The Importance of a Project Diary For Architecture and Engineering Firms – Part One

Executive Overview

The keeping of project records, including the preparation, assembly, and preservation of such records is considered to be one of the most important duties and responsibilities of architects and engineers.

Diaries document work progress, project ideas, project conversations, and many other items that are sometimes thought to be insignificant at the time and yet prove to be very important later in the project. Entries into a diary can provide valuable information necessary to accurately reconstruct the events of the project. In maintaining these records, project personnel must be consistent in recording the events and activities on the project, particularly those relating to claims or potential claims. Daily diaries are the key to claims avoidance and mitigating damages.

What Should be Recorded

While I would like to say everything I realize that is not realistic. You should attempt to enter summaries for all conversations, job site visits, meetings, and the like. Basically any event where information is exchanged. Here are some ideas of things that you probably want to track.

Phone conversations — anytime you have a conversation with the project owner, one of your consultants or perhaps your client there is a very good chance that you want to document the highlights of that conversation.

Creative ideas — if you come up with a new idea for the project take the time to write it down. Later when you share this idea with other team members you can reference back to this diary entry. Meetings — now if formal meeting minutes are being taken then this is less important. However you may want to at least jot down the fact at a meeting was held.

Directions or Instructions — any directions or instructions that you have shared with a consultants, the owner, or perhaps the contractor should be recorded.

Site visits — most likely you will be creating an observation report that summarizes findings from your site visit, in that case you may just want to make note of the fact that a site visit was conducted. If you are not generating an observation report then it would be a good idea to record and unique findings that may have been observed.

As you can see most of these are common sense items. The key is to capture your institutional memory so that it can be recalled at a later date. It is amazing how many people seem to come down with amnesia when disputes arise.

Elements of a Quality Entry

Probably the most important piece of information is the date. Every entry needs to be date stamped. You also want to record the name of the person or persons related to the entry. If you can note something of interest such as the weather or location it is very helpful. Personal opinions, outside of your professional judgement, and editorial comments should most likely not be included. If your diary is not specific to a particular project then the project information such as the name of the project and number should also be included. Just the facts ma’am. This may be a famous movie quote but its message is pertinent to the diary. Keep the diary entry as factual and accurate as possible.

Continued in Part 2

Read Part 2 or visit our website to learn more about engineering project management

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