Today is International Archives Day. It commemorates the day the International Council on Archives (ICA) was established in Paris during a three-day meeting of archivists from June 9 to 11, 1948. Its purpose was to strengthen relations among archivists of all nations, to promote the use of records, and to advance the documentation of human experience.

As architects, we can all agree that record keeping is crucial on our projects as it is common for changes to be made during construction due to circumstances that emerge on site. If a picture can speak a thousand words, as-built drawings can speak a thousand construction processes. With the hundreds and thousands of steps and documents needed to complete just one project, documentation such as as-builts remain an essential process, especially to maintain a project’s lifecycle after construction has ended.

As a result, it is common for the client to require that drawings are prepared to reflect what has actually been built. As-builts drawings allow us to compare and contrast between the designed versus final specifications and provide a detailed blueprint of the building and the land around it as actually constructed in the end. They reflect all changes made in the specifications and working drawings during the construction process, and show the exact dimensions, geometry and location of all elements of the work completed under the contract.

This information can also be analysed to give prior warning of any potential problems particularly in relation to ground conditions. With a full record of changes, facility teams can meet issues faster and owners can save money down the road due to available information on exactly what has been built and do not have to invest heavily in learning about existing conditions

These extensive records on properties are ideally maintained by Building Control so that future owners can plan further works with confidence. This also means that prospective purchasers can ensure that work carried out in the past has been inspected and approved. The process of obtaining these records is however called into question as it is a tedious, arduous process and often times it means long hours buried in heaps of paperwork. Records management is an often overlooked and underrated procedure, to say the least. (what exactly has been your experience?)

While a strong, well-thought-out records management process can make organizations efficient and effective, bad records management can lead to messy and incomprehensible workspaces, irritable employees and clients, and the loss of information. Poor records management can cripple a company—halting efficiency, sucking up precious time, and causing unnecessary stress.

If the goal is to improve record keeping, then we must pinpoint the short falls. In the long run, it comes down to inadequate documentation and missing information as the common reason why projects get delayed or halted. Too many records exhibit missing information and errors, at least partially due to a lack of commitment on the responsible team’s part. Common complaints I’ve encountered include;

  • Often lack the right kind of documentation
  • Failure to back up statements with photographic evidence or drawings
  • Don’t capture data at a deep enough level
  • Don’t effectively provide for later updates and additional documentation
  • Frequently are disorganized, making it nearly impossible to sort through the information

What is your experience with looking for records at Building Control?

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