Field Reports: The Ultimate Guide
As an architect, you know how important it is to draft and share field reports. A clear and accurate field report is crucial to avoid costly misunderstandings, mistakes, discussions, and even lawsuits.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about professional field reports.
What is a Field Report?
Field reports – also called site reports, inspection reports, construction field reports, site progress reports, or site visit reports – are drafted during regular site inspections and site meetings. They are used to document and share open items, items that were discussed, and the planning of the project. All tasks, actions, and deadlines are documented.
The field report is typically drafted by the architect. After the site inspection or meeting, it is completed and distributed to all parties involved. In this way, all parties involved know exactly what is expected of them and by when.
Field reports usually answer questions such as:
- Are the works being carried out correctly and according to plan?
- Are adjustments or improvements required?
- What agreements have been made? Any changes and additional works needed?
For small and simple projects, an email could suffice to document this. But emails can easily get lost. The standard in the construction sector is a detailed field report, usually in PDF format
It goes without saying that all parties involved in a construction project prefer a clear, well-arranged, and structured field report.
The Importance of Field Reports
1. Avoid problems from escalating
Visiting your construction projects at regular intervals and documenting all relevant matters and required adjustments will help you detect irregularities early in the construction process.
Don’t let small errors escalate into big problems. The earlier mistakes are discovered, the easier and cheaper it is to correct them. It is therefore crucial not to wait until the end of the construction process with inspections and field reports. Because by then, it is often too late to make the required adjustments.
Quality control is something you should build in from day one, not something you can add at the very end.
2. Avoid Misunderstandings Through Good Communication
Many parties are involved in a construction project. The more parties, the higher the risk of misunderstandings or miscommunication. And, as a result, costly errors and frustrating delays.
Regular site visits and clear field reports that clearly state who should do what and which adjustments are needed are key to a successful project. They reduce the chance of errors and delays which will help to increase the profitability of the project.
3. Field Reports Are Crucial In Discussions or Lawsuits
You should document all comments, problems, and agreements made in field reports and then share the field reports with all parties involved.
If problems should arise in the project, then field reports form a powerful element in discussions, or if it really escalates, an important piece of legal evidence.
A field report with clearly described agreements, things to be done, and clear photos of pending items can help you enormously in the event of disagreements. If everything is well documented, it can help you avoid expensive and unproductive discussions and procedures.
Best Practices For Field Reports
Here are 9 best practices you should apply to your field reports.
1. Add Structure To Your Field Report
Clearly structured texts are processed much easier and faster than chaotic, unstructured texts. When information follows a predictable pattern, we find it easier to read and are more likely to act on it. Therefore, try to be consistent when structuring your reports with titles, paragraphs, and other content elements. This makes it easier for the parties involved to process your reports.
Avoid long pieces of text. Try to divide your text into paragraphs and add meaningful titles. That helps to improve readability.
Write in clear and understandable language. Try to write clear and complete sentences that everyone can understand. Phrase it as you would explain it to someone who knows nothing about the project, such as a sibling, or a friend.
2. Assign each item a status and unique number
Assign a status to the items in your field reports, for example, ‘OK’ or ‘NOT OK’. Track the progress of the items and keep the status up to date.
Also, give each item a unique number and make sure that this number never changes so that it can be referenced in future discussions.
Many architects number their items by first taking the serial number of the report in which this item first appeared, followed by a serial number of the item within that report.
As an example: ‘item 3.2’ is the 2nd item of report 3. If item 3.2 still occurs in report 10, then we know that the item is already there since report number 3. If you use a field report app the items in your field reports are automatically numbered this way.
3. Use Photos and Sketches
Photos are processed much more easily by our brain compared to text. Photos show the problem at a glance. The information will get processed faster and clearer than a piece of text, so the parties involved will act on it faster.
For example, the image below clearly shows the contractor involved what needs to be done. The contractor does not need to read a lot to understand what is required.
Using photos instead of text significantly reduces the chance of misunderstandings and mistakes.
