Skip to content
The AIA Trust home

Give Me Five

The 5 Rules for Documentation

It can be helpful to keep these in the back of your mind as you go about your scrivener responsibilities. In the end, your documentation will be better for it.

  1. If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen. The absence of documentation can give rise to allegations of failure to act unless some record can be found to rebut the allegation. The tenor of the claim can quickly become a proposition of, “guilty until proven innocent.”
  2. Don’t write down anything you don’t want the public to see. This should be printed on the box that computers come in. Architects are judged on their digital trail, and that trail can be accessed.
  3. Assume there is never just one copy. Please keep in mind that information remains on the hard drive even after it is erased, and emails require the participation of at least two parties.
  4. Handwritten trumps digital. This doesn’t mean that you should send letters instead of emails. It means that the author of a handwritten document is more difficult to dispute than a digital document.
  5. Do not respond when angry. It’s interesting how emotion clouds the ability to reason. If it is an emotional topic, observe the 24 hour rule. Then read it again and reconsider before sending.

The 5 Rules for Meetings

Meetings are the primary activity where decisions are made and agreements are reached. Accordingly, meetings should be well documented in order to preserve historical accuracy in the event of a dispute. Meeting discipline and documentation can be as important as the contract documents themselves when defending a claim.

  1. Take meeting notes in all meetings. If the meeting is worth attending, it is worth documenting. Moreover, your recollection of the meeting will likely be different than other attendees.
  2. Report all meetings within 24 hours. The meeting report often becomes the DO LIST to prepare for the next meeting. Accordingly, it needs to go out sooner rather than later.
  3. If you conduct the meeting, you report the meeting. Don’t let others put words in your mouth. You ran the meeting, you report it.
  4. Prepare an agenda and send out in advance. Any meeting that is worth having needs an agenda to guide it. Attendees also need to know the topics in advance in order to prepare.
  5. Rebut all meeting reports you don’t create. People with different priorities have selective memories. If you don’t send corrections, the errors may stand as fact.

This paper is written from the architect’s perspective, and it addresses documents the architect typically manages during the construction phase. Documents typically provided by the owner and the contractor will be examined first, followed by documents that the architect should possess and be concerned with during the construction phase. Each section concludes with a discussion summary, and a master checklist of documents is also included.

The paper also addresses documents retention and retrieval which is necessary in order to effectively use the documentation for defense once it is created and managed.

‹‹ back to SUMMARY | top of this page | on to next section ››