5 Must-Haves for Digital As-Built Drawings in Construction

May, 31st 2022 | 5 min read

by Eyal Katz

In construction, every project begins with a planned design. But those plans can change, especially when unforeseen issues arise which require alternate solutions. As-built drawings play a critical role in reflecting those changes to the construction project and for all stakeholders involved. These detailed drawings show how the final project looks and differs from the original design. 

Before your next construction project, arm yourself with these five must-haves for your as-built drawings. In this post, you’ll learn why digital as-builts are critical to documenting your construction site and what they should include. By following the guidance in this post, you’ll be on your way to ensuring the most accurate story of your construction project.

 

The challenges of traditional, handwritten as-built drawings

While traditional as-built drawings hold vast potential, they rarely, if at all, tell the complete story about a construction project. 

Data collected during construction is typically done manually with pen and paper. This paper-based process is often filled with inaccuracies or incomplete information. Handwritten records are difficult to read or require clarification, requiring time-consuming communications between field and contractor crews and the utility’s management.

Once a construction project has been completed, these manual, handwritten as-builts are submitted for review. At this stage, managers may discover missing or inaccurate data, but at this stage, recovering or updating this information is difficult and tedious.

In addition, utilities might outsource their capital project work to different contractors, resulting in a lack of data standardization within the same project

As a result, a utility's system of record (GIS or others) and advanced systems such as ADMS (Advanced Distribution Management System) - which require highly accurate construction project data - contain inaccurate or incomplete information. Inaccuracies can delay project closeouts, slow the recovery of CWIP (Construction Work In Progress) funds, and hinder future maintenance work or emergency repairs when time and accuracy are critical.

 

The rise of digital as-builts 

Since inaccurate, error-laden as-built drawings are time-consuming and costly to fix, field crews and contractors typically submit them without redlining them or going back to recapture the data. This problem has paved the way for automated, digital as-building technology.

The advent of digital as-builts has made it possible to replace these manual work processes with seamless, sophisticated, and holistic workflows. 

With digital as-builts, contractors and field crews are empowered with an easy-to-use mobile tool that easily captures construction data, enables real-time material and work process validations, and creates complete and accurate sets of data that are exported to the GIS, WMS and ADMS. The process is completely paperless and lightning-fast in comparison to traditional methods. As a result, this approach has gained broad adoption across the energy utility industry due to its ease and flexibility.

 

Why digital as-builts are important

Digital as-built drawings provide an accurate and up-to-date depiction of a construction project. The importance of these drawings is critical for the following reasons:

1. Real-time Visibility 

Transforming into the digital realm provides an immediate edge. It enables a real-time view and tracking of fieldwork from the comfort of one platform.

2. Creating A Digital Thread 

The utility industry has been using highly advanced digital tools to plan and close out phases of capital construction projects. Digitizing the project’s construction phase creates a digital thread that eliminates data loss and human errors. 

3. Standardization 

Working with a single tool to collect all the data and provide it to all stakeholders immediately standardizes how data is collected and makes it easier to create an output to the System of Record. 

4. Cost & Time Savings

Not having to type the data into the enterprise Systems of Record and have it streamlined from one phase to another saves manual labor time and enables faster closeouts.

5. Avoid Rework 

Real-time accuracy allows for iterations, finding inaccuracies and gaps as they happen and thereby avoiding the project’s rework.    

6. Improved O&M 

Creating material traceability with high accuracy geolocation enables utilities to quickly locate defaulted assets and perform quick “surgical” maintenance work, with minimum disruption to the physical site.

 

Five digital as-built drawing must-haves

Digital as-builts have the capabilities for maximum visibility, complete transparency, and the understanding of the construction project in its most recent iteration. Therefore, It’s critical to include the following criteria in your next as-built drawing.

1. Detailed requirement gathering

Before configuring a digital as-built solution, the utility must share detailed product requirements before implementation. This may be different at each utility and can include aspects such as approved materials, work order details, compliance regulations, forms, approvals, mobile application features, and much more.

