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Construction Documents Required in California

The objective behind using construction documents is to execute the final phases of construction in the most organized and systematic way. Construction Documents is the final design phase within the project delivery model. This phase focuses upon finalizing all drawings and specifications for building systems, site utilities, and components that will form the basis for the project’s construction Documents. A final set of comprehensive construction Documents provides specifications and drawings sufficiently complete to support the contractor’s GMP, obtain necessary permits, and construct the project.


When the construction documents are 95% complete, a technical group review is performed, obtaining review comments from departments designated in UM Appendix X. changes to scope or program in this phase will significantly impact the budget and schedule.


Construction submittals include details about the following:

  • Project criteria or program- Project program highlights on the use of the building and the support of architecture and design in using the house now and in the future. Building size, room size, adjacencies, lifestyle considerations, family size, business needs, design preferences, site access, views and many other issues are discussed and recorded.
  • Cost- Determining the budget after considering all of the costs involved is an important factor. Hard project costs comprise of construction materials, labor and contractor's profit and overhead. Soft project costs include design fees like architecture, structural engineering, civil engineering, site surveying and permit fees. Depending upon the complexity of the project, it is required to consider other consultant services such as lighting design, landscape design, acoustical design or mechanical, electrical, plumbing engineering.
  • Schedule- Timing is a critical component of the building process. Some schedule items are within the bounds of Architect control, such as time required for offering schematic design options for client review. Other items, such as duration of Building Department review, are not.
  • Site- A building’s site may be the single most important factor determining built form. Views, building access, landscape and indeed overall cost are highly influenced by the site topography. A thorough site analysis is often an essential part of any successful project. An architectural survey of existing structures to initiate the design process must be performed, and it is also necessary to rely on a licensed Land Surveyor to offer a precise survey of the site and a Geotechnical investigation to understand the soil conditions.
  • Building Codes, Zoning Ordinances and Other Regulations- Local, state and national codes have a great influence on design. For many projects, a minimum of two submissions for agency review (planning and building) are required.
  • Community concerns- Depending on the scale of the project, pre-design public workshops, meetings with community activists and public hearings may be required.
  • Building technology- Sustainable building practices and other technologies are now readily available. The project must be pushed toward sustainability, cutting edge technology or high-concept design. If appropriate, the necessary research during this phase should be performed.


During the Design Development phase, the Architect establishes the building’s relationships, forms, size and overall appearance through further development of the floor plans, sections, elevations, typical construction details, and equipment layouts. Preliminary requirements, which recognize major building materials and systems and establish quality standards, are also introduced during this phase.

Construction Documents Required in California

Building design includes input from engineers and contractors. The structural system is elaborated along with other building systems such as electrical sources and heating and cooling strategies-particularly if they are of alternate means, such as photovoltaic cells or radiant floor heating.


A typical Planning or Community Development Department will reviews the project for conformance to city General Plans and Specific plans, which look at allowable site uses, environmental impacts like noise, traffic impact, shading, pollution, etc., density and other urban planning issues.


Cities have Design Review Boards also known as Architectural Review Boards, who review building, design for conformance to published design guidelines. They can also review the building design in an informal manner, or as part of a public hearing process. Schematic Design Documents along with the required application fee should be submitted for Planning Review.


The Construction Documentation phase sets forth in detail the requirements for construction of the project. Floor plans, enlarged plans, wall sections, ceiling plans, power, communication plans, elevations, finish plans, details and written specifications are added or modified to further establish the quality levels of materials and systems needed for the project. Mechanical, electrical, fire protection, plumbing, and other building systems are integrated with great care into the architectural envelope. Communication with the system designers and engineers is expanded to insure a comfortable fit within the building, request an equipment layout revision, or modify the building design if necessary. A completed set of Construction Documents is also appropriate for the solicitation of construction bids.


Upon completion of approximately 75% of the Construction Documentation phase, the drawing package, including specifications, engineering drawings and structural calculations, along with permit application fees, should be submitted to the Building Department for Building Permit review. After a period of time which is often 4-6 weeks, the Building Official will respond to the Architect with either notification of project approval or a request for plan revisions. In the latter case, revised drawings are resubmitted for review. The Building Official has to approve the plans and make a building permit available for pickup by the building owner or the contractor.

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