MI





  • 3.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 10:48
    Thanks so much for that reply.  Yes, it makes sense to use color, especially for complicated projects to able to easily see the key information.  Color could held for fire rated partitions too, including where corridors and shafts are one type of rated construction and they intersect with non-rated partitions.  Easier to see then dashed lines with one, two or three small dashes, per common practice now.

    ------------------------------
    Sherman Aronson AIA
    Sr. Associate
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-31-2020 17:45
    Hello, also from Philadelphia!
    Our drawing templates include color.  We use it for code analysis plans.  We have also found it useful for quickly locating thermal, water and air control layers in in the drawings.  Some consideration should be given to the possible conversion to grayscale though we typically print in color for AHJ submissions.

    On a related note, we are currently investigating laying to rest the typical batt insulation poché/pattern.  The pattern was efficient and effective for manual drafting but we have found the production of this poché/pattern unnecessarily time consuming with current workflows and software.


    ------------------------------
    Carl Emberger AIA
    Technical Director
    Coscia Moos Architecture
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 11:03
    Yes, the graphic indications for batt insulation can be hard to manage to get the thickness right in various locations, and it can take over the drawing with dense lines that get dark on the sheet. And batts are used for acoustic insulation on interior partitions, so where does the graphic stop!  In the past (way back) we would show a small amount of batt insulation squiggles at the ends of a wall and leave it out in most of the wall on the plan.  Harder to do that today using CAD and BIM.  Thanks.

    ------------------------------
    Sherman Aronson AIA
    Sr. Associate
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-31-2020 18:11
    I agree - color is very useful in working drawings!  I like to use red (in addition to the traditional dashed lines) for demo work.  BUT WARNING:  Many if not most jurisdictions are not accepting color in the e-permits. I think this is silly but that is the case...  Some even possibly in hard copy as they intend to scan black and white.  The City of Portland, Oregon made us reissue the landscape drawings which were in color and were using color to decipher different elements (things get lost when the same document is in black and white).

    Thomas F. Fallon, AIA, NCARB
    LEED® Accredited Professional
    thomasfallonarchitect@gmail.com





  • 7.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-31-2020 18:24
    Color improved communication.?? It should be used whenever possible.?? Our
    job is "Communication" with Clients, & Contractors.?? Color does it better.


    R. Edward Owen, AIA,RRC,CCS,CCCA,HCI




  • 8.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 07-31-2020 18:59

    I've been doing full color drawings since 2014. I can't believe I ever worked any other way. I've never had an issue with any AHJ when submitting full color permit sets. And if they did complain, I'd just resave the PDF as grayscale or black and white and not lose sleep. I'd say about half the contractors I work with print to black and white. The drawings look fine with their color removed.

    Full color is the way to go. If people are curious, I have tons of examples on my website if you look around:

    http://www.shoegnome.com/

    Here's an article I wrote about the topic back in 2014; the side by side makes it pretty clear which is better:
    https://graphisoft.com/us/pen-sets-part-seven-its-time-to-break-from-color-thickness

    BIM ( I use Archicad, but I'm sure other programs can handle it too) make full color drawings super easy.



    ------------------------------
    Jared Banks AIA
    Shoegnome, LLC
    Seattle, WA
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 11:04
    Thanks for the great examples, Jared.  Helps to see these ideas in action.  Had not thought of using color for the device outlets, lights, power receptacles - that will help the floor plans and ceiling plans.  Maybe save some sheets if using color can fit the information all on one plan instead of several.  Thanks again.

    ------------------------------
    Sherman Aronson AIA
    Sr. Associate
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-04-2020 05:52
    Again, I find myself in agreement with Jared Banks, AIA.  I too use ArchiCad and color in all of my work. All pdf docs show the color and it looks great.

    I first became involved in color for Construction Documents in 1984. Yes, that's not a typo. As a project architect with Gresham Smith and Partners we were designing the first building of the EDS Corporate Headquarters in Plano, Texas. At the time computers were just making their way into the architectural consciousness of design and documentation.

    The project was being done on pin bar with ink on mylar overlays. At that time there was an incredible amount of coordination to make sure that each element, defined by color got on the right layer. When completed, the project coordinators reviewed the layers and the printing took place.  Not at a traditional blue-line print shop, but rather at a commercial printer who was performing the printing using an offset printing process.

    The construction management team loved the color and it cut down on the construction administration of the project. RFIs, and change orders were reduced due to the coordination provided by the color and its coordination.  I would highly recommend its use.  I have not had any issues with any AHJ related to color use. Most find it easier to use.

