How to Create your Project Notebook

Stay organized during the design and construction of your project.

When I first meet with clients I listen carefully to their “wish list”. Sometimes they show me “inspiration” photos of other families’ homes or parts of a house, like a kitchen or a particular type of window or door; sometimes they have colors and finishes in mind. Even if you are undertaking a fairly small project, you will most probably have to make decisions about finishes, fixtures and color. It is always helpful to have some idea of what you like, and what would work best with your new space.

A few times, my clients have already started a notebook of ideas and are organizing it based on the components of their project. I like to recommend that my clients take their project notebook a few steps further so that they can track the entire projects’ process from beginning to end. The project notebook becomes a valuable tool for documenting crucial decisions, as well as keeping track of all the paperwork that will accumulate during the designing and building process.

A project notebook is really something that each person must develop based on their organizational style, but here are some pointers as you start to think about your own notebook. I suggest going ahead and putting the entire notebook together based on an outline like this, knowing that it may evolve/change as the project progresses.

Gather a 3 ring binder, divider sheets, pocket sheet protectors, tape, paper, 3 hole punch and a pencil pouch. The components of a project notebook might include:

Section A. Predesign phase

  1. Site survey: whether building new or renovating
  2. Plan(s) of existing conditions if renovating (if you do not have this your Architect will prepare this prior to beginning design work)
  3. List of project needs, wishes: rank them in order of importance
  4. Inspiration photos, drawings, color swatches, i.e., anything that seems important at this stage.

Section B. Design phase (early)

  1. With your Architect you will develop the written Project building program which outlines the spaces and their sizes, as well as their functions (ie, the scope of the project). Make sure to include any important furniture/rug sizes and special equipment in the building program.
  2. With your Architect develop a list of appliances and their sizes that will be included in the project.
  3. Concept drawings and final Schematic Design (based items 1 and 2 above) developed by your Architect with your involvement and review.
  4. Site development (if applicable) and impact of zoning issues.

Section C Construction drawing and Construction phase

You will want to go ahead and start organizing this section early in the project, since you will have a lot of items that will ultimately belong here. As you proceed new sections or pages most certainly will need to be added.

  1. Include the final set of drawings reduced in size small enough to include in the notebook (either 11x17 or 8.5 x 11) should be to “scale”, and also have available the larger set for use when ordering components of the project.
  2. Finish schedule developed by your Architect (list of finishes for each room, i.e., carpet, hardwoods, tile, painted drywall, wood paneling etc)
  3. Lighting and electrical schedule developed by your Architect (list of fixtures for each room)
  4. Construction Bids
  5. Contract with Contractor
  6. Contractor schedule
  7. Contractor pricing list with allowances
  8. Contacts: ie, contractor, subcontractors, suppliers
  9. Project Spaces: Divide the notebook into sections; one for each room or space in your project, don’t forget to include outdoor spaces like porches, patios and lawns.

· Within each section place at least one pocket protection sheet and a clear plastic baseball card sleeve for accumulating small items like paint chips, swatches and small samples.

· Include any inspiration photos relevant for that particular space.

· Include cut sheets for appliances, fixtures (plumbing and lighting), finishes or other equipment that will be included in the space

· Include photos and/or dimensions of furniture/rugs that will be included in the space

  1. Invoices for construction and purchases: you may want to have one separate section for all the invoices for the project divided according to component of the work:

· Contractor invoices

· Subcontractor invoices

· supplier invoices for fixtures, finishes, appliances

Remember this project notebook is a tool you can develop to help you achieve success with your project, and also to keep track of important documents that may be of value in the future.