Paper Cuts and Carpal Tunnel

File_000I had no idea being an Executive Assistant for an Architect would be such a dangerous job. Okay, maybe it’s not dangerous – I am just accident-prone. But the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of paper cuts and carpal tunnel, brought on by excessive amounts of filing large, out-of-control drawing files (24” x 36” bounded stacks that can weigh up to 15 pounds) and hours of blogging and social media marketing. Have I mentioned how much paper work we save here? Oh, I have? Well, excuse me while I complain some more about my paper cuts and dig a little deeper into the reasoning behind an architect’s borderline hoarding tendencies…

Filing paperwork is a business standard. It’s smart to keep records of orders, invoices and correspondence. I totally get that, and architects are a prime example of excellent record keeping. My inner journalist wants some answers – are all of these documents/drawings a requirement for architects? Or is my boss just old school and super organized? Or maybe both? My carpal tunnel wrought fingers diligently type away and discover the website for The American Institute of Architects (AIA), which features a complete section dedicated to Contract Documents.

“The AIA publishes nearly 200 agreements and administrative forms that are recognized throughout the design and construction industry as the benchmark documents for managing transactions and relationships involved in construction projects.” No, that is not a type-o. Nearly 200 different documents can be used in the architectural process. “The AIA’s prominence in the field is based on 125 years of experience creating and updating its documents.” The organization dates back to 1888, the year they published the first Uniform Contract, designed for use between an owner and contractor. They published the first standardized general conditions for construction in 1911. They are on the sixteenth edition of those general conditions, published most recently in the year 2007 (A201™ –2007). Some of the original documents provided include: invitation to bid, instructions to bidders, form of proposal, form of agreement, form of bond (more on the subject at; and general conditions of the contract.

“AIA documents maintain a symbolic relationship with the industry, each profoundly influencing the other. The AIA regularly revises its documents to account for recent developments in the construction industry. Standardized documents for design-build, sustainable projects, for different types of construction management, and for international practice have been published in recent years.” Of course, these documents are just suggestions for the architect – they are not required to submit them. They are merely guidelines to help them be successful. “AIA documents are intended for nationwide use and are not drafted to conform to the law of any one state. With that caveat, however, AIA documents provide a solid basis of contract provisions that are enforceable under the existing law at the time of publication.”

Another section of the AIA website provides information on how long you should keep project files: “From a legal standpoint, a primary reason to keep your records is to protect against risk of liability. Some state licensing regulations also may require that you keep project files for a certain number of years. In addition to complying with the applicable state regulations, you should keep project files for the number of years during which claims can be filed for damage on building projects. The state statutes of repose and statutes of limitation, which vary from state to state, describe that specific length of time. If any of your work was done out of state, the other state’s laws should be taken into account.”

According to Florida Construction Law Update, “In Florida, construction defect lawsuits typically must be filed within four (4) years from the latest of the following scenarios: the date of actual possession by the owner, the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, or the date of completion or termination of the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer (§ 95.11(3)(c), Fla. Stat.). If the action involves a latent defect, “the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.” However, in an effort to avoid creating what seems like an unlimited statute of limitations for construction lawsuits involving latent defects, Florida’s Statute of Repose requires these construction law actions to be commenced no later than ten (10) years after the latest of the above-referenced scenarios.

Each new project we acquire immediately gets a set of folders to keep track of documentation: accounting, bidding, construction, correspondence, general and meeting minutes. Sometimes other folders are necessary (depending on the project) such as RFIs, CCCRs, and shop drawings. All of these folders contain important information relating to the project. I have learned that it is very important to keep these files handy because of questions from any party involved that may pop up.

I conclude that my boss is not showing signs of hoarding tendencies. He is only doing what is suggested to succeed in his field and by law! Eventually my dainty fingers will form callouses and get used to large amount of filing that is required in my position. For now, I might need to invest in a first aid kit – I don’t want to get blood on any important files!

2 thoughts on “Paper Cuts and Carpal Tunnel

  1. Well put! As part of any certification/standards industry document retention is always required. I’m sure you’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. One company will streamline the process with a base standard making life easier for everyone to jump from one project to another. Another company may just pile things in one folder without organization… or even call the same documents by different names.

    Theses standards as you mention above change quite often as newer technologies become more commonplace. A perfect example of this would be hardcopies vs. digital formats(a la Mil-STD-31000 with structure/model based definition).

    As stated above, this is a great article and I look forward to reading more. Will the blog post become a regular thing? If this becomes a regularly scheduled thing I’d love to bookmark it for a weekly read.


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