Construction Field Reports: the Ultimate Guide
As an architect, you know how important it is to draft and share field reports.
A clear and accurate field report is crucial to avoid costly misunderstandings, mistakes, discussions, and even lawsuits.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the why and the how of a professional field report.
Content of this article
- What is a construction field report
- The importance of field reports
- Best practices for creating field reports
- The building blocks of a professional construction field report
- How to efficiently prepare field reports: with your phone or tablet and an app
- The benefits of digital field reports
- The #1 app for field reports
Field reports – also called site reports, inspection reports, construction field reports, site progress reports, or site visit reports – are drafted during regular site inspections and site meetings.
Field reports are used to document and share open items, items that were discussed, and the planning of the project. All tasks, actions, and deadlines are documented.
The field report is typically drafted by the architect. After the site inspection or meeting, it is completed and distributed to all parties involved.
In this way, all parties involved know exactly what is expected of them and by when.
Field reports usually answer questions such as:
- Are the works being carried out correctly and according to plan?
- Are adjustments or improvements required?
- What agreements have been made? Any changes and additional works needed?
For small and simple projects, an email could suffice to document this.
But since it’s so easy to lose the overview when working with emails, the standard in the construction sector is a detailed field report, usually in PDF format.
It goes without saying that all parties involved prefer a clear, well-arranged, and structured construction field report.
1. Avoid problems from escalating
Visiting your construction projects at regular intervals and documenting all relevant matters and required adjustments will help you detect irregularities early in the construction process.
Don’t let small errors escalate into big problems.
The earlier mistakes are discovered, the easier and cheaper it is to correct them.
It is therefore crucial not to wait until the end of the construction process with inspections and field reports. Because by then, it is often too late to make the required adjustments.
Quality control is something you should build in from day 1, not something you can add at the very end.
2. Avoid misunderstandings through good communication
Many parties are involved in a construction project. The more parties, the higher the risk of misunderstandings or miscommunication. And, as a result, costly errors and frustrating delays.
Regular site visits and clear field reports that clearly state who should do what and which adjustments are needed are key to a successful project. They reduce the chance of errors and delays, increasing the profitability of the project.
3. Field reports are crucial in discussions or lawsuits
Document all comments, problems, and agreements made in field reports. Share the field reports with all parties involved.
Should it go wrong?
Then field reports form a powerful element in discussions, or – if it really escalates – an important legal piece of evidence.
During a site inspection, the client, the architect and the contractor agree to change the originally chosen color of the aluminum windows. Black was too black anyway. That is why they chose grey.
Afterwards, it turned out that the client did not agree, and he still wanted the original, black windows. However, the contractor had already ordered the grey windows. A discussion started: “What color was agreed on?”.
Fortunately, the architect had noted this in the field report and then distributed it to all parties, including the client, to which there was never a response. A relief for the contractor.
A field report with clearly described agreements, things to be done, and clear photos of pending items can help you enormously in the event of disagreements. If everything is well documented, there is no discussion and you avoid expensive and unproductive discussions and procedures.
Tip: you could add a kind of disclaimer at the bottom of the field report, such as “Please make any comments regarding this report within 7 working days. If no comments within 7 working days, this will be considered approved.”
1. Bring structure
Clearly structured texts are processed much easier and faster than chaotic, unstructured texts.
When information follows a predictable pattern, we find it more easily and are more likely to act on it.
Therefore, try to be consistent when structuring your reports with titles, paragraphs, and other content elements. This makes it easier for the parties involved to process your reports.
Avoid long pieces of text. Nobody reads long stretches of text, trust me. If you really must, try to divide the text into paragraphs and add meaningful titles. That increases readability.
Write clear and understandable language. Field reports are no comic books, but they are not legal texts either. Try to write clear and complete sentences that everyone can understand. Phrase it as you would explain it to someone who knows nothing about the project, such as a sibling, or a friend.
2. Give items a status and unique number
Give a status to the items in your field reports, eg OK or NOT OK. Track the progress of the items, and keep the status up to date.
Also, give each item a unique number and make sure that this number never changes so that it can be referenced in future discussions.
Many architects number their items by first taking the serial number of the report in which this item first appeared, followed by a serial number of the item within that report.
An example: item 3.2 is the 2nd item of report 3. If item 3.2 still occurs in report 10, then we know that the item is already there since report number 3. If you use a field report app the items in your field reports are automatically numbered this way.
3. Use photos and sketches
Photos are processed much more easily by our brain compared to text.
Photos show the problem at a glance. The information will get processed faster and clearer than a piece of text, so the parties involved will act on it faster.
So try to use photos instead of writing text, and add annotations, such as a clear arrow or circle.
For example, the image below clearly shows the contractor involved what needs to be done. The contractor should not read a long text, and thus should not make any effort to understand what is expected of him.
