The handover of a construction project is the final piece of the puzzle which has to be laid down before the contractor’s team can finish up their work and the owner can finally take full control of the structure which they have slowly watched rise over the course of the build.
However, this process can be a long, drawn out affair, with the potential of disastrous consequences befalling all parties if not handled correctly. To make matters worse, many projects still rely on paper documentation to carry out a handover – meaning they are depending on sources which could be lost, misplaced, or destroyed during a project’s lifespan.
Digital handovers provide a way to circumvent these possibilities, and provide one single hub where all reports, drawings, and manuals can be sourced.
This guide lays out exactly how the process of a digital handover works, and how the many benefits of a cloud solution can turn handover from a potential administrative nightmare to a safe, reliable, and streamlined process.
The handover of a construction project marks the point at which the main contractor formally delivers it to the client. It’s essential to have a concise, detailed and thorough handover for the client to not only operate the building as intended, but also to plan and carry out maintenance in the future.
In the paper era, the process could involve hundreds of documents, drawings, plans and certificates. This made the handover vulnerable to a variety of problems including confusion, miscommunication and lapses in safety or compliance.
By contrast, digital handover management assembles all the necessary documentation in a final cloud-based package that can be accessed and shared by multiple users across various locations .
In a nutshell, the client receives a comprehensive list of what assets they need to maintain, where they are, and what action is required to do so.
Clients and owners require full visibility of the status, condition and standards of the building.
Previously, the paper-based handover system introduced an element of trust into the exchange, but with a digital handover both sides can share information in a seamless, transparent manner.
Furthermore, a digital handover eliminates the problematic delays that occur at the project’s conclusion, when contractors find themselves scrambling for documentation in order to meet the deadline. By gathering documentation throughout the construction process, and storing it in a single, shareable repository, contractors can avoid delays that may be costly.
Above all, a trouble-free handover is key for client satisfaction. Misunderstandings or unresolved issues can tarnish an otherwise successful construction project, so the benefits of a smooth digital handover cannot be underestimated.
Typically, one might see the digital handover as the end of a project. However, that gives a picture that is not entirely accurate.
While the digital handover does indeed mark the symbolic transfer of a project from main contractor to owner, the handover itself has a much longer lifespan, both before and after the project is complete.
A successful digital handover is a proactive information-gathering exercise based on solid planning.
A bad handover, by contrast, is a retrospective hunt for missing documentation, typically on paper. Therefore, work on the digital handover should start from the design phase of construction, long before any ground has been broken.
This then sets the template for all information collection in subsequent phases. As subcontractors come and go, the digital handover template will indicate to them what documentation needs to be submitted, in what format, and by what deadline.
Even once the project has been transferred to the owner, the handover is not yet ready to archive for posterity.
Generally, a two- to three-month buffer period should be factored in. This allows for post-handover testing and commissioning to take place, and action to be taken should any issues arise once the construction site goes ‘live’.
Digital handover allows feedback and learning from the first phase to inform and improve subsequent phases. As long as information sharing is dynamic and collaborative, both construction manager and owner benefit.
Seen from a broad perspective, digital handover offers clear improvements in project management compared to the paper-based system.
Examining the solution on a more granular level, however, reveals that the benefits are not confined to the main contractor and end-user alone.
In fact, a digital handover can improve efficiency, speed and safety throughout the whole life cycle of a project, starting from the initial plans and lasting long after delivery.
Subcontractors and design teams, for example, can collaborate earlier on plans, while clients can monitor progress ahead of delivery. Whatever the scale of the project, from a single home to a large-scale office complex, a cloud-based digital solution yields tangible benefits for all users.
Some sectors are better equipped than others to make the switch from physical to digital assets. The migration of large amounts of data is itself a challenge, with many banks, for example, suffering system crashes when moving data from on-premise servers to the cloud.
For the construction sector, the switch tends to be directly from paper to cloud. In this case, the challenge is in the learning curve - changing behaviour and communicating the necessary skills for staff to get to grips with the software.
The Zutec platform meets this challenge with a user-friendly, intuitive interface. Once this has been mastered, the tangible benefits reveal themselves in the form of faster delivery, greater visibility, and essential features such as BIM integration.
