The building blocks of a professional construction field report
Honestly, I haven’t met any architect who started studying architecture for the love of drafting field reports.
(If I’m wrong, please come forward and let me know, I’d love to hear all about you!😉)
Yet, for every architect who takes following up on his construction projects seriously, this is an important task that demands dedication, time, and energy.
If you do it right, the reward can be big, as it helps you smoothen the building process, improve communication, and avoid costly mistakes — or worse.
So, whether you’re starting out as an architect, you’re looking to improve the content and structure of your field reports, or you’re just curious and want to find out which information is typically added in a professional construction field report: you’ve come to the right place to learn everything about them.
Let’s dig into it!
- What is a construction Field Report
- Why field reports are important
- How to write a construction Report
- The Building Blocks of a good Field Report
Field reports — also called construction site reports, observation reports, progress reports, or construction activity reports — are used for documenting and distributing observations made during regular site visits.
Field reports typically document questions like:
- Are the works carried out correctly and on time?
- What, if any, needs to be repaired or improved?
- What changed and which additional work is needed?
While an email with observations could suffice, the industry standard is a Field Report, mostly in a PDF format. By preference, this report follows a well-structured and fixed pattern.
After your site visit and report is finished, you send out notes to all parties involved. Typically assigning tasks, deadlines, and a date for the next site visit.
In this article, we take a deep-dive on why it’s important to create a professional construction field report, and which elements should be included.
1. Keep your projects on track
Doing regular site visits, and documenting everything you see can help you spot irregularities early on in the process before they escalate to something that gets hard to reverse.
2. Good communication for a win-win situation
In a construction project, there are often many people and companies involved. The more people you work with, the higher the risk for some kind of misunderstanding, or miscommunication. And linked to this, (costly) mistakes, and frustrating delays.
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.
3. Field Reports help you Avoid costly mistakes or Legal claims
The field report is your go-to document when there is a disagreement between the parties involved. You can see it as the black box of a construction project. If anything goes wrong, you can be sure that these documents will be turned inside-out to search for the cause of the problem.
Here’s an example:
During a tour, the client, the architect, and the contractor agree to change the color that was originally chosen for the aluminum sliding windows. Black was too black anyway, so they opted for anthracite. In the end, the client changed his mind again to wanting black sliding windows anyway. But, the contractor had already ordered the windows. What followed, was a discussion of who had said what. “Had another color been agreed?”. Fortunately, the architect had written this down in the field report. This brought a definite answer. A relief for the contractor!
The same goes when it comes to legal claims. A signed document with reported issues and clear pictures can help you a lot (!) in any disagreement.
If everything is well documented, you can avoid costly, time-consuming, and energy-draining legal procedures.
If a report follows a clear and known structure, it is easier for the brain to process this. 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.
Be brief, but clear
Avoid writing out big chunks of text. If it’s absolutely necessary, split the text into paragraphs, and add meaningful headings and subheadings. It can also help to highlight important words or phrases. Or highlight new, or additional remarks.
In addition to this; we have already stated this more than once: pictures can tell more than a thousand words. Try to use as many pictures as possible, and add clear annotations, draw an arrow, or mark something by drawing a square or circle around it. This can make a great difference!
Additional info that can help
For every observation, there are some elements you can add to make the point even more clear. You could add the location of the observation on a plan, you could assign an observation to a specific party or company, you can add a deadline, the next steps … try to be consistent and add the relevant information for each open item. If your communication is crystal clear, and all parties know what is expected from them, there is no ground for discussion afterwards.
While we were developing ArchiSnapper, we talked with numerous architects worldwide on how they manage field reports.
It won’t come as a surprise that we have seen many different templates and approaches for creating field reports.
But, it appears that some components are present in almost every professional field report. And these, we would like to share with you.
No rocket science, just a handy overview of the building blocks of a Construction Field Report:
- Report Number
- Report title
- Project details
- Date and time
- Project status
- Weather Conditions
- People Present
- Distribution List
- Indications on the status, progress, and deficiencies of the work
- Practical information
- Corporate branding
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 …”.
The title is short and concise. It should immediately make clear what the text is about: “Site report 5 for project XYZ”.
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.
Clearly add the date and time of the site visit or the creation date of the field report.
A high-level description of the status of the project, 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.
Especially our clients from the United States typically add weather conditions to the project status.
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.
This is the core of the report. These comments 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, indicate who is responsible for this remark. If no one is assigned, deficiencies often don’t get solved.
Often this is a whole set of observations classified into different categories.
- observation 1
- observation 2
- observation 1
- observation 2
- observation 3
Here’s what this looks like in the ArchiSnapper app:
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 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.
Number your observations
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.
Add a location on the 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.
Here is an illustration of how comments are documented with ArchiSnapper:
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.
Use the same standardized text in every report.
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.
💡 Tip: Add your written signature at the bottom of your site report; it gives your site report a personal and professional touch.
How to draft your field reports efficiently? – Luckily 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 to use, yet powerful application specifically designed for creating site reports and collaboration in construction.
Over 10,000 users automatically generate their professional reports, directly on the construction site, existing of the components mentioned above.
With the formatting options — here’s an overview of all the possibilities — you can create reports within your own branding.
So, how does ArchiSnapper work?
- Define the structure of your reports (list of categories for your comments) and personalize your reports with the formatting options (logo, titles, font and much more).
- Do your site visit using the app on your smartphone or tablet, and add comments with photos, annotations on photos, location indications, sketches, deadlines, and assignees.
- Your site report is automatically generated in PDF format – ready to be sent out immediately.
(Or, if you prefer to check it and elaborate on it on your laptop or desktop before sending it to all parties involved, that’s also possible)
In this video, Jerry explains how ArchiSnapper works:
Take a look at this sample report
Are you curious to find out how a field report created with ArchiSnapper looks like?
We already thought you might like that, so here’s an ArchiSnapper sample report:
To show you that there is a wide variety of layout settings, we also created the exact same report, but with a different layout template:
- 1 column instead of 3 columns
- different font
- page breaks
- new comments marked yellow
Take a look at the PDF file of this alternative version here.
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.