Technical Drawing Standards: Which standards do I follow?

‘Shop’ drawings for the construction industry seem to fall between two stools. Should we be following the engineering/manufacturing standards or the building construction standards?

Thankfully the adoption of the ISO Standards by the BSI means that much of the drawing ‘vocabulary’ (i.e. line weights, line types e.t.c) are the same for both.

If you are producing shop drawings exclusively, then you should probably follow BS 8888:2008 Technical product specification. If you are producing general arrangement or layout drawings you may want to refer to BS EN ISO 7519:1997 Technical drawing – Construction drawings – General principles of presentation.

Which technical drawing Standard do I follow?

Image: renjith krishnan /

Neither of these standards are complete, they serve as references to the rest of the standards that apply. Some standards, such asBS EN ISO 128-20:2001 Technical drawings. General principles of presentation. Basic conventions for lines, applies to all industries.

If you are unsure which standard takes precedence the best thing to do is to confer with your colleagues and try at least to make sure that the drawings coming out of your office are consistent with one another.

Even the BSI themselves admit that the standards won’t cover every eventuality, as this extract from the National foreword implies:

‘The British Standard does not purport to include all the necessary provisions of a contract. Users of the British Standard are responsible for their correct application.

Compliance with a British Standard does not of itself confer immunity from legal obligations.’

4 Responses to “Technical Drawing Standards: Which standards do I follow?

  • Hi Evert

    That sounds amazing! Full of challenges – always something new to learn :)

    F. Y. I the BS standards ARE out of touch! The guys that write BS 8888 have many years of experience between them (largely pre-CAD).

    I’ve learned so much from them just by listening to incidental conversations in the lunch que!

    Having said that I don’t belive that the national and international CAD standards will become widely adopted while they cost so much money.

    Am I alone in thinking that they are written for and used only by BAE?

  • Evert
    9 years ago

    Hi Paul,

    I know about BIM, not a big fan. sorry. Obviously standards are important, be it universally or project-based. No discussion there. I just think the standards are outdated and not developed/maintained by people who are innovative.

    What I did in those 20+ years? Well, first I found myself one day drawing illustrational drawings more than technical ones. This slowely changed into infographics, at which point I became a technical manual writer and illustrator. Then, the company I worked for went broke and I got a job as a courseware designer (I think they misread my CV as Authorware instead of AutoCAD) anyway, it was a fun job. From there I became a webdesigner, then a web developer. At some point someone read my resume and asked me to make a few 3D infographics, then some animations so I became a 3D modeler and animator. At some point in the last 5 years I got sick; lost my job and now that I am back on the market again I am looking at job-opportunities (not easy being 50-something) and looking back at possibly becoming a draughtsman again, rereading and re-educating myself in the process.
    All in all, I had some fun and was lucky to be able to do so many different things.

  • Evert
    9 years ago

    You know, I have a problem with CAD drawing standards as they are. I used to be a technical draughtsman in the 90s. A time when the transition was made from drawing with paper and pen to computers. Standards back then were mainly copied from the old way of doing things, and I had hopes that at some point the standards would be modernized. But now, over 2 decades later, I return to my old profession to find that they have not.
    One example is layer-naming (ISO 13567 if I am not mistaken). Totally non-sensical naming that is devoid of any user-friendliness; and it leaves room for misinterpretation, mistakes, bloat and unnecessary reference-sheets. Just one example of which I could name many.
    The way I see it, the actual drawing file contains information for both the creator (e.g. draughtsman) and the user (e.g. contractor). But their workflows and informational need differ enormously. The industry standard (AutoCAD) has designed their program based on information from the field, which was based on historical thinking (old-school drawing). Also, they do not seem to have the foresight nor innovation to actually anticipate new technology. E.g. will line-thickness actually matter when we make the switch to augmented reality? In fact, does it really matter when we view a drawing on a tablet instead of paper? The whole ‘do not use colours’ rule is a remnant from an era when we only had black ink and photocopiers.
    From the point of view of a draughtman, a drawing could be much better organized as a database (in fact, that is more or less how AutoCAD does it), but we lack actual database tools in the program. Layers should be descriptive, easy and non-ambiguous and not perse organized by type, but by usage, and then linked into groups, so when a contractor wants to view hoe watermains run in relation to electricity he would only need to tap a simple button, activating or deactivating groups instead of having to find another drawing or turn on a layer with some magic numeric name.
    So in my view, any current standard is rubbish.

    • Hi Evert,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I sympathise with your frustrations. I agree that modern technology should allow us to create ‘Drawings’ (packets of information) that are much more intuitive to read than traditional technical drawings.

      For me, the main reason to have standards is to aid productivity. All decisions take some time to think about. Why not agree how the drawing should look in advance so that the team don’t have to spend time and effort thinking about it? This free’s them up to think about the content of their Drawing – much more important!

      Have you heard of BIM? This is very much about the database concept you talk about. These guys are working hard to make sure that the BIM standards are user friendly:

      I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing in the last two decades between drafting jobs! What a leap :)