    ------------------------------
    Greg Burke, FAIA, NCARB
    President
    Gregory John Burke | ARCHITECT, PA
    Vero Beach, Florida
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-05-2020 17:43
    Greg,

    I went to a Continuing Ed seminar about that time given by Gresham and Smith.  At the end of the seminar, they handed each participant an 11 x 17 set of color offset printed construction documents for a hospital project.  We were incredibly jealous.  I still have that set of drawings.

    A short time later at the 1984 AIA Convention in New Orleans, my best architectural friend and I spent thirty incredulous minutes watching an HP Cad system very slowly print an outline drawing of the Empire State Building.  Cost for one station and a plotter was $125,000.  Then only question was, how could we swing that cost when it exceeded our gross fees for the past year .... combined?  Obviously CAD had to wait a few more years.

    Fast forward 36 years .... my friend uses Revit, while my office has always been and will always be Mac based using Vectorworks.


    ------------------------------
    Carl Blum AIA
    Owner
    Carl P. Blum Architect
    Morgan City LA
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 08:46
    Hi Sherman!

    We have been using color in technical drawings for a while now.
    I wrote a short blog post, click here, about the concept, and included some tips.
    Feedback from end users has been very positive.

    Best of luck,

    B

    --


    Bradford J. Prestbo 
    FAIA, CDT, CSI
    Associate Principal





  • 13.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 10:59
    Good examples in the blog post.  Using color for the layers within the parapet detail, a really great way to use color.  These layers have become ever more complex in our building envelope technology and unless the drawing is exploded, it can be hard to see where one layer starts or stops.  Thanks!

    ------------------------------
    Sherman Aronson AIA
    Sr. Associate
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-05-2020 09:16
    Regarding using color in drawings, of course it makes it easier to communicate! How long have we all been using different colors for our markups. Most offices have a system in place to communicate via markup color.

    However, in construction documents, you must realize that approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women are color blind. This is not normally an impairment that a contractor would need to divulge to their superiors. It would be best practice to ensure that the different colors still read differently in grayscale. Being that red/green is the most prominent color blindness it would be prudent to only use either red or green in your color choices for the drawings.

    From a tetrachromatic architect who is used to seeing more colors than others,



    ------------------------------
    Bridgett Wakefield AIA
    Architect
    Reifsteck Reid & Company Architects
    Champaign IL
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-06-2020 17:27

    Thanks so much for those comments, Bridgett.

     

    It makes sense to double check that the drawings will be legible when printed in grayscale.  I am not sure that old fashioned black and white printing will show up the color differences, but will show the line types that use dashes and dots, thicker and thinner, other traditional methods.

     

    And the idea of using only reds and greens is appealing, too, as a way to make sure more peoples' eyes can see the difference.  Also, by keeping a simple palette it makes it easier for the design team to keep track of the work. No need for a dozen varying colors that will be hard to see the differences!

     

    Sherman Aronson AIA LEED BD+C

    BLT Architects, Sr. Associate

    1216 Arch Street

    Philadelphia, PA 19107

    Mobile 267-251-6458

     

     
     
    Sherman C. Aronson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
    Senior Associate
     
        
       
    1216 Arch Street
    Philadelphia, PA  19107‑2835
    Tel: 215 563 3900 Ext: 124
    www.BLTa.com
     
     
     


    NOTE:  BLT Architects is open for business, with our entire staff maintaining social distancing while working from home offices.  As always, we remain committed meeting the needs of our clients and other project stakeholders.  We are keeping traditional business hours, with all client, consultant, and contractor meetings taking place virtually.  Please call (215) 563-3900 and the relevant extension for individual staff or press 9 for our company directory.  All telephone calls are immediately forwarded to the individual you seek.    Stay safe!

    NOTICE
    THIS E-MAIL, INCLUDING ANY ATTACHMENTS, IS CONFIDENTIAL AND FOR THE INTENDED RECIPIENT ONLY. IT MAY BE LEGALLY PRIVILEGED AND PROTECTED FROM DISCLOSURE. NOTHING IN THIS E-MAIL GRANTS ANY LICENSE OR TRANSFERS ANY OWNERSHIP OR ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS TO THE RECIPIENT. IF THE READER OF THIS MESSAGE IS NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, YOU ARE INFORMED THAT ANY DISSEMINATION, COPYING OR DISCLOSURE OF THE MATERIAL CONTAINED HEREIN, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION IN ERROR, OR ARE NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY AND PURGE THIS MESSAGE. INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS CANNOT BE GUARANTEED TO BE SECURE, VIRUS-FREE OR ERROR FREE. BLT ARCHITECTS ACCEPTS NO LIABILITY FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE FROM THE USE OF THIS E-MAIL.







