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A case study explaining how you can use an as built plan to save money & time for your retail shop fit out when you take on a new retail tenancy

Case Study: Why You Need As Built Plans Before Starting Your Retail Shop Fitout


We have helped lots of retailers, interior designers and shop fitting teams to get their retail shop fit out projects started using our as built survey plans. The most common questions that come up are;

  • Are there accurate plans to work from for the refit?
  • What are the dimensions of the retail tenancy?
  • Where are the opportunities for signage on the external building elevations and shop front?
  • Are there any structural columns I need to work around?
  • What’s the tenancy’s ceiling height?
  • How can I utilise the existing features in my design to save costs for my client?

A designer or other cross functional teams working on the project need to know what they’re working with to avoid their plans conflicting with actual site conditions. Here we explain how we helped this interior designer with our as built, existing conditions, survey services in Australia


As Built survey plans are accurately surveyed building drawings that provide you with a detailed plan of the actual completed building structure. As Built Surveys detail the property as it is now, which is essential for planning purposes as in many cases existing conditions vary greatly from original construction plans due to changes or modifications being made over time by different tenants. As Built survey plans can be provided in the format that best suits you and other relevant stakeholders, from 2D PDF drawings, to point clouds or detailed As Built 3D Revit Models that can be used for BIM.

Sometimes these plans are also referred to as Existing Conditions survey plans – the naming is used interchangeably in the industry but essentially the plans incorporate the same detail and serve the same purpose. For each project a client can specify exactly what information is critical so that our team can create the right level of survey detail for your project.

As Built Floor Plans for a Retail Shops

As Built floor plans typically include a property’s fit-out, base building, and major visible services. They are dimensioned drawings and include;

  • Walls
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Columns
  • Visible finishes of walls and floors
  • Floor levels

For retail tenancy situations this becomes particularly important if the space has been used by various retail shop owners over the years. If different types of retailing businesses have used the premise over time, there is a significant risk that aspects of different fitouts have been moved, changed or removed completely, rendering the plans on file out of date and un accurate. 

As Built floor plans can be provided in different formats that include traditional 2D surveys but also as part of a BIM project. Formats can include 2D PDF drawings, 2D AutoCAD, 3D Revit Models. You would need to consider the use of a new As Built floor plan survey in these types of situations


A commercial interior designer planning a functional and effective fit out for a complex shaped tenancy. An as built floor plan would assist in fulfilling key design principles relating to both form and function. An as built floor plan for a retail shop would assist with decisions pertaining to things from merchandise racking and display locations, to safe accessibility throughout the tenancy.

Joinery Manufacturer

A custom joinery manufacturer needing to design, construct and install cabinetry for a reception or sales counter in a commercial office or retail space. As built floor plans would allow for design and construction to occur off site, saving time by preventing the requirement for multiple timely and costly site visits.

Retail Tenancy Shopfront Elevations and Sections

    For most retail tenancy situations the owner or building manager will require at least one building elevation and section survey drawing. Shopfront elevations or, building elevations, are front on, vertical plan views from the outside of the premises, whether that be a shop mall or external building facade. Elevation drawings include a front on, vertical view of the subject, including features such as;

    • External floor/ground level
    • Building height or common mall bulkhead/ceiling heights
    • All doors and openings
    • Windows including frames and mullions
    • Existing signs on or attached to the elevation

    A section drawing is typically longitudinal, meaning its ‘cut’ through the length of a building and drawn to show the vertical relationship between horizontal aspects, such as the floor & ceiling heights of a building. Section drawings include:

    • Floor levels -inside the shop and the relationship to the external floor/ground level
    • Ceiling heights
    • Bulkhead heights
    • Door and opening heights
    • Wall thicknesses where ‘cut through’

    These survey elevation and section drawings can be used in conjunction with a floor plan to create a more comprehensive view of the property or building. It enables you to easily interpret unusual changes and details in bulkheads, floor levels, and their relationship to adjoining areas (such as common mall areas) so that you can easily visualise the space from a vertical view rather than a top view.

    Section and elevation drawings graphically display the building or shop, giving a vertical view in any given direction so that you can understand the heights of the space more effectively. A full understanding of the vertical space helps save money, as trades are able to estimate materials more accurately, and this is critical to planning and design.

    For a retail tenancy the shopfront elevation and section plans can be used in these types of situations;


    An international retailer is arranging to install an expensive marble feature plaque on the facade of each of their stores. The manufacturer needs shop front elevations (accurate to the nearest 5mm) so that the size and placement of the signage can be determined, in order to avoid costly errors.

    Shop Fit Out

    A retail shop fit out company needs to design a new store frontage but only use the existing framework, meaning fixed windows, doors and ceiling heights must remain unchanged.

    Cabinet Maker

    A cabinet maker needs to design a racking fitout for shop’s wall and requires an accurate internal elevation drawing to design their joinery and to help their client visualise how their merchandise will be displayed.

