Electronic plan review: Coming soon to a city near you?

With all the effort AEC professionals put into leveraging technology to communicate digitally on projects, it is a shame that there is often one major road block that becomes the paper in their otherwise “paperless” project: the local city planning and permitting department. 

November 25, 2013 |
Sasha Reed

With all the effort architects, general contractors, engineers, consultants, and specialty contractors put into leveraging technology to communicate digitally on projects, it is a shame that there is often one major road block that becomes the paper in their otherwise “paperless” project: the local city planning and permitting department. 

With strict protocols and slow approval processes, many local cities and municipalities are struggling to make the migration to the digital age. And progressive project teams across the country are feeling the whiplash from having to put on the brakes and revert back to paper during this process.  

One large civil engineering firm recently told me that for all of the progress they’ve made to facilitate a paperless project, the progress stops at the city interaction. And until we get our cities and municipalities on board with electronic submittal, review and permitting processes, we will continue to see halted progress.  

Over the past four years, I’ve seen the struggle cities face up close and personal. From depleted budgets to lack of IT infrastructure to outdated laws, these are the challenges which hold them back from making any real progress. 

However, there are some municipalities which have made this migration a priority. They may be in the minority, but they are growing. From Washington to North Carolina to cities as small as Plano, Texas, to as large as Los Angeles County, many of them now offer e-permitting and submission of PDF plans for review.  

With collaboration technology bridging the gap between project team members, some are navigating away from traditionally paper-based reviews to online, collaborative review sessions. The cost savings being realized is not only from increases in productivity as a result of faster review cycles, but also from eliminating unexpected setbacks. For example, one city cited having as many as one workman’s comp claim per project due to the weight of the drawings sets being handled by reviewers! That has been drastically reduced simply by allowing clients to submit PDF drawing sets for review.  

Given that all projects must go through a permitting process, I wonder how this affects you and your projects. How do you work with your city? Are you able to submit digital plans for review? If not, do you wish you could?

Editor's Note: This is sponsored content. All text and images were supplied by the sponsor company.  

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software
Vice President of Strategic Development

As Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam Software, Sasha Reed collaborates with leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction industry to guide Bluebeam’s technology, partnerships and long-term goals. She joined Bluebeam in 2007 and co-created the Concierge Approach, a distinctly branded process of customer engagement, product feedback and solution delivery to which much of Bluebeam’s success is attributed, and which today is replicated at every organizational level.

Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator,” creating platforms for exchanges necessary to digitally advance the industry, including the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog, which she authors and manages. She’s been a featured presenter at numerous national and international conferences, including the 2014 Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Federal Project Delivery Symposium and NTI Danish BIM Conference. Sasha also co-chairs the Construction PDF Coalition, a grassroots effort to provide a common industry framework from which to create and maintain construction PDF documents, serves on the City College of San Francisco BIM Industry Council, and is Advisor to the Board of Direction for the National Institute of Building Sciences BuildingSMART Alliance.

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