  • 16.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-06-2020 18:07
    Hi Bridgett,

    Great point about color blindness. Didn't event occur to me. Would it make sense to come up with a palette that stays away from red and green or is there a spectrum of red and green that should be avoided? I am thinking of staying within the 256 color system.

    Regards,

    ------------------------------
    Daniel Guich, AIA, LEED ap, CDT
    Studio Converge
    San Francisco, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 10:54

    We use color sparing in our CDs.  For life safety plans, floor patterns, and for our logo/titleblocks.

     

    Thanks,
     

    Bill Laughlin, AIA, CPD, LEED AP BD+C
    Vice President

    MOSELEY ARCHITECTS

    Designing Solutions.  Building Trust.  Enriching Lives.
    Office 704.540.3755
    Web  |  Twitter |  Facebook  |  LinkedIn  |  Instagram


    Celebrating over 50 years of valued partnerships and innovative design.






  • 18.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 18:00
    I used to resist the use of color, due to the cost of color printing.  Since the pandemic, I've been forced to submit PDF's for plan check, etc, so I can now see my bias against color easing.  The printing of construction sets will still be more expensive, but the clarity is probably worth the added cost.

    ------------------------------
    Patrick Marr AIA
    Patrick Marr, PE, AIA
    Santa Barbara CA
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 18:31
    I have been using some color in my drawings for a while now. Many people just look at the pdfs anyway, and I generally use color in a way that it still works if printed in black and white. Color printing at a service in my area is still pretty expensive, but my projects are generally small, so it's not a big deal to print them on my inkjet printer. There's no extra cost for color that way.

    ------------------------------
    Jody Keppers AIA
    President
    Keppers Design
    Duluth MN
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-03-2020 22:43
    Hello Sherman - It's always fun to come across a post from one of my Drexel Profs!  I recently encountered the question of color on contract drawings with one of my engineering consultants.  They have standardized on a color scheme that distinguishes the various M/E/P/FP engineering scopes of work from the background architectural plan (which they print as gray scale).  They set up the colors so that they are still somewhat distinguishable in gray, but as others have mentioned, most contractors work with the PDF's.  We submitted that project to the City of Philadelphia for permit and had no problems.  My engineer swears by it, and they claim they've received a lot of compliments from contractors for the way it helps with coordinating their subs.

    ------------------------------
    Richard J. Linsky, AIA, CSI, CDT, NCARB
    Senior Project Architect
    Spiezle Architectural Group
    Philadelphia, PA
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-04-2020 16:18
    Sherman,
    In today's world there is no reason not to use color.  With most Contract Documents being distributed electronically, the information on the sheet is much more distinguishable in color and contractors and subs are viewing the drawings on tablets and iPad's in the field.  Besides, printing them in color is no longer more expensive.  Back in the 70's and 80's we pioneered a process of printing construction documents half size in color on our off-set presses.  The people we worked with found that the range behind high and low bid narrowed considerably and the overall bid amounts came down substantially due to the clear and concise information presented in color vs. blue line drawings.  What we had then in the pin bar overlay drafting and early CADD days were standards for the use of color.  We have firms here in Nashville that are leveraging color today like they did years ago and they enjoy a reduced number of RFI's to deal with.  Happy to discuss in more detail.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Inzeo
    Lellyett & Rogers
    Nashville TN
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-04-2020 17:47

    There's no question that Contract Documents in color certainly have their advantages.  However, some clients still require (e.g. public agencies) or prefer black and white prints, so the documents must still be clear in that form.  Also, remember that 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women are color blind.



    ------------------------------
    Steven Groth AIA
    Uihlein/Wilson - Ramlow/Stein Architects
    Milwaukee WI
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-09-2020 16:44
    Most authoring software should allow you to set color to specific types of content, and most will allow you to print/publish with either color or black lines (translating the color to either a grayscale or just black). Also, most PDF software will have an option to convert to B&W (but obviously not into color). My first main point here is that the tools most architects are using these days will allow us to offer both, as long as we make them color in the first place.

