There is a lot of construction going on in downtown Lincoln right now; I see it every morning driving in to work. Because we are always looking for ways to connect with the construction market firsthand, we decided to take a few people over to one of the sites for an afternoon visit.
We went over to the Block 38 project just outside of our office. Block 38 is a multi-use building that will feature retail spaces, a parking garage and apartments. There are a number of development companies and contractors working on the site, so we wanted to talk to the person with his finger on the pulse of the project: the site’s project manager. He walked us through the processes that they used specific to this project but also gave us a better understanding of how his company works.
One of the topics that we found most interesting was how the project manager uses information. We saw dozens of sets of plans in the trailer. Some were laid out on tables and older ones were rolled up on shelves. Being big fans of technology (and of going paperless) ourselves, we decided to ask one question.
There have been big strides in construction technology recently. There are iPad apps that allow you to load all the site plans and take them out into the field. If you’ve ever seen a site plan you know how difficult that would have been in the past. Having the plans on-screen allows you to zoom in or out and see the entire site at once rather than flipping through several pages. Having the files electronically also means that changes can be made on the fly instead of waiting for changes to be made and receiving printed plans the next day.
This is beneficial to the contractors, foremen and project managers, but it also benefits the construction company. Clients are pushing more and more for ways to be more efficient – and this technology does just that. The initial investment of the iPads and software is minimal compared to the costs of reprinting site plans every 1-2 days. Many clients are also asking for eco-friendly building materials and practices. Going paperless reinforces the construction company’s understanding of that.
So why is the answer also “no”? The project manager told us that even though this technology is great (and he is excited about starting to use it) there will always be, in his opinion, a need to have a set of printed plans just in case. I understand what he means. We try to do as much as we can electronically here, but I still have sticky notes and stacks of papers all around my desk.
How is your construction company or site project managers going paperless? Are you excited to embrace the new opprortunities with technology? Let me know in the comments below.