    Commercial Builder

    Commercial builders need section drawings to understand the relationship between the shop and common mall area floor levels so they can retrospectively supply and install flooring for a retail shop to be level with the external floor finish.

    Retail Tenancy Reflected Ceiling Plan

    A Reflected Ceiling Plan (or RCP) is a survey drawing that shows visible objects located in or on the ceiling, including but not limited to:

    • Ceiling features, and bulkhead heights
    • Lighting
    • Speakers
    • Air conditioning vents
    • Exit signs
    • Sprinkler systems

    For a shop owner it becomes critical to understand what services or other obstacles are in the ceiling if they have intentions of either using them as they are or doing renovations to refit the shop. A reflected ceiling plan is typically used in these types of scenarios;

    Shop Fitting

    Shop fitting company needs to install the corporate identity point of sale fixtures and fittings into a shop to convert it to a franchise store.

    Shop Architect

    Retail shop architect needs to create design concepts and quotations to completely refit a retail shop to convert it from a clothing store to a coffee shop.

    Real Estate Agent

    A real estate agent can provide an existing condition reflected ceiling plan to a potential client who wants to rent the retail shop so they can assess the services already available or to a potential investor for them to assess the suitability of purchasing the shop premises.

    Building Owner

    The building owner wants to change the lettable area floor plan and convert two smaller retail floor areas into one larger one.


    Realserve works regularly with interior designers and building or business owners planning for retail and commercial property fit outs. For this project the designer needed as built plans as they had just been engaged to design a new retail fitout and racking layout for a three level retail tenancy. The property’s incoming tenant had just signed a lease agreement and was eager to begin operating their large women’s fashion retail franchise business out of the new premises as soon as possible.

    The only plans provided to the interior designer to work from were basic emergency evacuation plans and overall space outline drawings showing the area of the space. These types of plans do not have dimensions or even a scale bar which makes them useless for creating fitout plans. In fact if the interior designer was forced to just use an evacuation plan it would create these issues;

    • Multiple visits to the site for the interior designer to try and measure the space which would cost more for the tenant or property owner depending who had commissioned the project
    • Additional time and money spent reproducing plans in a format that could be useful for the designers (ie CAD or Revit)
    • Allowances for extra materials or variations being made in the costing which would add to the cost of the project compared to costings being calculated based on accurate information
    • Errors in the interpretation of the space if stairs, lifts, and voids were not accurately represented and located, which could result in design features not fitting
    • Missed details, such as columns which are not shown on an evacuation plan, that could result in the need to modify the planned layout at the last minute
    • A lack of understanding of the floor levels, meaning steps and changes were missed and aspects of the design had to be changed, causing delays, and safety flaws in the design.

    Realserve was asked to survey the retail tenancy area and provide accurate 2D As Built survey plans so the interior designer could analyse how to make best use of space and use the provided CAD files to work from. Their brief for the fitout included taking into consideration the tenant’s requirements for signage, merchandising, flexibility, safe egress, and effective lighting, which meant that our scope of work had to capture all the relevant detail.

    The scope of work, so that the interior designer had accurate information and drawing files to work from in order to complete the fitout project included;

    • As Built Floor Plans
      Approximately 1000sqm over 3 levels, including a basement level. Scope was to include the details of entrance steps facing the main road, columns, staircases and lift access, the discontinued vaults on the basement level, all floor finishes and floor levels throughout, as well as fixed joinery.
    • Reflected Ceiling Plans
      Particular interest in the existing lighting and fire protection so that this could be used in the re-design
    • Shopfront Elevation
      Shopfront framework was to be untouched, so signage and branding for the shop front had to be designed to fit exactly what was there – this meant accurate elevations were required to include multiple paneled glass sliding doors and windows, as well as the columns abutting them.
    • Section drawing
      Being a 3 level tenancy with multiple staircases, voids, and ceiling heights, this was crucial for the designer to better understand not only the vertical measurements of each level, but how they related and could be brought together in the design.


    Realserve’s surveyors in Australia utilise a variety of traditional and modern survey technology to collect data. For this project, a high level of ceiling detail was to be captured in a short period of time, so our solution was to use our 3D laser scanning service to deliver this retail tenancy plan.

    In very short periods of time the Realserve surveyor team is able to use a 3D laser scanner to fully capture the shape of an existing building. This technology has the benefit of requiring minimal disruption at a site with all of the data able to be used for both 3D or 2D survey documentation.

