Considering Moving A Wall?

Gayland Leddy, Jr

Gayland Leddy, Jr

Occasionally, a client will ask us to move a wall on a plan set. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? But sometimes, depending on how complete the drawings are, it can be more involved than you might think. 

First and foremost, we need to review the drawings and find all the items that this change will affect. Next, depending upon which CAD platform the drawing database was created in, the architectural plan drawing needs to be opened and revised. This will require relocation of the wall, notes, wall type indicators, dimensions and possibly (usually) equipment or millwork. If it is a fire wall, all intersections have to be reviewed and brought into the correct fire rating. Is there a door in this wall? If so, it also has to be moved. Will this affect the occupancy of the room by increasing the area? If so, we have more code research to do. Now we look at the life safety plan and see if the exiting egress needs revising.  And we will need to look at the ADA requirements if the wall starts narrowing a corridor or crowding a door or…. You get the picture.

By moving this wall, we have now affected the ceiling plan. Depending on how much the wall was relocated, the ceiling plan revision will require a revised light fixture spacing, ceiling grid pattern revision and re-dimensioning. We then send a revised background to our consultants and ask for a proposal from them to change their drawings. It usually takes a day or two to get all of the required proposals together and create a new proposal for the client’s approval.

If all goes well, the engineers get started. If the previous wall location contained structure, the structural engineer may need to totally redesign this portion of the structure. Even in a wood-framed building or home the wood structure is affected. By moving the wall, we lengthen and/or shorten ceiling and floor support members.

If there is any electrical or plumbing in the wall, the electrical and mechanical engineers will get involved and change their drawings and designs (notes, dimensions, etc.) This is especially important if there is equipment or plumbing fixtures on this wall. The mechanical engineer also will need to redesign and re-space his HVAC supply and exhaust grilles and possibly rework his ducting. The Electrical Engineer will need to re-space/add/subtract light fixtures AND may have to run a photometric study/model again. 

The fire protection engineer will review and rework his fire alarm and sprinkler plans. The fire sprinkler system will require a re-spacing of heads and calculations will need to be run (again) to verify the head pressure. Add in a new flow test if the design is over a year old. 

The fire alarm system will require revision if the wall to be moved has strobes and annunciators – another sheet to be revised.

While the engineers are correcting their plan drawings, the architect is revising, at a minimum, four interior elevations (if it was an interior wall only). The finishes and floor finish plan may also need to be reworked. If it is an exterior wall, all bets are off.  Moving an exterior wall affects ALL structural items; foundation design, column, beam and joist location (remember all of those structural calculations?) and, depending upon the amount of relocation, can involve redesigning the grading of the site. Now the civil engineer may have to do a partial re-design.

Next, the reissuance of the documents will need to be coordinated across all disciplines. A new sheet border with a new issue date is created and added to each new sheet (even though they are electronic) and each change will need to be clouded with a change ‘Delta’. The cover sheet is updated with each revised sheet’s issue date and then we are almost ready for the printer.

The CAD drawings will need to be converted to pdf format and signed. If paper copies are to be printed, they are either printed in-house, collated, trimmed and stapled; or sent out to a printer. 

Whew, and all that just to move a wall a few feet. Yep, it’s quite involved and requires the time and attention of several different professionals and disciplines, and that is why there is sometimes additional cost involved to revise the drawings for what initially seems like a simple change.

A. Gayland Leddy Jr., AIA has been with Quorum Architects for 18 years