Why a construction file is indispensable in progressive projects

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Demi-Jo Smith, March 31, 2022

Builders are craftsmen and this is often reflected in their work. Heart for the business, an eye for detail and an aptitude for working with numbers. Three qualities that you regularly encounter amongst professionals in the sector. And that is necessary, because what you also see on a regular basis, is that builders have to start a project without any information about the building site or the object to be built. That is why it is time for a change. A change that makes things easier for builders. It is time for a construction industry full of up-to-date construction files.

An incomplete construction file is, of course, not a good start for the future facility manager. But there are even more reasons to produce a sound and complete construction file. Why is it important to build up a good and complete construction file, and what should the file contain? How do you ensure that you build up the technical construction file properly from the start, and throughout the construction phase? These and many more questions about the construction file are answered in this article.

If a construction file is incomplete on delivery, the future manager of the building gets off to a false start

The importance of a good construction file

If a construction file is incomplete upon delivery, the future manager of the new building is actually making a false start. If there is something wrong with the building, it costs the manager more valuable time to solve the problems. A well-known example is the absence, incompleteness or inaccuracy of adjustment data for cooling or heating installations in the building.

Simply put, this should not happen. But in practice, construction files regularly turn out to be incomplete, incorrect or out of date. This is despite the fact that providing a construction file is an obligation for the contractor, and meeting the requirements of laws and regulations is a primary responsibility of the client.

Het ouderwetse gebouwdossier
If a construction file is incomplete on delivery, the future manager of the building gets off to a false start.

Sustainability plays an increasingly important role in building management

The construction file is important for efficient building management and simply required by law, but there is another reason to keep a building file up to date: sustainability. Making buildings more sustainable is an important current topic in the construction world. If a manager or owner wants to make a building more sustainable, one of the first steps will certainly be to consult the construction file for all the necessary information about the materials used, for example.

When is the construction file complete?

A basic requirement for the construction file is that it must provide a complete picture of the technical condition of a building. What a construction file should contain exactly to make it complete, is not specified in detail by law, but the following items certainly belong in there:

  • Basic data, e.g. land registry information
  • Test certificates
  • Dates of periodic inspections and test reports
  • Maintenance and user recommendations
  • Maintenance contracts
  • Key certificates and associated records
  • Descriptions of modifications
  • Architectural and installation drawings

A separate chapter is the documentation of technical installations. If you do not keep track of settings and changes to technical installations, this can lead to complaints and the need to adjust the installation all over again. It is therefore important that all data about the installations is kept and properly documented in the construction file. Consider the following points as a minimum for installations:

  • Design specifications and technical drawings
  • Location of all power supplies and distribution devices
  • Adjustment data
  • Inspection and other certificates of installations
  • Maintenance and operating instructions

Start early with the construction file

If you also want to deliver an optimally updated construction file when a building is completed, the first recommendation is to start as early as possible. A lot of data is already available before construction starts. 

Building the dossier starts with good organisation. In construction projects, there is often a core team responsible for the construction file. This certainly applies to larger projects; for smaller projects, the core team can also simply be one person. It is good if different stakeholders are represented in the core team, for example the owner, the contractor, facility management and technical management.

One of the first steps of the core team is usually to make a checklist of all the laws and requirements with which the building must comply. We distinguish legal requirements, which are imposed and monitored by the government, from requirements and rules as drawn up by, for example, the owner of the building. It is then important to structurally record from the outset which checks have been carried out on these laws and requirements, such as: by whom, when and what was the outcome?

Moreover, keeping track of all these things digitally helps you recognise trends.

All information: complete, secure and accessible

Once the organisation has been set up and an inventory has been made of the laws and requirements with which the building must comply, the next logical step is to start actually setting up the construction file. The days when this was done in cabinets full of hardcopy files are long gone. Which tools or instruments do we use to create a correct, complete, safe and accessible construction file?

You might quickly think of software tools, and they are indeed virtually indispensable, but there is more. A good construction file affects many aspects of an organisation, and requires more than just software. Consider, for example, the knowledge, expertise and skills required: knowledge of financial planning, technical drawings, maintenance planning and much more. However, all those aspects do come together in the software you use. Moreover, keeping track of all these facets digitally helps you recognise trends. Is something going well at the same point, over and over again? Keep it that way! Does something regularly go wrong in a specific part of the process? Then you can do something about it. The profit you make there is an immediate margin. But where do you start?

How do you choose the right software?

How do you choose the right software for the construction file? Nowadays, there are quite a few solutions on the market, so how do you choose the package that best suits your organisation and your construction file? The possibilities are extensive, both in the number of different packages and in the possibilities within each package. That is why it is good to think about your selection criteria in advance, and to draw up a list of them. We have listed a number of possible selection criteria:

  • What do you need? The software package that you buy must be complete and meet your requirements and wishes. For example, does the package include a blueprint management system? And a contract management and energy monitoring system? Software for maintenance planning? And of course there are dozens of other requirements you can think of. In any case, make sure that you choose a package that takes into account all the legal requirements that apply to your building and construction file.
  • Design: It is also good to look ahead and think about the future. You might start with a small pilot project, but if that proves successful, you might want to expand. More environments, more users or more forms. Is that a possibility? How easy is it and how much will it cost? These are things to take into account beforehand.
  • Accessibility: can you organise who has access to the construction file, or parts of it, in a user-friendly manner? And what are the authorisations you can give to a user?
  • Security: a component on which you must never economise. All your data must be safe in the software you decide to use, well protected against hackers and other cybercriminals. Security also includes back-up and recovery: if something happens to the system, a hack or a breakdown, how quickly will the system be available again? You can often find this out from your suppliers website, or you can ask them. And if in doubt, look further.