As-Built Documentation: Setting Projects Up For Success Using Digital Twins

As-Built Documentation: Benefits & How To Create Them

Even the best laid plans can result in changes, both intentional and not. Few industries epitomize this more than the construction industry. Hours of design and layout planning and detailing blueprints can still result in a dramatically different final build.

Changes are unavoidable in many cases, whether you’re working on a net-new building project or renovating an existing structure. This article will explore the importance of accurate as-built documentation, challenges that come with creating them, and the different methods available to builders and building owners.

What is as-built documentation?

Simply put: As-built documentation captures a project exactly as it’s built.

Building plans are drafted before construction, which can often result in discrepancies between the plans and the finished structure or project. As-built documentation differs in that it captures all measurements, materials, and other details exactly as they are, providing building owners and owner’s representatives with a formal snapshot of the final build.

As-built documentation is important as it serves as a source of truth that clearly shows any changes made during the construction process and represents the true blueprint of a building post-construction.

They are important for building owners to have as a reference point for future maintenance or renovation projects, or even as visual proof for inspections and insurance. As-built documentation can be both 2D and 3D, either as a set of detailed drawings or virtual renderings. Whether it’s 2D or 3D, as-built documentation should be as detailed as possible for future reference.

Benefits of having as-built documentation for a project

It should be standard operating procedure for your team to get accurate as-built documentation for every project, especially for record-keeping purposes. Beyond being a best practice, there are also a number of benefits provided by as-built documentation.

Accurate representation of existing building conditions

First and foremost, as-built documentation provides an accurate representation of the existing building. This is helpful for all parties involved:

  • General contractors: For contractors, as-built documentation acts as proof of completed work. If there’s any question about changes to a project, etc. the as-built documentation is essentially the receipt.

  • Owners and facility managers: Owners or facility managers can use as-built documentation to help identify facility maintenance needs, give clear instructions to contractors making future improvements or fixes, and more.

  • Designers: As-built documentation can help designers working on renovating a building down the road, as they’ll have an accurate representation of the building to go off.

  • Training: As-built documentation can help with training newer contractors or construction specialists, as well as designers, as these documents can speak to the nature of changes, how scopes can shift, etc.

You never know when a client will come back with a need for a renovation. By keeping detailed as-built documentation, you’re setting yourself up for an easier time down the road, while ensuring you’re keeping proof of the work you’ve done.

Perform design risk assessments

As-built documentation is a tremendous boon to your team when working on a non-new build project, like a renovation or maintenance job. 

Security and risk are primary concerns, especially during the design phase. Without as-built documentation for non-new projects, your team is left with blueprints and older design documents — either of which may not align with the as-built conditions. 

If your team wants an accurate depiction of the structure before starting design, they’ll either have to request as-built documentation be made, or wait while a team scans the building and creates a floor plan and/or digital twin. Both options take time and can delay renovations or updates.

With as-built documentation ready to go at the start of a non-new build, your design team can see the location of hidden beams, utilities, wiring, and more. Rather than guess or wait on scans, your team can ultimately make safety and risk-based decisions grounded in reality. 

Kickstart 3D modeling for design and construction planning

With an accurate depiction of an existing structure, including all structural elements and utilities, your design team can quickly start 3D modeling. Using as-built documentation, your design team can base their design off existing measurements and even test new design elements before implementation.This not only saves design time, but also reduces the chances of costly reworks down the road.

Reference for maintenance, repairs, and renovations

As-built documentation offers real-life details on every aspect of existing facilities, from utility locations to materials used to wiring. This building information makes it far easier and faster for maintenance, repairs, and future renovations, as the responsible party can quickly identify any risks associated with the work or even where the likely source of maintenance or failure is coming from.

Legal and regulatory compliance

In the event of any legal matters, as-built documentation serves as a visual proof of the state of the building at any given time. This is especially useful if safety or regulatory compliance is called into question regarding your work and structures, as you can use as-built documentation to show you’ve followed protocols.

Documentation to resolve disputes

Just as you can use as-built documentation to help with legal and regulatory matters, you can also use it to resolve disputes with clients or even internal teams.

For example, if a client signed off on the original design but disagrees with something regarding the final structure, you can cross-reference as-built and as-designed documentation to show the work aligned with agreed upon design.

A reference for cost estimation

Estimating cost for net-new projects can feel like one-part science and one-part guesswork. When you’ve got accurate as-built documentation of a similar, pre-existing project, you can deliver a more informed cost estimation to a client.

Improved asset management

Anyone in charge of asset management can use as-built documentation for record keeping, tracking the location, condition, and maintenance needs of buildings and components. As-built documentation also makes it easier to plan ahead for any maintenance or repair needs, allowing you to deliver a more accurate budget.

Better transparency and communication

As-built documentation, for lack of better terms, keeps you honest. Honesty makes for better communication and promotes overall transparency.

