The building blocks of a professional construction field report
Architects visit job sites regularly, in order to take note of the status and progress of a construction project. Afterwards they send out their observations. Why? There are often many people and companies involved in a construction project, so there is a constant risk of misunderstandings, mistakes and delays. Field reports (also called construction site reports, observation reports, progress reports, or construction activity reports) aim to reduce these, by documenting and distributing observations made during regular visits.
While an email with observations could suffice, the industry standard is a Field Report. And by preference a well structured field report following a pattern. Why is it important to send professional and well structured field reports to the project team? Well, if you send out poorly structured reports or a bunch of emails, missing crucial information, with unclear pictures or without any clear overview, then there is plenty of scope for misunderstandings, or even worse – no one will read your field reports. If people (like contractors or construction companies) don’t read your reports or only half read them, they will for sure not act upon the remarks you point out in the report. At the very least, inadequately written reports generate extra questions, loads of emailing back and forth and frustration throughout the whole team. This is not what you want!
Most of the time, projects fail because of bad communication. Structured, well organized and clear field reports are key to good communication and collaboration. Good communication and collaboration reduce risk and time spent on a project, increasing the project’s profitability.
Although while building ArchiSnapper and working with lots of architects worldwide on how they manage field reports we have seen very different templates and approaches for making field reports, professional field reports are always made up of more or less the same components. This is of course not rocket science, but it is none the less useful for architects looking to improve the content and structure of their field reports, or just wondering what a typical architect would put in their field report. That’s why we want to share with you below the most common building blocks we have seen in field reports:
In order to be able to identify a report (now and later), a unique ID is required. Typically this report ID is a combination of the Project ID and sequence number for the report for that project, e.g. Project XYZ-5. This means: “field report number 5 for project XYZ”. The unique report number is also easy to reference in subsequent correspondence “As you can read in report XYZ-5, we have stated that …”.
Customer name and address, a brief project description and the project ID. If someone gets your report, they’ll want to know immediately which project it is about, without having to figure it out. Often the report will also be sent to the customer, and it shows courtesy and respect by putting their name and project description clearly at the beginning of the report.
Date and time
This is obvious.
A high level description of the status of the project, and/or the weather conditions during the visit, or other general impressions. Many architects add a picture to this status, to give the reader a global view on what the job site looks like at this stage of the project.
A list of the persons present on the site at the time of the visit. Ideally, you show this in a table where all involved persons are listed, together with their name, role and contact details and an indication of who was present. This way, everyone can always easily find the complete list of involved people and companies in each of your reports.
A list of the persons who have received a copy of the report, typically by email. Tip: Both people present and the distribution list can be easily merged into one table. See the example below, where the “present“ column states who was on site and the “sent“ column states who received the report.
Indications on the status, progress and deficiencies of the work
This is the core of the report. Often this is a whole set of observations classified into different categories. For example:
– observation 1
– observation 2
– observation 1
– observation 2
– observation 3
These observations represent the status of the project as a whole and of the different ongoing tasks. A percentage (%) indicating work progress and an estimation of the remaining time to finish can be useful information for your readers.
Observations should also include deficiencies or non-conforming work. Write a very clear description of what is wrong, why it is wrong, and what should be the next steps to solve it. Also indicate who is responsible for this remark. If no one is made responsible, remarks often don’t get solved.
TIP: Take pictures to illustrate or clarify your observations. Pictures say more than a 1000 words. Pictures also increase the readability of your report. No one reads a report consisting of plain text, but you can be sure that people who receive your report and scan it quickly will take a look at the pictures and drawings in your report first. That’s because pictures are so easy to “read”. Avoid writing pages of text and use pictures and sketches or drawings to convey the message to your readers.
TIP: Don’t forget to number your observations. This makes it easy to refer to remarks later on, and avoids confusion and misunderstanding. We have seen that many architects use the “report number” followed by the “observation number”. e.g. 3-7 means: observation seven from the third report.
Often the date and time of the next meeting, site visit or other practical information is shared in the field report.
This is important! Protect yourself from possible lawsuits. Including some standard boilerplate language in each report might save you lots of trouble, time and money sooner or later. If you don’t know where to start, here is a standard text that you could use:
Disclaimer: Inspections performed by the Architect/CM under this contract have been conducted under the limited conditions as described by site observations in the AIA Documents A201, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, as referenced in the Owner-Architect Agreement.
Information contained in this Field Observation Report by firm name has been prepared to the best of our knowledge according to observable conditions at the site. This information will be approved record unless written notice to the contrary is received within seven (7) calendar days of the issue date of this document. Written corrections shall be reported to observer at firm name. Oral rebuttals will not be accepted.
Finally, let’s also not forget to add some corporate branding such as your company name, logo, address and your contact details. However, don’t overdo your branding. Remember, the main goal is a simple, clean and structured field report. Adding too many special effects and gimmicks will only make your field report less easy to understand and draw attention away from the core message.
Interested in an easy app to make your field reports?
We can hear you thinking “Do I have to do all of this for every field report, for each of my projects? So much information, so many tables, reference numbers, pictures, notes and things to take into account! It would take me hours of administration every week!”
Well, you might want to try out our Field Report App – ArchiSnapper. It contains these key components of a professional field report. All the information is gathered directly on the construction site, and when you get home or at the office, you simply sync via Wifi and your report is ready to be sent out as a PDF file. Want to check it out? Download a sample field report here! Or would you like to start creating field reports using this professional and time saving piece of software right away? Let’s get you started!