Reading blueprints is a valuable skill in the field of construction. It does not just apply to contractors, architects, engineers, and field supervisors. Even homeowners who prefer a hands-on learning experience will benefit from reading and interpreting a blueprint successfully. A blueprint is a 2D representation of the actual building and landscape in a construction project. It could take the form of construction drawings, floor plans, and building plans to give the layout image of what to expect. Whether it is a residential, a commercial, or an industrial building, it will require a set of dimensions and construction materials. These are defined by a blueprint, and it documents the exact configuration and material allocation throughout the building. Blueprints create a good reference point for all the project stakeholders to collaborate over. They help with cost estimations, material charges, labor costs, and other financial scopes of the project. Building permits can be confirmed and validated using blueprint designs, and most local code compliance aspects are handled using these documents.
Blueprints display their 2D drawings in different views, based on architectural perspectives. They consist of various lines that you need to be able to read for thorough interpretations. A set of blueprints may include letter-coded sheets to distinguish between the kind of drawings they represent. These features form the backbone of any online blueprint reading course to help you learn the basics. A comprehensive course teaches you to take cues from the blueprint legends, drawing scale, architect notes, etc. In this article, we have discussed the core learning outcomes of a blueprint reading course – with 2 certified courses to help you know what to expect.
Key elements of blueprint reading
A blueprint consists of various drawing sheets for different purposes. Architectural drawings display the layout of all the rooms in a house, whereas the site plans map out the complete building site. A floor plan would show you the “aerial view” of any building layout, including features like the furniture, walls, doors, and windows. Then there are detailed drawings that amplify the required structural details in a blueprint. Elevations and sections display the outer views and cross-sectional images, respectively. While studying an online blueprint reading course, you will come across these drawings among many other structural representations of a building.
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP)
The MEP layouts include various utility networks distributed around a building. These mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructures allow you to plan efficient frameworks for a building – and understand your own building layout as a homeowner. The mechanical elements focus on HVAC systems for installation and control purposes. Electrical plans generally include power systems, wiring, fire protection, and power supply applications. Plumbing systems on a blueprint will represent the piping routes and sewage outlets; they will also include various drainage and water collection areas such as those designed for handling rainwater.
Abbreviations and standard symbols
Blueprint readability and organization are improved through the use of various codes and symbols. These simplify the work of architects, engineers, contractors, etc. by giving them reference “beacons” while reading a blueprint. All abbreviations and symbols are included in a legend. Blueprint notes give more clues about the construction context. Different conventions in the form of icons, letters, and symbols are used as the blueprint syntax to create a system that is understood by everyone. This keeps every project member on the same page.
Blueprints are drawn to scale. They break down every element of a building into a scalable ratio that adjusts itself based on how you increase or decrease the measurements. The construction symbols are also drawn similarly. They represent the actual configuration of a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, or living room by appearing in a resized layout on the blueprint. The scales will be printed on each drawing, and you need to use a proper architectural scale to read the blueprints accurately.
Online blueprint reading courses
Virtual Design & Construction Institute (VDCI)
Project-based CAD, BIM, and VDC programs
Operating from San Diego, California, the Virtual Design & Construction Institute offers training bundles and technology certificates in the construction industry. The nationally accredited institute helps students progress with real-world objectives and competent practices. Apart from blueprint reading, you can enroll in AutoCAD, Revit, Civil 3D, Adobe, Fusion 360, and SketchUp modules. There are both online and onsite classes to choose from, depending on your preference.
Blueprint reading course
The institute’s Blueprint Reading for Residential Construction is an online course for interested candidates in the field of construction. It helps you with referencing information between a set of drawings. You get to warm up to various elements that make up a blueprint – such as a title sheet, site plans, floor plans, drawing scales, elevations, fire notes, development summaries, sheet index, etc. Blueprint reading is all about understanding these professional disciplines that are referenced in the drawings you work with. The course elaborates on contour analysis in a blueprint map to get to various details and layers. It spans a total of 10 clock hours – or 18 days – during which you are required to complete deliverables.
The self-paced course is presented by a licensed architect. It focuses on scaling aspects, building permits, consistency in presentation, and inter-relationships between blueprint drawings. The projects are based on blueprints for single-family residential homes, and you are welcome to participate in Discussion Forums and the VDCI Student Lounge to collaborate with peers.
Center for Professional Studies (CPS)
Pace University has a main campus in New York City. It offers certified courses and professional training opportunities to elevate your academic and professional standards. The training courses help you acquire resume-friendly skills in your chosen industry – including construction areas. Classes are delivered as online and onsite programs, and you have the academic exposure to both beginner and advanced modules.
Blueprint reading course
The university’s Introduction to Construction Blueprint Reading Certificate covers the basics of blueprint reading. It is an online blueprint reading course that teaches you the beginner objectives of reading architectural and construction documents. You will come across the idea of orthographic projection, which is the technique of representing 3D objects as 2D drawings. The course includes various blueprint learning outcomes like plans, elevations, symbols, notations, scales, and the different types of drawing documents. Once you are able to distinguish between various drawings, you can read and understand their elements better. The blueprint reading curriculum also includes material schedules and design aspects. Taught by a construction professional and architectural expert, this beginner-friendly course is your perfect guide to understand layouts and installations – as well as elementary flaws in the blueprint design.
Reading between the lines
Any professional contractor, supervisor, architect, and engineer should be able to pick out red flags from a set of blueprints. Drawing conventions allow experts to follow standard representations. However, there is always some room for errors, and these need to be eradicated in time before the actual construction can begin. Discrepancies in floor plans, inaccurate storage measurements, inadequate furniture space, and miscalculated room dimensions are some examples. Window placements are another crucial factor – and so is the garage location. If you have a keen eye for details, you can spot unused corners in a blueprint and optimize those spaces with added storage cabinets, for example. Online blueprint reading courses are a good place to start. They give you a broad insight into the spatial caliber of a building – and help you read between the lines to find the missing puzzle pieces of your construction picture.