Paperless Community Development Plan Review

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Reviewing the plans that drive your local community and economic development is one of the most important and, at times, contentious activities you face. Consider the typical paper-based plan review process and ask yourself does this process sound efficient to you? OK, how about familiar? Typical steps are:

1. Someone has a hot new project for your community. They build out the project on a complex set of electronic drawings with multiple layers of detail in a system with automated revision control and change management. Oh yeah and they want to go fast and so do your community leaders.
2. They then print out all 5, 10, 20… pages of the package and make multiple paper copies to submit for plan review.
3. They then hand this mountain of paper to your team for review and approval.
4. You manually red-line the required changes to one of the copies.  Your package, potentially along with those from other departments or areas, are sent back to the requestor in order for them to the make the required changes.
5. The submitter then creates new sets of revised drawings and re-submit multiple paper copies once again.
6. As you review the revised package, are all of the required changes there?  The process is slow and it is easy to overlook omission or changes, particularly those that were not requested.
7. Repeat as many times as it takes…

8. Now if you’re also in the role of the Plan Reviewer:

  • It’s time to head out to the job site.  You grab a copy of the correct (?) revision of the paper plans and head out.
  • Upon arrival at the job site it is clear that there are discrepancies between the “as-built” and your copy of the plans.  Your interaction with the site project manager heats up as you try to address your concerns.  Which set of drawings is correct, theirs or yours?  It turns out that you are correct this time. Consequently, the project manager has some re-work to do and unnecessary expense to incur and the project is delayed, but what about the next time or the next 100 times?   Who needs all of that stress when there is a better way?

For both local governments and developers, it’s critical to catch all issues with a building or site plan before it is approved and that everyone uses the approved plans.  The traditional way of reviewing plan sets — in paper form only — presents many challenges for planning departments.  The first challenge is simply handling, storing, and tracking the often large and unwieldy plan sets and project files.  Maps and architectural drawings, construction specifications and permit documents, site photos and testing records — all are among the many and varied document types that are necessary to review and store for every development project.  And guess what; receiving electronic files is not much better when there are multiple versions stored in virtual folders on the “public” drive on your server.

Frequently multiple sets of these paper plans are necessary because people across multiple departments must review different aspects of a proposed development project.  With so many documents in so many hands, it’s difficult to track the status of who is reviewing what.  Even when planners get all of the paper documents they need, there’s no easy way for them to collaborate or record their comments in a cohesive and consistent way during plan reviews or ensure that they have the most current version with all of the necessary changes.  There are also customer service challenges and often a lack of transparency associated with the paper-based plan review process. Add in multiple revision volleys and multiple sub-contractors, with their own copies of these drawings and it can feel like a miracle, just when everyone is on the same page (literally).

The technology exists for a much better process.  Managed Paperless Plan Review is now a practical alternative for almost every Planning department.

If you are ready to learn more, or to move forward with an electronic plan review management system with integrated tools to manage comments and revisions as well as ensure that you always have the correct drawing, contact CASNET today.

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