Jeffrey M. Souza, president and CEO of EMCOR Services, BALCO/J.C. Higgins (www.emcorgroup.com), Stoughton, MA, asks an important question: “Do you know where your building prints are?” His answer follows:
“Building owners and managers recognize that building documents are a key asset of a facility, and how these documents are managed is critical today and in the future. As a mobile facilities services company, EMCOR Services often depends on building prints to maintain and service HVAC equipment, as well as other systems critical to the operation of a building. However, very often, building prints, operations and maintenance manuals, and equipment specifications sheets are archived away and difficult to access. In other cases, the documents are not current and in poor condition because of years of storage. This problem can result in longer downtimes, increased service and maintenance costs, and extreme frustration.
“Service Point, a document management company, cited some interesting research data indicating the high cost of handling non-electronic documents. For instance, approximately 4 trillion documents are stored in U.S. files; paper files are doubling every 3.5 years; the average document is copied 19 times; and each day, almost 1 billion photocopies are made. Manually controlling documents is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult. However, there are more efficient and cost-effective methods to manually deal with building documents.
“New technology is available that enables a complete set of building prints, old or new, to be scanned and converted to a file that is readable on most any computer with a CD drive. In addition, operations and maintenance manuals can be scanned along with the specification sheets for most of the building’s infrastructure, including the HVAC system, plumbing, electrical, and life safety equipment. What makes this process very exciting is that the technology allows links to be developed between any piece of equipment that subsides on the print to its specification sheet and any other associated reference documents. The system then allows a user to insert the CD into a computer, view the building prints in electronic form, and double-click on any piece of equipment to access the related documents. For example, an HVAC technician could access the electronic building prints, locate the equipment that is being serviced, and double-click on the unit to access the submittal sheets. This system allows the technician to view the original specifications and ensure that the equipment is serviced appropriately.
“This intelligent archiving of building documents improves the access and security of building information while reducing physical storage space and the labor associated with maintaining manual files. In addition, the building prints can be updated with changes much more efficiently than manual building prints. The electronic files become a valuable asset throughout the entire life-cycle of a building. So, if you know where your building prints and operations and maintenance manuals are located, consider having them converted to electronic files. This service is relatively inexpensive and will ultimately reduce the owning and operating costs of a building.”