The almighty tablet—great for absorbing and conveying data (and also, uh, Netflix)
The almighty tablet—great for absorbing and conveying data (and also, uh, Netflix)

Reinventing the way projects are delivered

We gather today to mourn the untimely death of the printed PDF
The almighty tablet—great for absorbing and conveying data (and also, uh, Netflix)
By
Brian Field
,
September 19, 2019
As we continue to press onward into the future, the printed PDF is becoming something of an endangered species. What good is a piece of paper sandwiched between hundreds to thousands of other pieces of paper in a binder among dozens of other binders in a closet? Data retrieval to this degree rivals the already purposefully exaggerative idiom “finding a needle in a haystack.” When it comes to post-construction data, there’s no reason why the handover materials given to owners by general contractors shouldn’t be assets for the owner. These assets can only add value to the general contractor’s work, and deliver tangible insight for the owner to maintain their project for the next 100 years.
As it stands, the general contractor puts in quite a bit of work accumulating and amalgamating a project’s data to hand over to the owner upon completion of closeout. Once the owner (and tangentially their facilities teams) receives all of this data, it’s impractical to the point of being borderline useless. Why? Simply put, the data collected by the general contractor is a static representation of where the project ended up, missing entirely how it got there. There is a mind-boggling amount of historical data lost during closeout—Photographs, plans, changes to those plans, collaboration on plans, why things are the way they are—none of this information would have been carried over to post-construction. None of it would ever be findable or useable, which ultimately puts more collateral strain on an owner’s wallet.
Innovative measures in post-construction, of late, make it so that owners can be given construction data in a manner that is not
only
findable and useable but
foundational
in a project’s maintenance for the foreseeable future. This data is _theirs_’ and is as much an asset to the owner as the completed project itself. It’s not uncommon for an owner to reach out to the general contractor when problems arise. But what happens when the warranties are up and the general contractor is off the hook? Heaps of money can be thrown at plugging a hole that could have been prevented from opening in the first place. When post-construction data becomes an asset to an owner, those heaps of money stay in their pockets.

360 photos turn projects into digital assets

360 photos, one of the most useful innovations in construction, turn projects into digital assets. 360 photos tell a story that couldn’t have been practically told on a piece of paper in a binder. When general contractors take diligent steps in photographing every inch of a project at every alteration of that project through its construction lifespan, the owner is guaranteed a priceless asset that can only benefit that project’s maintenance for decades to come. Can we drill through that wall? Let’s take a peek at the 360 photo of that exact spot through all the iterations of construction to make sure there isn’t a pipe or steel beam that will hinder our plans. We can also look cool doing it by holding up an iPad to the wall, appearing as if we’re operating some sort of futuristic device out of
Minority Report
. These are exciting times in construction and will get more exciting the more mobile is integrated into the closeout process.
Speaking of movies, there’s a
memorable scene
in
Avengers: Infinity War
when Thanos monologues about his backstory to Dr. Strange on his home planet, Titan (This is going somewhere, we promise). To more literally illustrate his story to Dr. Strange (and to the audience), Thanos uses the manipulative powers of the red infinity stone to reveal what their current surroundings (ugly) looked like years before (not ugly). Thanos, in this moment, is doing an impression of a forward-thinking owner using 360 photos to check out the historical data uploaded by the general contractor. See, even Marvel movies support data assets in post-construction!

Preventative measures circumvent unnecessary costs

When an owner reaches out to the general contractor regarding an issue, it’s generally because they’re flying blind. Whether the data necessary in vanquishing that issue was on some PDF buried in a binder or lost, it doesn’t matter; the owner has decided that their time is better spent meeting the problem head-on, even if it means spending more money than should have been necessary. Owners typically don’t concern themselves with preventative measures that would have made the issue in question moot in the first place. This has less to do with laziness or incompetency and more to do with the archaic and, at times, incomplete post-construction data at their fingertips.
When it comes to the construction industry, and specifically post-construction, there are still procedural formalities that persist for no reason other than “it’s how it’s always been done.” With the year 2020 soon upon us (is there a more futuristic-sounding year than 2020?), Buildr hopes to make the printed PDF the data equivalent of the dodo bird. Drawings, warranties, operations and warranties manuals, 360 photos—all of these will soon be valuable assets for the owner, rather than wastes of printer ink.
Project handover done right.
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