4. Show the Location of Items on a Floor Plan
Avoid discussions and expensive mistakes by making it clear on a plan where a problem is located.
By placing location pointers on a floor plan, you no longer have to describe with text where the problem is located. With one look at the plan, the contractors know where to start. By locating all items on a plan, you can then forward the complete plan with all items on it
5. Assign Items
Assign the items in the report to one of the different parties involved. When you do this, it is clear to all everyone who should perform this task or solve the problem, so there are no discussions afterward.
If you use structured software for construction field reports and site management, you can also send each contractor only their assigned items, so that they do not have to search for them among all the other items in the report.
6. Add Other Details To Clarify Items
For each comment, there are details you can add to make the items even more accurate. For example, you can add a deadline, an extra descriptive text about what the problem is or what the actions to take are, or “tag” your comment as urgent.
Be consistent and add relevant information to each item. If your communication is clear and all parties know exactly what is expected of them, there will be less misunderstandings, and the project will close out faster.
7. Use a Checklist
For some activities, the use of a field report checklist template on site is useful. Especially if you have to review a set list of things during each site visit. For example, you might have also checklists for start-up meetings, a punch list, or a safety or quality inspection.
8. Start From The Previous Report
The purpose of a field report is to have an up-to-date overview of the progress of the works and the pending items.
Most architects, therefore, start from the previous report when creating a new one. Resolved items and items that are no longer relevant can be removed. Items that are still actual can be updated. And new items can be added. This means that you do not have to start from scratch with every new field report.
A frequently used method when cloning a previous field report is that only the open items (with status NOT OK) are copied into the new field report. Here is an example:
- Report 1: item 1.1 is added to the report, with the status NOT OK.
- Report 2: item 1.1 has been solved and is indicated as such in report 2, for example with status OK.
- Report 3: item 1.1 is no longer appearing in this report since it was already solved in the previous report.
With professional field report software, you can create a new report starting from the previous report with one click.
9. Send the Field Report Immediately After Your Site Visit
You should prepare and distribute your field report to all parties involved as soon as possible after your site visit. It is important that the different contractors involved quickly get an up-to-date overview of the open items so they can take the necessary actions.
If the field report is not emailed to all parties until a few days later, some items or comments may no longer be relevant. This can cause confusion and will reduce the credibility of the field report, thereby also giving less importance to the other items in the report.
Most architects send the complete field report, with all items for all parties involved. In addition to the full field report, some architects also send a filtered report per assigned contractor. By doing so, each contractor has a list with only their assigned items and does not have to search in the full field report for the information that is relevant to them.
The Building Blocks Of a Professional Field Report
There are many different approaches to building field reports, but there are common elements in almost all of them.
Here’s a handy overview of the most important building blocks of a professional field report:
- General project and report info: Include project name, client name, project number, project address, report date, and report number. By including this information, everyone can immediately see which project and report it concerns. This data also helps if you need to find an old report in your archives.
- Project status: Include a high-level description of the current status of the project. In addition to text, many architects also add one or multiple photos to the project status, to give everyone a quick idea of the current project status.
- Planning: Include an overview of the most important construction phases and tasks in time, possibly together an overview of the tasks already completed, percentages of the task in progress, and dependencies between the different tasks. This way, the contractors see when they can start their work, and they can use this for their own planning.
- Contacts table with an indication of people present on-site: Most field reports contain a contact table with details of all parties involved in the project, such as name, role, and contact information. This table often also indicates which contacts were present during the site visit, and also to whom the report was sent.
- List of observations and open items: This is the core of the field report. Include an overview of the observations and open items, along with details such as photos, text, date, assignee, location pointers on a floor plan, status, and more. In this way, everyone gets a clear view of the agreements made, and the contractors involved have all the input they need on which items they need to work.
- Practical information: Often the date of the next site meeting, or other practical information, is included in the field report.
- Disclaimer: This is important. Protect yourself from potential lawsuits. Including a standard text in every report can save you a lot of effort, time, and money. For example, something like “This report by email serves as proof of sending. Absence of response within 7 working days counts as final acceptance.”
