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Kevin George 9013

Kiran S 9014
Files and Records
 A systematic approach to filing is essential if an
office is to run smoothly and efficiently. It is
important to set up a filing system that will serve
the practice over a long period and can be expanded as
its workload grows.

 Administrative

 Administrative documents are typically produced in-house

and will be mainly to do with practice organisation,
finance, staff matters, publicity and premises
management. There will be a wide range of miscellaneous
topics and related paperwork which may need temporary
filing and which should be ruthlessly pruned out of
the system if and when it becomes redundant.

 Project records

 Project records usually consist of paper items

(correspondence, contract documents, forms, reports,
instructions) and drawings, photographs and models.
Some of these items are bulky and/or need special
storage, and Figure 24 demonstrates a classified
arrangement of project files that takes account of
this. Many disputes arise simply because there are
inadequate written records. Good records,
systematically stored and easily retrievable, are an
essential part of risk management. Records should be
made and kept of all meetings, the advice given by
consultants, including
 the architect, and of the considerations which
influenced the many decisions taken during the design
process. Architects constantly have to make difficult
judgements and consider compromise solutions, and must
be able to justify their decisions on the basis of
contemporary records. Job and office diaries should be
compiled legibly and systematically and kept with other
project records for as long as the practice retains any
liability for a project.
 Databases

 In-house computer databases for the storage and

retrieval of information are widely used for job
lists, job records, lists of clients, lists of
contractors, indexes (of reports, files), library
catalogue, etc. They may be part of an integrated
management information system but it must be made
clear who is responsible for their compilation
and maintenance. External databases can be
accessed via various commercial on-line services
or purchased CD-ROMs. Reference databases include
bibliographic information, sometimes with
abstracts, catalogues of library stock or library
network, and directory information, e.g. names and
addresses of organisations. Source databases
contain the original source material in machine-
readable form, e.g. newspaper stories, statistical
surveys and company annual reports.

 Promotional material

 In a small practice, responsibility for publicity and PR will need

to be designated and may be included as part of library duties.
Whatever the arrangement, there should be a separate budget
allocation, and cost-effectiveness should be kept under review.

 Archives

 The storage of records that are no longer active needs special

consideration. A policy should be developed as to how this is to
be done and for what time period, and who is to be responsible
for making such decisions. Some may need to be kept for a
specified period for reasons of liability; some may be
intrinsically valuable and need carefully preserving.
 Storage is always a problem for architects, because each project
generates a large quantity of documentation - drawings in
particular, which are large and unwieldy. Most practices are
short of storage space, and consideration may need to be given
to storage out of house, or on computer or microfilm. There are
many specialist firms offering secure storage, although they
tend to be expensive. Storage on computer will suit some items,
but duplicate hard copies will often be needed, and should be
stored well away from the computer area in a fire-proof .From
the management point of view, it is essential that archived
material can be accessed without difficulty when and if it is
needed. This means developing clear procedures for indexing and
the accessing and return of material.


 Channels of communication
 In offices, oral and written communications
often have to pass through various people and
processes, and can easily become distorted in
transit. If they are not clearly formulated at
source and properly directed, they will have
little chance of being received and
understood, let alone acted upon. In
management, it is essential to be certain of
the following:
  what information is needed;
  who needs it;
  what form it should take;
  that it will be understood.

