I started working in the AEC industry in the late nineties, and it probably wasn’t long after that when I first heard the phrase shop drawings. I’m sure that at the time the phrase conjured up pictures in my imagination as I thought about its meaning. Now a decade later I’m able to define the phrase, and will do so herein this article.
Considering Different Definitions
Let me do some online and offline referencing to see how others have defined the phrase shop drawings.
Starting on my bookshelf I found that The Means Illustrated Construction Dictionary Third Edition Unabridged defined shop drawings as
Drawings created by a contractor, subcontractor, vendor, manufacturer, or other entity that illustrate construction, materials, dimensions, installation, and other pertinent information for the incorporation of an element or item into the construction.
Moving onto the web I found the online AIA Document Commentary, A201-2007 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction document stated in section 3.12.1
Shop Drawings are drawings, diagrams, schedules and other data specially prepared for the Work by the Contractor or a Subcontractor, Sub-subcontractor, manufacturer, supplier or distributor to illustrate some portion of the Work.
Lastly, I turned up a definition from Wikipedia. They cited R Pietroforte (1997)(PDF), Construction Management & Economics, Taylor & Francis Retrieved 2007-02-23, which gave a definition of
A shop drawing is a drawing or set of drawings produced by the contractor, supplier, manufacturer, subcontractor, or fabricator.
Curating the Definitions
These three definitions provide a mini sample set of definitions, so that I can check for consistency amongst them, and compare them to my life’s experience within the AEC Industry.
Based on my experience I’d say that these definitions do an excellent job of defining what shop drawings are. There is nothing more I need to add to them.
Concluding With A Practical Example
On a practical level, let me give a hypothetical example to flesh out this definiton.
Let’s say that there is a man who wants a 20 story building constructed, and so he hires an Architecture / Engineering firm to put together the construction documents for doing so. The finished construction documents will be taken in hand by a Contractor, so construction can happen.
However, the construction documents would not contain all the information and details that the Contractor would need in order for him to complete the construction of the building. This is where shop drawings would come in. They would act as the bridge that fills in the gap between the contract documents and the Contractor. The shop drawings would provide the additional information and details that the Contractor requires.