Paperless (or, at least, less paper): catch ’em young

Since construction collaboration technologies first grabbed some peoples’ attention in the late 1990s, there has been a lot of debate about the extent to which such IT tools can save paper, particularly given some professionals’ preference for paper and their resistance to on-screen marking-up and commenting on drawings, etc (see my Moaning Architects post, 3 November 2005). I have argued that such resistance will gradually reduce over time as:

  • the software tools become easier to use
  • appropriate hardware (eg: larger screens) becomes more widely available
  • users bow to peer pressure or contractual obligations (“Sticks”) to use them
  • users recognise the benefits (“Carrots”) of being able to quickly share and then track the history of a design decision – in some cases, years afterwards
  • more and more IT-savvy individuals enter the industry

I usually illustrate the last point by reference to students leaving colleges and universities. Skimming through an education IT supplement to yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, I read that the drive to paperless environments is starting even earlier in some places. One Scottish school adopted mobile and tablet PCs for all staff and students, and – instead of paper memos, handouts and course-notes – distributed information digitally via its intranet: “Four months later the spend on printing and photocopying … was down a staggering 80%.” Students also do most of their work online, further cutting down on paper (see Is the paperless school in sight?).

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