The U.S. Institute of Building Documentation

As an architect with over twenty-seven years of experience in building survey and documentation, I have come to realize that the profession of building documentation in the United States is lacking a national organization to help promote, guide and support this industry.

As the means and methods for building survey have evolved, I have seen various groups entering the marketplace to provide existing conditions building documentation services. These have included architects, engineers, technicians, and land surveyors. Unlike the profession of land survey, there are generally no licensure or certification requirements to perform a building survey in the U.S. As a result, we currently have a disorganized mix of service providers from various segments of the industry.

This results in the question, Who is best qualified to perform a building survey? Architects and engineers are typically experts in buildings and building systems, but not necessarily measurement. Land surveyors are expert in measuring, but buildings and building systems often fall outside their domain of expertise.

So how then is a seeker of building documentation services to determine who is best qualified to perform such services? Where are service providers able to turn to find information on best practices, standards and guidance on establishing, maintaining and growing a professional practice? Where does one go to tap into forums or networks of like-minded professionals for support and sharing of ideas and information? And finally, is there an organization that is solely dedicated to promoting and furthering the building documentation profession within the United States?

As I have struggled to answer these questions, I have reached out to colleagues, clients, other organizations, owner/operators and agencies to determine whether they too pondered these issues. I wasnt too surprised to find that there seems to be a tremendous amount of support for the concept of having a national organization dedicated to supporting and promoting building documentation as a profession.

I was invited to present this concept last week at the 2011 SPAR Conference in Houston. I briefly introduced the concept for the organization and noted that it has not yet been legally established. It is currently in the pre-formation and exploratory stage of validating whether there is a true need and interest for an organization such as this.

After introducing the organization, which is currently being referred to as The U.S. Institute of Building Documentation, I gave a brief statement of my background in the industry and how I got to the point of seeing a needfor this organization.A draftpurpose statement and founding principals were presented. Having spoken with a number of my professional colleagues over the previous monthsI felt it important to publish a list of those that have expressed their support of the concept. I am very happy to see so many people whom I consider to be leaders in the industry offer their expression of support.

Another important step was the announcement of the organization’s website which can be found at On the Contact Us page of the website there is a form for interested parties to submit their contact info and indicate whether they are interested in becoming actively involved as a committee member or as a future member once the organization is up and running.

The rest of the session was opened up for discussion with the audience. I was very excited to see a high level of participation with the audience. Theywere very engaged and offered some great input and ideas. There were some challenging thoughts as well. Prior to concluding the session I took a poll of the attendees and asked for a show of hands of those in the audience who were in support of the concept. It was a near unanimous show of hands in favor.

Based on this and the other feedback Ive received to-date I believe the need is there to continue the pursuit of forming this organization. I welcome your feedback as well. Should you wish to contact me you may email me at

About the Author

John Russo

John Russo, AIA ... John M. Russo, AIA, is an experienced architect and entrepreneur. He founded Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC), a firm that has provided outsourced architectural services to the architectural, engineering, construction and facilities management (AEC+FM) communities since 1997. Under his leadership, ARC has grown into a preferred outsourcing partner and is widely used by many of the industry's leading organizations. With more than 26 years of professional experience, including tenure with Taylor and Ware Malcomb Architects, Mr. Russo has developed his passion for as-built documentation of buildings into a thriving award winning business. At ARC, Mr. Russo successfully led his team in a nationwide competition for a 5 year, $30 million IDIQ contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for Nationwide Laser Scanning Services. Mr. Russo is an active member of the Orange County Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), serves the AIA Orange County Chapter in the development and maintenance of the organization's website, and is one of the founding members of the Orange County IT/CAD Manager's Technology Roundtable. He also is a member of the BuildingSMART Alliance. Mr. Russo holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton and an Associate of Arts degree in Architecture from Orange Coast College. He is a Registered Architect in the State of California.
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