Understanding the ARE 5.0 Divisions: Project Planning & Design vs. Project Development & Documentation

In our previous blog post, we made an in-depth comparison of two of ARE 5.0’s new divisions: Practice Management and Project Management. Now, let’s look at Project Planning & Design and Project Development & Documentation—two divisions that seem similar to each other, and not just in name. They’re the largest divisions in ARE 5.0, each with 120 questions and a five-hour appointment time. And for those candidates using the strategic testing approach that we’ve been recommending, these are the only two ARE 5.0 divisions you will need to take.

So what are they all about? And what are the differences between them?

Project Planning & Design focuses on the preliminary design of sites and buildings. Expect to see content about:

  • Environmental conditions and context
  • Codes and regulations
  • Building systems, materials, and assemblies
  • Project integration of program and systems
  • Project costs and budgeting

In this phase of a project, architects generate and evaluate design options that synthesize a range of issues related to code, sustainability, program requirements, existing conditions, and other factors. Building systems and materials are researched and selected, and these individual pieces are pulled together to form a cohesive project design. A key word to describe this division would be selection.

Project Development & Documentation focuses on the integration and detailing of the selected systems, materials, and assemblies. Content here will focus on:

  • Integration of building materials and systems
  • Construction documentation
  • Project manual and specifications
  • Codes and regulations
  • Construction cost estimates

In this phase of a project, architects consider the technical requirements of how a project will be constructed and the appropriate documentation—including drawing standards and specifications—to communicate that intent to the builder. An understanding of mechanical, structural, and other building systems is critical to coordinate the various elements of the design. A key word to describe this division would be integration.

Both divisions will assess your understanding of building codes, zoning regulations, project costs, and related disciplines, but different aspects of these topics will be covered in each division. Here are some examples of those differences:

Project Planning & Design Project Development & Documentation
Allowable height and areas per code, based on construction type Code-required door hardware
Layout of a steel column grid Fireproofing details for a steel column
Required plenum space for planned ductwork Coordination with electrical system for motorized dampers

Another way to think about the differences between these two divisions is in terms of drawing scales. Project Planning & Design would be at a 1/8”, 1/4", or even 1/2" scale, while Project Development & Documentation would be detail drawings at a smaller 3/4" or 1 1/2" scale. Any sort of charts or schedules (door hardware, window, etc.) would also be in PDD. Keep these differences in mind as you study so you can best prepare for each division.

About the Author

I joined NCARB in 2014 as a manager in examination development. My work focuses on the development of ARE 5.0 and continued support of ARE 4.0, as well as outreach events. Prior to joining NCARB, I worked as a project architect and project manager in several architecture firms in Washington, DC. My work spanned multiple project types, including institutional, mixed-use, residential, and affordable housing across all phases of design and construction. Originally from the DC area, I left town temporarily to get my architecture degree at Tulane University—Roll Wave Roll!