Last year, the design and survey, contract administration, inspection, and engineering services departments of Durham, N.C., joined forces to post contract documents such as construction drawings and plats on the city's website . It was the first step toward eliminating paper entirely from the construction management process.

Although they're not required to submit bids electronically, contractors have been surprisingly open to the concept, say staff engineers Don Kellum and Michael Hughes, who developed the system. After selecting and installing Web-based project-management software (, they developed a virtually hack-proof system that converts AutoCAD Civil 3D files into PDFs that department engineers sign digitally using a third-party encryption service many retailers use to facilitate online credit card purchases.

Whenever one party changes a document, the system automatically alerts the department's contract administrators, who e-mail plan holders to download the addendum. Once a project's complete and has been inspected, the system automatically downloads data from as-built drawings to the city's geographic information system

"We got rid of our stinky, ammonia-based blueprint copier and now have just a plain old paper copier," Hughes says. "This process not only saves time, it probably also drastically reduces global carbon emissions!" A video explaining the system will be posted on the city's website.

Session: "Going High Tech to Manage and Deliver Construction/Contract Documents and Drawings"

Michael Hughes and Don Kellum
Durham, N.C., Department of Public Works, Engineering Division
Sun., Sept. 9, 2007
3:30-4:45 p.m.

This article is part of PUBLIC WORKS magazine's live coverage from the 2007 APWA Show. Click here to read more articles from the show.