One major roadblock hindering a migration to color construction documents and plan sets is the challenge of determining an industry standard of CAD plotting colors. Unfortunately, current CAD standards do not effectively address the issue, and common construction industry practices are varied.
Another issue preventing widespread color use on construction plans is that CAD users generally work with a black background, even though the default Revit Installation employs a white background. Many designers are under the misimpression that employing black backgrounds is less fatiguing on the eyes. As a result, CAD designers choose colors such as yellow and orange, which appear clearly against black backgrounds. Though bright colors work well in these instances, they don't plot or copy well on white paper. Consequently, most digital wide format printing files are published in black and white for distribution.
In addition, the team at OcÚ determined that many designers select colors for the purpose of identifying and differentiating elements on the CAD screen. Therefore, the use of color is intended to communicate design intent, not constructability. Because these colors are not chosen for the downstream consumers of this data, designers often neutralize their construction plans and drawings into black and white before sending them out. This forces the general contractors to add additional elements to the blueprints or technical documents to address their constructability requirements. In some cases this is even done in collaboration with subcontractors and suppliers.
Line weight and line color variables also hinder the widespread use of color for wide format printing purposes. In the past, CAD applications locked these variables together. If a designer chose a specific pen number, the line weight line color would automatically be selected. However, in current CAD applications, line weight and line color have been decoupled. Though some CAD users continue to follow the historical rules, many others modify the color and line weight relationship to fit their unique needs.
When CAD designers introduce layers into the color versus line weight equation, the result is a tic-tac-toe trifecta that will lead even the most seasoned CAD manager to scratch his or her head. Implementing a working formula seems to require part science, part art and a healthy dose of creativity.
According to research conducted by the OcÚ team, a high percentage of CAD users do utilize the National CAD Standard as a template. However, most CAD designers and general contractors also modify the national standard in an effort to meet their own unique needs.
The standard use of color in construction documents and plans is much more prevalent in European construction documentation. Though there don't appear to be any national standards European construction firms often establish such wide format printing standards within the scope of a single project. A similar concept is beginning to develop within the United States as well.
These issues of outdated CAD standards and misuse of resources are preventing the construction industry from taking advantage of color plan sets. Designers and general contractors within the construction industry need to work together to overcome this hurdle if they hope to maximize the opportunities that color printing presents.
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