The importance of photo documentation for construction and how to avoid the admin nightmare

Written by LetsBuild

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Reporting progress from a construction site comes in a number of ways and forms. Without a doubt, photo documentation is one of the most essential aspects of field reporting and field tracking.

This is why it is important that all stakeholders take extremely detailed photos that document every step of their work on site. Nevertheless, due to the complexity of construction projects, the number of collected photos can quickly add an excessive administration burden.

In some cases, that can turn into a big problem for Project Managers when a claim or a project dispute appears. They will sometimes have to go through thousands of photos to find that one piece of proof that a delay or mistake in a task isn’t their fault.

It goes without saying, then, that as a Project Manager or Site Foreman you need a system that will allow you to easily navigate through every piece of information you have on a project so that you can effectively respond to threatful claims before they expand out of proportion.

As we have already mentioned in previous articles of ours, the use of construction-specific tools can be a game changer in such situations. WhatsApp or email threads can also be used to exchange photos and updates from the site in real time but there is one big catch.

Related article: How to upgrade your construction document management with software

When you use such tools there is now way to know how you connect the update you receive from the site to both the 3-6 week schedule and the master plan. In simple words, all these photos and information you receive are rapidly piled up in a folder leaving you with no visibility over your project whatsoever.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Implementing a digital solution that has been designed and built having the construction industry as its main priority can help you maintain a strong connection between the site and the office and allow you keep detailed, yet well-organised, record of everything that has happened in your project.

Like that, instead of spending weeks or even months to respond in just one claim, you will be able to retrieve the right photo and data you need within an hour or two max.

Before we dive into more details about how construction-specific tools can help avoid admin workload when you are searching for the right photo from the site, it is crucial to take a closer look at why pictures are so important for construction projects.

Without further ado, here are the three main reasons why photo documentation matters in construction:

1. Stay protected against claims

Being a Project Manager, you know better than anybody else how vital it is to keep your project safe from claims at any point. That being said, photo documentation is one of your biggest assets in this effort.

Now speaks louder than an image as it can be an objective visualisation of everything that has taken place on the construction site. This is also why it is so crucial to take many and clear photos for every single project activity on the field.

Find out more: How to manage claims in construction more efficiently

By putting together a detailed photo record, you can eventually have that valuable peace of mind that you can document everything on your project and back up your side of the story to avoid costly penalties.

However, you should never overlook the importance of keeping a well-organised photo archive so that you can respond to any claims that might arrive without wasting any time. An industry-specific tool, like LetsBuild for example, could help you build that single source of truth that you need.

2. Better alignment between the Project Manager and the Site Foreman

As a continuation of the first point, photo documentation could play a decisive role in your effort to achieve full alignment between you and your Site Foreman.

Phone calls, meetings WhatsApp notifications, or even written reports might seem enough for many people in construction but they don’t carry the same gravity as photo documentation. On the contrary, they might even be the source of many misunderstandings along the way.

For that reason, you need a dynamic and continuously updated audit trail which can include photo documentation from the site and offer you a precise image from the field in real time.

This can make life significantly both for you and your Site Foreman. Instead of writing long reports down and trying not to forget anything, Project Managers and Site Foremen can simply take photos and submit them instantly as they conduct their site tour.

Considering that in some projects site tours might take up to two hours a day, that’s extremely powerful and can save Project Managers from many unnecessary site visits. Like that, everybody gets to focus on where they can really make a difference.

3. Improved field reporting

Last but not least, solid photo documentation in a construction project equals better field reporting, as well. You need all the information you can get from the site and, without a doubt, photos are an integral part of this process.

Read also: How to handle uncertainty in construction

With that in mind, it is substantial that you set certain quality requirements with regards to the way the photos are taken. By following a standardised approach in photo documentation, you ensure that there will be no misalignments or disagreements when it comes to using a photo for resolving a legal dispute. You should also set standards for how your photos should be edited, if applicable. For example, you could use a tool to generate an AI background that removes unwanted background elements. This ensures that those looking at the photo are focusing on the right items.

All stakeholders in your project should follow the same guidelines to ensure that photo documentation is conducted properly. In that manner, you will be able to fortify your field reporting process and take one step closer to standardising the way you both build and report.

Avoid admin workload when you are looking for the right photo

By now, it is evident how important photo documentation is for every construction project regardless of its type or size. It is one of the main pillars against claims as it can provide an objective visualisation of what has taken place on the field.

What every Project Manager needs to keep in mind, though, is that strong photo documentation in construction comes with a price. More specifically, if not done correctly it can generate excessive administrative workload and cost project teams both time and money.

Finding and implementing a construction-specific digital tool (eg. LetsBuild) can do wonders in the way you store and retrieve these valuable pieces of information. All project-related photos will be automatically stored in the cloud and they could be found with just a few clicks. And all this while operating in an open data ecosystem where all information is safely stored and remains available to all interested parties at all times.