Document Control: How We Manage This Key Aspect of Every Project

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a complete and coordinated construction plan set worth?

Arguably, the most critical components to any project are the construction documents.  Plans, specifications, engineered calculations, supplemental instructions, requests for information, narratives, addendums, sketches; the list goes on.  These documents are used by thousands of people on each project; some who never step foot on site, but have a direct impact on the project’s success or failure.  Whether it’s the framing crew laying out walls, the project superintendent coordinating overhead utilities, the delegated engineer designing the roof trusses, the window manufacturer providing design calculations to meet wind load requirements, or the countertop contractor providing samples for submittal review, each of them relies on the accuracy of the construction documents to contribute their component of the project. 

With advancements in technology and speed of communication, updating construction documents takes a matter of minutes, not hours or days like it used to.  This means designers can make multiple modifications several times a day to a single document.  While this makes updating documents much more efficient, it creates a whole new set of challenges in document control.

Design teams dedicate themselves every day to producing construction documents.  As fast as the team can work, they are receiving feedback and changes from all different parties, including but not limited to owners, operators, investors, state and local authorities, contractors, vendors, and manufacturers.  Keeping up with all of this information is a daunting task.  To make things more difficult, most design teams work remotely of other disciplines, holding calls and video conferences to coordinate their designs.  In our post-COVID digital world, in person meetings occur a lot less, leaving software and the internet as our primary conduit for document control.  But this is where human error, misplaced trust, and misunderstanding can occur.  And when document control procedures are not followed, everything can go wrong quickly. 

Understanding the impact to a project when document control fails is the strongest incentive to ensuring document control procedures are followed.  What happens when document control fails?  Chaos ensues.  Drawing revisions and RFI responses are missed. Work gets put in place incorrectly which means it has to be removed or corrected.  The sequence of the work is interrupted.  Additional and unexpected costs are incurred.  The construction schedule is delayed.  Project team members become demotivated and frustrated.  So how can we prevent this from happening?  How does one keep all of this information organized and up to date? 

At The Douglas Company, it takes our dedicated professionals who excel at “attention to detail” (one of our core values) and a commitment to excellence to ensure all of the correct and current information is published.  The Douglas Company has over 15 written processes that include document control measures.  It takes time and focused effort. And what does this focused effort look like? Here’s a quick look into just a few of the ways we control our documents as a General Contractor.

On the preconstruction side, our team reviews all documents and includes a detailed documents list with each budget or estimate proposal.  This provides our clients with a clear understanding of what documents were received and included in our pricing.  At contracting, a finalized documents list is updated and included; often with clarifications, exclusions, and preconstruction RFIs that have been processed. 

At turnover from preconstruction to operations, a meeting which includes a thorough review of the contract documents is held.  Once in operations, we use Procore, our construction management software, as our primary tool to ensure document control success. While many General Contractors also utilize Procore, we acknowledge that the software is only as good as those who operate it and take additional measures to assist in document control.  Continuous communication, weekly meetings, updated logs, and a constant vigilance of ensuring the current and accurate documents are published for all parties’ use is the true key to success. 

The success or failure of a construction project is significantly impacted by its documents and the ability of the General Contractor to build from those documents.  Our project teams follow a number of processes to ensure that document control is maintained from preconstruction through final turnover.   At The Douglas Company, we understand that all of the information, in all of its forms, and through all of the iterations, result in our ultimate goal; the construction of our Client’s vision. 


Kevin Green
Chief Estimator
The Douglas Company

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