There are a few things that I know with absolute certainty … Leprechauns are jerks, people will tell me if I don’t call out the vapor barrier in my sketches, and seeing redlines will cause PTSD. I have talked about redlines a handful of times and it is always 100% due to some reaction I get when I post a picture to my Instagram account. The last time was just over 4 years ago when I felt like I needed to address the claim that I was hazing people with my redlines.
I might not always be a nice person and I like to complain as much as the next person but if there is one trait someone who visits this site with any regularity knows, I like to be helpful. During the design process, this typically manifests itself as “redlines”. For those of you that may not be familiar, redlines are typically created when architects make editorial notes on a set of drawings to convey changes that are needed to be made. This process typically occurs during the construction drawings phase, but I find that they are more helpful for how I like to work during the design development phase of the projects.
Let’s take a look at some redlines I recently made …
This is a project that we have been working on for some time. The project will be built in Wyoming and there was enough delay to the process that we were not going to be able to break ground before freezing weather occurred so the entire project went into a sort of hibernation itself. We have been working through construction details but I was able to do a really thorough review of the drawings last week and we spent time making sure that we evaluated where the interior design was at and was the design intent accurately portrayed in the interior elevations. based on the redlines … it was not.
But that’s okay – this is why we go through the process.
The redlines that I was working through on these drawings are not identifying errors but design considerations that we might want to revisit. Of course, there are errors in here as well, but we’ll address both considerations during this time.
My design redlines are more often than not questions that I want to discuss and review with the team that is working on this project. You can click on any of these scans and look more closely at the comments I make, but upon closer inspection, you will see that there is a running commentary in place that I will review one-on-one with the person preparing the documents. What I expect to happen, because it happens in my own office to a certain extent, is people wondering why I would spend the time actually putting ink on paper rather than marking it up using software like Bluebeam?
… because I am designing and not just correcting.
Some of these redlines are preceded by a few layers of trace paper where I am working through what I would like to see and whether or not the modifications will track throughout the entire project. Let’s look at one of these elevations a bit closer.
At the top is the original elevation before I started working through my thoughts and considerations. It’s a mudroom space and starting to the left, you are looking at the door in from the garage, a bank of storage cabinets in the middle, and on the far right, a dog wash station. Nothing too egregious here but there are some alignment issues I want to discuss as well as taking a closer look at the storage wall that will be a major element within this room.
Now take a look at my redlined version. There are actually two pieces of trace on top of the original elevation with two different options I want to discuss with the team. I am evaluating the ceiling heights throughout the entire space, the functionality of the storage shelves (I want space to hang bulky jackets just inside once you exit the garage and enter the house) as well as the constructability of the dog wash area.
Since this will be a conversation with my team, I want all the options present for discussion available rather than me just marking up what I think and telling them to “just do it.” How does anybody learn without taking the time to celebrate these teaching moments?
This is the elevation on the opposite side of the mudroom – and once again, the version I received is at the top and my redlined version just below. Some of what I focused my attention on is coordinating ceiling heights but the vast majority was the wall above the countertop. When I sit down to review with the team, we will discuss standard cabinets heights, work through a narrative about how this space will be used, and material transitions. I don’t actually think that we will use subway tile on this back wall, but this is an easy way to delineate the difference between tile (any kind of tile) and something else.
Design Process – Redlines
I will say that sometimes redlines are exactly what you think they’ll be – editorial comments on items that are incorrect. More often than I would like to see, are software issues where lines are showing up that shouldn’t, view planes not set correctly and as a result, the drawing is confusing, or there is an inconsistency in the decisions being made. I would rather discuss the thought process behind a decision than discuss why that decision wasn’t consistently executed, but I have a young team, and my standards are fairly high … which brings me all the way back to the point of today’s post.
The point of redlines should be to teach the person picking them up how to get to where I want them to be but on the path that they want to follow. I would much rather spend a little extra time on the front end and teach someone the thought process so that I don’t ever have to have the same conversation twice (or at least, minimize that frequency). Redlines are not simply a documentation and coordination tool – it is perhaps one of the very best conversation starters architects have at their disposal.