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How you can help improve the way building information is shared

PDFs are the de facto format for digital construction documentation. Yet, there is no set standard for how to produce PDFs for a project, writes Skanska's Kyle Hughes.

January 07, 2015 |
Constructive Thinking Blog

PDFs are the de facto format for digital construction documentation. Yet, there is no set standard for how to produce PDFs for a project. This is an industrywide problem. Every firm and every team are creating their own process, and that is creating big inefficiencies for both construction and building operation. Now, one group is trying to bring the industry together to improve the outcome and efficiency for all.

At Skanska USA, we spearheaded the creation of the Construction PDF Coalition—made up of both designers and constructors—in order to address this issue head on, with the multidisciplinary approach necessary for the task. The coalition’s goal is to create a set of defining standards for documents in order to better leverage digital information being shared among designers, constructors, and all project team members.

Some easy PDF adjustments can pay big dividends. For instance, take hatching (the pattern or shading used to indicate materials on drawing cross-sections). If a designer creates very detailed PDFs in huge file sizes, it’s often challenging for the contractor to access those documents on mobile devices in the field. Adjusting the hatching in a standardized way would help alleviate this issue.

Another key standard: By being consistent with how drawings and other documents are organized and identified, both job site operations and building maintenance by the owner will be improved through easier data identification.

Gateway to 3-D

This movement aims beyond more efficient job site workflows and reduced environmental impacts by encouraging more paperless jobsites, however. Another major improvement made possible through standardized PDFs is accelerating our industry’s ability to work in the 3-D realm—a technological advancement that is already well under way.

By taking the PDF document—which has been and continues to be a raw, unrefined resource—and providing industry guidelines for usage, the standards will allow AEC teams to more efficiently consume 3D data through the PDF. (Today, 3D models are typically viewed through such software as Navisworks or Revit, both of which require significant computing resources not always available to the workforce.) The coalition is also actively collaborating with Autodesk to further enhance what native content carries over to the PDF.

Call to action

Ultimately, the coalition seeks to reduce the amount of time project teams spend digesting information. Rather, they can better use that time to focus attention on client’s needs and the end product. All of this will increase the baseline abilities of the AEC industry while pushing jobsite sustainability further.

Here’s where you come in. So far, these guidelines have gone through eight iterations as we incorporate feedback from architects, engineers, designers, constructors, and owners. We still want to hear from you! Please consider filling out this survey to share your thoughts on PDF construction documents. We’ll use your feedback to continue our work in building a better PDF.

About the author

Kyle Hughes is a Senior Project Engineer at Skanska USA Building.

Constructive Thinking Blog | Skanska

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development networks in the country, serving a broad range of industries including healthcare, education, sports, data centers, government, aviation, transportation, power, energy, water/wastewater and commercial. Skanska USA is committed to a set of core values which they call the Five Zeros: zero loss making projects, zero environmental incidents, zero accidents, zero ethical breaches and zero defects. Constructive Thinking is Skanska USA’s blog, where team members share their experiences and viewpoints on Skanska’s core values and explore trends in U.S. construction, development and infrastructure.

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