Elevations, framing plans, wall sections, and shadow diagrams

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As well as site and floor plans, there are several other types of diagrams you're likely to see to support the design of a new house. These all help to ensure that the house is built correctly, and to communicate the architect or building designer's ideas, intentions and detail.

Among others, these plans include elevations, framing plans, wall sections and shadow diagrams.

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What are elevations?

Elevations are diagrams that depict – to scale and in detail – how a particular side of the building will look. For example, an elevation might be a detailed drawing of the front of the house, showing how it’d look from the street, complete with windows, cladding, doors, shrubbery and so forth. Elevation diagrams may also use some colour and texture to give a clearer picture of how the house is supposed to look.

Elevations are also used to provide a detailed view of certain facets of an interior too (for example, a cut-out of a kitchen) – particularly to demonstrate how fixtures, doors, cabinets and the like will be laid out.

These types of diagrams are drawn by marking out parallel and perpendicular lines from key feature points on a given side of a floor plan that are likely to be visible from the side of the building that’s being drawn (e.g. corners, outside stairs, doors, windows, chimneys etc), and then diagramming in a flat side view using these lines.

What are framing plans?

A framing plan is a plan that’s designed to show the locations, materials (e.g. steel, timber), sizes, spacings and numbers of the structural elements that will be used to build your house. Ensuring that the frame’s built the way it’s intended is very important from an engineering perspective, and it’s likely that separate framing plans will be drawn for floors, roof areas and the walls.

As well as showing how things like footings, girders, rafters, bracings, joists and struts are arranged, framing plans will also feature supplementary detail drawings where they’re required, to show how the different elements are to be anchored, joined and fastened.

Framing plans are normally very specific about what’s required, for good reason. Different window manufacturers produce windows in different sizes, for example, so specifying exactly what's required at this stage helps to ensure that the appropriate sizes are understood and that rough openings are the right fit.

What is a wall section?

Section diagrams (or wall sections, or simply ‘sections’) are one of the more important tools used by the contractor to build your house. A section is literally that – a cross section diagram of a given part of the house, showing exactly what goes where.

A section diagram will show in great detail what the foundations, walls, floor systems and roof are made of, and how they’re made. This includes details on things like:

  • specific construction materials
  • sheathing
  • insulation requirements
  • heights
  • framing sizes and depths
  • vents
  • the shape and construction of the eaves
  • the pitch of the roof
  • ...and much more.

A wall section is likely to be accompanied by a lot of supplementary notes explaining in detail the many different things it’s designed to show, and will use the same shading, symbols and abbreviations that you’d see in the other plans.

What is a shadow diagram?

A shadow diagram is effectively an outline of the site and surrounding properties that shows the shadows that the house you’re building will cast at different times of the year – in particular, at times like the midwinter solstice, when the shadow it casts is likely to be at its longest.

Shadow diagrams are often required by the local council for planning purposes, to demonstrate that the structure you want to build won’t block sunlight to surrounding properties. This is particularly important in areas with smaller blocks, where houses are being built near boundaries or where you’re building a multi-storey home.

As more people install solar panels and the importance of access to sunlight becomes more widely valued as a means of saving energy, taking shadows into account becomes more significant. Shadow diagrams are also a good way to understand how your own private outdoor spaces will be shaded.

What is a reflected ceiling plan?

In some cases, where mouldings or certain features are designed onto the ceiling, a ‘reflected ceiling plan’ (RCP) may also be provided. This is a view of how the ceiling would look from below, but ‘reflected’ so that it can be overlaid on the floor plan to indicate where things will go.

 

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