Paper plans, or blueprints, have been around for hundreds of years. However, with the move to digital technologies plans are being created on computers. The result is that companies, including those that haven’t transitioned to working with digital plans, are most likely to receive a PDF file that they then need to print out.
Having to print out paper plans is not only expensive and time consuming, it also misses all the other benefits of working with digital plans.
While there are many benefits to working with digital, some will be more relevant than others depending on the user’s objectives. The following outlines some of the more general benefits; other benefits will come from specific features of the software chosen.
Markup & Updates
One of the main advantages of digital blueprints or plans is the ability to do markup and make updates or changes in real-time. With a paper plan, changes have to be made manually which can be time-consuming and costly. Digital plans, on the other hand, can be edited and shared with all stakeholders in minutes, reducing the potential for errors and delays.
Combined with this is version control. Working with digital plans, it is easy to see that the most recent version is being used; however, with paper, there is no easy way to be sure. Some software applications for working with digital plans also feature methods to compare versions.
Access from Anywhere
Another advantage of digital plans is the ability to access them from anywhere. With paper plans, they have to be physically transported to the job site, which can be difficult and costly. Digital plans, they can be accessed from any device with internet access, making it easy for all stakeholders to stay informed and on the same page.
Paper & Printing Cost Savings
The use of digital plans also brings cost-saving benefits. In the past, architects would have to purchase large rolls of paper, ink, and other materials to create paper plans. With digital plans, architects can save money on materials and printing costs, and can also save on storage costs as digital plans take up less space than paper plans.
Digital plans also make it easier to collaborate with other stakeholders. With paper blueprints, collaboration is difficult as multiple people cannot work on the same blueprint at the same time. Digital blueprints, on the other hand, can be shared and edited by multiple people simultaneously, making it easy for all stakeholders to work together.
Digital plans can also be viewed with 3D images, which can be very helpful for visualizing the finished project. This can be especially useful for clients who may have trouble understanding 2D drawings and can help ensure everyone is on the same page about the final design. Being able to move around an image in 3D can help get an understanding of the design as well as help identify potential issues.
Also, in the early stages of product release are applications employing AI to review and identify important design aspects, including potential issues.
While the setup costs of moving to digital can be quickly assessed and justified against the cost of working with paper plans one aspect is training. There are various considerations on this topic:
- Some software applications are intuitive for functions like viewing a plan, pan, zoom, simple markup, saving the file, and sending it to someone by email. For most users, if they are used to using a computer, then these functions will probably be very straightforward.
- Many software applications have readily available online training broken down into specific functions. For example, video guides to calibration so that onscreen measurements for estimating will match with the dimensions of the plan.
- For advanced users, the effort of training is justified by the benefits and results of the functions the users can then access.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, digital plans also have a positive impact on the environment. The use of paper plans requires cutting down trees and produces a significant amount of waste. Digital plans, on the other hand, are created and stored electronically, eliminating the need for paper and reducing the carbon footprint.
Companies that have to store and archive printed plans will quickly see the benefit of not printing out multiple versions of sets of plans.
Display & Paper Sizes
For people used to working with a certain paper size, modern display sizes can match these as well as provide the very significant benefit of zooming in and panning a larger image. This allows moving between getting the big picture view as well as being able to zoom in and work on the finer details.
Overall, the transition from using paper architectural plans to digital versions has brought many benefits to the field of architecture. The ability to easily view and review, then markup and share and collaborate with team members, save costs, and have a positive impact on the environment make digital plans a preferred choice for architects. As technology continues to evolve, it is likely that digital plans will become even more prevalent in the field of construction.