Plan, Section, and Elevation are different types of drawings used by architects to graphically represent a building design and construction. A plan drawing is a drawing on a horizontal plane showing a view from above. An Elevation drawing is drawn on a vertical plane showing a vertical depiction. A section drawing is also a vertical depiction but one that cuts through space showing what lies within.
Plan Drawing Definition
Plan drawings are a specific type of drawing architects use to illustrate a building or portion of a building. A plan is drawn from a horizontal plane looking down from above. This is as if you sliced through a space horizontally and stood over looking down on it. Plans are a common design drawing and technical architectural or engineering convention for graphic representation of architecture. With the exception of plan perspectives, plan drawings are orthographic projections. This means they are not drawn in perspective and there is no foreshortening.
There are different types of plan drawings:
- Plan Callout or Blow Up Plan
- Plan Detail
- Site Plan
- Roof Plan
- Reflected Ceiling Plan or RCP
- Plan Perspective
A plan drawing shows a view from above. This is often used to depict the layout of a building showing locations of rooms and windows, walls, doors, stairs etc …. Although plan drawings can be drawn from above a building they are often drawn cutting through the building with horizontal plane. The plan is typically cut at a height of about 4 feet but the architect drawing the plan may cut it at a different height. This means that you have an imaginary plane cutting through the building at an elevation of 4 feet above the floor. Therefor you see in the cut anything that the plane passes through.
Another common architectural convention is the use of plan callouts. A callout is an area within the plan that is drawn at a larger scale. For example if I have a floor plan at 1/4″ = 1′-0″ scale of a house I might have a callout of the kitchen and bathrooms showing them at 1/2″ = 1′-0″ scale. Half inch scale is twice as large as quarter inch scale.
Details in architectural drawings are large scale drawings that typically show how something is built. Details identify all the materials and connections for construction. Details are normally 3/4″ = 1′-0″ or larger. Plan details are details drawn in a plan view at a large scale show the construction.
A site plan may or may not be drawn cutting through the building. A site plan is going to show more than just the building including the entire site the building is located on. This can show the property lines, the building location, utilities, roads, landscape etc… A site plan will most typically be drawn from above the building. As if showing a roof plan of the building within the site plan. Sometimes the site plan can be drawn as a first floor plan being cut through the first floor. This is done to show the relationship from the exterior of the building to the interior entrance.
A Roof Plan is a plan of a building or house that is not cutting through the building but drawn from above. This shows everything on top of the building including the roof layout, stair bulkheads, parapets, and potentially roof equipment.
Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP)
A Reflected Ceiling Plan is a plan of the ceiling within a space. This is drawn looking down as if there is a mirror on the floor reflecting the ceiling. The reflected ceiling plan is often referred to as an RCP. This architectural drawing will show things light lighting, structure, ceiling heights, soffits, etc…. When I was in my first semester of architecture school the RCP was the hardest drawing for me to understand but it makes perfect sense once you get it.
A plan perspective is a drawing of a plan but shown in perspective. This is more of a design drawing meant to show what the space is going to look like and less how the space will be built.
Elevation Drawing Definition
Elevation drawings are a specific type of drawing architects use to illustrate a building or portion of a building. An Elevation is drawn from a vertical plane looking straight on to a building facade or interior surface. This is as if you directly in front of a building and looked straight at it. Elevations are a common design drawing and technical architectural or engineering convention for graphic representation of architecture. Elevation drawings are orthographic projections. This means they are not drawn in perspective and there is no foreshortening.
There are different types of Elevation Drawings:
- Interior Elevation
- Elevation Call Out
- Elevation Detail
Section Drawing Definition
Section drawings are a specific type of drawing architects use to illustrate a building or portion of a building. A section is drawn from a vertical plane slicing through a building. This is as if you cut through a space vertically and stood directly in front looking straight at it. Sections are a common design drawing and technical architectural or engineering convention for graphic representation of architecture. Section drawings are orthographic projections (with the exception of section perspectives). This means they are not drawn in perspective and there is no foreshortening.
There are different types of section drawings:
- Section Callout or Blow Up Section
- Plan Detail
- Site Plan
- Reflected Ceiling Plan or RCP
Plan Section Elevation Drawings
As an architect, I study drawing closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to Plan, Section, Elevation Drawings in Architecture. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.
If you would like to read about the architectural process we have another post you can check out on How to Start an Architectural Design.
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This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.