If you have recently started or are just about to start architecture school, then it’s quite likely that you have never needed or been asked to draw a floor plan before.
So here we explain how to develop and draw an architectural floor plan from beginning to end, and provide some helpful tips and methods to make drawing your plans more efficient and look better.
What is a floor plan?
The purpose of a floor plan is show a dimensioned and scaled map of a building’s interior spaces, depicting the relationship to one another, connections between the interior and exterior, and the location of key elements such as openings, objects and wall thickness’s.
Floor plans always depict an overhead view of the spaces you are creating and should be thought of as an horizontal cut or section that is taken at 1200mm (4ft) across the entire floor. Anything below or above this point is dotted or dashed, for example a low level window or the remaining treads of a staircase.
Where to start
When drawing a floor plan, firstly you need to be certain that you understand the constraints of the site and projects conditions, which may of may not include:
- The local legal restrictions – limits on size, height restrictions, protected elements etc
- Site restraints – typography, surrounding elements, access etc
- Site characteristics – Sun path, views, site lines etc
- Design brief – what does the client require and need
These provide the boundaries for how your floor plan can develop in terms of its size, location, and how the spaces should be arranged.
Before you start to plan the individual spaces you should begin with a basic diagram, simply order the areas into public and private arrangements, this will form a basic representation of what you eventually want to achieve.
From this, other diagrams including reflective ceiling plans can be developed in tandem to take into account access, light, and movement etc.
When preparing theses drawings, they should be overlaid and drawn on top of your projects site plan, and be drawn either by hand or loosely in a CAD program. This will remind you of the site restrictions and elements, as well as maintaining a good level of flexibility.
The diagrams should be quick and can remain relatively inaccurate, there purpose is to quickly help you arrange what will eventually be a more formal and precise architectural floor plan. It is not important to allocate specific door and window locations at this stage, but a general understanding of their locations should be shown.
Here it is all about allocating and linking elements, arrangements and circulation patterns, do not get hung up on room dimensions, you need to develop the space through planning the movement, light, and the feeling the users will experience first.
The next step
Moving forward, a good starting point is to now develop a grid based diagram to help with the arrangement and allocation of the spaces required, this could be a square, rectangle or even a circle, its purpose is to introduce a sorting mechanism and guideline to your arrangements.
Don’t be afraid to flick between hand drawings and computer software, this part of the floor plan generation needs to free flowing and flexibly, so use which ever method is best for you.
The final floor plan itself however should be drawn in a CAD program, as hand drawings tend to look too rough and informal.
The floor plan should also not be a strict 2D experience, and once you have a general spatial arrangement you should work in tandem with a simple 3D model to show massing and basic form. This can be a physical model made from card for example, or in a 3D computer software such as SketchUp, which is excellent for this.
Architecture design is about development and refinement, there is rarely a quick answer which is why this method of plan development is so useful. …It can quickly move and adapt.
What software should you use?
As mentioned above, for formal plans it is best to use CAD software as appose to hand drawing them, there are a variety of programs to use and we have listed the most popular products below:
- AutoCAD LT
It is extremely important that your floor plans are drawn to an architectural scale, in CAD programs the scale is always 1:1 (so the size that things actually are), and you then choose the scale you want it to be printed at in the printing or plot settings of your chosen program.
If you are hand drawing your plans, then you want to preferably choose either a scale of 1:100 or 1:50 depending on the size of the building and the level of detail you want to show. In some instances a 1:200 scale may be useful for quick iterations that require a small level of detail.
These scales can also be used a guideline for printing and plotting purposes.
Line weights are simply defined as the thickness of the lines you are using to draw your plan. They provide a level of hierarchy and layering to your drawing that not only makes it a lot easier to read and understand, but also makes it graphically more coherent.
For example, in terms of readability the walls on a floor plan should always be the most dominant feature, and so are should be the thickness line and often filled in with a dark shade.
Most CAD programs separate their line weights into layers and colors so they are easy to identify when drawn. Some architects have a different line weight for every component, but by keeping them down to around five variants greatly simplifies the work flow and drawing.
Once printed, all lines should be black / grey
Layers help with the organisation of your drawing and line weights. A “wall” layer for example can have a specific line weight and color assigned to it, and so anything drawn on or assigned to that layer will take on its properties.
Layers also provide a “selection by layer” feature that allows you to select everything on that particular layer and / or hide all objects, providing a more efficient work flow.
How to draw…
To finish we want to focus on the individual elements that make up a floor plan and discuss how they should be shown.
Walls and Columns
Walls and columns should be the most dominant element on your floor plan, as they provide the bulk of the plans eligibility and structure. Without a clear separation from the rest of the floor plan, they would simply blend into the drawing.
They should be drawn in the plans thickest line weight and often with a solid fill for further clarification.
Doors and openings should be drawn in the next line weight down from the above, and always show the swinging rotation and direction.
The direction of sliding doors should be shown via an arrow.
Windows can be drawn in the same line weight as doors, and should always show the location of the glass and frame.
Stair treads should become dotted once they go above the 1200mm horizontal section cut, show the direction they going via an arrow and be numbered.
Furniture provides a scale and suggests how the rooms might be used. This is vitally important in understanding your floor plan and selling the scheme to a client or audience
The primary entrance to your building should be clearly labelled.
Your plans should always be printed to an architectural scale, but dimensions provide a quick reference and a better experience when viewing them.
Each room and space should be clearly labelled
The floor levels of plan should be labelled below your room title
Lastly, for ground floor plans in particular, the surrounding context of the immediate site should be shown. The floors above, can be shown in a light line weight.