    Also, when we think about the content we are producing we want to cater it for whoever is consuming it. Is it the older generation plan checker who has reviewed 1000s of plans, is it the younger developer who doesn't really understand how these plans work, or is it a contractor who left the plans out in the sun and now the drawings are a bit faded? Each of these examples require a different approach, and trying to make one solution fit for everyone doesn't really make sense.

    Lastly, there should be some thought given to where is the best place to apply color, just like the use of line pattern or line weight. It is simply a third component of line-work or fill. I'm not sure of any standard guidelines spelled out by the AIA for this type of thing (although there is a lot of conversation and it is becoming more common place). My interpretation so far has been:
    • B&W for all representations of building components, and color for annotations (text, dimensions, property lines, etc.)
    • A simple palette with one main color for important information, and a secondary color for secondary info.
    • For diagramming, varying shades and hatches of the primary and secondary color (no other color added)

    In conclusion, we should create our drawings in color for those that can use it that way, and convert to B&W as needed. This is very achievable with the existing software we are currently using. We should be making our best effort to accommodate our clients and anyone who requires our drawings to do their job. One solution isn't going to work for everyone, and we are the only ones who have and/or are proficient enough to author the drawings that way. There should be some guiding principles for the use of color in construction docs, considering the fact that adding color to drawings could make them harder to read.

    One last thought... Color has always existed in the world, architects have had the ability to add color to drawings for a very long time (There is an AIA standard for layer colors in software, but not in construction documents?), are we really providing the best information to the other stakeholders in our projects by just adding color to our drawings?

    ------------------------------
    Nicholas Voell-White Assoc. AIA
    Director of BIM Implementation
    AEC-Technologies
    Redondo Beach CA
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Color use in Construction Documents?

    Posted 08-13-2020 14:05
    Thanks, Nicholas, for these clarifications and comments.

    So far we have done test plans in PDF using red/green colors for dimensions/column lines.  The idea is to help the floor plan lines stand out as black lines without the visual clutter and overlapping line work.  I am waiting for feedback from our key staff on this approach.  Maybe we will set our drafting output to use these colors soon and have more to report.

    Your last question is a good one, and I think it relates to the first comment - who is the audience and will this be a help for that audience?  That is worth pondering and if we try, ask for a response from the reviewers, owners and contractors.

    It reminds me about the debate years ago of using keynotes on construction drawings.  I have always favored that approach to reduce the level of noise on the drawings and more importantly, to have the same words apply to the same materials and elements across all the drawings.  Revit lets drafters do that to control the material selection information, but generally we are not using the keynote spec-related numbers/letters on drawings.  One exception is for demolition where we often use the 02A... series to spell out the removal work.

    Thanks again,

    Sherman Aronson AIA LEED BD+C
    BLT Architects, Sr. Associate
     
     
    Sherman C. Aronson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
    Senior Associate
     
        
       
    1216 Arch Street
    Philadelphia, PA  19107‑2835
    Tel: 215 563 3900 Ext: 124
    www.BLTa.com
     
     
     


    NOTE:  BLT Architects is open for business, with our entire staff maintaining social distancing while working from home offices.  As always, we remain committed meeting the needs of our clients and other project stakeholders.  We are keeping traditional business hours, with all client, consultant, and contractor meetings taking place virtually.  Please call (215) 563-3900 and the relevant extension for individual staff or press 9 for our company directory.  All telephone calls are immediately forwarded to the individual you seek.    Stay safe!

    NOTICE
    THIS E-MAIL, INCLUDING ANY ATTACHMENTS, IS CONFIDENTIAL AND FOR THE INTENDED RECIPIENT ONLY. IT MAY BE LEGALLY PRIVILEGED AND PROTECTED FROM DISCLOSURE. NOTHING IN THIS E-MAIL GRANTS ANY LICENSE OR TRANSFERS ANY OWNERSHIP OR ANY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS TO THE RECIPIENT. IF THE READER OF THIS MESSAGE IS NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, YOU ARE INFORMED THAT ANY DISSEMINATION, COPYING OR DISCLOSURE OF THE MATERIAL CONTAINED HEREIN, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION IN ERROR, OR ARE NOT THE INTENDED RECIPIENT, PLEASE NOTIFY THE SENDER IMMEDIATELY AND PURGE THIS MESSAGE. INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS CANNOT BE GUARANTEED TO BE SECURE, VIRUS-FREE OR ERROR FREE. BLT ARCHITECTS ACCEPTS NO LIABILITY FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE FROM THE USE OF THIS E-MAIL.