The tragic condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, shocked the nation. The pictures are horrifying. Indeed, most of us awoke that morning not expecting to see a high-rise building collapsed on the news…in the United States! Here?!?!

Typically, buildings collapse because of failed demolitions, gas or chemical explosions, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters. It remains unclear what caused the tragedy in Florida. But one thing is sure: Investigators will find a cause that will trigger litigation to swirl like a hurricane. But there are other causes for construction litigation other than a building collapse. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics rates the construction industry as the riskiest environment for work injuries and fatalities. Aside from the obvious safety issues for workers, the most common types of construction lawsuits include:

  • Water, mold, and mildew damage claims
  • Lien and breach of contract claims
  • Construction defect claims and professional negligence
  • Construction delay lawsuits
  • Unstable, damaged, and/or cracked foundation claims
  • Roofing issues

Currently, water damage constitutes half of construction litigation cases.

Using Intelligent Search to Discourage Uncle Murphy Visits

As mentioned, lawsuits involving a building’s construction can and do happen. How can you better guard against future litigation, plus protect the construction crew’s safety? A best practice tip for mitigating construction risk is implementing a cloud-based Document Management System (DMS). And, it’s even better if the DMS has an intelligent search function.

Project managers always look forward to celebrating the opening of a new construction project. However, they should also “look back” and prepare for a possible visit from Uncle Murphy (a.k.a. Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”) Uncle Murphy is never invited, nor wanted, on a job site. Still, inevitably, he will show up sometime in your career to crash the party.

The Importance of Document Control in Project Management

Just owning a cloud-based DMS doesn’t mean it can be used as a digital dumping ground for all documents. You are just trading a crammed physical file cabinet with an unorganized digital one. Risk management and mitigation begin with a document control strategy agreed to during the project’s pre-construction phase.

If a company does not have a document control strategy, the risks to a construction company include:

  • Costly rework by missing a change order or using an unrevised document
  • Lost productivity due to hunting for documents
  • Schedule overruns and blown out budgets
  • Misunderstandings and disputes between contractors, subcontractors, and clients
  • Difficulty in responding to audit and litigation demands

A DMS creates a one-source virtual paper trail that is up-to-date, which the project team can view and use to collaborate from project kick-off to closeout. The added benefit of a DMS with an intelligent search function is project team members can access documents in minimal time without memorizing a file tree structure and strict naming conventions. In other words, workers do not have to quiz the field engineer or the document manager asking, “what is in the current set?”

Intelligent search also allows quick access to safety and training videos, warning labels, and product usage descriptions which help workers do their jobs. This may not seem a big deal, but if a lighting installer is on scaffolding four stories up and wants to double-check a document, it’s much easier to speak into a DMS to find the latest version than use his finger to scroll and search through file trees.

Risk mitigation by using a cloud-based DMS with intelligent search can:

  • Allow real-time access for field crews to documents from anywhere on any device
  • Reduce wasted time searching for files and communications
  • Reduce access and data entry errors
  • Decrease chance of rework
  • Better response to regulatory/compliance audits 

Key Takeaway: Use a DMS with Intelligent Search to better “CYA”

By design, a cloud-based DMS is an enterprise app that organizes architectural drawings, permits, contracts, proposals, RFIs, specifications, and any other documentation needed to construct a project into a centralized database. If the DMS has an intelligent search component, the application can assist with risk mitigation by accessing correct revisions, safety protocols, and important notifications. In the advent of litigation and an audit is asked for, the intelligent search function can save considerable time looking for the proper documentation.