Technology in Architectural Practice

  • 1.  Towards a Paperless Office

    Posted 11-16-2010 09:41 AM
    This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Technology in Architectural Practice and Small Project Practitioners .
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    I would like to substantially reduce the amount of paper, drawings, samples, letters, notes, etc. in my office.
    Would anyone like to share a good technique for reduing or eliminating paper; and what is the latest on the legalities of maintaining archives in digital format?

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    Richard Griffin AIA
    Richard W. Griffin Architect
    Salem MA
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    23.03.15 CxD - Public Trust


  • 2.  RE:Towards a Paperless Office

    Posted 11-17-2010 07:23 AM
    We have been working towards this for years, but still unfortunately have some paper in our work environment. We have managed to eliminate paper drawings, letters, product binders and such, All drawings letters etc (anything that can be done) are put in PDF format and filed in our project files on the computers. The product binders etc are keep in either PDF format in both the project folders and/or a products folder on the computer. Other product research is also completed on the web and sources are set up in a favorites folder.

    We have begun to take this a step further and working on no longer writing checks to pay consultant and suppliers. For those who do not have an online payment system we are now doing direct deposits to their bank account. Not only is this paperless it also reduces the cost of the check, envelope and stamp.

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    Larry Warner AIA
    Architect
    Warner Group LLC
    Peoria AZ
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    23.03.15 CxD - Public Trust


  • 3.  RE:Towards a Paperless Office

    Posted 11-17-2010 08:26 AM

    Larry,

    Does your DEFAULT printing in your office print on BOTH sides of the paper when you have to print?

    I was in a presentation with a large PA healthcare organization this week that made a "policy" across their organization last year that when you do print, anything should print on BOTH sides of the paper as the default.  Staff should know how to override and print on one side when needed, but the "no thought" printing should be on both sides.

    My client who was presenting stated that last year, his healthcare organization believes it saved approximately $27,000 last year by FORCING by policy that this occur.  IT managers/staff had to revamp, change, adjust all desktop printers, etc, so it was not a simple policy to implement, but the financial (and green) rewards were substantial.

    Looks like you have minimized printing significantly, but if the DEFAULT is double-sided, people get used to it and everyone likes saving the reimbursable $$$ too.

    People still need paper, and regardless of how many pdfs we create, they still print...many forgot the back side can be used also...

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    Peter Levasseur AIA
    Architect/ Proj Mgr
    Voorhees NJ
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    23.03.15 CxD - Public Trust


  • 4.  RE:Towards a Paperless Office

    Posted 11-18-2010 11:15 AM
    "Paperless" is best regarded as an outcome, and not a goal, of business process reform.  If you look for and exploit every opportunity to share/transfer/manage information electronically, the volume of paper you generate will decline as a natural consequence.

    There are three elements of business process reform that most design firms can explore and implement to a significant degree at little or no cost:  interoperability, computer interface improvement, and data exchange protocols.

    INTEROPERABILITY

    To achieve this, applications must be "interoperable," but many people get hung up on "Interoperability" with a capital "I" while neglecting many opportunities for interoperability that already exist.  For example, virtually every software application is capable of importing/exporting information in at least three (3) data formats.  Create a simple "interoperability matrix" of all of the applications in use in your office, with the applications listed in rows and the possible data formats listed in columns.  This simple spreadsheet will show you at a glance the "interoperability" of the constellation of software already owned by your firm.  For most applications, preparing this matrix requires zero technical skill beyond checking the "Save As" options in the application.  Look for particular opportunities to exchange data between DISSIMILAR applications such as CAD/BIM, CRM/ERP/Accounting, or Project/Information Management applications.  We often enter the same data into these applications, and can reduce repetitive data entry (and increase accuracy by decreasing the number of opportunities to make mistakes) by sharing information among these INTERNAL business applications.

    There are limitations, to be sure, as to the degree and "intelligence" of possible electronic information transfers between software applications, but most users fail to take advantage of the opportunities that already exist. 
    When preparing your matrix, be sure to look out for applications that support "Interoperability" with a capital "I" by supporting the publicly-available data format "IFC," or Industry Foundation Classes, promulgated by the buildingSMART alliance.  But even if your applications don't support this public data standard, there is a lot of interoperability sitting on your desktop right now.

    COMPUTER INTERFACE IMPROVEMENT

    Simply put, provide every employee with two flat-panel monitors.  This reduces printing dramatically by allowing employees to view a reference document on one screen while working in another document or application on the other.  This is the single most important thing you can do to reduce paper volume in your office.  It also results in a substantial increase in productivity by eliminating "window switching fatigue."  Twenty-two-inch (22") monitors now cost less than $180/each and pay for themselves in increased productivity in one-half day.  For employees who spend the majority of their time working in CAD/BIM or graphics applications, provide them with the largest flat-panel monitors you can afford.  Buy a few at a time until the entire firm is so equipped.

    DATA EXCHANGE PROTOCOLS

    Another fancy term for a very simple process: engage all external business partners (clients, consultants, contractors, vendors, suppliers) in a dialogue about data exchange.  Add the native applications they use to your "interoperability matrix."  Ask your business partners to send information to you electronically in its most "highly intelligent" form.  Many long-time business partners create data in applications that are highly compatible, but reduce the intelligent data to PDF for data exchange among themselves.  This is a legacy of the days when most software applications were incompatible, and is the digital equivalent of throwing paper over the transom.

    Whenever possible, insist that no information be exchanged on paper.  At a minimum, require that information be exchanged as "digital paper" (PDF or equivalent).  That's not the best alternative, but it's better than receiving paper.  In particular, set up e-billing with your telecomm and utility vendors so that you receive invoices electronically instead of by mail.

    If you haven't yet engaged your business partners in this dialogue, you would be surprised how eager your business partners will be to do this. 

    By implementing these simple steps in our own company, our consumption of paper has declined by more than 50% in the past two years and continues to decline.  Employees have come to regard paper documents as obstacles to productivity, and, without being prompted, have increased their use ofu our high-speed scanners to convert paper documents to electronic ones and circulate them electronically, rather than printing and distributing multiple copies.  So rather than being an "eco goal" forced upon everyone, paperlessness is viewed as a way to increase efficiency and productivity.  Our reduction in paper volume is merely a happy byproduct.

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    Michael Tardif Assoc. AIA, CSI, Hon. SDA, LEED AP
    Director, Integrated Project Delivery Systems
    Grunley Construction Company, Inc.
    Rockville MD
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    23.03.15 CxD - Public Trust


  • 5.  RE:Towards a Paperless Office

    Posted 11-18-2010 07:04 AM
    After we began using a web-based system to track design projects, I worked with our submittals person to develop a tracker for submittals -- which certainly accounts for a lot of paper.  We were able to develop an on-line spreadsheet by which anyone in the submittal chain could work with the documents without the need for a hardcopy.  The "paperless" part is because we scan submittals that come into the office and attach to the appropriate item on the spreadsheet -- then they are available for viewing, download, so forth.  It's not currently working as a paperless system, but it very easily could if we pushed it.  I checked Google Apps for business and believe this may be possible with that application, but it requires more research.

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    Andrew Craven Assoc. AIA
    Intern
    HBA Architecture & Interior Design, Inc.
    Virginia Beach VA
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    23.03.15 CxD - Public Trust