The (Proper) Way to Utilize Digital Drawings

by BRIDGET JOHNSON, Procore

This article was originally published to the Procore blog on February 18, 2016.

Construction firms are unable to create any type of structure without first having detailed and intricate drawings in place. These blueprints guide every aspect of the building process - from budgeting to hiring the correct subcontractors to completing the finished product.

Indeed, as famed architect and academic Pier Vittorio Aureli explained to Financial Times,
"Drawing is the means by which the architect defines his role. He doesn't build - he draws."

Currently, this important aspect of both architectural and construction processes is undergoing a massive revolution. However, without the right kind of tools in place, companies that rely on accurate, informative, and consistent drawings will not reap the full benefit of this technological advancement.

Digital drawings revolutionizing the field once more.
Since people have begun building structures, there has been a need for someone to draft the blueprints for what the workers would eventually construct. While techniques and modeling methods have evolved over hundreds of years, for the most part, these drawings were all completed with pencil and paper. However, this all began to change with the advent of digitalized drawings. In much the same way, the introduction and incorporation of perspective altered the way architects approached drafting blueprints, so too has the shift to digital drawings revolutionized the field once more.

At first, this shift to digital processes was incremental and mostly self-imposed. 
The first individuals who took advantage of these new trends had to go out and literally create their own software. As noted in Financial Times, Frank Gehry needed to adopt and alter aerospace and orthopaedic software to create his distinct, expressionistic architecture forms.

These ad hoc programs eventually gave rise to much more focused software designed specifically for architects and construction firms. Unfortunately, while the industry gained a greater ability to visualize drawings in a three-dimensional space, it also created problems with file sharing and data transcription.

For instance, as is often the case, a project manager might have a new version of a particular drawing, but team members on the field might still be using an outdated version. In addition, when analog files are uploaded into digital format, important information such as parameters or measurements can potentially become obscured, illegible, or even altered. Any one of these issuess can create significant problems for a particular project. Even worse, a combination of several of these issues at once can be disastrous for a construction company.

d The (proper) way to utilize digital drawings.
Thankfully, as software programs have moved away from siloed, on-premise data servers and into cloud-based solutions, computer engineers have also been able to create construction platforms to follow suit.

In this way, Procore's cloud-based project management platform solves the troublesome and costly problems associated with drafting and sharing digital files.

Split and process PDFs of the drawings into individual, digitized files, creating a comprehensive drawing log. The platform's industry-leading optical character recognition (OCR) technology instantly reads and transcribes all the pertinent data associated with the drawings, including the measurements, drawing title, and iteration. This ensures that all information, no matter how inconsequential, gets uploaded and integrated with the associated file. The platform can then categorize each individual sheet by discipline.

Keep everyone on the current set. This intuitive platform lets project managers upload new revisions that Procore then marks up with all of the information from the previous drawings. By creating a new version and instantly disseminating that information to everyone, it alleviates the problems associated with team members working off of outdated or incomplete versions of a drawing.

Don’t let tasks fall through the cracks. This means every time a drawing is uploaded, Procore automatically links the new version with the related punch items, RFIs, and notes from past drawings, ensuring no information is lost in the drawing-updating process. This is crucial for many reasons, as too often a single missed note or an RFI left off of a new drawing iteration can lead to untold monetary losses down the road. 

Since the Drawings Tool links directly to the Punch List Tool, project managers can upload a new task associated with this item, drop it directly onto the drawing, and immediately assign it to the appropriate team member. With the ability to track the project's status and completion throughout the entire process, none of these tasks will fall through the cracks.

Reduce lost information with an easy-to-use mobile interface. Project managers have the ability to instantly snap a picture of a punch item and associate it with the appropriate drawings. This greatly reduces the loss of information between the as-built drawings and subsequent versions. As noted in Questions and Solutions for Engineers, in the past, a contractor would maintain a master set of manually marked red line record drawings, with which all subsequent drawings would need to reference back whenever a change order, RFI, or punch item arose. Now, with Procore's seamlessly integrated drawings, all of these changes remain connected in a single, easily accessible repository, which greatly reduces the chances for any information loss or misunderstandings.

Upload all the information you want. With unlimited storage space, construction firms and architects can upload vast amounts of information. No matter how big the drawings get, or how many iterations they will eventually go through.