New Schematic Design Video

A new YouTube video highlighting our Schematic Design process.

Schematic Design, or Preliminary Design, is the first major design step when undertaking a home renovation, addition or new construction project. It's a fun and exciting time of the project and is usually the first time your ideas will be translated into plans, sections, elevations and 3d views

How to Read Sections

Throughout your home renovation project your architect should be able to provide you with 3D floor plans and other 3D images of the design. These are incredibly helpful for all involved, especially at the preliminary design stage. However, to receive permits and to have your project built, you will need a comprehensive set of construction documents.  There is a lot of information that needs to be conveyed and the bulk of this information gets conveyed in plans, sections and elevations. These are 2d drawings that are packed with information, and many people have difficulty understanding how to read these drawings.

A previous post covered how to read floor plans.

This post will cover how to read your section drawings.

Sections depict the vertical relationships between the spaces shown on your floor plans. They relate spaces above and below each other and provide information about wall heights, floor-to-floor heights, stair clearances and roof slopes, among other things. While your plans show the horizontal relationships between walls in a room, sections show you how tall those walls are. Together, these two drawing types provide an accurate description of the size and shape of the space you are trying to create.


Let’s look a little more in depth at some of the information shown in your sections.

Sections show your ceiling heights. Heights from 8 to 10 feet are common. People often request heights greater than that, not fully realizing how high a 10 foot ceiling really is. A graphical silhouette can help, give your drawing scale, though these are usually not shown on construction drawings. Above 10 ft you may be required to have thicker walls which can add expense to your project and cut into your finished floor space.

Sections also show your floor assembly depth. This is generally the sum of the floor joist and the subfloor above the joist, to which your finished floor will attach. Joists in the 12” range are common, but if you want a really wide open plan you may end up needing deeper joists, which would increase the depth of your floor assembly. This is usually not visible space, but increasing this depth can affect stairs, overall building height and cost.

Sections also show detail callout markers. These are usually rectangular dashed line shapes with a bubble and a number. This alerts you to the fact that there is more information about a specific area in your project on another drawing. This is because every project will have some special conditions that require the architect to provide more detailed drawings. This detail can’t be seen at the typical scale of the section, so a blow up drawing of one small area is provided. If the mark next to the callout says 3/A501 the additional detail can be found at drawing #3 on sheet number A500.

Our President Featured in "SDC Talks" created by the Sustainable Development Committee

John Mangan, the President of Mangan Group Architects in Takoma Park, Maryland, was recently asked to be part of SDC Talks, an initiative created by the Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) as a "repository for thought leadership facilitated and/or generated by the members of SDC.  The goal of SDC Talks is to provide relevant and applicable pieces on sustainability topics within the context of commercial real estate."

John spoke about a project involving the building of a new law center including classrooms and a conference space in a building that was originally built as an office building. The original building had no street presence on Massachusetts Avenue. The architect’s vision of opening not only the façade, but the floors to create a dramatic entry and gathering space was much easier to understand with the use of the BIM. 

Read John Mangan's full presentation here 

3 Things to Look For in a Good Architect

Finding a good architect is much like a mechanic or even a doctor. Referrals and results are king and everything else just helps the process. So what if you don't have a great referral sitting around and you need to get some information on the best architects in your area. Our architecture firm located in Takoma Park, Maryland, is great because we have a wealth of samples of our work around the community--but what if we have a job 45 miles away? How do we convey to our potential clients our skill-set and core competency? Here are a few takeaways for finding a strong architect:

1. Do some initial web research relying on the testimonials, portfolios and reviews of the firm. Make a list of the top 6-8 that you like and contact the architects on your list. Ask them good questions about their design principles, project ideas and more. The more prepared you are the better. The Wall Street Journal did a great piece on whether or not you actually need a good architect too- check it out.

2. After talking on the phone with all of them, trim your list down and set up a meeting with them. In this phase, you want to try and understand a little bit more about the people who are going to be helping you and how they compare to the others. 

3. Finally, after you make your choice, make sure you go through the entire process with your architect and be sure you understand all the costs and responsibilities you have. If you choose, you can also hire an attorney to look it over.

Happy hunting-- and we're always happy to answer your questions here at Mangan Group.