The Building Blocks of a Professional Field Report
Field reports — also called site reports, observation reports, progress reports, or construction activity reports — are used for documenting observations during regular site visits.
Comprehensive field reports that give all parties involved a clear overview of the project status, planning, agreements made, and actions required, are crucial to the smooth running of any construction project:
- They help you spot irregularities early on in the process before they escalate to something that gets hard to reverse.
- They reduce the risk for misunderstandings, costly mistakes, and frustrating delays, especially when many different people and companies are involved.
- They will help you avoid costly, time-consuming, and energy-draining discussions and legal procedures. Especially when the reports are well documented, and include clear photos.
Bottom line: Good communication, through accurate field reports, reduces misunderstandings and mistakes, increasing the project’s profitability.
When we were building the first version of ArchiSnapper we talked to dozens of architects about how they draft field reports, how they structure them, and what they include.
We often saw the same elements recurring. In this article, we want to share the key elements that make a field report complete and accurate, enhance communication and planning, strengthen your professional image, and protect you from claims.
Let’s dig into it!
Here is an overview of the building blocks of a professional field report:
- Report number
- Report title
- Project details
- Date and time
- Project status and weather conditions
- Approval previous report
- Practical information
- People present
- Observations on the status, progress, and deficiencies of the work
- Corporate branding
In order to be able to identify a report (now and later), a unique number is required.
Typically this report number is a combination of the project number and a sequence number of the report.
For example: “Project XYZ-5”. This means “Field report number 5 for project XYZ”.
The unique report number is a useful reference for further communication. “As described in report XYZ-5, it was agreed that …”.
The title is short and concise. It should immediately make clear what the report is about, e.g. “Field report 5 for project XYZ”.
Customer name and address, a brief project description, and the project number.
If someone receives your report, they’ll want to know immediately which project it is about.
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.
Clearly record the date and time of the site visit. This adds a date stamp to the content of the report, and could be useful later for later discussions.
A high-level description of the status of the project, and other general impressions.
Many architects add a picture to the status to give the reader a global view of what the job site looks like at this stage of the project.
North American architects, engineers, and contractors typically add weather conditions to the project status.
Below is an illustration of how the 5 elements mentioned here above – report title and number, project details, date and time of site visit, and project status – are displayed in a report generated with ArchiSnapper:
The site meeting is often started by asking if there are any comments on the previous site report. Include this in your field report, for example: “There are no comments on the previous field report dated 09/30/2020.”
A construction project is a process in which different stakeholders get involved in a specific order (for example structural work, plumbing, electricity, flooring, paintwork, …).
To avoid delays, it is important that the different stakeholders have a view on when they are expected to start their activities.
Therefore, the field report often includes information about the planning of the works. Which activities have already been completed and which are in progress? What are the next phases, and when will they start?
This allows each stakeholder to get an idea of when they need to start and to adjust their planning accordingly.
Tip: With ArchiSnapper you can make a project planning in the form of a GANTT chart and add it to the report. Check here for more info.
Often the location, date and time, and people invited to the next meeting, or any other practical information, are mentioned in the field report.
Each field report will also typically include a contact table with the details of the parties involved, like their names, roles, and contact information.
This way, everyone can see the complete list of parties involved.
Typically, this table also indicates the persons that are present on-site at the time of the visit, and also which parties received the report, the distribution list.
Tip: The list of contacts with contact details, the people who were present on-site, and the distribution list can easily be combined into one table.
Below is an illustration of how the elements mentioned above can be displayed in a field report:
This is the core of the report. These items represent the status of the project as a whole and of the various ongoing tasks.
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, assign items to the parties involved. If no one is assigned, deficiencies often don’t get solved.
Observations in a field report are often classified into different categories (the different trades).
- observation 1
- observation 2
- observation 1
- observation 2
- observation 3
Each of these items is then further detailed with elements like a number, status, date, description, photos, assignee, location on a floor plan, and more.
Here are some best practices on accurately documenting observations in a field report.
If a report follows a clear and known structure, it is easier for the brain to process it. We know where to look for information, and act upon it.
Try to use the same headers and subheaders, the same formatting each time to structure your reports, and make it easy for the parties involved to scan through it and take out the information that is important to them.
Take pictures to illustrate or clarify your observations. Pictures say more than 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.
That’s because pictures are so easy to “read”. Avoid writing pages of text. Instead use pictures and sketches to convey the message to your readers.
Optionally, you can also add captions, date stamps, and geo-locations to the images.
Use clear and easy to understand language
Field reports are important information, but they are no juridical documents either. Try to write out clear and complete sentences that everyone can understand. Formulate it as you would explain it to someone who knows nothing about a project, like a friend.
Number your observations
Don’t forget to number the items in your field report. This makes it easy to refer to later on and to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. We have seen that many architects use the “report number” followed by the “observation number”. For example, item 3.7 means item seven of the third report.
Show the item locations on a floor plan
Show involved parties exactly where a problem is located by placing numbered pointers on the floor plan. Or sketch on the floor plan for extra clarification.
Status, date, tags, and more
Many architects also add other details to make items even more unambiguous and accurate, such as the status of the observation (OK or NOK), the date by which it should be resolved, or an additional tag, for example, “Urgent.”
Here is an illustration of how observations are displayed in a field report created with ArchiSnapper. We see an item, Baseboards, with a status (NOT OK), a number (1.1), an assignee (Steve Wood), pictures showing what exactly the problem is, an indication on the floor plan where the problem is located, a label (action required), and a date:
During a construction project, lots of documents are requested from the various stakeholders. If you need to receive documents from other parties, you could also list them in the site report.
Mention the assignee and a deadline, so everyone knows which documents they need to supply and by when.
This is important. Protect yourself from possible claims and lawsuits. Including a standard disclaimer 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.
Here is an illustration of how the above elements – documents to receive disclaimer, and also a signature – are represented in a field report created with ArchiSnapper.
Finally, let’s not forget to add some corporate branding such as your company name, logo, address, and your contact information. This contributes to a professional image.
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.
Tip: Add your written signature at the bottom of your site report; it gives your site report a personal and professional touch.
Are you curious about what a field report created with ArchiSnapper looks like? Check out a sample report created with ArchiSnapper here.
How to draft your field reports efficiently? – There’s an app for that!
I hear you thinking: that’s a lot of information to add to every field report, for every project. So many tables, reference numbers, pictures, and notes to process. — Where on earth will I find the time to do this?
You’re lucky because the time where architects went to their site visits packed with a notebook and camera, later returning to the office and writing out everything in Word, transferring their photos and matching them with the right observation … is far behind us!
Nowadays, there are digital tools that can help you with this. 😅
In 2012, we developed ArchiSnapper. An easy, yet powerful application specifically designed for creating site reports.
Today, over 10,000 users are saving hours of time while generating professionals field reports with all the elements we mentioned here above.
With the formatting options you can create site reports with your own branding that radiate professionalism.
In this video, Jerry explains how ArchiSnapper works:
Do you like what you see? Try ArchiSnapper for free, and start drafting your next field report right away.
If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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