• A decade ago, Peter Stevenson (left) and Nathaniel Olson were swimming in construction documents. They contained the flood and developed the Drawing Vault, a CD-management service for developers and property management companies.

    Credit: William Anthony

    A decade ago, Peter Stevenson (left) and Nathaniel Olson were swimming in construction documents. They contained the flood and developed the Drawing Vault, a CD-management service for developers and property management companies.
It’s fair to say construction is not the most efficient U.S. industry. There have been improvements in how buildings go up—witness the (slow) growth of BIM and integrated project delivery. But once something’s open for business? Not so much. Maintenance, tenant turnover, and new management mean construction documents (CDs) are constantly in use and, likely, scattered across offices and professions. “Property management folks are always scrambling for drawings,” says Drawing Vault president Peter Stevenson, and thus wasting time and money.

He should know. For more than 20 years he’s run Stevenson Systems Inc. (SSI), a premier building space management firm in Laguna Niguel, Calif. A decade ago, awash in drawings, SSI developed its own archiving protocol after talking with property owners, architects, and others about their CD-management needs and wishes. The first time it demonstrated the system, Stevenson says, “two clients signed up.” Thus was born the Drawing Vault.

When a structure’s base building drawings, improvement drawings, and related documents are turned over, Drawing Vault scans the paper items—there’s a full-time archivist on staff—and puts the images, along with any other digital files (.dwg, .dxf, .rvt, etc.) on its servers, where they are available to clients. A self-storage space, as it were, but one that’s wired for business. (And home to 3,000 buildings.) CAD files can be downloaded for use, and an online viewing tool keeps printing to a minimum. A return on investment, says marketing director Nathaniel Olson, can be realized in as little as three months. In 2007, he adds, one multibuilding owner saved $400,000 in printing costs.

This year, the Drawing Vault is looking to grow. After renting its first booth at an AIA convention last May, the company had inquiries from the U.S. General Services Administration. Even Uncle Sam, it seems, needs help with his portfolio.