The documents needed to complete an architectural project are numerous: contracts, schematic drawing sets, design development drawing sets, contract document sets, various plans and specifications, change orders, project submittals, close-out files with as-builts, submittals, warranties, and the architect’s supplemental instructions, just to name a few.
An architect can realistically become buried in their own documents in just a day. After a few projects it quickly becomes apparent the need for a method of organizing these files. Furthermore, after hundreds of projects one ends up having a storage room that they “just don’t go in” due to the overwhelming amount of materials to sift through. Presumably, all of these documents and materials were useful at some point.
When a project is completed the files are generally not sorted through to determine which ones are worthy of storage for future reference. Ergo, every file related to the project is stored in both a digital and physical copy.
One cannot discuss file management without addressing the notion of the ‘paperless office’, where all project files are contained on servers, and the work never leaves the computer; where digital storage mirrors the once physical storage.
Our office is far from paperless. For most of us the projects we design move from the thoughts in our mind, through a pen or pencil, onto pieces of paper, note card, napkin, or whatever paper is accessible. Occasionally we will still submit hand drawings for submittals, but for the most part our projects are synthesized with a combination of pen and mouse, and the final documents are completed on a computer.
Here at our office we just recently reached a super saturation of physical files and materials. It has given us a chance to determine what we need to keep and what we do not. Some of these decisions are based on legal requirement whereas some are filtered through a lens of future usefulness.
So the question remains, what to do with all these files, files, files? We have chosen, for now, to organize them – to place them and store them so they are once again useful. But the question of the future remains; philosophically we put all future files into a digital storage system, such as packaged PDFs, and give documents we no longer need to the client to store as they desire.
We are reminded though, in regards to storing files digitally, of the curious question, how do you read files when the technology has progressed far beyond the way it was saved? We just threw away a box of 1.44MB floppy disks because we simply had no way to read them. Assuming we do not forget how to read, we can always review our paper drawings. That is, if we can find them.
We’ll keep trying. Thanks for reading.