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Stopping The PDF Madness In Construction

10/22/2013 | Construction Blog

Engineering News Review recently published an interesting article in its technology section on the management of electronic documents. The report noted a movement of general contractors that the companies themselves have labeled “All PDFs Created Equal”.

With the introduction and increased affordability of tablets and other mobile devices, the use of electronic data in construction is here to stay. Documents in portable document format, or PDF, are already used extensively in construction because they allow easy access to everyone involved in the project and provide tools for notes and mark-ups. According to those in attendance at the meeting though, there is a need for best practices in order to be sure information is not diluted through multiple versions and is easy to understand. Inclusion of all the edits on one document without redundancy is one goal, as is streamlining the process for subcontractors so that there is not major variation from one general contractor to another.

This meeting is an important step in the right direction. Electronic media, if properly harnessed, can be an engine for efficiency in the construction industry. But it must be managed in a way that ensures all the parties invested in the project can understand what is expected of them, how the project documents have been edited and changed, and who is responsible to identify these things. Aside from the practical discussion, consideration should be given to outlining how these mechanisms will work and who is responsible to maintain the electronic media in a project’s contract documents.

This area of construction law will continue to evolve as the technology continues its integration into the work force. The pace of change will only increase as baby boomers retire and younger workers who don’t even know there were versions of cell phones before the I-phone begin running jobs.