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Understanding of blueprints, design documents a must for recreational facility managers

This is an excerpt from Recreation Facility Management with Web Resource by Richard Mull,Brent Beggs & Mick Renneisen.

Blueprints and Design Documents

As with all facility projects, design documents that are completed by the architect represent a great deal of general and specific information that is communicated to the contractor. At various times during design, the administrator and the rest of the design team review these design documents to make sure everything is going as planned. These documents are called blueprints. They can be a drawing of a particular part of the project or can be integrated and overlap with other sections of the blueprints. Blueprints become more individualized as the size of the project increases. Larger projects also require more pages and detailed sections that depict all the elements of the facility. Design documents cover all areas of a project, including the demolition or preparation, site, structural, mechanical, electrical, landscape, and other design documents.

Demolition or Preparation Blueprints

Most projects require some degree of land preparation for construction. The demolition or preparation blueprint represents the design that will lead to removal of existing material and vegetation from the site. In addition, the preparation component may include changing the elevation of the site by removing or adding dirt to level some areas and raise others. This phase may also include moving utilities as well as the demolition of existing structures, roads, sidewalks, and trees. Some planned facilities may be in a flood zone or may require leveling, which could necessitate filling in the area with extra dirt or other material to support the structure. Some sites may have too much elevation that requires removal of dirt or other materials. The demolition or preparation documents show exactly what is expected to prepare the site for construction.

Site Blueprints

The site blueprints show how the facility is situated in relation to the entire area where it will be built. Site blueprints include information about utilities, environmental concerns, zoning ordinances, and land requirements. They also identify where all aspects of the facility will be placed on the site, including existing structures, access roads, sidewalks, landscaping, utility lines, and drainage.

Structural Blueprints

The first blueprints to be prepared are the structural prints. They are usually extensive drawings that diagram all rooms, corridors, stairwells, entries, exits, floors, and ceilings, as well as other details. The structural section of blueprints may require many pages to capture the necessary information. It shows the areas that will house the core product and its extensions with appropriate details that indicate exactly what needs to be developed structurally. Structural blueprints not only reflect the overall facility layout but also the foundation plans. The foundation is what supports the structure. In an outdoor facility, structural blueprints represent the different areas and their layout with separate blueprints of any buildings that may be required.

Mechanical Blueprints

Mechanical blueprints have separate design information but are almost always integrated with the structural blueprints. Anything that is mechanical in the facility is drawn in detail, including plumbing, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, and drainage. Mechanical drawings require special knowledge that administrators and architects usually do not have, so engineers often help the architect with the detailed interpretation and application of the technical requirements.

Electrical Blueprints

Another section also integrated with the structural blueprints is the electrical blueprints. No utility requires greater knowledge and adherence to technical standards to ensure safety than electricity. This section of blueprints is often too complicated for the design team, so the project engineer provides the technical expertise required. Everything that requires electricity in order to operate and support the administrative and delivery operations is represented in these blueprints. All detailed wiring is shown with diagrams identifying exactly where and how everything is located, sized, and connected. The project engineer must define the degree and level of all systems such as communication, lighting, and security, as well as HVAC systems. The actual locations for all electrical outlets are shown (including hookups) for cash registers, public-address systems, junction boxes, computers, alarms, security cameras, lights, and other electrical devices.

Landscape Blueprints

Landscape blueprints diagram the details of exterior aspects, such as trees, shrubs, mounding, fences, grass, flowers, and irrigation systems. Details include the type and number of plants, grasses, trees, and other vegetation in addition to how to plant and where to locate these materials. Other information includes maintenance of plant materials. The landscape blueprint is a significant element of outdoor facilities that include many types of vegetation, such as parks.

Other Design Documents

There are other design documents that are not in the form of a blueprint but may be vital to the design of the facility. These documents include information regarding the structural equipment, finishing plan, specifications, and laws, codes, ordinances, and standards.

Structural Equipment

Often the structure of a facility requires certain equipment to be attached to the facility. This equipment, such as a sound system or scoreboard, is necessary for the production of the product and is usually integrated into the structural blueprints showing designed locations, hookups, and installation requirements. Structural equipment is considered part of the facility and in some cases the facility could not be what it is designed to be without it. Other equipment and furnishings are purchased later with the input of the administrator and architect. Additional equipment needs do not require as much detail in the blueprints as other components.

Finish Plan

Although not an actual blueprint, the finish plan, or schedule, is a design document that cites information for the finishes for all facility areas, including paint colors, types of doors and hardware, floor coverings, ceiling types, light fixtures, sinks, toilets, partitions, and windows. During design, the administrator provides input about finish details. It can be difficult for the design team to understand and interpret all of the options associated with a finish plan. An architect can provide assistance in interpreting the information. The layout and organizational scheme is a condensed way to present information to the contractor, subcontractors, and vendors.


The specification book, also called the spec book, describes the blueprints in a narrative, descriptive format. Although not always used, these documents provide detailed directions on each item to be used in the project. Spec books contain a greater number of pages and details as the scope of a project increases. They provide information for contractors, subcontractors, and vendors and are written so that every page is coded in reference to the appropriate blueprint. This cross-referencing assists users in interpreting what they are to do so that there can be no mistakes from the intended design.

Laws, Codes, Ordinances, and Standards

Laws, codes, ordinances, and standards exist that all architects must follow in the design stage of any project. This information must be incorporated in both blueprints and spec books. Failure to adhere to laws, codes, and local ordinances can cause delays with the timeline or even substantial monetary losses for the agency if discovered after construction has been completed. Common requirements governing facility design and accessibility are included in the ADA guidelines ( for all types of building construction. In designing a playground, requirements and guidelines established by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) need to be considered. Other examples of requirements include municipal building codes, fire and life safety codes, National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) requirements, and environmental ordinances. The details regarding electrical, security, plumbing, access and exit areas, and building capacities all have to conform to local or state codes and laws.

This information should always be drawn in the blueprints and stated clearly in the spec book. Requirements may be missed or ignored by contractors and subcontractors if their work is not monitored. Architects and engineers are fully aware of these requirements and are required to meet them by law or they will be penalized by their professional associations. These requirements do not end with the design phase but are also prevalent throughout the construction stage of a project and use of the facility. This is one of the primary reasons why an architect should remain on contract with a project through implementation of the design and the conclusion of the construction. For a small construction or renovation project where the services of an architect may not be necessary, the builder or contractor may be responsible for adherence to requirements. Recreation agencies can hire construction managers or rely on local inspectors to monitor this kind of work.

More Excerpts From Recreation Facility Management with Web Resource