Utilizing Technology in the Punch List Process

  • Rafn Company

To make sure all final touches on any construction project are perfect a punch list process is essential. And when you have the square footage (240,000) and number of units (148) in a building like Mercy Magnuson Place, superior organization and communication are key.

In just a few months, the Rafn team, owners, architects, and subcontractors managed to punch an 800-foot-long building inside and out, all while obtaining three separate occupancy permits. The result is a beautifully renovated building with a happy customer and architect.

Emmanuel Diaz, Project Engineer at Rafn, worked through the punch list process at Mercy Magnuson Place and utilized technology to make the final construction stages as smooth as possible.

His team used Bluebeam, a software program that helps assign tasks, identify issues directly on plans, and track punch items. A useful feature of Bluebeam is that markups appear in an integrated, customizable list for easy tracking and simple creation of PDF, CSV, or XML reports. It also allows the user to save and organize custom markups and measurements for simple reuse, making it easy to share notes amongst colleagues to streamline communication.

While it’s incredibly helpful to have punch list notes outlined within layouts, sometimes comments can be misinterpreted or incorrectly assigned. Caulking, for example, is something that can apply to multiple areas of a unit (the countertop, a floor joint, a wall joint, etc.) — areas that might need to be addressed by multiple subcontractors.

To eliminate confusion on punch list notes, it’s important to be extremely clear and detailed about the tasks so that work can be appropriately assigned. Ideally, the general contractor would oversee creating the punch list since they have in-depth knowledge of the project and know who will be performing the work.

“As a general contractor, we understand what needs to be done and can define the scopes better for the subs,” says Diaz.

Diaz identified some best practices to help keep the process streamlined and keep everyone on the same page:

  1. Pre-punch walkthrough. It’s important to walk the areas of work ahead of time with the project team and the subcontractors to detail expectations and set up a game plan. It can be easy to get sidetracked and ask more of your subs than they can or should be doing. By setting expectations early, the work can stay on schedule and be effectively managed. During this step, Bluebeam standards should be reviewed, making sure everyone is aligned regarding the notations and callouts to be used throughout the process.

  2. Pre-punch meeting with key stakeholders. This meeting can also include the owners, architects, and subs, if needed, to set standards and goals for the punch process. At this stage, it’s helpful to bring up all possible issues early - with solutions and plans in place. Here, it’s good to have mockups, submittals, and RFI’s available that tell the story of what was approved and why. The Bluebeam markups from the pre-punch walkthrough should be reviewed at this meeting so everyone is on board and responsibilities assigned.

  3. Keep everyone accountable. Everyone involved in the punch process must have responsibilities and timelines. Make sure there are clear directions and goals when tasks are assigned and meet daily to make sure everything is completed to the best of the team’s ability. Keep track of progress on the digital Bluebeam punch list so an updated list can be distributed as needed. Just like having a current set of drawings is crucial, having a current punch list keeps the team apprised of progress and lets you allocate resources where needed.

  4. Accurate as-built drawings. As the project changes, having current and precise drawings of the building is incredibly important. This helps accurately reflect what’s been done and what still needs to be accomplished. Everything from paint color changes to larger design alterations like moving a wall is documented to prevent confusion and delays in work. These updated drawings should be used as the basis of the Bluebeam punch plans. One advantage of using Bluebeam with digital drawings is that much more information can be stored. Whether you use layers or colors the amount of information is limitless and can help keep track of progress or issues.

Diaz also says that being present and prioritizing the most important items makes a huge difference in the efficiency of the punch list.

“One of the most helpful things is just being there on-site, having your list, understanding what’s most important — and relaying that to your team,” says Diaz. “If you can be clear and tell someone exactly what needs to be done, instead of them needing a legend to read notes or getting information second-hand, you’re going to be a lot more successful and be able to stick to the timeline better.”

The Mercy Magnuson Place Project was completed this past summer and is now open to residents. Rafn is proud to have worked alongside a great owner, architect, and subcontractors on such a large and important community project — a collaboration of affordable housing, health care, and early learning that supports some of Seattle’s most vulnerable populations.

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