I recently presented at and attended the Association for Preservation Technology’s Documentation Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. This workshop originated out of the 2014 Annual Conference in Quebec, Canada. It was so popular that it became a traveling workshop. Among the topics that came up during general discussion was the evolving format of deliverables. With the increase use of laser scanning and BIM, many of us believe that the future lies in digital, 3D deliverables – that we will no longer be using tools to create drawings but instead creating smart models that will inform the contractors how to build our buildings. Every element in the building can have associated data that is required to produce that particular part of the project and the contractor can view it in whatever perspectives are required to fully understand the design.

What does this mean for architects, engineers, conservators, and tradespeople? How does this affect workflow? Instead of spending time making drawings “look right” we can instead spend the time putting the information required directly into the model, as that will become the deliverable. This information can even be exported and used on various projects. It can be hyperlinked to various other documents, including images, pdfs, specifications, etc.

What does this mean for the owner? What about archiving? For as long as people have been around, we have been saving hard copies of documents, be they stone tablets, papyrus scrolls, or ink on Mylar drawings. Archiving is a very real issue in the digital age. File formats come and go with the seasons it seems, and there are many formats that are no longer readable, or for which the readers/players no longer exist. As we move more and more into the age of cloud computing, we must think about how this can be adapted for our archiving purposes and in a manner that will be readable 20, 50, 200 years in the future. It may fuel the advent of a new kind of company. The type of company that specializes in saving documents along with their associated readers/software. Of course this opens up a whole other host of questions – cost, access, security – which we can only begin to now speculate on.

There are many unanswered questions here, but I think that the future of documents is going to be digital and not based on a sheet of paper, so the more we can begin to think of ways to facilitate this, the better!

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