 Telephones , faxes and e - mails

 A record should be made of all telephone calls that

relate to the administration of projects within the
office, and of most other calls which relate to
business or professional matters. With projects, the
simplest method is to make a note of the date and time
of the call, the person to whom the call was made or
from whom it was received, and the main points agreed,
and to file this in the job file for the project. If
important matters were discussed, these should be
confirmed by letter.
   Some office management packages for computers have
direct dialling facilities, which allow the user
to search for the number in the computer's files
and then use it to dial out. The call will then be
logged, and there may be provision for noting the
details of the conversation. These should be
transferred to the job file on a regular basis.
Careful thought should always be given to whether
the telephone is the best means of communication
in any situation
 Faxes are invaluable for sending information that is needed very
urgently, for example for sending drawings to site. A computer
package which sends and receives faxes direct is a great help
as it avoids paper copies and fax machine breakdowns, and it
also keeps a record of transmissions. Nevertheless, faxes should
always be followed by a copy sent by post, as it is likely that
the fax will not be accepted as evidence of the communication
for legal purposes. Some practices tend to send everything by
fax with a copy by post. This should be avoided because of
the.duplication of paperwork and possible confusions that could
arise, and it is generally better to keep faxes for matters of
real urgency.
 E-mail is undoubtedly the most exciting recent development in
communication. It is possible to send very large amounts of
information virtually instantaneously, and to send it
simultaneously to many recipients. The information can be in
a very wide variety of formats, and can include text and
drawings. Thought should be given before sending as to
whether the sender wishes the receiver to be able to alter
the document. Sometimes this is acceptable, but if this is
not the case there are now a variety of ways of 'fixing' the
information, such as the formation of 'pdf files from
drawings. It appears that in the near future the development
of 'electronic
 signatures' may make the need for posting hard copies
redundant, as the transmission will be accepted as evidence in
court, but in the meantime all documents should also be sent
by 'snail mail'.
 Dealing with the post
 It is important for this to be handled systematically. One
person only should open all the post and deal with it as
appropriate. There should be a set of procedures drawn up
for receipt and distribution and these should be complied
with by all staff. They should be set out in the office or
quality management manual, and regularly audited to make
sure they remain effective (see Figure 27).
 In small practices a principal usually opens the post, but in
larger practices the task may be delegated to a practice
administrator. Whoever is responsible must be capable of
identifying important and urgent items that need immediate
attention. Professional practices get inundated with letters
and literature of all kinds, much of it speculative, and it
is important that whoever deals with the daily post is not
side-tracked by irrelevant items and can be relied upon to
discard time-wasting rubbish.
 An incoming letter should be read, initialled and date-stamped,
and a decision made whether it needs immediate action,
whether it can or should wait, or whether it can be filed.

 Figure 27 (Dealing with incoming and outgoing mail)

 Incoming

 Procedures should be put in place to ensure that:

  letters, packets, parcels, etc are opened, date-stamped, and recorded;
  items are marked for action and distributed as appropriate;
  drawings received are entered in the appropriate register;
  courier deliveries are signed for and logged, with receipts retained, and recipients
 about arrival;
  faxes are photocopied and the originals destroyed;
  items marked 'personal' or 'confidential' are given unopened to addressees, but are
 for logging, etc if practice-related;
  invoices are passed promptly to accounting staff.

 Outgoing

 Procedures for controlling outgoing mail should ensure that items:

 are checked and signed by originators;
 have the right enclosures or attachments;
 are correctly franked or stamped;
 are collected for postal or courier transmittal as appropriate;
 achieve intended delivery dates and times,
 are logged as despatched in the correct list or register.

 Writing letters

 Check through the letters after typing or processing and
make sure that all enclosures or attachments have been
prepared for posting, and appropriate copies made and
marked up. Figure 29 is a checklist. A compliments slip
with the name of the intended recipient should be
attached to copies that do not show the office address
and other details. Note that compliments slips should not
be used where transmittal needs to be recorded,
particularly in the case of drawings. The issue,
description and despatch of drawings should be carefully
recorded in the appropriate register. After signing the
letter, initial all the copies including the file copy.
This is always advisable with formal correspondence and
is a good habit to cultivate as a matter of risk
management. The writer's name and status should be typed
under his or her signature. Lastly, read through the
letter and consider it from the recipient's point of
  Is its purpose clear?
  Is it well expressed?
  Will they know what action, if any, they should now

 Figure 29 - Checklist before despatch of letter

 1 . Does it include
 correct title, name, address of recipient
 references (theirs and yours)
 job number, date?
 2 . Is the mode correct
 formal/informal?
 3 . Have I referred correctly to their letter
 date, heading?
 4 . Have I said what I wanted to say clearly , concisely and appropriately?
 Will they know
 what I am talking about?
 what they have to do now?
 whether I expect a response and, if so, when?
 5 . Should I remind or reassure them about anything before I sign off?
 Is the final greeting correct and appropriate?
 Have the proper enclosures been added?
 Has the letter been copied
 to the right people?
 at the right addresses?
 6 . Has the letter been properly laid out?
 Is it pleasing to look at?
 Has the spelling been checked?
 Have necessary corrections been made?
 7 . Is the file copy exactly the same as the despatched version?
 8 . Have I signed the letter and initialled the copies?