Best Practices – Construction Documents – What You Should Look For Before Releasing Drawings for Bid.

A good friend and procurement colleague of mine recently came to me and asked, “What do you look for when you review Construction Documents?”

I cannot recall anyone ever asking me that before.

She certainly is not the first procurement person to receive a set of construction drawings.  She’s also not the only one to not know what to look for.  She is, however, the first I’ve ever known to acknowledge that she’s never been trained to read drawings.

So it occurred to me that most procurement professional probably don’t know what to look for either.

I suspect most simply take it for granted that the drawings are as they should be or they are so overwhelmed by all the lines, numbers, and symbols that they simply don’t know where to start.

To be clear, procurement professionals should never be expected to review technical documents.  Every project should have a technical consultant or a savvy Stakeholder responsible for reviewing technical information.

That holds true for Owners as well.  An Owner should never be expected to read (and interpret) drawings, they should have a someone (such as a Project Manager) who is technically skilled to do that.

However, that does not mean that there is nothing for a procurement professional (or Owner) to look for in the documents.

Information block

Every set of drawings will have an information block.  Typically the information block resides on the far right side of each page.  The information block expresses key information about the project.

A well-developed information block should include information such as; the address of the job site, the Client’s name, the Client’s address, the name and number of each drawing, when the drawings were released, when changes were made, and who made the changes.

Release date

Somewhere in the information block there will be a section that communicates when the drawings were released.  The same section will also describe the level of completion of the drawings.

The date is straight-forward and the only thing to look for here is a recent date.  You don’t want to release a set of drawings that were issued more than 30 days ago.  It’s not that the drawings are only valid after 30 days, but if the date on your drawings is greater than 30 days, it’s possible that a newer version is available.

Best practice with respect to dates is to call the designer to confirm that the date of issue you have is the latest set of drawings.

Issued for:

The other bit of information in the information block will be preceded by the words “Issued for:”.  This section describes the intended use of the drawings.  In this section you may find descriptions such as “30% Complete”, “Issued for Permit”, “100% Complete”, or some other level of completion.

If you are releasing drawings with the intent of soliciting a quote, this section should read “Issued for Construction”.  I’ll follow this article up with another discussing why “Issued for Construction” is the only acceptable release for soliciting a quote.

Copyright / Ownership

The other key section every procurement professional (and Owner) should look for on construction documents is the copyright / ownership stamp.  This tends to be a small section with very small font with a statement describing the Owner’s and Designer’s rights over the drawings.

This brings up a very complex and legal discussion around “Works for Hire” versus “Instruments of Service”.  By default the law views an Architect’s drawings as “Instruments of Service”.  This means the Architect retains Ownership of the drawings even when the Owner pays for the service.

If you look at the AIA contract for Architectural services you will find that this language is there.

You are not violating the Architect’s rights by releasing the drawings if the stamp identifies the drawings as “Instruments of Service”, but you do need to be aware that the drawings are granted with limited license.

The concept of “Instruments of Service” came about in order to prevent developers from taking a set of drawings that were created for one site and replicating them across multiple sites without compensating the Architect for their use.

With alteration work and retro-fits this tends to be a lesser concern because it is unlikely that the conditions of one site will be similar to another.  However, any project that is for new construction or in retail where a look and feel is meant to be replicated, the Architect will want to retain their rights to the design.

Regardless, the terms of Ownership of the drawings should be defined in the contract between the Owner and the Architect.  Your job as a procurement professional is to ensure that the language in the drawings matches the rights that were negotiated in the contract and you should be mindful of the rights the Owner has over them.

One of the most common mis-uses of drawings with “Instruments of Service” rights is when an Owner decides (typically years after work has been completed) to alter an existing space.

The Owner may assume that because they paid for the drawings, they have the right to share those drawings with another Architect.  Most Architects are mindful of Ownership rights and very few would simply take for granted the accuracy of another’s work, but if the Owner fails to secure approval from the original Architect, they are in fact violating the law.


Procurement Professionals and Owners should not be expected to review technical documents.  The responsibility for ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the drawings is primarily with the Architect.  The Project Manager and to a lesser degree the Contractor may act as a reviewer of the drawings to identify deficiencies in the content.

The role of procurement is to ensure the drawings are current and have been issued for their intended use.  Procurement should also concern themselves with protecting and observing the Owner’s rights over the drawings.  Anything beyond that is outside of their scope of responsibilities.

What about you?  How deep do you review drawings?  Are there other common things you look for?  Tell me your stories.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.

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