Understanding Drawings & Other Terms

To communicate a design, the main drawings used are plans, sections and elevations. Architects may also use axonometrics, which offer a bird’s eye view, and sketches and perspectives. Many clients find a simple 3-d model useful to understand the relationship between spaces and the overall look of a design.


Depicting the building location on the site


Drawings of each floor, showing the size and locations of the rooms and functions


Drawings of buildings sides (south, north, west, east) to convey the design and use of materials


Drawings that cut through a building, depicting height and relationships of spaces


By law, anyone renting or selling a property must supply a Building Energy Rating (BER). A building energy rating calculates the energy efficiency of a property on a scale from A to G, with A1 being the most energy efficient and has the lowest energy bills. A BER covers energy use for space heating, water heating, ventilation and lighting calculated on the basis of standard occupancy. A BER certificate is accompanied by an advisory report, which will identify how you might improve the energy performance of your home. There are exemptions for certain categories of homes, for example, protected structures and certain temporary homes.


Concern all aspects of construction and apply to new buildings, extensions, alterations and renovations. They are designed to ensure that buildings are structurally sound and comply with fire safety, universal access and energy performance. Your architect will be competent in all aspects of building regulations and is required under RIAI Registration to regularly attend Continuous Professional Development courses to stay abreast of new regulations.


This document is compiled by your architect as part of the Construction Drawings. It sets out in writing the construction requirements including materials, finishes and fittings as well as energy efficiency.


These are produced by your RIAI architect for the construction stage of your project. They comprise of detailed floor plans, sections and elevations as well as a full specification, which allow the contractor to construct your building. The drawings are the result of a lengthy design process, in which the client plays an important role. Changes to the design at the construction stage are likely to have costly implications.


Buildings that contain a variety of uses such as residential, offices and retail are described as mixed-used.


The snag list is produced by the purchaser prior to the final completion of a building to identify any building defects. It is advisable to engage a registered architect to compile a detailed snag list as defects can be easily missed.


Sustainability is considered essential to architecture and is based on the principle that good design will last for future generations. Sustainability considers not only the energy performance of a building but wider issues such as the protection of the environment (including under construction); the use of eco friendly materials and their provenance; and the availability of local infrastructure and public transport.


The rate of heat loss, for example through windows, is calculated in U-values. The lower the U-value, the greater is the thermal performance of the window and the resulting energy savings. Your RIAI architect will advise on how to achieve optimum U-values for your project.