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Architectural Plan Requirements in China


Recently I had the privilege of talking with my friend Andy. He is a local architectural teacher here in China. Below are a few of the questions with his responses on architectural plan requirements in China.

The Interview

On Construction


Andy, in the United States we use 2 x 4 stud interior partitions with ½” sheet rock (gypsum drywall) on each side. Here in China they use brick with plaster as partition walls? Doesn’t the thickness of the brick take away from the usable floor area? Isn’t that more cost prohibitive?


I agree with you. In China, we use sheet rock interior partitions too, especially in public buildings like shops and offices buildings. But in residential projects, brick partition wall is more popular, especially in the partition walls of bedrooms. Why? I think there are mainly two reasons. Firstly, people hope the partition walls can hang heavy things like television set.

Secondly, people like the feeling of stability when they sleep. Recent years, it is popular to make a cabinet wall between two bedrooms as a partition wall, without any brick. You know, things are changing quickly in China.

 Architectural Drawings

On Architectural Drawings


Yes, they are.

My architectural drawings in the United States always include plumbing and waste water schematic design. Do they require that on building plans here in China? Also I am wondering why the waste water lines are always exposed. No one here in China has figured out how to conceal those ugly pipes?


Plumbing and waste water schematic is required in architecture drawings. Some architects can conceal those ugly pipes artfully, but some cannot yet. The visual problem of air condition machines is similar as the problem of the pipes.

Architectural Air ConditionerWayne:

Yes, here in China they use small wall units that hang obstructively from walls in the most unusual places. Then I see that they just punch a hole in the exterior wall to feed the Freon lines between the compressor and condenser units. The gap that is left after the pipes are pushed through the wall is then ignored. No foam spray sealant is used thus creating thermal leakage, not to mention allowing for insects and small vermin to be able to freely pass through.

For electrical plans, I would have to draw a separate sheet just for the electrical layout of all electrical outlets, switches and light fixtures. On this sheet is also required that I have a load chart that calls out each spot in the breaker (fuse) panel along with electrical load calculations. Is this required on building plans submitted to the building department in China?


In architecture projects, it is required. But in interior design projects, it is not required. In public architecture projects, it is required strictly, but in single family detached house, it is not required strictly.


Perhaps it is not required with interior design projects because the authorities figure that the interior design will not be as extensive a project as new construction requirements are. Also I feel that interior design projects are on a subcontracting level of building construction. It falls short of the importance of the actual building construction project.

On Plans Examining


On the topic of Building Department or Building Official Document Center (I don’t know what it is called here in China). My building plans or working drawings as they are also called are submitted to the Building Department for review prior to them issuing me a Building Permit to commence work on the building site. The plans are reviewed by several plans examiners, each specializing in a specific phase of the building construction design. For example:

  1. An Electrical Engineer will check that I designed the electrical system properly,
  2. A Plumbing Engineer will review just the sheets where I have the plumbing details making sure that I sized all fresh water and waste water pipes correctly.
  3. A Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineer (HVAC) will check that I have properly sized my ductwork for the ventilation system correctly. He will check that I properly sized my condenser and compressor on the air conditioner to match the HVAC load of the building in question.
  4. And of course a Civil or Structural Engineer will review my plans to see if I properly sized my headers, beams, columns load bearing walls and footings correctly. I have to submit soil bearing calculations and load bearing calculations in charts located on the structural section of my building plans.

Depending on the area of the United States that I have designed and built in, I might have to submit uplift calculations showing the exact hurricane protection methods I am using, or load bearing data proving that the roof won’t cave in under a snow load.

Is this also a part of the process in submitting building plans to the building officials here in China?


Most of the projects are similar as you show. But as to the detached house, in rural area, it is not well managed by government. All the compulsory requirement are the height, the area of the building and the agreement of neighborhood. But it is more complex in urban area.


On Architectural Fees


Could you tell me how architects price their fees here in China, what that fee is and what is included in that fee? In the United States we would charge on a per square foot cost with a minimum charge for houses smaller than 1,000 square foot in area and include all that I have mentioned above.


In China, some architecture design companies charge RMB 30 thousands Yuan to 50 thousands Yuan for whole building. Some companies even charge less. And as I know, some interior design companies will charge 100 Yuan to 200 Yuan per square meter for house.


On Subcontractor Licensing


As a Certified Licensed Building Contractor, I had to take exams showing that I was capable of calculating all of the above needs. Do you know if that is also the case with contractors here in China? I have a friend in Hangzhou that owns an air conditioning company. She didn’t have to pass an exam to receive a license to practice as an air conditioning company. This I am curious about. That could never happen in the United States.


Different project has different requirement. Public projects are managed strictly, but detached residential projects are not. Rural people often build their house without design.


In Conclusion

So there you have it. Rural areas it seems are relaxed on their building requirements while urban areas are more stringent. Although urban areas are more stringent on their architectural plan requirements, I have seen many times construction that would never pass the inspection requirements I had to adhere to in the United States.

If you are in the construction industry here in China and would like to give your personal responses to the above questions, just click on this link.

Or just leave a comment below.

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