The paperless office debate: A gladiator challenge awaits you

February 06, 2013 |
Sasha Reed

One of the email responses I received to my first blog post was from an engineer who offered his opinion on the concept of the paperless office or in construction terms, the paperless jobsite. Apparently I am not the only one who cringes every time I hear this term thrown around in the AEC world.  Although I think we may be on different sides of the spectrum in this case, I appreciate his perspective. His view is that the paperless office is a myth and the less-paper office should be our goal.

One of the examples he offered to support his opinion was the workflow of design review. He stated that viewing full-scale paper drawings will always result in greater accuracy than reviewing drawings electronically. To which I couldn’t help but suggest a gladiator like “review-off,” pitting two reviewers against each other. Can’t you just picture it; one reviewer with a set of full-scale paper drawings, pen, and architectural ruler and the other reviewer with a 24-inch monitor, keyboard, mouse, and an electronic markup tool (preferably Bluebeam Revu; sorry, I gotta give the contender a fighting chance). Each would review feverishly, marking up, tracking issues, trying not to miss a single detail. Why do I hear the main theme for the Gladiator playing in my head right now?

To counter, I offered up the idea that perhaps this is more an issue of preference than anything else. The reason I say this is because over the last five years I have spoken with engineers and architects who’ve become extremely comfortable with both methods, and for different reasons.

I’ve seen reviewers who can quickly detect an issue within a design just by seeing the drawing laid out on a table, reviewing the design in context of the whole. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve met reviewers who demonstrate how leveraging technology has allowed them to more easily track issues with greater efficiency and accuracy, eliminating a lot of the redundancy in the review process.

There are times when a head-to-head comparison can settle a debate, but in this arena I think the results can speak for themselves. So let me ask you, what results can you share for either side of the debate? Have you seen results swaying you to prefer and mandate one method over the other? Is this one AEC workflow where we can truly be, dare I say, paperless? 

Excuse me as I raise my shield and await the spirited debate to ensue!  There it is again, the main theme from the Gladiator soundtrack.

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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