Generally speaking, blueprints are simply 2-dimensional sketches used in architecture to derive the basic idea of how a planned building will look like. They usually contain such vital information as materials required for construction, position of different internal and external features, and so on. They are prepared by architects for communicating those details to building workers. But besides the workers, it is also important for people hiring the architects to be able to read and understand blueprints so that any decision made pertaining to the construction is more informed and feasible.
There are mainly three different types of blueprints - plan, section and elevation. A plan gives a horizontal view of the planned construction from its top, which is 30 inches above the floor on a horizontal plane. A section provides cross-section view of the building, displaying how something is to be constructed. A typical elevation is a vertical view of the project from one side of it, from north, south, east or west.
Blueprints are usually prepared using the architectural or the engineering scale. The architectural scale consists of measurements in inches and feet. Engineering scale includes measurements having a scale ratio which is a multiple of 10, and may be either in metric or feet. Sometimes, a scale with British unit having metric conversions is also used, which is called dual-dimensioning.
In order to make a blueprint convey maximum amount of information to whoever reads it, most architects use an array of symbols for representing different parts of the construction and also those of its surroundings.
There are a number of ways by which one can learn how to read a blueprint correctly. The cheapest and easiest method is to watch videos related to understanding of blueprints. One may find hundreds of different videos discussing about the same topic in detail, without having to pay for anything. Videos are also available as DVDs that can be purchased from shops. Another method to learn about blueprints is by searching for tutorials and websites offering free online courses on them. Instructional books published by tool-manufacturing and hardware companies can also provide a vast amount of information, and are usually available in both hard and soft copies such as pdfs, epubs, etc. Another option is to enrol for blueprint-reading courses in community colleges or local architecture schools. However, classes are also available online, allowing one to learn from the convenience of home.
Although the increased preference of online architectural design drawing in UK has almost pushed handmade drawings into obscurity, there are still many architects who find blueprints more useful than CAD drawings.