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I am forewarding these suggestions that were provided by one of our 

There are some basic ways we can have industry-wide standards,
(however, there will always be exceptions) for example:
--steel sections in plan view and detailing (color and layer)
--wood members in plan view and detailing (color and layer)
--misc. metals (steel studs, bolts, etc., colors and layers)
--standardization of different types of hatching (color, layers and 
--the way we show our symbols (bolts in plan\elevation, north 
   arrows, grid bubbles, detail sheet format, titles, etc.,)
--concrete items in plan view and sections (color and layer)
--layer names and colors for segregating information in plan views
   for different types of construction materials, etc,
The item to note from the above is that all drawings blocks must
be developed "BYLAYER" and color must be "BYLAYER"
This is done so that when working with clients that have specific cad 
requirements all of these symbols will take on the characteristics of 
the layer they are inserted on.
In response to the external referencing issue, We at EQE
are careful when using external references on plan views,
in theory the architect will give you a floor plan file, that you 
attach to your drawing and use as a base, what we've found is 
this file must be drawn with the knowledge of what the structural
team member will be doing with the file, when freezing un-needed
architectural layers, you often find things on the wrong layers or
items that you need, that do not show up, for example:
--A non-bearing stud wall with a conc. curb below, (freeze the wall - 
  loose the curb) 
--lines and arrows depicting slab drainage vs. a depressed slab   
  (freeze the floor layer in the XREF - loose portions of your slab), 
-- the stair railing shown on the railing layer in the XREF (freeze  
   the railing - loose the outlines of your stairs, balconies and 
   the stairwell openings)
--window and door blocks -  the jambs, glazing and headers must be 
   on 3 separate layers in the XREF so the structural can freeze and 
   thaw as appropriate for the different structural plan views., 
   (freeze the door - loose the jamb or freeze the window - loose 
   the outline for the headers as well as the jambs).
--similar issues occur with mechanical equip. pads on the roof.
        Of course, all of these items are correctable if coordinated 
up front, if not, what happens is the structural cad staff begins to 
augment more and more information within the structural file, thus 
lessening the effectiveness of the XREF, (especially on large 
complicated projects). We have had success with external referencing, 
but mainly in cases where we work hand in hand with the architectural 
cad staff early on to let them know what we need the XREF to do.  We 
have script files that contain all of the architects layers (plan 
view) that will freeze all non-structural layers in the XREF and plot 
it on 8 1/2x11 so we can perform QA (we also ask, wherever possible 
for architects not to include any text in the XREF, we only want the 
actual building materials, no symbology or notes). 
    This XREF QA is done immediately upon initial receipt of the XREF 
file and may have to be repeated several times as the architect makes 
changes to the base XREF.  This level of coordination has greatly 
increased our production efficiency and establishes a layering guide 
with that particular architect that standardizes the segregation of 
information within the the XREF as well as the structural file.

thanks, Darrell Williams