An interesting conversation occurred at our semiannual senior staff meeting this past November relative to budgeting money to continuously upgrade our computer technology. What came out of this meeting was the challenge to identify how do we maximize the application of computer technology and not simply keep abreast of hardware and software? From this request, to look beyond having the latest in computers, we were given the challenge to develop a list of business methods where we would capitalize on the application of this technology.

Using Technology Wisely

In taking on this challenge, the question first has to be asked, “Why do you want to apply technology in this manner?” For the building industry, and in the past decade, computer technology has clearly been integrated into how business is being done. What needs to be assessed now is “how to raise the bar” relative to application of this technology.

In the past, record drawings documented the as-built conditions. Existing conditions have also been recorded through video taping of the installation and also through digital photographs. In past “Single-Source Solutions” columns, the merits of photography have been addressed and have led us recently to inventory an entire building’s infrastructure relative to mechanical distribution within walls and above ceilings.

Responding to a corporate office challenge, I thought I would share with you how we inventoried the “behind-the-walls,” as-built conditions of a building renovation through digital photographs.

Why did we want to apply digital photography in this manner? There are several reasons but I’ll stop at three: to enhance record drawings with the addition of photos; to maintain the project website with progress photographs; and subtle marketing efforts. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so these photographs will someday enhance any future infrastructure.

Documenting Progress

The first reason for capturing building renovation conditions via computer-generated pictures was to enhance record drawings. What you don’t see on CAD documents is the as-built installation. Together, future reference to the building infrastructure can be easily brought up on a person’s computer monitor.

In documenting the progress of the installation and simultaneously record the as-built condition, we used many of these photographs on a job-specific website that we shared with the customer and the design-build contracting partners. We got great feedback from many of the customer’s board members who could check out the project at their convenience and on their own computer.

The third reason for digital photographs was that this particular project, when finished, left the customer with a building looking no different than what it looked like prior to the infrastructure job.

For the most part, all the work was done behind the walls, above the ceiling, and in crawl spaces and equipment rooms. The problem we anticipated and shared with the owner’s project manager, at the start of the job, was that most of the people familiar with this building would not be familiar with the magnitude of infrastructure and renovation work that would be completed in the coming months.

As a result, when these individuals returned to the place approximately five months later, the obvious question was asked and echoed on several occasions, “So, what did we spend two million dollars on?” To answer their questions, a PowerPoint slide show was presented to the customer’s board using a combination of before, during, and after photographs to clearly show what they paid for. The results and feedback from the board was unanimous — “money well spent.”

Going back to the challenge, “How do we maximize the application of computer technology,” this was a simple answer. In the coming months, I will share with you more on maximizing computer technology. In the meantime, refer to this month’s “Hvacr Designer Tips” for a useful checklist when maintaining a digital photograph job file. ES