Why the Job Walk is Not Enough

November 29, 2017

Matt Daly

For this post we have a guest blogger and subject matter expert, Michael Hatfield. Michael has an extensive background as a Senior Estimator in demolition and he provides his expertise and insight in the art of planning, documentation, and photography through jobsiteDOCS.

Documenting Existing Conditions

By Michael Hatfield, jobsiteDOCS

In the good ole’ days, all you needed was a set of blueprints, a film camera, and measuring tape to perform a job walk.  For those who have never been on one, the idea is simple.  Give your contractors a walk-thru of an upcoming project so they can match the work to the construction drawings.  Simple enough, right?  First you get your plans, a 15-pound set of drawings and carry them up and down stairs, in and out of structures, all while flipping pages and taking notes as fast as you can.  If you’re lucky, you have an assistant to carry the plans while you take that Kodak moment, hoping the photo turns out OK.  Get back to the office… wait, drop the film off at the drugstore, then get back to the office and begin the manual takeoff.  Get your “assistant” to pick up the developed photos, bring them back and try to match them to drawings.  Still simple?

How will my productivity benefit from an enhanced workflow?

Fast forward to today where I carry a smart phone or tablet preloaded with the plans, a laser measuring tape, and use the phone or tablet to take photos.  That sounds a whole lot better doesn’t it?  Most plans now can be downloaded to your PC or smart device.  Wow, no more lugging around humongous drawings.  But wait, there’s still a problem.  I have to match up the photos to my job walk after I get back to the office.  And while some applications will allow you to post photos to a drawing, it is an afterthought, not the workflow it needs to be.  Workflow, that is the key to being productive.

And while some applications will allow you to post photos to a drawing, it is an afterthought, not the workflow it needs to be.

As an estimator for twenty plus years, I cannot count how many job walks I have done.  The problem when I started estimating is the same problem I have today, site documentation.  I thought about mounting a GoPro to my hard hat and it would see everything I see.  But what about what I don’t see, more importantly what I didn’t recognize was important until I was in the middle of my bid?  Well first, I’m not going to walk around with a camera on my head, no matter the benefit.  Second, I still must match up video to a drawing or it just doesn’t work.  Back to that workflow problem.  Not only will it take more time to review, I will undoubtedly miss an issue on the wall behind me.  After all, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head!

What I needed was a straightforward way to go into a room with smart device in hand, look at the plan, and take ONE photo.  “Move along little doggie,” keep up with the rest of the group!  Having been a commercial photographer early in my life, I knew what I needed but technology was still lagging when I started in demolition some 8 years ago.  Demolition contractors have one of the biggest needs to document existing conditions because plans focus on what is being built, rarely on what is being demolished.  In fact, most project specifications state, “contractor is responsible for all demolition in the way of new construction.”  What?  I’m responsible for removing something that may not be on the plans?  Yes, yes you are.  So, not only did I need to take good notes on the job walk, I needed to match photos to existing conditions.

Solutions are better than workarounds.

Without a solution I came up with workarounds that were time consuming to say the least.  That was until Ricoh came out with the Theta S.  It was then I had an epiphany and I wasn’t the only one.  It seems like some bright guys out in California had the same idea.  That idea being the merging of 360 photos and digital plans.  To my surprise, someone had figured out a way to not only put eyes in the back of my head, but keep me from forgetting where those images placed.  Wunderbar!!  So, I bought a Ricoh Theta S and started taking it out to job walks with me.  I placed it on a small light stand and the Theta photographed everything around me like the all-seeing eye.  But which smart device application would be easy to use, easy to administer and easy to invite others to my “360” party.  After several trial periods and dozens of test photos, I settled on those guys out in California, StructionSite.com.  It was good timing too, I had just been invited to a major demolition project in midtown Atlanta and needed to document multiple floors, structures, inside and out.  The Ricoh Theta and StructionSite met the challenge and proved to be the right combination for this job walk.  We had teamed up with another contractor for the multi-million-dollar bid and I was able to share with their estimators what I had captured.  I am 100% certain my proposal would have suffered had I not had those 360 photos to view while compiling the bid.

I’ve been asked, why StructionSite?  Simple, StructionSite does what I need it to do, saving me time and money.  Their subscription rates are reasonable and customer service is outstanding.  They have been there for me in understanding the product and how to make the most use of it.  They took the time for a small client when others would not.  In fact, it was their zest for this burgeoning technology that got me back into photography in a way I had not expected, jobsite documentation.  Not only did I see using StructionSite for the job walk but for complete life-of-the-job documentation. BAM, another epiphany; I can do this for others.

jobsiteDOCS for complete jobsite documentation.

And this is how jobsiteDOCS was born.  An Atlanta start-up providing complete jobsite documentation for contractors from pre-slab to completion.  In 2018, we will be offering job walk documentation, 360 and conventional progress photography, and by spring, UAV aerial services.  It is this investment in professional grade equipment that will allow us the highest quality of deliverable to our clients.

Quality matters and who you associate with does as well.  That’s why we chose StructionSite.

Guest posted by Michael Hatfield, jobsiteDOCS

To learn more about how you can implement 360 Photo Capture on your job sites, sign up today and start documenting!