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December 27, 2019

If you are involved in a building project, you have probably heard people talk about commissioning or consulting shop drawings. These useful diagrams play an essential role in the design and manufacture of quality components and provide a concise and visual way for architects, engineers, installers, and fabrication shops to communicate and coordinate with one another.

But what exactly are shop drawings, and how do they differ from other types of drawings used in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) field? Let’s take a closer look at shop drawings to understand what they consist of and why they are so important to AEC projects and professionals.


A shop drawing is a detailed and precise diagram of an equipment or building component meant to be manufactured by a fabrication shop or installed by a trade specialist. Since shop drawings are instrumental to the process of prefabrication design, they are sometimes called “prefabrication drawings.”

Shop drawings depict a range of prefabricated components—from steel beams, trusses, and concrete panels to elevators, appliances, cabinetry, ductwork, and electrical layouts. If you are designing or planning a prefabricated component for an AEC program, you typically need a shop drawing to ensure that the component is professionally fabricated and installed to industry specifications and standards.


Shop drawings represent the phase of the prefabrication process after drafting design drawings and specifications. They include more detailed information than design and construction drawings and drill down into the particulars of a prefabricated component.

A shop drawing typically contains:

    • The project title and number
    • The date of the initial drawing, as well as the dates of subsequent revisions
    • Detailed CAD drawings of the prefabricated component, often shown from different angles
    • Information required to fabricate the component, including physical dimensions, material specifications, manufacturing protocols, and special instructions
    • Information required to assemble or install the component, such as step-by-step instructions, a diagram of connections, and a list of supporting materials that must be procured and prepared for successful installation
    • Detailed references that describe how the prefabrication design addresses the specifications and requirements of the original design and construction documents
    • Notes of any changes or variance from the original design and construction documents
    • Notes of any key dimensions at the job site that must be checked and verified before the component can be fabricated and installed

When submitted to a design team for review, shop drawings may be accompanied by samples. The samples represent a selection of fabrication materials subject to approval, based on the preferred color, texture, finish, and appearance.


The task of creating shop drawings falls on contractors, subcontractors, materials suppliers, manufacturers, or fabricators.

Like many technical drawings, shop drawings were once produced by hand on a draftsman’s table. Nowadays, professionals digitally craft shop drawings with the aid of CAD software tools such as:

    • Advance Steel
    • Advance Concrete
    • AutoCAD
    • AutoCAD Plant 3D
    • AutoCAD MEP
    • Fusion 360
    • Inventor
    • SolidWorks
    • Solid Edge
    • Tekla Structures

Accurate, effective, and high-quality shop drawings require considerable skill and expertise. When you commission a shop drawing, look for a professional with:

    • Knowledge and experience in the fabrication and AEC industries
    • Advanced skills in the use of CAD software
    • Familiarity with data formats required for shop drawings, such as IFC, PDF, and DWG
    • In-depth procedural understanding of how shop drawings relate to design documents and potential inclusion in an overall Building Information Model (BIM)

Your quality standards for shop drawings affect numerous aspects of your AEC project, so it’s important for you to screen prospective firms carefully and hire the right professional for the job.


Many AEC team members use shop drawings to ensure the correct design, fabrication, and installation of critical building components.

    • The architect and engineer use shop drawings to review how the fabricator’s version of a component compares to the original design and specification documents.
    • The architect and engineer also use shop drawings to review variations of or differences between the fabricator’s version and the original design specifications. These variances may prompt further design discussion, and all parties must sign off on the modified shop drawing before final fabrication can proceed.
    • The structural engineer uses shop drawings to verify that every concrete reinforcing bar will be manufactured to the proper length and shape for a building’s structural integrity.
    • The manufacturer uses shop drawings to gain a clear understanding of the materials, dimensions, and instructions required to fabricate components.
    • The manufacturer also uses shop drawings with accompanying samples to gain approval from the design team on the selection of final materials.
    • Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) specialists use shop drawings to gain a clear understanding of how to install components like ductwork, electrical panels, and piping systems on a job site.
    • The owner uses shop drawings in coordination with BIM information to manage the overall project design and proactively detect building clashes before actual fabrication and construction begin.


The importance of shop drawings for engineers, architects, fabricators, and other industry professionals cannot be overstated. Shop drawings allow project team members to review, comment on, and agree upon the final design and specifications of each building component before the fabrication process begins.

In a fast-changing project environment filled with personnel and moving parts, shop drawings are critical for AEC and manufacturing professionals to produce timely, cost-effective, and error-free work.


QBS As-Builts (QBS) is a professional engineering and management services firm based in Plainfield, Indiana. QBS has decades of experience in the creation of equipment layouts, piping diagrams, and shop drawings. Our expert team of engineers and CAD professionals have created high-quality shop drawings for countless clients in the food & beverage, packaging, and converting/consumer industries.

Do you need a top-quality shop drawing for your fabrication or installation project? Contact us today for a consultation to learn how QBS can help your project.

Thanks to Colton Anderson for this information