Most projects don’t begin with a blank canvas and a flat area of land to design and build upon. With so many existing buildings, either broken up into leasable tenant space or re-purposed for different uses as time passes, many projects begin with the existing building shell and are tailored to fit the next occupant’s use. This is where documenting existing conditions plays an important role in the conception of the project.
For each site survey, the level of investigation depends on the scope of the project. If a client wishes to generate drawings for leasing purposes, wall locations, window/door sizes, and utility locations are documented and dimensioned to show the leasable area of a space. If the client’s goal is to renovate the building or build an addition, the survey will be more involved, and can include surrounding site context, structure, electrical service, mechanical system sizes and approximate age, condition of the roof, adequate parking, and current accessibility standards.
Once the information arrives in our office, the software is also selected based on the client’s end goals. If the scope of work is to simply provide lease outline drawings, drawings can be completed quickly using AutoCAD. If the scope is to include facade renovations or coordinating an interior fit-out with updated mechanical systems, modeling the project in Revit may be the best option.
Now that summer has arrived, so has our returning intern, and we are able to pass along some of our knowledge and methods of documenting buildings. We develop a method of drawing, writing dimensions without cluttering our drawing, photographing elements of importance, and looking beyond the surface to understand structure orientation and wall construction. These are things that can only be learned by first-hand experience, and we are happy to share that experience.
Performing site surveys to document existing conditions is just one of the many services we offer at JL Architects, and distance is no issue. In the last few months, we’ve completed surveys everywhere from our own town of West Chester, to Philadelphia, northern Virginia, Georgia, and as far west as Arizona. With every completed survey, comes a greater understanding of how the existing building comes together, and how we can better help our clients achieve their design goals.
Brandon Runnels, Architectural Designer