    In some situations a client may only require 2D documentation, although the advantages of 3D laser scanning to collect data for this type of project were extensive and included;

    • Large amounts of data
      3D Scanning enables Realserve surveyors to collect large amounts of data in short time blocks which makes this process highly efficient.
    • Accuracy and detail
      The simple way could have been for the interior designer to try measure things themselves, although this can be time consuming and highly inaccurate. Realserve is able to deliver unbeatable levels of detail as well as being able to capture complex information such as bulkheads and things like varying ceiling heights.
    • Reduced disruption and intrusion
      Our use of 3D laser scanning equipment means there is little disruption for existing tenants & a reduced need for doing measuring outside of hours or after a tenant has vacated. When a tenancy is occupied it can be difficult for property managers and owners to arrange access, as many are fearful of disrupting business. Realserve can operate outside of usual business hours when required, but our expertise means we can deliver smarter solutions using 3D laser scanning. This method also means in situations where intricate details are required in a high traffic retail space we can reduce the time spent on site to take measurements with the utilisation of 3D laser scanning methods.

    Creating an As Built survey plan means you are not relying on old drawings from when the building was designed or anything else other than exactly how the property sits in its existing state. It gives you ‘today’s view’ of the property including any changes, modifications or alterations that have been made over the years.


    The Realserve team used the latest surveying techniques which meant the interior designer could use the as built plans we created to begin their retail tenancy fit out design practically immediately. 

    • The Floor Plans 
      The As Built floor plan gave the interior design team the most accurate layout possible to use for their initial space planning, as well as assisting them with identifying what existing structural features would present limitations for their design ideas. By enabling the designers to have the exact location of existing columns or other building features it enabled them to incorporate these into their new fit out design ideas including using them as focal points.

    • The Reflected Ceiling Plan 
      Was critical as it identified the location of the feature bulkheads as well as major permanent services, such as fire sprinklers. This prevented the interior designers from designing lighting and services layouts that would conflict with those major service provisions.
    • The Shopfront Elevation Plan 
      Enabled the interior design team to fully understand the available space for signage, shopfront window merchandising and general access to the retail tenancy.
    • Section drawings
      Even in their most basic form, sections provide incredible amounts of time saving data. With fire evacuation plans and the manual task of collecting the details of the bulkhead heights, floor changes and stair voids, designers would have spent tens of hours extra collecting and documenting the detail required. Having Realserve 3D scan and provide the data in a format ready for them to use, saved time and resources, and also gave designers confidence knowing the data was accurate and could be relied on.
    • A Gross Lettable Area Retail Survey 
      Was also provided for the new retail tenant. This Lettable Area calculation was requested as in previous leases the client had found that the lettable area quoted was upto 10% inaccurate, meaning they were charged for additional square meterage that did not exist, costing them a significant amount in extra rent. Realserve was pleased to confirm that the area they were quoted was in fact accurate in this instance.


    Retail Store Evacuation Diagram;
    It is always important to consider staff safety and not rely on existing documentation or signage which may be out of date. Whether or not the retail tenancy had renovations completed it shouldn’t be assumed that the floor plan was the same as when any Evacuation Diagram was first created. Having one that is accurate once any fit out changes have been completed is even more important to maximise staff safety and navigating shelving, walls or other items are moved after a new fit out is completed.


    Retail Store Matterport 3D Virtual Tour;
    To give the interior design team a more comprehensive view of the space, a 3D virtual tour of the commercial retail property and its surrounds could have been created. While this doesn’t provide accurately measured precision like an As Built Survey would, it can compliment the documentation being created and  could be used by the interior designers to showcase their work or a real estate agent to show the property.


    Scan to BIM;
    Realserve can deliver all building surveys as PDFs, CAD files or Revit models. This becomes particularly handy for interior designers who are working in Revit where Realserve is able to provide Scan to BIM Services to improve any building information management workflows that are in place.

    In this example scan to BIM services could have been used for;

    • An interior designer who has adopted using 3D for their design work. Realserve could provide the base building as built model to save resources in the interior designer’s offices.
    • If the building owner was going to remove the ceiling and install a new one, a scan documenting the structures and services located within the ceiling space would be beneficial. It would assist contractors in locating hidden ceiling services (once the new ceiling went up), help them navigate safe paths for accessing for maintenance purposes, and enable engineers to know what size equipment would fit, without visiting the site to assess the space. In BIM’s most sophisticated form, 3D scans, 3D building models, and plant & equipment details, can all be stored and utilised in one location, through Building Information Modeling Management.


    Get more information about our range of as built survey plan SERVICES.


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    Take a look at our 3D Laser Scanning services in Australia

    Realserve has a team of surveyors who can provide 3D Laser Scanning services in each capital city of Australia. We use use the latest cutting-edge equipment to produce a wide array of survey plans, point cloud data, Revit or Digital Twin 3D models. 3D laser scanning allows surveyors to provide as-built, existing condition, surveys that are incredibly accurate for internal or external spaces. 

    Our qualified surveyors can play a pivotal role in any project with the use of laser scanning technologies to improve the plan, design, construction, management, renovation or refurbishment processes for any building type.