Construction Documents: What Are They? How Many Types Are There? Why Are They Important?

 May 21, 2021 by Michael Gober & Denis Gritsiyenko

If you run a construction company — or have spent any time at all in the business — then you should be familiar with construction documents. And you know that they are important to what you do.

But you also know that keeping up with the endless list of types and categories of these documents can be difficult and frustrating at times.

In this article, we will break it all down and explain construction documents at length, detailing the different types to help you better understand their roles in your company.

  1. CM Fusion: Create and Manage Your Construction Documents With Our Project Management Software
  2. What Are Construction Documents?
  3. 5 Different Types of Construction Documents
  4. Keep Track of Your Construction Documents and Streamline Your Projects with CM Fusion’s Construction Management Software

CM Fusion: Create and Manage Your Construction Documents With Our Project Management Software

CM Fusion is simple and flexible construction management software that you need to help your business run more smoothly and efficiently. We feature everything you need for better project management, including: 

  • Scheduling

  • Daily field reports

  • Project tasks

  • Tracking of time and costs

  • Submittals

  • Bidding; and

  • Image management

And perhaps best of all, we allow you to organize all your construction documents in one place with our document management feature. We store your project documents in the cloud and allow anyone who requires access to be able to view them. What could be more convenient than that?

What Are Construction Documents?

Construction documents are legally binding written communications that define roles, responsibilities, and work under the construction contract.

They can be:

  • Written

  • Graphic; and

  • Pictorial

These documents are assembled to describe and communicate the …

  • Design

  • Location; and

  • Physical characteristics of a project’s components

… that are necessary to receive a building permit and carry out the contract.

Accurate and organized construction documents are a necessity for the success of projects. That’s why you need CM Fusion to collect and keep these documents all in one place and make them easily accessible to everyone involved.

What Is Included Under the Umbrella of ‘Construction Documents?’

Construction contract documents have many different components and can be complex. Let’s break down some of the specific things you may see within these records.

Contract and Conditions

The contract is the agreement between all the parties and is the foundation of the construction documents. It is the foundation upon which you will build the rest of the project’s details.

The most common construction contracts include:

  • Guaranteed maximum price

  • Time and materials

  • Lump-sum

  • Cost-plus

  • Unit-price

These contracts should be written with as much detail as possible to avoid mistakes, delays, and conflicts.

Building on that, the conditions are the framework of construction documents. They explain how everything is happening and establish the rights and obligations of the contractors. Conditions are necessary in that they lay out the roles and responsibilities of each person or group involved.

Construction document conditions may include:

  • How change orders are processed

  • How payment apps are approved

  • Notice requirements on a job site; and

  • Dispute resolution, suspension, and termination procedures

Specifications

The section of construction documents where you will find all the technical data and requirements is specifications

The specs should outline:

  • Techniques that will be used

  • Quality standards

  • Acceptable materials; and

  • Quality testing necessary for compliance

Construction specifications are prepared by an architect or engineer and approved by the client. Then they are given to contractors who are expected to execute each detail. 

Drawings

Drawings are an integral component of construction documents that provide an overview of the project. They can range from simple to complex and cover each area of the project including:

  • General — may include codes, safety plans, and accessibility and sustainability standards

  • Civil Engineering — plans on grading and utilities, among others

  • Landscape Architecture — details of various landscape elements, such as planting of trees or shrubs

  • Structural — detailed drawings and calculations for each structural system in the project, such as a beam system

  • Architectural — drawings that graphically communicate the details of the building design

  • Plumbing — locations and sizes for each inbound and outbound water supply

  • Mechanical — locations and sizes of each piece of mechanical equipment

  • Electrical — locations of all switches, light fixtures, power outlets, and sources

Schedules

There are two different types of schedules that are important within construction documents.

  • Construction schedules — these are crucial to finishing your project on time and within budget. They should:

    • Give a clear picture of project timeframes and milestones

    • Be updated to track progress; and

    • Show what still needs completion

  • Schedules of values — these are provided by contractors and list all the work items from start to finish. This piece of documentation is important because it:

    • Is a useful management tool

    • Allows for submitting and reviewing progress payments; and

    • Helps keep cash flowing and bills paid on time

5 Different Types of Construction Documents

As you can see, the types of information that can be included under construction documents are vast. It’s easy to see why construction companies can get overwhelmed with paperwork. 

