Meeting your construction photo documentation specification
March 5, 2018
As a project team member who gets assigned to a new project, one of the things we do right away is read through our contracts and specifications. If this is not your first project, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for, especially in the division one specification. There are always a handful of sections that get my attention right away: schedule, submittals, as-builts, and site documentation. While that can cover a lot, if you have an owner or design team that are sticklers, these are things that can hold up payment, and no one wants that. Since I am writing this blog for StructionSite you would imagine that today we are going to focus on site documentation, specifically photos.
Over the last several years the number of project manuals with very specific photo requirements has grown drastically. Gone are the days of providing four aerial images of a project each month and meeting the requirements. I attribute this to Multivista and their efforts to educate owners and designers on the importance of project photos for the long term health of a building. For quite some time they were the only game in town and provide a great service to many projects but it comes at a cost. However, with the advancement of cameras in our cell phones and the introduction of 360 cameras, capturing jobsite progress does not need to be done by a professional anymore.
Breaking down the specification
As we take a look at some of the requirements that we have found in the project manual of some of our recent projects, I like to break these requirements down into four areas:
How often the photos are taken
Quality of the photos
How we store the photos
Who is taking the photos
Lets dig into each one of these areas a little deeper.
How Often Photos are Taken
When looking at how often photos are taken on a jobsite, almost any system or service you use will allow you to control the frequency of capture. Some projects will ask that you take 20 photos per week, others ask for projects to take photos at major milestones and some even ask for photos in every room, every day. This is truly a function of staff. If it is a 20 photos per week job, that really is no more than an hour or two worth of work, however this can grow fairly quickly depending on the size and duration of the project. The key thing to keep in mind here is that no matter how many photos you need to take, almost any system can accommodate that, however the larger the quantity the more important the speed of the system will be.
Photo Quality and Standards for Compliance
As we start to dive into the quality of the photos, really there are a few key factors here. First the quality of the camera – while there is still a place for high end DSLR cameras on projects almost any smartphone these days is equipped with an 8MP camera or better. The majority of 360 cameras are all greater than 12MP as well. This pretty much ensures that any photos taken on the jobsite will be of good quality if they have enough light. Light is the second factor to quality. As many job sites often run on temp power throughout the course of the project it is key to make sure there is enough light when taking photos. This can mean utilizing a flash or additional light source to ensure good photo quality. Overall the technology is relatively cheap these days to ensure quality photos are taken of your jobsite.
Optimizing your Storage Options
Now that we have taken all of these photos, we have to find a place to store them. Dumping hundreds if not thousands of photos on a jump drive is not a good solution. The photos need to be organized by location, date, and type. Now there are several systems that can provide this service. Structionsite has built a platform to do just this. Allowing users to incorporate both 360 photos and traditional photos on a 2D plan allows them to meet almost any photo specification when it comes to a platform. Allowing users to comment, tag, and view by date allows team members to collaborate on the photo documentation. StructionSite is not the only solution but it is one of our favorites.
Who Is Responsible
Finally, we need to talk about who is going to take all these photos. In an ideal world you have Project Managers, Superintendents and Engineers constantly walking the site, all contributing to the documentation of the building. Now none of these folks are traditional professional photographers and some specifications call for that, however, I’m pretty sure Apple has a commercial that makes us all believe we can be one with the right tools. This is one section of the specifications that may require some clarification or negotiation with your client. Ensuring that the photos will be of high quality, done timely and in an organized manner is usually enough to overcome this challenge.
Once you have reviewed all of the requirements you should have a pretty good idea of what you will need to meet the specifications and you have to ask yourself a few key questions. How much control over the process do you want? Utilizing a tool such as StructionSite gives you ultimate control over the system, the photos, and the timeline, and it is a DIY solution so you get out what you put in. Do you have the staff available to handle the task in-house? Some projects will have plenty of staff to handle this, others it may be a concern, this will be a key factor in determining whether a platform or a service is the right choice for you. In the end, having good photo documentation of your project is key no matter how you capture it or store it.