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Generating Accurate As-Built Drawing Sets (Without the Headache)


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At the end of a project, how much time do you spend producing an as-built drawing set? Do you find yourself with too many notes and marked up pages to easily incorporate into a drawing set? Or do you fear that pieces of information have ‘gone missing’ during the construction process, leaving you with incomplete information to pass along to the client?

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This is an all-too-familiar scenario in the construction industry. And like other document control issues, it is usually a function of not having the right information in the right place at the right time. By the time drawings are produced, cumulative errors from the document management process, along with missing markups and revisions, can result in a highly inaccurate and disjointed set of drawings.

Fortunately, technological innovations are helping this situation. Construction management software companies are adding functionalities to their product suites which follow every phase of a project’s construction, from estimating and planning all the way through to completion. The result is a complete record set, the product of an iterative information sharing loop that can include related RFIs, punch items, markups, and detail callouts. Because the drawings always re ect the current status of the project in real time, team members are automatically in possession of an accurate as-built drawing set upon project completion.

What is an as-built drawing set?

As-built drawings are intended to represent the finished condition of a newly built structure. The term “as-builts” is often used interchangeably with “record documents” (although legal parsings generally suggest some differences between the two). Architects and designers are usually responsible for compiling this final drawing set, but because they are not always on site to see work being performed  first-hand, they rely on drawing markups from contractors in the  eld. This means that owner-architect agreements typically include language relieving architects of liability for any inaccuracies. Contractual documents, therefore, are likely to place responsibility for as-built accuracy with the contractor. Often, contract language also specifies that changes be “redlined;” that is, modifications to the original design need to be clearly identifiable.

How were drawings managed before?

Historically, all information was tracked and captured using paper documents. In the pre- electronic world, the construction industry, like all industries, put sophisticated systems in place to organize and track their printed materials. Rigid rules governed every aspect of construction documents, from the timing of printing to assembly requirements. Even so, keeping up effective communications between team members and maintaining updated documents proved almost impossible and costly.

Paper documents are now being replacedby electronic files, not only for original construction documents but for the contractually specified drawings of record (which are usually requested to be in PDFor CAD format). In the  eld, however, it is still common for markups to be done on paper. And for a commercial construction project, the amount of documents required can number in the thousands. Transferring accurate information from one document set to another is an enormous challenge.

As with document management on the administration end, standard procedures for drawing markups have been established in the  eld. Typically, design drawings—either digital files or paper copies—are sent from architects to general contractors, then distributed in sets to subcontractors. Subcontractors usually have the drawings printed if they are not in paper format already, and then they distribute those papers to site personnel and staff in the job trailer. Markups and notes are red-lined on the drawings in the  eld and RFIs are posted with each group of subcontractors marking their own drawing set.

When revised drawings from the architect’s office show up on the job site, all personnel have to ‘slip sheet’ their drawing sets. This means replacing updated pages—sometimes hundreds of them—and hand copying any applicable notes or markups. At the end of the job, the general contractor collects red-lined sets from all major subcontractors, or has all subcontractors copy their red-lines to a set, and this information is sent to the architect’s and engineer’s offices to have the markups put into CAD.

In theory, this workflow captures all relevant information. But in practice, the process often breaks down, usually in the distribution and slip sheeting of revisions. In fact, it is common to find contractors building off of outdated paper drawings on almost every job site.  

To read the entire eBook, "Generating Accurate As-Built Drawing Sets (Without the Headache), click here.