The balance of power in a paper-driven handover solution has been compared to a pendulum.
At the outset of the project, the main contractor establishes the schedule, budget, resources and direction of construction, then hands these over to a variety of subcontractors spread across several phases, relinquishing visibility and control in the process. Power doesn’t swing back to the main contractor until each subcontractor has completed their task and delivered all the required information.
Clearly, a paper-based system gives the subcontractor enormous power to withhold or delay information, potentially driving up costs and prolonging delivery time.
With a digital handover, control is never wrested away from the main contractor, because they are able to examine progress at every step, raise concerns and take necessary remedial action.
Under the paper-driven system, designs, 3D models and plans are submitted, reviewed and archived in physical storage. Site inspections, material sheets and safety certs are filled in on-site, then brought back to the office for filing.It might be familiar and comfortable, but it’s a very inefficient way to work.
Key information cannot be added to a database without employees leaving the site to return to base, and gaps or conflicts do not reveal themselves until everything is assembled for handover, by which time it may be too late.
Information recording during a digital handover, by contrast, is ongoing and cross-platform.
Subcontractors on-site can submit logs and record activity from a tablet, architectural teams can share 3D models and designs on a central portal, and the main contractor can see an electronic trail of signatures and sign-offs at any time to ensure compliance documentation is complete.
The Zutec platform feeds on live data and processes it into actionable intelligence.
There a variety of benefits to digitising a handover, many based on the value of having a paperless solution to site supervision to start with.
Zutec is joined by a handful of software providers who are driving adoption, changing behaviour and establishing the overall benefits.
While Zutec aims to present an integrated suite of software tools to meet respective challenges, other providers are pursuing a strategy of consolidating operations around a specific niche. Either way, the industry as a whole benefits from a wider choice of solutions that are capable of addressing the fundamental vulnerability of a paper-based approach.
One of the more established names in the construction software market, Plangrid gives builders access to blueprints and reports on the go. The request for information (RFI) capability in particular has generated some enthusiastic reviews.
Like Zutec, the Plangrid dashboard resolves a crucial issue for any construction software platform - it has to be easy to use and intuitive, particularly for those who are not tech-savvy by nature. In this respect, Plangrid delivers, as well as packing some great tools for scaled dimension and takeoff, and drawing overlay.
Plangrid offers additional proof that digital handover can slash blueprint costs and drive efficiency throughout the whole construction process. We think Zutec goes even further where subcontractor functionality and support are concerned. With so many providers under pressure to roll out new tools, the importance of support keeping pace to resolve any glitches cannot be underestimated.
To read about how Bluebeam’s Revu platform implements drawing management into a digital handover, click here.
Other names in the market are more established, some have a narrower focus, but we believe the Zutec platform has the strongest proposition for a simple reason. It’s the most intuitive, capable integrated platform for the full building life cycle.
The design and BIM features are a match for any of the design specialists, while the reporting and markup tools are user-friendly, collaborative and accessible throughout the process. We’re inspired by the competition, but we’re also smart enough to learn from their mistakes. That’s why we don’t bow to the pressure to release new tools and features until we’re fully confident that they’ll deliver.
For all the advantages a digital software solution promises, the benefits will not be tangible unless the platform is time-saving and user-friendly.
Herein lies the strength of Zutec’s digital platform. It consistently outperforms the traditional paper-based approach without requiring a steep learning curve for the user.
Construction is one of the biggest industries on the planet but, as Zutec CEO Brendan O’Riordan notes, it remains the second least digitized industry, ahead of only agriculture.
It’s easy to see why. This is traditionally a practical, hands-on sector that puts trust in what is familiar and known to work (paper) above what is new and innovative (digital) - even if the latter is much more efficient.
Nevertheless, even construction has to move with the times to remain competitive. Key to convincing the sector to embrace a digital handover is demonstrating how seamlessly it can be integrated into, and improve, long-standing processes. Cost is also a factor, but one of the distinguishing features of construction is a willingness to invest in any solution that will translate into an advantage.
With every phase of every project subject to aggressive bidding, stakeholders throughout the construction life cycle can see tangible proof that digital delivers.