The Differences between IFC and Shop Drawings Explained

Feb 21, 2024

Category:  Software & Tools


Understanding the Differences between IFC and Shop Drawings

Construction drawings are the foundation of every building project, conveying important details that transform design concepts into physical structures. But with so many drawings floating around, it can get confusing. Two critical types of drawings—IFC and shop drawings—play unique roles while serving one shared goal: to build correctly.

Let’s break down the key traits of Issued For Construction and shop drawings to understand how they construct a building.

What are IFC Drawings?

IFC stands for “Issued for Construction.” As the abbreviation implies, Issued For Construction drawings are the final construction documents issued by the design team, usually Architects and Engineers, that convey the approved plans and specifications for a project.

The General Contractor will commonly request a complete set of Issued For Construction drawings after being awarded the construction contract. This allows the GC and all subcontractors to begin detailed preconstruction planning and preparation based on the finalised design. 

IFC drawings are considered the legal record of the design and are used by the GC to execute construction as per the contract formally. They include all drawings, details, notes, schedules, and specifications required for the building. Refer to these documents for future references or questions regarding the design intent during construction.

What are Shop Drawings?

Whereas Issued For Construction drawings portray the entire project design holistically, shop ones focus on specific fabricated or manufactured components. They are developed by specialty subcontractors, suppliers, fabricators, or installers based on reviewing the construction documents.

Shop drawings illustrate how prefabricated or custom elements will be built off-site for installation. Examples include structural steel, precast concrete, mechanical/plumbing/electrical components, reinforcement, pre-hung doors/windows, elevators, and more.

Fabricators use shop drawings to communicate their interpretations of complex components or assemblies. They submit these drawings for review/approval before manufacturing to ensure compliance with design specifications and concepts. 

Real World Example

With a real-world example, let’s understand the difference between Issued For Construction and shop drawings. Consider a 5-story commercial building project. 

The Issued For Construction drawings issued by the architects would include:

• Site plan showing the building footprint and external works

• All floor plans delineating the layout of different areas

• Elevations depicting external façade and finishes

• Sections through the building showing floor-to-floor heights

• Structural drawings of foundations, slabs, beams and columns

• Plumbing schematics and other MEP schematics

These Issued For Construction drawings give the contractor an overall view of the building design and scope of site construction work.


| Also Read: Conceptual Design and The Role of BIM 

Now, for prefabricated structural steel, the steel contractor would request shop drawings from the fabricator showing the following:  

• Detailed steel member profiles and specifications

• Connections between individual steel members

• Bracing and stiffener details  

• Erection sequences and lifting points

• Surface finish specifications

• Tolerances for manufacturing

These shop drawings contain specifics needed for off-site structural steel fabrication before being installed on-site.

Hope this real-world example helps clarify how Issued For Construction drawings differ from shop drawings in terms of purpose and level of information provided for overall construction versus component fabrication needs.

IFC vs Shop Drawing Review Processes

Let’s compare how Issued For Construction and shop drawings are reviewed throughout construction. Remember, reviews help ensure designs are built correctly per code and contractor intent.

IFC Drawing Review Process

1. The design team submits to local authorities for permitting/code review & approval

2. Authorities thoroughly check for life safety, accessibility, zoning etc. compliance

3. Once permitted, Issued For Construction’s represent the legally approved design to build from

Shop Drawing Review Process

1. Subcontractors/fabricators develop shop drawings based on IFC reviews

2. They are submitted per schedule to the GC/design team for approval

3. Reviews check for accuracy/clarity and conformance to Issued For Construction design intent

4. Fabricator addresses any review comments/changes

5. Drawings are stamped and approved before fabrication

6. Coordination is done to avoid conflicts with other trades

In summary, IFC reviews focus on code compliance, whereas shop drawing reviews assess fabrication clarity, compliance with design concepts, and coordination. Both help ensure safe, on-schedule construction.


| Read More: Shop Drawings & As-Built Drawings: An Essential Guide


Construction is a symphony requiring many players—designers, engineers, fabricators, and suppliers—to work in harmony from conception to completion. Issued For Construction drawings conduct the symphony to client specifications, while shop ones ensure the component instruments harmonize flawlessly.

Well-coordinated Issued For Construction and shop drawings form a robust foundation for subsequent fabrication, procurement, and field assembly activities—leading ultimately to high-quality constructed facilities built correctly to design intent. 

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Why are both Issued For Construction and shop drawings needed?

Issued For Construction drawings furnish overall design specifications, while shop ones provide granular fabrication/installation processes for key components. Using both ensures designs materialize into high-quality built structures.

What comes first - IFC or shop drawings?

IFC drawings always precede shop type. IFC drawings provide the baseline design details that fabricators reference when creating shop-kind drawings tailored to specialty components.

Can IFC drawings change after they are issued?

Yes, some changes can occur after issuing IFC drawings via supplemental drawings, revisions, change orders, etc. But it's best to lock down the core design before issuing IFC drawings.