Apr 17

ARE – Roof Plan Vignette

The ARE Roof Plan Vignette is one of the three vignettes that candidates are required to complete as part of the Building Design and Construction exam. Since there are so many topics and issues that relate to building design, candidates are required to complete 3 vignettes that cover a variety of issues.

The 2 other vignettes both cover issues such as accessibility and exiting requirements while the roof plan vignette starts to address issues such as water removal and functional requirements of a roof.

You will have 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete all 3 BDCS vignettes in any order that you want. Since you have the freedom to choose which vignette order you want, managing your time during this section becomes a critical factor. It’s important to be aware of how long each vignette will approximately take you so that you have enough time to complete all 3. You will still be allowed to switch back and forth between these vignettes once you start but you’re not allowed to back to the multiple-choice section of the ARE exam.


For the roof plan vignette, you will be required to design a roof plan that meets all requirements given in the program. By creating a roof plan from a given floor plan of a building, your ability to understand how roof slopes and equipment affect the design of a roof will be tested.

Like the other BDCS vignettes, there won’t be one set way to complete this vignette and it will require some designing on your part. With that in mind, keeping your solution simple and efficient will be key to passing the vignette. Trying to be too creative on this section could lead to more problems not to mention could lead to an inefficient solution that NCARB could downgrade.


The roof vignette will provide you with an existing floor plan and a specific program requirements that you must follow. Included in the given floor plan are:

– Room names/partitions
– Chimney
– Windows
– Roof Edges/Overhangs
– Plumbing fixtures

The reason why some of these elements are provided in the given information is because certain roof equipment needs to be located above certain spaces depending on the program requirements. Taking some time to review the given floor plan before starting your drawing can help make sure you don’t miss anything once you start drawing.

Elements To Include:

Compared to the other two vignettes, the ARE Roof Plan Vignette has a lot more elements to include on your final solution. A lot of these elements are small and easy to add, but they can also easily be forgotten if you’re not familiar with them.

It’s recommended that you use your scratch paper to write down a list of the elements from the program so you can check them off your list as you place them in your drawing. Some of these elements include:

– Roofs with appropriate slopes and elevations
– Skylights
– Clerestory window
– HVAC equipment/exhaust fans
– Plumbing Vents
– Gutters/downspouts
– Crickets
– Flashing

Even though this seems like a lot of elements to include, most of them are very easy to draw. It’s essential to draw the roof first and get all of your sloped worked out before adding additional elements. Some of these elements depend on your roof condition so it’s much easier to add these elements after the roof is set.


There are a few useful techniques for completing the roof vignette in an efficient way that won’t waste too much time so you can focus on the other vignettes.
The most important part of the roof plan vignette is drawing the roofs in place. The best way to set your roof elevation is to work starting at the bottom. Take the ceiling height that is given in the program and then add in the additional roof structure, also in your program. This sum should be the lowest point of your low roof.
From there, keep using the minimum slope given to you in the program and the software will calculate the roof height at all corner locations. Keep in mind that using the minimum slope required will be the most efficient way of creating the new roof. Efficient solutions are important because NCARB does downgrade for inefficiency so it’s important to make sure you’re following all the programmatic guidelines yet still being efficient.

  • Add in the height of the clerestory and the high roof structure to find the height of your higher roof area. Since the software will calculate the high point of your lower roof, you will just need to add the clerestory and structure heights to find the starting point.
  • Once roofs are drawn in, add gutters and downspouts. Make sure that the downspouts are not in front of a door or window and you have at least 2 per side (near the corners)
  • You can drain the upper roof on to the lower roof but ONLY if you use a gutter and downspout to get the water there. NEVER slope a roof towards and edge that does not have a gutter and a downspout.
  • Don’t forget to include flashing wherever the low roof meets a wall that supports the upper roof. This will probably also happen on your clerestory wall so don’t get confused to add both. You most likely need flashing at your chimney (if you have one in the program)
  • Follow the program for placement of HVAC equipment and plumbing vents. Many of these elements have specific requirements for where they can be placed, whether it’s over a specific room or a certain distance from a roof edge.
  • Place the cricket on the high side of the chimney (depending on your roof plan). There is no set requirement for the size of the cricket but sticking to an equilateral triangle is the best bet.
  • Keep your roof design simple. The easiest roof type to create is a gabled roof. There should be a way to incorporate a gabled roof in to your solution instead of using a hipped roof. This is not a design competition so as long as the roof is efficient and meets all programmatic requirements, it shouldn’t matter.
  • Use the “Check” tool to make sure that you don’t have any overlapping roof planes. This tool is nice because if you have any roofing conflicts that may result in a fail, this tool can help prevent it.
  • Try to keep your clerestory in a wall below a roof that isn’t sloping. By keeping it in a wall between 2 parallel roofs, you don’t have to worry about the roof slope intersection with the clerestory window.

The roof plan vignette is actually just one of the three ARE Building Design and Construction Vignettes that make up the BDCS vignette so making sure you have enough time to complete all three is extremely important. The other two vignettes you need to complete, the ramp/accessibility and stair design, will require just as much time to complete as the roof plan. The 3 vignettes that make up this exam are equally challenging and will require candidates to be very diverse in their knowledge of the material. Depending on how familiar a candidate is with the content, some vignettes may be completed faster than others.

The ramp/accessibility vignette will force candidates to design a ramp and stair system that connects 2 different levels of an existing building. In order to pass the ramp vignette, candidates must meet all requirements dealing with ramp slope, ramp width, exiting route, and many more issues.

For a similar breakdown of the ARE Ramp/Accessibility Vignette, see here.

Stair Design
The stair design vignette will require you to take an existing building plan and add a new stair that connects to various levels in the building. You will need to pay close attention to issues such as stair rise and run, stair widths, headroom clearances, and even handrail locations.

For a similar breakdown of the ARE Stair Design Vignette, see here.

Additional Tips & Practice Exams

For a full breakdown of the ARE Roof Plan Vignette, please see the ARE Advisor eBook Series – BDCS Vignette that I’ve created to help you out. This ebook consists of step-by-step instructions, practice programs, and personal thoughts and advice to passing this section of the ARE.

Personally, I believe that many people fail exam divisions because they don’t spend enough time studying the ARE graphic vignettes. Granted, the multiple choice is just as difficult and time needs to be spent preparing for that section as well, but many people leave studying for the vignette until the last minute. These ebooks have been created to help better prepare you for the graphic vignette sections of the ARE.