But a smart construction manager will take advantage of CM Fusion’s management software and leave the headaches of document-keeping behind.

Now let’s explore the five different types of construction documents and when you may use them within each project.

#1: Commercial Construction Documents

Commercial construction documents are created for the city, building owner, and contractors.

These documents must include proof of adherence to:

Examples of commercial construction documents include:

  • Architectural blueprints

  • Architectural drawings

  • Specifications; and

  • Commercial office building plans

When Are Architectural Construction Documents Used?

Commercial construction involves the design, renovation, or building of structures related to business. 

Commercial construction can be small-scale but is generally much grander than a residential project. So commercial construction documents can often be vast and are used throughout the creation of office buildings and parks, for example.

#2: Architectural Construction Documents

Architectural construction documents are very detailed and typically include specifications for construction particulars and materials. 

There is generally a complete set of architectural drawings for each section including:

  • Demolition

  • Site plan

  • Floor plans

  • Elevation; and

  • Details

When Are Architectural Construction Documents Used?

Architectural construction documents are used to graphically communicate the components of the building plan. You might consider these the real meat of any construction project. They are typically used early in the construction process but can be revised throughout.

#3: Design Development Construction Documents

Design development involves finalizing the design and specifying items like:

  • Materials

  • Window and door locations; and

  • General structure details

These documents are also extremely detailed and may include developments in the areas of:

  • Architecture

  • Structure; and

  • Engineering 

Design development construction documents often also go outside the building itself and involve important details such as roads and parking.

When Are Design Development Construction Documents Used?

Design development construction documents usually go hand-in-hand with their architectural counterparts, but they also take it one step further and operate in even greater detail.

#4: AIA Best Practices Construction Documents

The AIA, or American Institute of Architects, has an exhaustive list of Best Practices construction documents. They are divided into six alphanumeric series by document use or purpose and outline all of the implications for each subcontractor.

  1. A-Series — Owner/Contractor Agreements

  2. B-Series — Owner/Architect Agreements

  3. C-Series — Other Agreements

  4. D-Series — Miscellaneous Documents

  5. E-Series — Exhibits; and

  6. G-Series — Contract Administration and Project Management Forms

These documents are widely recognized to be industry-standard and define the relationships and terms involved in construction projects. 

The AIA Best Practices are known to contain ...

  • Essential knowledge based on deep experience

  • Expert advice that is immediately usable; and

  • New content and updates to industry articles

… and their construction documents reflect this. As a contractor, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this list as much as possible to stay on top of what is happening in your business.

When Are AIA Best Practices Construction Documents Used?

Since the AIA Best Practices construction documents cover every part of the process, they are used throughout any project. 

#5: Construction Closeout Documents

Documentation is just as important at the end of a project as at the beginning.

Some forms that will need to be completed at this stage are:

  • Certificate of Substantial Completion

  • Completed Punchlist

  • Design Team Approvals

  • Inspection Certificates

  • Certificate of Occupancy

  • Lien Waivers

  • Final Pay Applications

And that could be just the tip of the iceberg depending on how detail-oriented the customer is.

When Are Construction Closeout Documents Used?

Just as the name suggests, construction closeout documents are used after the project is completed. 

Their adoption ensures that everything has gone according to plan and each separate party can sign off on the project. They also establish compliance with legal standards and allow everyone to get paid at the end of the job.

Keep Track of Your Construction Documents and Streamline Your Projects with CM Fusion’s Construction Management Software

Maintaining construction documents — along with everything else you do to keep your company running — can be overwhelming. That’s why you need construction management software to help you get the job done.

But don’t just settle for any piece of software. You want one that’s:

  • Easy to use

  • Cloud-based

  • Collaborative

  • Flexible on pricing; and

  • Has specific features that meet your construction company’s needs

CM Fusion is all this and more. If you’re not sure, sign up for our 30-day trial at no cost to you — there’s not even a credit card required. That’s how sure we are that you are going to love our construction management software and want to integrate it into your business as soon as you try it.

Visit us today and get started.



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