Why Good Field Reports Will Save You Time (And Maybe a Court Claim)
Compiling field reports is one of the less glamorous aspects of a career in architecture and it is probably not your favorite part of the job, but it is vital that you have good practice in place for writing your reports.
Field reports are necessary to make sure projects stay on track in terms of time and budget, ensure good communication between the client, architect and site team, and maybe most importantly, protect yourself in case of a legal dispute. Reporting potential issues and work that does not conform to specifications in a site report will give you legal protection to fall back on in the case that there is a serious building fault, causing the client to make a court claim.
To understand exactly why it’s so important for architects to have a good field report practice in place, let’s cover each of these points in a little more detail.
1. Good Field Report Practice Will Save You Time
It can sometimes feel repetitive and time consuming to fill out field reports, but a little extra time spent planning and compiling your reports in detail can potentially save you many hours of work further down the line.
Field reports help you, the owner and the contractor to spot errors before they occur (or at least before they have caused irreversible problems.) This means that any potential issues can be nipped in the bud and corrected more quickly and easily than if they had been noticed later on in the project.
Reporting can also help with the issue of time slippage because it forces you to constantly review the status of a project and set targets within a specific time frame. If a project is likely to run over deadline, this will be brought to your attention by your field reports and steps can be taken to bring it back on track.
Completing paperwork obviously takes time, but the key to keeping your field reporting time to a minimum is to have an efficient system in place for completing your reports. You may utilize checklists, templates, and pre-filled fields (such as legal disclaimers) to reduce your record-keeping time to a minimum. Services like Archisnapper can also help a great deal when it comes to completing your field reports quickly and efficiently.
2. Field Reports Can Help Keep Projects On Budget
In the same way that spotting problems early will save you time, it will also help prevent the very common problem of building projects running over budget.
A project may run over budget for several reasons:
- Going over deadline, resulting in increased labor costs
- Incorrect selection or use of materials
- Mistakes in construction that need to be rectified
- Losses in terms of broken or stolen materials
- Losses due to weather and other natural causes (e.g. concrete having to be re-poured because of heavy rain)
While it is not always possible to stop work from going over budget and the owner has the final say in spending, a good field report will anticipate some of these problems before they occur. This may make it possible to take remedial action to prevent overspend or to make savings elsewhere.
3. Reporting Improves Communication Between All Parties
Reporting is an excellent way to ensure good communication between the architect, owner and contractor. Information is often lost or forgotten when communicated in person or over the telephone and there is no written record of what was said, so having a field report to refer to is important as both a memory aid and as proof that information was given on certain dates.
In the event that work on site does not conform to agreed standards, informing the contractors of this in a field report is much less confrontational and can help to keep a good relationship between the client and architect and the on site contractors.
4. Reduce Misunderstandings and Complaints with Field Reports
With improved communication comes improved understanding and less chance for mistakes to be made. The field report provides an excellent place for contractors or owners to raise questions and sets out in black and white any issues that need addressing.
When non-conforming work is discovered, it can be described in detail in the field report, along with photographs and diagrams. The report acts as a checklist of problems that need to be resolved and the names of the people who are responsible for fixing them.
Your field reports will act as proof that you took action and described problems and potential issues in detail, which allows the owner to see that it was communicated effectively to the contractors.
By including the owner in the field report distribution list, you ensure that they are given the opportunity to ask questions and raise any issues, which will help to keep any potential complaints to a minimum.
5. Field Reports Could Prevent Legal Action Against You
Architects are not responsible for spotting every single problem that may result due to work that does not conform to the original plans, however if this situation does occur, it is highly likely that the owner will blame the architect for not doing his job properly.
This is where field reports can really help to protect you as an architect as they show that you were aware of potential problems and raised the issue with the contractor via the report. Your reports should always include the date you informed the contractor as this demonstrates when the responsibility was passed to them to rectify the situation.
It’s vital for your own protection to prove that you communicated any problems effectively to the contractors and so it’s important to make your reports as detailed as possible, with photos and supporting notes to explain any problems clearly.
What Should Go Into a Field Report?
There is no industry standard for field reports and it is down to the individual what they ultimately choose to include. Your reports are basically a description of the observations you made during your site visit and in theory, a quick email or written notes of any issues would suffice. However, for the reasons described above, it’s good practice to follow a set format for your field reports and include sufficient detail.
Detailed field reports should include the following (for a more detailed view, see our article “The building blocks of a professional construction field report“:
- Unique report number
- The site or project name
- The names of the architect, owner, and main contractor
- A record of the people on site
- Date, time and duration of visit
- Weather conditions at time of visit
- Progress of construction (as an estimated percentage or notes
- Work to be completed by next site visit
- Notes and photos of any non-conforming work and other issues
- Any questions and actions to be performed (and who should perform them)
- Standard disclaimer against liability
- Distribution list of people who need to read the report.
How Archisnapper Can Help
Compiling a site report can be a lot less time consuming if you create a set template to use, but you are still likely to spend a lot of time inserting photographs and diagrams, compiling electronic and handwritten notes, downloading photographs, and so on.
The Archisnapper app allows you to collect notes, photographs and important information all in one place directly from your smartphone or tablet and generate automatic pdf site reports. Standard remarks can be inserted automatically, saving you typing time. Your report can then be sent to the appropriate people, synced back to your office computer and backed up automatically. The software also keeps a record of who the reports have been sent to and when, so there’s no way for anyone to blame mistakes on poor communication on your part.
Archisnapper is an excellent solution for architects who find creating field reports to be time consuming and tedious and is a huge time-saver. Using it effectively could also save you a huge amount of money if you are ever in the unfortunate situation of having a claim against you in court.
Download Archisnapper for a free trial now and see how much time you can save creating your field reports.