A Guide to Reflected Ceiling Plans

Reflected ceiling plans (often called RCPs) can strike fear into the heart of new architecture students. What exactly are they reflecting? Are they just a reversed floor plan? What’s the point of them, anyway?

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a reflected ceiling plan is, what it should include, and how to read them. We’ll also talk about how they’re actually put together. You need never fear an RCP again!

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What is a reflected ceiling plan?

A reflected ceiling plan (RCP) is a kind of architectural drawing. It shows features of the ceiling as though they were being reflected onto a mirrored floor below – hence the name.

RCP’s show things like electrical wiring, the ceiling treatment (e.g. drywall patterns), light fixtures, and other items that are mounted on or suspended from the ceiling. They are drawn to the same scale as the floor plan, commonly a quarter of an inch to one foot (the scale should appear at the bottom of the RCP drawing).

Reflected ceiling plans are initially produced by architects or interior designers, and then passed onto engineers for electrical details to be added.

What is included in a reflected ceiling plan?

You are likely to find the follow things included in an initial RCP produced by an architect or interior designer:

  • Dimensions, including the height of the ceiling above the finished floor (often referred to as AFF)
  • Specifications on the type of ceiling, e.g. conventional, suspended, tray, beam
  • Specifications for the ceiling finish, e.g. plaster, drywall
  • Details of ceiling features, e.g. bulkheads
  • A key that explains the symbols used on the plan (e.g. a circle for a ceiling light)
  • A key that explains the identifying letters assigned to each fixture, giving specifications for items such as lights, smoke detectors, sprinklers, speakers, cameras, monitors, grilles/diffusers for HVAC system

The kinds of details that are then added by an engineer are:

  • Number, position and type of ceiling panels
  • Specifications for electrical wiring
  • Circuiting and switching for each feature of the ceiling
  • For larger spaces, a circuit-breaker layout

How do you read a reflected ceiling plan?

Often, the best way to read an RCP is to imagine that you are levitating just above the ceiling, which is transparent, and there is a mirror about a meter below that reflects everything on the ceiling back at you.

For clarity, some RCP’s show only the details of the ceiling, and not the room below. When the room below is shown, furniture and fixtures are shown with dotted lines to indicate that they are on a lower plane.

Reflected ceiling plans use different symbols for different features, and these will be explained in a key which appears on the RCP itself. Each fixture will also have its own identifying letter, so that additional information can be given elsewhere without cluttering up the plan itself.

reflected ceiling plan.jpg

How do you make a reflected ceiling plan?

An RCP can be produced by hand or by using architectural software such as AutoCAD and Revit. It is usually put together in the following way:

  1. The contractor establishes the ceiling type – traditional, suspended, and so on.
  2. The architect establishes the scale and dimensions of the ceiling.
  3. The architect adds information about materials to be used.
  4. The architect adds light fixtures.
  5. The architect adds doors and door swings to the plan, using dotted lines.
  6. The engineer adds information about wiring and circuits.
  7. The architect and engineer add fixtures such as sprinklers and HVAC diffusers.

Tips for reading a reflected ceiling plan

RCPs have a reputation as being quite tricky to read, but this needn’t be the case. Remember, what’s shown on an RCP is what you’d see if you were floating just above the ceiling, looking through onto a mirrored surface below.

A reflected ceiling plan is often described as the mirror image of a floor plan, but this isn’t quite right and can be confusing. What people mean when they say this is that, if you imagined yourself somehow levitating between the floor and the ceiling, the shape and orientation of each would be consistent with the other on a plan.

Finally, try not to be overwhelmed by all the symbols, numbers and letters on a reflected floor plan. Keys must be provided on the document itself, so you can always cross-reference their meanings.

Reflected ceiling plans vs floor plans

In a floor plan, the imagined viewer is somewhere between the floor and ceiling of a room and looking down (approximately 1200mm / 4ft above). In a reflected ceiling plan, the imagined viewer is above the ceiling and looking through it into a mirrored surface below.

Do you show doors in a reflected ceiling plan?

Doors and door swings should be included in a reflected ceiling plan, but marked with dotted lines so they are not confused with ceiling features. The reason they are included is to make sure that light switches and other items are not placed behind a door, which is inconvenient for the users of a room.

Summary

Reflected ceiling plans are an essential part of any set of architectural drawings. They show the scale, type, materials, finishes, fixtures and electrics of a ceiling, and how the ceiling relates to the floor (although an RCP is not a reflection of a floor plan).

They also show doors in the room below using dotted lines, and occasionally other features such as furniture. RCPs require input from architects / interior designers and from engineers.

While they can be challenging to read at first, if you remember the ‘levitation/mirror’ analogy you should soon get the hang of them. Spend time studying a few examples online – and then away you go!

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