The gathering of this data ensures that each aspect has been carefully considered and accounted for within the as-builts.

2. A single platform means a single source of truth

Since a utility’s crew and third-party contractors typically use different systems, there is often no standardized method for collecting data in the field. They need a single platform that acts as a single source of truth for each stakeholder involved in the construction process (field crew, project manager, inspector, etc.) 

A single platform can be trusted as creating the transparency needed across each stage, project, and stakeholder.

Having a single cloud-based back-office platform provides the following benefits:

  • Create real-time visibility into your assets’ locations and materials used. 
  • Enable remote inspections so that inspectors can access multiple projects in more than one location without having to be on-site, promoting greater safety and completing more inspections faster. 
  • Facilitate the creation of digital twins using high-quality data to predict performance and maintenance needs and meet the rising demand for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS).   
  • Reduce time in the field and time to complete field data collection  for faster project close-outs. 

The more you understand the need for real-time, high accuracy  construction data, the more efficiently  you can execute your project, saving time, labor, and costs.

3. Smart validations to improve compliance

A digital as-built solution includes preconfigured alerts, which project managers and supervisors can see in real time. It may include features like pop ups with a detailed explanation of what triggered the alert, providing greater clarity and a more user-friendly experience in the field.

This allows field crews and contractors to make corrections immediately, rather than waiting for paperwork to be submitted and manually reviewed, and  helps ensure that they meet the safety and compliance requirements quickly and efficiently.

4. High-accuracy GPS receivers

Data accuracy is a critical aspect of digital as-built technology, and it’s fundamental to the overall success of a construction project. Utilities rely on precise location details of their pipes for regular maintenance work, emergency repairs, and meeting strict compliance requirements. 

Having an accurate GPS receiver with decimeter accuracy for x,y, and z coordinates allows for the precise geolocation data to be recorded at each step. 

The automatic data capture is based on various sensors, such as:

  • Fusion machines
  • Pressure sensors
  • High accuracy GPS receivers 
  • Barcode scanners

A network of base stations ensures real-time corrections for increased accuracy and reliability.

Besides creating the as-built drawing, these sensors track material usage, capture photos, and provide details for joints, splices, welds, and other materials in the field. 

5. A management plan to ensure high adoption of digital technology

Putting sophisticated technology into the hands of field crews or contractors who may be uncomfortable with or who don’t typically use digital technology is challenging to say the least. This is why it’s essential to have a user-friendly interface with clear and easily-identifiable features for the digital as-built solution.

For ease of use, utilities should create a detailed change management plan to ensure high adoption of the solution throughout the organization. This should include explanations, training, and clear communication.

With this openness and transparency and an easy-to-use interface, the benefits of connecting and using digital as-built drawings in this way are extremely beneficial with an increased likelihood of high adoption rates.

Secure your digital as-built platform

Creating digital as-built drawings is critical for improving CapEx efficiency, reducing costs, decreasing risk, and preparing utilities for the future of smart energy.

By connecting your digital as-built drawings to a digital reporting system, you enable back-end support that includes the following capabilities:

  • Real-time progress tracking. By automatically syncing field data to the server, you can track your work progress in real-time. You can also communicate design changes and material traceability data with engineers, supervisors, and inspectors.
  • Review and approve of changes. By having the ability to review and approve your changes as they occur, you ensure that project data is complete and accurate before exporting it to the system of record.
  • Systems integration. By using a system with restful APIs or replication methods that enable auto-syncing and updates, you can automate the integration of your geographic information system (GIS) data and work orders right into the platform. The data collected in the field automatically transfers to the enterprise systems of record, including your GIS and asset management systems.
  • As-built reports. You can auto-generate sketches, material lists, and other closing package information and configure them to meet your format and content requirements.

To manage, create, and store your as-builts and data in the best way possible, select a sophisticated end-to-end platform. 

By doing so, you can achieve 70% less backlog, save 50% more in costs, and realize 20% in time savings. 

Use an advanced digital construction platform like Locusview that utility crews and contractors worldwide have trusted for over 120,000 projects for your next construction project.