This is a relief for many contractors, compared to unstructured phone calls and long pieces of text that they have to struggle through and that are never as unambiguous as the example below. Using photos instead of text significantly reduces the chance of misunderstandings and mistakes.
4. Show the location of items on a floor plan
Avoid discussions and expensive mistakes by making it clear on a plan where a problem is located.
By placing location pointers on a plan you no longer have to describe with text where the problem is located. With one look at the plan, the contractors know where to start.
By locating all items on a plan, you can then forward the complete plan with all items on it:
In some cases, it can also be useful to clarify additional matters by means of annotations or sketches on a plan. Place an arrow or circle, or make a sketch. In this way, you reduce the chance of errors due to misinterpretation of your comments.
5. Assign items
Assign the items in the report to one of the different parties involved.
When you do this, it is clear to all everyone who should perform this task or solve the problem, so there are no discussions afterward.
If you use structured software for construction field reports and site management, you can also send each contractor only their assigned items, so that they do not have to search for them among all the other items in the report.
6. Add other details to make items even more unambiguous
For each comment, there are details you can add to make the items even more accurate. For example, you can add a deadline, an extra descriptive text about what the problem is or what the actions to take are, or “tag” your comment as urgent.
Be consistent and add relevant information to each item. If your communication is clear and all parties know exactly what is expected of them, there will be less misunderstandings, and the project will close out faster.
7. Use a checklist
For some activities, the use of a predefined checklist template on site is useful. Especially if you have to review a predefined (check)list of things during a site visit. Just think of a start-up meeting, a punch list, or a safety or quality inspection.
8. Start from the previous field report
The purpose of a field report is to have an up-to-date overview of the progress of the works and the pending items.
Most architects, therefore, start from the previous report when creating a new one. Resolved items and items that are no longer relevant can be removed. Items that are still actual can be updated. And new items can be added.
This means that you do not have to start from scratch with every new field report.
A frequently used method when cloning a previous field report is that only the open items (with status NOT OK) are copied into the new field report. See an example below:
- Report 1: item 1.1 is added to the report, with the status NOT OK.
- Report 2: item 1.1 has been solved and is indicated as such in report 2, for example with status OK.
- Report 3: item 1.1 is no longer appearing in this report since it was already solved in the previous report.
With professional field report software, you can create a new report starting from the previous report with one click.
9. Send the field report immediately after your site visit
Prepare and distribute your field report to all parties involved as soon as possible after your site visit. It is important that the different contractors involved quickly get an up-to-date overview of the open items so they can take the necessary actions.
If the field report is not emailed to all parties until a few days later, some items or comments may no longer be relevant. This can cause confusion and will reduce the credibility of the field report, thereby also giving less importance to the other items in the report.
Most architects send the complete field report, with all items for all parties involved. In addition to the full field report, some architects also send a filtered report per assigned contractor. Doing so, each contractor has a list with only their assigned items and therefore does not have to search in the full field report for the information that is relevant to them.
When developing ArchiSnapper, we talked to lots of architects about how they manage field reports.
It won’t come as a surprise when I say that we’ve seen many different approaches and templates.
However, we also see the same elements coming back in almost all field reports. And those elements we are sharing here with you.
Here’s a handy overview of the most important building blocks of a professional field report:
- General project and report info: Project name, client name, project number, project address, report date, and report number. By including this information, everyone can immediately see which project and report it concerns. This data also helps if you need to find an old report in your archives
- Project status: A high-level description of the current status of the project. In addition to text, many architects also add one or multiple photos to the project status, to give everyone a quick idea of the current project status.
- Planning: An overview of the most important construction phases and tasks in time, possibly together an overview of the tasks already completed, percentages of the task in progress, and dependencies between the different tasks. This way, the contractors see when they can start their work, and they can use this for their own planning.
- Contacts table with an indication of people present on-site: Most field reports contain a contact table with details of all parties involved in the project, such as name, role, and contact information. This table often also indicates which contacts were present during the site visit, and also to whom the report was sent.
- List of observations and open items: This is the core of the field report. An overview of the observations and open items, along with details such as photos, text, date, assignee, location pointers on a floor plan, status, and more. In this way, everyone gets a clear view of the agreements made, and the contractors involved have all the input they need on which items they need to work.
- Practical information: Often the date of the next site meeting, or other practical information, is included in the field report.
- Disclaimer: This is important. Protect yourself from potential lawsuits. Including a standard text in every report will sooner or later save you a lot of effort, time, and money. For example, something like “This report by email serves as proof of sending. Absence of response within 7 working days counts as final acceptance.
Want to learn more about this? Read this blog post on the building blocks of construction field report
Interesting in a sample field report for architects? You can find one over here.
If you are still reading, you will undoubtedly understand the importance of making detailed and clear field reports, and you also know what should be included in such a report.
