By Marise Pereira, Architect / Technical Manager, HMC Architects

The Division of the State Architect (DSA) is moving into the future with their new electronic back check process, effectively streamlining the approval process for K-12 schools, community colleges, and other state-owned facilities. According to Nasser Niktab, Senior Architect at the DSA, “For the electronic back check, you do not need to plot the drawings, which saves valuable resources. When the project is approved, there’s no longer a need to call the printing company for scanning or to enlist a messenger service to take the paper rolls back to the office.”

My project team recently had the opportunity to use the electronic back check process for our West High School Interim Housing project, and the outcome was all positive. Here’s a brief recap of the electronic back check process along with a few tips and tricks:

  1. Transferring the Files to DSA: Two weeks prior to the back check appointment, we sent our revised documents (drawings, specs, cut sheets, and structural calculations) to the structure plan checker along with the scanned comments and our responses.
  2. Bluebeam Studio Session: A day later, we received an invitation from the structure plan checker to access a Bluebeam Studio Session. Once we logged into the session, we had live access to the DSA plan checkers’ work. We could see if the responses were accepted or not, and if they had any additional comments.
  3. Coordinating Final Comments with Consultants and Re-uploading to DSAWhen the plan checkers were done, we saved the pending comments and sent them to our consultants for final revisions. The day before our back check appointment, we uploaded the final documents to the Bluebeam Studio Session and we were ready for the next step.
  4. Returning to DSA for Final Approval: When it was time for our back check appointment, we arrived prepared with the hardcopies of comments and a laptop. At DSA, they have stations set-up with two large screens: one to view the revised drawings and one to view comments. When we arrived to DSA, we realized that this is a learning process not only for us, but for the plan checkers as well. Other architects were just as excited and curious as us to experience this new process. The review by the FLS Plan Checker took about 20 minutes. Access review was also very fast.
  5. Structural: Structural was a smooth process, and since we took a laptop we could make the minor corrections on the same PDF that DSA was checking by using the Bluebeam Studio Session. All forms where filled out and uploaded directly to the session, which was quick and easy. In a matter of seconds, the structure plan checker added the approved stamp to all sheets, uploaded all the approved drawings to the Box, and we were done.

I highly recommend DSA’s electronic back check and the use of Bluebeam Studio Session to coordinate projects with team members. The new process certainly saves time on the day of the back check, since the reviewers have already seen the revised documents. Once the project is approved, it is immediately available to download through DSA Box. There’s no more waiting for a bonded company to scan approved drawings.

Tips and Tricks: Get familiar with Bluebeam tools. Let your consultants know that the back check will be electronic and direct them to create bookmarks and hyperlinks to sheets and details. Take a laptop with Bluebeam and Revit or CAD with you to your back check appointment to be able to recreate a PDF and, if needed, replace sheets.