Best for NYC: Best Practices

by Don Friedman on September 11, 2015

Part of how the Best for NYC Challenge works is that we have to review how our company affects the environment. There are direct and indirect effects, but today I want to talk about paper. The truth of engineering consulting firms is that we don’t create buildings, we create paper. We create drawings and reports. We review drawings and mark them up. We can go through an enormous amount of paper every day and we used to. This is a problem that has a technological fix – actually several – to reduce the amount of paper we use.

Our policy is to issue documents electronically, as PDFs, unless we are specifically asked for paper. We ask the people with deal with – clients, architects, other engineers, and contractors – to send us electronic documents rather than paper. The use of electronic files rather than paper isn’t just substitution, but entails new practices such as using handheld computers rather than clipboards for site work. (Four years ago counts as “new,” right?) And, of course, we recycle paper whenever possible.

These practices do not eliminate paper, but have greatly reduced the amount we use. Reducing the paper flow also, of course, reduces the amount of garbage we produce.

We do not expect to get to zero paper, but we hope to continue the reduction. The biggest single use of paper we have now is filing drawings with the NYC Department of Buildings. The DoB has begun allowing electronic submissions, and as this practice spreads and is refined, we hope to be able to stop printing drawings just so that they can be sent to the DoB for scanning.

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