CA, PIM and the Cloud
07.13.12 / Ray Paradis, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
I recently participated in a Boston Society of Architects Construction Administration “CA” Roundtable discussion concerning the various technology systems that are used during the CA process. While different technologies and software approaches were discussed, a portion of the meeting evolved around the use of Newforma Project Center software and its capabilities for Project Information Management “PIM.”
ARC incorporated Newforma Project Center software three years ago and I have found it to be a valuable tool both for the design process (Schematic Design through Construction Documents) as well as during the Construction Administration phase. As a project manager, I rely on Newforma to help me streamline and organize the vast amount of project related information including emails, RFIs and submittals, that are generated during the construction process. Newforma uses indexing of all project files to create a powerful project data base, giving ARC much better document control on the design side of the project at a time when more and more project information lives electronically. Newforma is also a key component of our transition to paperless project management. In addition to an indexed and user-friendly database, all project correspondence from the design team is sent electronically through Newforma – a practice that has resulted in a dramatic decrease in paper copies since we started using the software.
Collaboration is a vital element during CA when effective communication of information between the Owner, Contractor and Design Team is critical. Newforma ensures this information is structured, indexed and most importantly, searchable. I have used the searchable function on many occasions to recall a key word or an email sent from a specific person to identify the history of a construction related topic. On a recent project, for example, we needed to apply for a temporary Certificate of Occupancy due to the phased construction approach that was required to execute the job in an existing facility. Our consultant requested to see the original phasing diagram submitted when the Contractor applied for the building permit, which was well over a year ago, and the subsequent email correspondence. I was able to quickly type the word “phasing” in the subject heading and instantly retrieved the email and the entire history including attachments and forwarded them to the consultant. It was seamless and saved considerable time and effort.
Another topic of discussion was how instant communications and software programs are changing the expectations for turnaround time during CA. Projects are moving at such an accelerated pace that Architects need to stay on top of responses in order to ensure an effective work flow in the field. Newforma allows ARC staff to track and organize all RFIs and Submittals into a report log. It assists with indexing RFIs and submittals and has the function to create a so-called “live log” of all current open items. I find this portion of the software to be invaluable as an audit against the Contractor’s Log of “Outstanding Items” owed by the Architect. When we forward an RFI and submittal for review by one of our consultants, we have the opportunity to attach a due date. This function is especially helpful for those items deemed “hot” by the Contractor.
Newforma is helping our firm to work smarter and more efficiently. For instance, we are currently an Associate Architect with a Seattle-based firm and part of our scope of work is photographically documenting the project site each week. Newforma allows us to use its Info Exchange to electronically transfer all of the photos (40 MB+) instantaneously after every project meeting. This provides an instant review of the construction progress by the Architects in Seattle and enables us to send a quick comment or action item to the Contractor.
Security functions and issues were also key topics at the roundtable. There are a few so-called “Cloud” sites such as Dropbox that allow users to download and upload information without encountering any security measures. This type of unrestricted access is a recipe for disaster for any AEC firm. However, the security measures on Newforma allow ARC to grant certain permissions to any member of the Project Team. For example, clients, Contractors and external team partners would typically have “read-only” access while our consultant engineers would have access to download their RFI or submittal review for processing.
Newforma allows ARC to stay competitive in the fast paced realm of Construction Administration.