PDF format allows sharing of CAD drawings

With every project comes daily obstacles or time-gobbling requirements that could snag adherence to any job schedule, including such tasks as getting approvals on job drawings and drawing changes. Obtaining required approvals or comments on CAD drawings can gobble time. Not every recipient has CAD in the office, or some may be using a different CAD platform. Electronic distribution of job drawings

With every project comes daily obstacles or time-gobbling requirements that could snag adherence to any job schedule, including such tasks as getting approvals on job drawings and drawing changes.

Obtaining required approvals or comments on CAD drawings can gobble time. Not every recipient has CAD in the office, or some may be using a different CAD platform. Electronic distribution of job drawings that does not require CAD at each receiving Internet-enabled location can save time as well as printing and distribution costs.

The desktop application, Bluebeam Pushbutton PDF (www.bluebeam.com), uses the CAD-neutral PDF file format to create high-quality copies of drawings from within the CAD application. An AutoCAD plug-in, the solution ($249 per user, quantity discounts apply) works with AutoCAD 2000 and all the vertical applications built on top of AutoCAD.

The program speeds the internal workflow process because it enables all project team members who do not have AutoCAD on their computers, or who may be using different CAD platforms, to view, e-mail, electronically approve or locally print drawings. This easy route to collaboration among architects, contractors, subcontractors, building owners and facilities managers saves time for everyone and eliminates or reduces printing and distribution costs.

The software plugs into AutoCAD to produce scalable, high-resolution printer- or plotter-ready drawings without requiring conversion processes.

The solution, the developer notes, automatically resolves interoperability problems that arise from multiple CAD platforms and automatically determines the best conversion settings for resolution, line widths and font embedding.

Unlike true CAD files, the drawings are unalterable, a fact that helps maintain design integrity and control over the drawings throughout the process, the developer notes. The solution does allow for the addition of custom text stamps, however, to signify comments or annotations. The sender can also include embedded PDF digital signature fields for project approval or other meaning, which the recipient can click on to “sign” and send back. Any changes in the drawings would be performed incrementally by the party using CAD and then could be distributed electronically as a revised PDF file.

There are other convenient features. The software converts AutoCAD block attributes into text-searchable PDF file properties. The solution also transfers hyperlinks from the CAD file to the PDF drawing, which is expedient for linking specification to drawing notes. (The AutoCAD operator can create numerous hyperlinks so that a recipient can click on a particular one to access details associated with that segment of the drawing.)

The start of a trend

When a contractor works throughout a geographic region involving more than one town hall, obtaining a permit for work within each municipality can be time-consuming, sometimes confusing and often aggravating. Here’s a forward-thinking cooperative online solution that saves time and simplifies the rules in obtaining routine permits that could work in many communities.

MyBuildingPermit.com is a local-government, multi-city Web services site that can expedite the process of applying for and obtaining routine building permits. Using a single interface and one set of rules, MyBuildingPermit.com delivers electronic permits and, in some cases, other government services to residents and people doing business in several neighboring cities in the state of Washington.

The cost of the electronic permits is the same as the cost of hard copies. The Web site, which is the first of its type, is the product of the E-Gov Alliance, a partnership of four, and soon to be nine, municipalities in the Seattle area. Contractors using the site save time by eliminating trips to one or more city halls to purchase mechanical, plumbing and electrical permits that do not require plan reviews and are normally handled over the counter.

Contractors juggling several small projects in multiple cities can save legwork and loiter-in-line time. In preparation for opening the Web site, the cities standardized their building permit procedures and forms on the site.

“By working together, we built just one Web site rather than four, six or 10 of them. All the user has to do is enter an address to be automatically sent to the right city to apply for a permit,” explained Ken Carlson, city of Kirkland building services manager. “Contractors may also be able to eliminate the cost of expediters who travel to the various city halls on behalf of the permit seekers.”

Information bulletins to guide site users through the task of obtaining a permit are available from any of the participating cities at any city hall, where contractors may also view a live demonstration of the site. In the first six weeks of operation, 80 contractors registered to use the site, which is free to use.

Next up are future enhancements to the Web site: the ability to check status of the permits and request inspections.

William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].