Prepare Field Reports Efficiently with A Field Report App
Making site reports is an administrative burden that many architects struggle with. Fortunately, there are field reporting tools that can help.
With a field reporting app, you can easily document items on-site with your smartphone or tablet, insert and annotate photos, add or record text, and place a pointer on a floor plan. After the site visit, your site report will be automagically available, ready to distribute with one click.
Not only does this save you a lot of time (easily 1 to 2 hours per report), it also contributes to a professional image.
The Benefits of Digital Field Reports
With a field reporting app, you are freed from the hassle of manually creating site reports. By immediately entering the necessary information on-site via your smartphone or tablet, the report is virtually ready when you leave the site. This will help you save hours of time, week after week after week.
Here are the biggest benefits of using an app to create field reports:
1. All Information is Centrally Available and Searchable
By digitizing your field reports you make all data structured and searchable: with digital site reports, you have a central database of all your items and reports. All photos and plans are also stored securely and centrally, and are not spread over different camera roles, mailboxes, or whatsapp messages.
That means you can easily find, edit, filter, sort, and group your items, and share them with other parties.
2. Smooth Collaboration with Colleagues
Because all colleagues work together in the same cloud environment, they can easily work on the same projects or take over projects when a colleague is absent.
In addition, using one central field report software across the whole company ensures uniform site reports with the same structure and layout for all colleagues.
3. Floor Plans Available Anytime, Anywhere
With a field report app you will always have easy access to all your documents and plans per project, whenever and wherever you need them (smartphone, tablet, laptop).
If this is useful, you can show other parties exactly where a problem is located by indicating numbered location pointers on a floor plan. Or annotate and sketch on a plan for further clarification.
4. Use of Voice to Text
Using your voice to create your field reports is no longer a thing of the future. Voice to text is available by default on almost every smartphone and tablet. Speech technology makes documenting items on-site even easier and faster. You speak, the text rolls out.
Watch this short video, you will be amazed at how well it works.
5. Start From the Previous Report
When creating a new site report, most architects start from the previous report and take it from there. With a professional field reporting tool, this process is fully automated. On the construction site, with your smartphone or tablet, you make a new report as a copy of the previous one and you can immediately start completing and updating the report and the list of items.
This way you no longer have to print and review your previous report every time you visit the site, and you no longer have to manually copy-paste items in Word.
6. Automatic Item Numbering
No more copy-pasting and manually adjusting the numbers of your reports and items.
With a digital tool for field reports, your reports and items are automatically and logically numbered. The layout (logo, header, footer, and more) of the reports is also applied automatically.
7. Sign and Send Field Reports from the Construction Site
With a field report app that you can use on-site, you can have your site report immediately ready and available from your smartphone or tablet. You can review it, have it signed off, and distribute it the parties involved, all directly from the construction site.
8. Assigned Parties Can Provide Feedback on Pending Items
Assigned parties can provide feedback on their pending items via text and photos. Once resolved, they can submit them for approval. No more Whatsapp, email, phone calls, or text messages to stay informed about the status of pending items.
ArchiSnapper: The #1 App for Field Reports
ArchiSnapper is an easy-to-use yet powerful application specifically designed for field reports and punch lists for architects and engineers.
More than 10,000 users automatically generate their professional reports directly on-site with ArchiSnapper on their smartphone or tablet.
How does ArchiSnapper work?
- Visit the site with the ArchiSnapper app on your smartphone or tablet and document items with photos, annotations on photos, floor plan annotations, assignees, and more.
- Your site report is automatically generated in PDF format – ready for distribution. Your logo and other layout settings are applied automatically.
- Or, if desired, you can complete and finish the report back at the office via laptop or desktop before distributing it.
ArchiSnapper users say that the app saves them at least 1 hour of work per report and thus easily several hours per week. Time they can now spend on useful work instead of struggling with reports and photos in Word.