The second was a binder system modeled after the system that I observed a Japanese client using. They retrieved items all the time with no bother at all. I adapted their system of binders to work for an architect’s needs. We quickly found that more than one binder would be needed per project - three normally. Design, Project, and Construction. We used a custom-designed set of tabs for each binder, the same every time.
The Design Binder was used for all the design phases with code research, estimates, schedules, materials research and so on. As it filled up we started the Project Binder and moved contract-type documents with Owner and Consultants into it, added Bidding Phase documents.
With the Construction Phase we started the third binder for Field Reports, Pay Requests, inspections, Test Reports (soil and concrete), Submittal Log, Punch List and Closeout Documentation. The project manager owned the binders, but didn't necessarily do the filing, so you knew where the binder for a project was located. You also knew where to find anything because the same tab system was used on every project.
The third filing system is the one we use now. It is as paperless as we can make it. See description of the paper part. The electronic part of our filing system relies on the binder system for its organization scheme. The tabs have become sub-folders on the server, where every project’s records reside as original native format files like Word, Excel, MS Project, Dwg, etc. There are also many, many PDFs from all the paper documents that we scan or document attachments that have arrived by email. Here is what our Project Folder Template looks like.
- PROJECTS - this is the top level folder containing all projects (see note 1.)
- Master Project Folder Template - once copied, this folder is renamed with the Project ID (see note 2.)
- AgendaMinutesNotes - all meeting-related information
- Backstage - proposals, contracts, additional fee quotes, mostly money and legal stuff
- Code - building code, zoning, ADA, and any special regs that must be followed
- >>Permit Applications - copies of actual application submittals go here
- Docs - the general location for files. We start with these four sub folders but others are added as needed. “Test Reorts” would be an example of an often-added sub folder. We try to walk the line between number of clicks needed to access a file and the visual overload that hides it from you.
- >>Budget - all documentation of costs, both budgeted and estimated
- >>Owner - all correspondence with the client except backstage stuff
- >>Schedule - all documentation of deadlines, milestones, and schedules by Owner, Architect or Constructor
- >>Specs - all spec research and the specs themselves including any addenda that are prepared
- DWGs - all drawing files including PDFs that are created. Many ad-hoc sub folders are usually added to store “milestone” drawings like Schematic Design, or Final Bid Set.
- Field Reports - the project master Field Report and the PDFs of each version that is created from it.
- Pix - every picture that is taken goes here in many sub folders with names that describe the contents, like “West Side of Existing Building”
- Submittals - the Excel submittal log as well as sub folders for each digital submittal and its revisions
- zArchive - “zArchive” is a folder name we use to get other folders out of the way
- >>Basecamp - this is where we put any “exports” of Basecamp data
- >>Constructor - once a general contractor or construction manager is on board, this folder is usually “promoted” a level. It holds everything having to do with construction correspondence
- >>Consultants - many times consultant correspondence is limited; but, if it needs collecting, this folder is “promoted” a level.
The advantage of this system is that no special knowledge is needed to find any project-related file. Usually, you can do it in seconds. And you can email a copy while you are at it. Besides sorting by name or date, you can do a search for whatever you need. And, since we use Dropbox as our file server, you can access all of this data on your smart phone or tablet wherever you have cellular data, which is just about anywhere. I haven’t taken a briefcase, file folder or roll of drawings onto a job site since owning a tablet.
Note 1.) All the projects underway are filed under PROJECTS. Every year or so we relocate closed projects to a 'zArchive' folder under PROJECTS. That way every project is handy, easy to find, but not cluttering up access to the work-in-progress.
Note 2.) Our project-naming system is unlike any I have seen elsewhere. We use 3-4 letters to designate the client’s name, which is separated with a dash from another 3-4 letter ID representing the project name. The client name is abbreviated like a corporation’s stock ID, e.g. APPL for Apple, Inc. The project ID often stands for the initial letters of the actual project name, e.g. FAX for Fine Arts eXpansion.