The existing industry standard of construction documentation is outmoded. Design tools and content are changing radically, but documentation is simply not keeping up. To remedy the prevalence of outdated color standards, stakeholders within the construction industry must step up and generate an effective standard of color use.
Building Instruction Modeling (BIM) is a viable example of the speed at which the construction industry adopts change. Architecture and construction industries are still discovering the possibilities that BIM paired with color adoption, can present. However, these solutions have yet to truly transform the industry. According to the article, "The Speed of Change," presented by Reed Construction Data, "the transformation of the building industry … will happen when the players come together with a common vision and an integrated approach."
Even LEGOs have developed an adequate standard for the plans that are included with elaborate assembly kits. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water is available in the form of a LEGO kit. The model is relatively easy to put together thanks to the 50-page, color instruction manual. If the assembly of a $150 toy justifies the cost of printing color manuals, the cost of color construction documents for a $150 million hospital should be just as easily warranted.
The cartography industry may also serve as a role model for the effective adaptation and implementation of color documents. ColorBrewer, a cartography site that provides color advice for those who generate maps, features a tool that allows users to set the number of data classes, prioritize data, select a color system, and optimize for color-blindness and for printing. Users can try different schemes and evaluate the effectiveness of your map. A similar tool for the construction industry could be extremely powerful.
For contractors and architects that seek to build a color scheme for construction documentation, there are several online resources that might be of use:
Choosing Colors for Data Visualization: Here, Maureen Stone presents some of the principles of color design and guidelines for selecting colors. The page makes a powerful statement that "Color used well can enhance and clarify" while "color used poorly will obscure, muddle and confuse."
Microsoft color guidelines for user interface design: This page features a "Color Meaning" chart that specifies what certain hues mean to a user and how they should be used. You may want to create your own chart with color meanings for different trades.
Currently, members of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing industries are at the forefront to of color construction documentation. This segment will lead the way in terms of defining color standards for printed construction documents.
Despite the modest rate of adoption of color construction documents, it is clear that black and white line drawings are an endangered species. If architecture and construction firms are still relying on black and white wide format printing, they may soon find their own firm on the endangered species list as well.
Resource Center Home Printing Construction Documents in Color