How the PDF will accelerate the paperless jobsite movement

As a Senior Project Engineer at Skanska, not only do I manage information related to my projects, I also share experiences and help project teams develop new digital processes to streamline and improve communication. We are constantly running towards the goal of working smarter, faster and more efficiently, and like many other general contractors nationwide, we are working towards going paperless. To do that, we are using PDFs and tablets more and more.

The PDF has become the way we access and edit information, create RFIs and submittals, and even create and distribute punch lists. PDFs are enabling us to save time by finding and documenting information more quickly, while simultaneously helping to improve overall project communication by eliminating reliance on outdated drawing sets and allowing us to maintain a single, digital, source of truth.

As many general contractors know, however, the current PDF experience differs from project to project simply because design firms and their consultants do not generate PDF documents in the same way or with the same tools.

Some PDFs come to contractors after having been directly converted from CAD applications with bookmarks, hyperlinks, searchable text and pre-existing viewports. Others are scanned from paper with no metadata transferred from the original CAD application. The difference in file quality and fidelity results in process inefficiencies and wasted time, primarily because there are no industry guidelines for PDF creation for construction.

That will soon change.

group using ipad

With support from Bluebeam Software, developers of PDF markup and collaboration solutions for the AEC industry, Skanska has formed a coalition of general contractors throughout the country around the banner of “All PDFs Created Equal Campaign.”

On August 1, in its first meeting, coalition members Balfour Beatty Construction, BNBuilders, DPR Construction, Hoffman Construction Company, McCarthy Building Companies, Mortenson Construction, Stiles Corporation and Turner Construction Company met in Los Angeles to discuss the first phase of this project: determining the PDF qualities that GCs need so that we can more efficiently communicate and collaborate on digital documents. From drawing size to file size, vector content to layer density and more, we outlined and explained why certain aspects of PDF file creation are crucial for effective use in the field.

Once the contractor-led PDF coalition develops guidelines, the next phase is to reach out to architects and designers for peer review. Because construction documents are initially created by the owner and the design team, we need the architects’ input to define a realistic standard that will ultimately accelerate the paperless jobsite movement.

Additionally, we plan to engage municipalities and other third parties, such as the U. S. Green Building Council and the American Institute of Architects to ask them to incorporate these standards into their guidelines.

By combining everyone’s expertise and spheres of influence, we can define a PDF creation standard that does not solely benefit contractors, but benefits everyone on a project team – architects, designers, consultants, engineers and most importantly, the owners and communities we serve.

Our work is now beginning. Already, we’ve learned just how much we are all pushing the industry forward, making positive changes. It’s an exciting process, and we are all looking forward to how we can work together to truly leverage the power of today’s technologies and usher in the next phase of AEC industry innovation.

The possibilities go far beyond changing the role of Project Engineers, but no doubt it’s a simple, yet crucial place to start.

To view a recent webinar on maximizing the benefits of field management and iPads in construction, click here.


Kyle Hughes

Kyle Hughes

Project Engineer, Skanska USA

More Posts - Website

Share this postShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone
{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Joel Salus September 29, 2013, 8:19 am

    Thank you, Kyle, for providing insight into the project that’s underway. I’ve just put up a post on my blog (which is for reprographers and others involved in the reprographics industry) about your article. Best of luck with your project!


Leave a Comment