Under what right or rights if any does a US citizen have to see and/or attain a copy of a public build's floor plans?

A example of public builds that I am referring to...

  • libraries
  • State Colleges
  • City Hall (where the floor plans are...)
  • State Hospitals
  • Post Office
  • Fire Station

I understand a lot of people will question the reasons behind this, however if it is a right then it should be known not buried in the system. Second knowing or having public floor plans would have just as many benevolent reasons as malicious ones such the comment stated for terrorism which is a concern that I constantly encounter. With this idea think of it more for providing people with a guidance system that leads them directly to their rooms or classes, and other possible place which they would have no clue the first time being there.

And in fact this concept is already being used and you can find out more about it on the Google Maps Beta Floor Plans page and where a list of public buildings have already released there information to provide this type of service.

  • Planning on bombing one?
    – user1873
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 3:59
  • I actually want to know if I could use my state college floor plans in my app... Going through the normal route with my school they gave me crap and a load of red tape. Their reason was the same in your question.
    – fassetar
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 4:07
  • Your college would likely have a collection of plans on file or published, and I am surprised they are giving you a hard time. They probably had to file the plans with the a buildings dept, in your county. Those records would be on file at the county recorders office (usually for tax purposes, so the assessor can tax the property and it's improvements properly). If this is a public college, then I am not certain they have to file plans.
    – user1873
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 4:35
  • 1
    Your question is also worded incorrectly (or you are asking 2 different questions). You probably do have the right as any individual to obtain building plans from your local counties records department. You probably do not have the right to reproduce those plans in your application. Copyright protects the author of creative work, giving them the right to limit redistribution of their creative work. Without a release/agreement from the original architect firm, you might run into legal troubles IANAL.
    – user1873
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 4:41
  • @user1873 "and/or" meaning I don't know which it possible. Still thanks for the comments, I didn't find that kinda of system with my college's floor plans but if it is a right I should be able to go to them or City Hall to just see the papers.
    – fassetar
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 4:45

1 Answer 1


In the United States, the Freedom of Information Act is the primary law governing the release of records created by federal agencies. For states, there are often similar laws that would govern the release of data.

In general, the presumption is that if a government you pay for has collected anything you are interested in, you have a right to see that.

Obviously, there are exceptions:

  • If the compliance costs are great, for example, you might need to compensate the agency.

  • If the records have potential to cause damage to the United States in a material fashion, it can be withheld.

  • If the records will infringe on another person's privacy, there may be exceptions.

In general, however, reasonable requests for information will be fulfilled. If you can satisfy the security concerns, you can probably get these plans. (I used to have a floor plan of the Capitol. I loved it!)

  • I knew there was some kind of right, just forgot what it was called :(. Thanks a lot!
    – fassetar
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 14:35

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