New York City's Department of Buildings has taken a critical first step toward digitizing the design and construction process, a move that will reduce the towers of paper—which average 300,000 pages per month—the agency receives. “The paper age is over. We are now effectively creating virtual job folders online,” says buildings commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster. Called the Buildings Scan and Capture Application Network (B-SCAN), the system is part of the city's 2006–2009 Strategic Plan and will allow for the online retrieval of construction permit applications and all associated documents, with the exception of architectural plans.
Access is enabled via the department's Building Information System web database, the virtual library of property data that launched online in 2001 and predates internally to 1984. The system assigns a building information number—like a license plate for buildings—presumably to every extant structure in the five boroughs. As of April 30, B-SCAN will capture all paper files associated with permit applications for new buildings and alterations to existing ones, beginning with Staten Island and expanding to the remaining boroughs by this December.