But I can hear you thinking… “So many photos, notes, plans, and other elements to include, were the hell do I find the time to do this?”
I know, making site reports is an administrative burden that many architects struggle with: first, writing down notes on paper and taking photos during a site visit. Back at the office, transferring the photos to the PC with a cable. Next, adding annotations to photos with Paint, deciphering and typing out the handwritten notes, struggling with the layout while inserting photos in Word, and so on. Over and over again.
Fortunately, today there are other, better ways to do this.
With a digital tool, you can easily document items on-site with your smartphone or tablet, insert and annotate photos, add or record text, and place a pointer on a floor plan. After the site visit, your site report will be automagically available, ready to distribute with one click.
Not only does this save you a lot of time (easily 1 to 2 hours per report), it also contributes to a professional image.
With an app for site reports, you are freed from the hassle of site reports.
By immediately entering the necessary information on-site via smartphone or tablet, such as text, photos, floor plan annotations, and assignees, the report is virtually ready when you leave the site. This will help you save hours of time, week after week after week.
But there is more, we list the biggest benefits of digitising construction field reports for you below.
1. All information is centrally available and searchable
By digitising your reports you make all data structured and searchable: with digital site reports, you have a central database of all your items and reports.
You can easily find, edit, filter, sort, and group your items, and share them with other parties.
Need to draw up a list of all additional works performed for project X or a list of all safety observations, across all sites? No problem! A list of all pending items for contractor Y? Right away!
All photos and plans are also stored securely and centrally, and are not spread over different camera roles, mailboxes, or whatsapp messages.
2. Smooth and uniform collaboration with colleagues
Because all colleagues work together in the same cloud environment, they can easily work on the same projects or take over projects when a colleague is absent.
In addition, using one central field report software across the whole company ensures uniform site reports with the same structure and layout for all colleagues.
3. Floor plans available anytime, anywhere
You always have easy access to all your documents and plans per project, whenever and wherever you need them (smartphone, tablet, laptop).
If this is useful, you can show other parties exactly where a problem is located by indicating numbered location pointers on a floor plan.
Or annotate and sketch on a plan for further clarification.
4. Use of voice to text
Using your voice to create your field reports is no longer a thing of the future. Voice to text is available by default on almost every smartphone and tablet.
Speech technology makes documenting items on-site even easier and faster. You speak, the text rolls out.
Watch this short video, you will be amazed at how well it works.
5. Start from the previous report, and continue working
As already mentioned here above, when creating a new site report, most architects start from the previous report and take it from there.
With a professional field reporting tool, this process is fully automated. On the construction site, with your smartphone or tablet, you make a new report as a copy of the previous one and you can immediately start completing and updating the report and the list of items.
This way you no longer have to print and review your previous report every time you visit the site, and you no longer have to manually copy-paste items in Word.
6. Automatic item numbering
No more copy-pasting and manually adjusting the numbers of your reports and items.
With a digital tool, your reports and items are automatically and logically numbered. The layout (logo, header, footer, and more) of the reports is also applied automatically.
7. Signing and sending reports from the construction site
Ready with the site inspection and no more post-processing required in the office? Your site report is immediately ready and available from your smartphone or tablet as well. You can review it, have it signed off, and distribute it the parties involved, all directly from the construction site.
8. Assigned parties can provide feedback on pending items
Assigned parties can provide feedback on their pending items via text and photos. Once resolved, they can submit them for approval. No more Whatsapp, email, phone calls, or text messages to stay informed about the status of pending items.
In 2012, we developed ArchiSnapper: an easy-to-use yet powerful application specifically designed for field reports and punch lists for architects and engineers.
Today, more than 10,000 users automatically generate their professional reports directly on-site with this app on their smartphone or tablet.
How does ArchiSnapper work?
- Visit the site with the ArchiSnapper app on your smartphone or tablet and document items with photos, annotations on photos, floor plan annotations, assignees, and more.
- Your site report is automatically generated in PDF format – ready for distribution. Your logo and other layout settings are applied automatically.
- Or, if desired, you can complete and finish the report back at the office via laptop or desktop before distributing it.
In this video Jerry explains how ArchiSnapper works:
ArchiSnapper users say that the app saves them at least 1 hour of work per report and thus easily several hours per week. Time they can now spend on useful work instead of struggling with reports and photos in Word. Time to stop work earlier, pick up the kids from school, do some extra sports or see family and friends.
Curious to see what a field report created with ArchiSnapper looks like? Check out a sample report generated with ArchiSnapper here.
- The building blocks of a professional construction field report
- Here’s why you need to ditch Word and Excel for your Field reports and Punch Lists
- Example ArchiSnapper Report
Do you have questions after reading this article, or would you like to try ArchiSnapper? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.