Part 2 of a 4 Part Series
This is the second installment of a four-part series on construction drawings. In the first article, we discussed the uses and importance of construction drawings for any new build or remodel.
Today, we will examine how external forces have placed pressure on the quality of construction drawings in the architectural, engineering, and interior design professions. As a reminder, construction drawings provide information about what the project will look like, the size or area, where it is going, what the function is, and what it will be made of.
The digitization of the construction industry has led to a lot of changes and trends, especially regarding construction drawings. Several forces or influences have been in play for years, creating a dynamic that the design and construction community will have to grapple with within the foreseeable future.
During the Great Recession, around 2007 through 2011, unemployment in the industry was high, and a large number of people moved into different fields. As a result, the industry lost many qualified staff. As the construction industry recovered and expanded rapidly, firms were left scrambling to find professionals with ten or more years of experience.
Most universities focus on design; however, most of the money and effort in full service is in the Construction Documents portion of the work. Graduates have limited exposure to construction technology, processes, sequencing, schedules, and methodology. This places them on a long learning curve upon entry into the design profession.
High school educators have eliminated hands-on learning classes such as wood, sheet metal, and electrical shops, thus, effectively disconnecting students from a foundational, building block of knowledge. The amount of time that entry-level staff needs to assimilate knowledge in these areas is substantial. This creates a drag on career advancement, which to many young people is not satisfactory.
Outsourcing data entry became feasible with the advent of the Internet. However, it became a necessity due to the labor shortage caused by the Great Recession. Skilled construction experts such as engineers, architects, consultants, data entry, and construction staff who left the industry during the recession did not return swiftly as the economy recovered. Hence, companies reached out to third parties to supply human resources and other support services and hired temporary workers to fill in when the job required it. As a result, entry-level positions were not available for someone to fill and grow in the position.
Outsourcing is a slow-moving force that affects quality over time as it gradually drains human resources from the industry. While it may sometimes be the only viable option, outsourcing reduces the flow of knowledge that senior staff would have conveyed to an entry-level staff member.
Other Technology Industries
A lot has changed ever since the rise of technology. The American workforce is adapting and continuing to grow. Certain industries like coding, computer programming, and the gaming industry that were unimaginable years ago are attracting graduates. This fact means that there are more career and industry options. Thus, graduates are becoming more proficient in computer skills than construction technology. The rise and the lure of other industries has decreased the number of graduates considering design professions for construction.
Stormwater requirements, voluntary green codes, fire codes, local codes modified codes, special codes like OSHPD and education codes are sometimes written poorly. Design professionals spend more time than ever on code compliance. This includes placing entire code sections in the plans, sometimes at the request of plan examiners to cover everything, even if it’s not part of the project. This can create confusion as contractors endeavor to determine what is in their actual scope of work.
The influences listed above may only be external, but they have directly impacted the quality of construction documents. In the next article, part 3, we will discuss internal issues. The good news is that although both internal and external issues affect the quality of construction documentation, it is still possible to improve the quality of these documents—a topic we will discuss in Part 4 of this series, so stay tuned.