Mesa to consider floor plans ordinance By Sarah N. Lynch, Tribune March 18, 2006

Hand-drawn blueprints are becoming a thing of the past, but that doesnt mean that all architects have made the full transition to the digital world.

It took Robert Perez and Justin Platt of the Mesa Fire Department Technical Services a year and a half to get digital versions of the Banner Baywood Medical Centers floor plans so they could input them into the mobile computers on board the firetrucks and patrol cars. These mobile computers contain a database of floor plan drawings so that police and fire personnel know detailed information about the location of fire exits, sprinklers and fire connections in the event of an emergency.

Perez had to walk through all seven floors of the hospital and create his own drawings because blueprints were not all electronic. He and Platt scanned the floor plans and imported them into into AUTOCAD, a drawing program. They digitalized them by tracing over all the lines and customized them for the fire department.

Its a painstaking process drawing the walls and the details of the building itself, Platt said.

An ordinance that will be will be put to an introductory vote at Mondays Mesa City Council meeting, however, could make the departments job a little easier.

It would require developers to submit a digital version of their construction drawings to the city containing details like interior and exterior walls, door locations, suite numbers, locations of hazardous materials and utility shut-off locations, among other things. Failure to comply would result in a $2,500 fine. Developers of single -family homes are exempt.

Most architects already use computers to create drawings, so city officials do not think this requirement would be burdensome, said fire protection engineer Hal Key.

In the past, digital plans were not submitted to the Building Safety Division because it does not have the technology capability. Instead, architects submitted paper documents. Technicians then have to call architects to request electronic versions of the plans. Most comply, but some do not want to release the information, Key said.

If they cant get the drawings, firefighters resort to other tedious means to get floor plans. It can take a week to get one drawing into the system. If this ordinance had been in place in 2005, its estimated that 60 pages of drawings would have been affected, generating $12,000 in new revenue.

Joanie Flatt, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix-based De Rito Partners, said that De Rito would have no qualms producing electronic drawings to Mesa. But she noted that the ordinance could pose liability concerns.

In any big construction project where you have hundreds of pages of construction, its rare that they would be 100 percent accurate, she said.

And if the fire department relies on those documents and they are only 99 percent accurate and they dont find a door where they expect to find a door, the architects, engineers and developer consultants who are involved in the project dont want to accept liability.

Contact Sarah N. Lynch by email, or phone (480) 898-6535

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