Whether you’re working with another department in your organization or a client, as-built documentation stands as detailed proof of your work. Questions from higher ups about a project’s final cost? Clients asking for documentation while seeking insurance for the building? Does someone in maintenance need to know where a fuse is? As-built documentation has all the answers.

How to create effective as-built documentation

Because accurate details are critical to as-built documentation, there are a number of steps that go into creating it. Fortunately, there are also shortcuts and technological advantages you can use to streamline this process. 

1. Collect data during each project phase

Detail collection should start as early as possible, from the moment a client starts outlining specifics for the project. Then, architects and designers should detail the specifics of the planned structure. 

Your team should also survey the construction site before any ground is broken and set measurement points. As the project progresses, these points will be critical to ensuring the structure's footprint is as-designed.

Once building starts, ensure your site teams communicate any changes with project managers. From there, have your designers or engineers note these changes in the documentation. These changes can be as little as the placement of a door or as major as HVAC having to be rerouted.

2. Use 3D scanning and digital twin technologies

Scanning technologies have come a long way in recent years, allowing for faster, cheaper, more frequent scans. Long-standing survey technology and other laser scanning tech is costly and time-consuming. Now, with technology like the Matterport Pro 3D Camera, you can acquire quick and accurate LiDAR scans of sites at a fraction of the cost.

For example, David Kuoppamaki used a Matterport Pro 3D Camera to help his construction firm save 50% on as-built drawing time, reduce manual measurements by 80%, and eliminate manual photography.

By leveraging 3D scanning technologies, you can still deliver detailed as-built documentation, while saving precious time you can spend elsewhere.

3. Use clear and detailed annotations

As-built documentation succeeds and fails based on the details. It’s always harder to capture detail well after the fact. Clear and detailed annotations during the entire lifecycle of the construction project can ensure your team gets the information they need to create accurate, holistic as-built documentation.

From beginning to end, have your designers, engineers, and site workers take detailed notes on any changes that occur. Make sure they include timestamps as well.

4. Use high-quality photographs to capture the final state of the project

While 3D scans allow for unprecedented virtual tours and detail, it’s still a good idea to take high-quality photographs for your as-built documentation as well. Some people may not have the technical prowess or comfortability to dive into a 3D scan, while others may just want a quick glimpse of the as-built documentation and supporting documents. In either event, high-quality photographs are the ticket. When DSLR or other high quality photographs aren’t on hand, 4k images can be easily pulled from Matterport digital twins as well. 

5. Establish standardized formats for as-built documentation

A standardized format for your as-built documentation can help you save time with workflows and result in consistent documentation no matter who makes it.

Create a template for your as-built documentation, outlining which pieces of information you want included every time. Also, add in any supplemental instruction or notes, such as when people should take certain steps or capture particular pieces of information.

6. Make it easy for stakeholders and clients to access and understand

As-built documentation is only useful if it’s accessible. Capture all necessary as-built data, but keep things clean and presentable.

  • Use clear and concise language

  • Use bold font, labels, and headers to identify key areas

  • Break things out into lists or bullets

  • Include supplemental visuals

  • Add 3D tours/digital twins for enhanced accessibility

Before sharing your as-built documentation across the organization, have someone outside the immediate team review it and make sure it’s accessible. Take note of any feedback they have and incorporate it into this draft as well as your overall as-built template.

Overcoming common as-built documentation challenges

As-built documentation requires utmost attention to detail, consistency, time, and resources. On top of this, any resource constraints — lack of staff, time, or the right technology — can result in as-built documentation taking longer or even coming out inaccurate. Fortunately there are foundational steps you can take, along with the right tech you can adopt, that can help you streamline the creation of as-built documentation.

Time & resourcing constraints

Manual as-built documentation takes a significant amount of time, and often from multiple people depending on the size of the site. Someone has to go around and manually collect measurements, and note any changes. On top of this, the person (or people) has to either visit the site multiple times during construction to stay on top of changes, or at the very least stay in constant contact with members working on the site to ensure changes are captured. Using digital twins your team can save time and resources by collaborating remotely. This reduces the need for on-site visits, fosters collaboration, and gives your team a way to stay in the loop no matter where they are.

With the Matterport Pro3 Camera, you can quickly scan any site and get an accurate, detailed digital twin. From there, you can create virtual tours or leverage Matterport Floor Plans to get a 2D floor plan. Traditionally, as-built documentation has to wait until after a project’s completed. The Matterport Pro3 captures spaces quickly and efficiently enough that you can deliver accurate scans during every project milestone, and after. 

Digital twin and floorplan split

Incomplete historical plans

There’s more to developing as-built documentation than scanning a finished site. As a project goes on, it’s easy for little changes to go undocumented. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for smaller retrofits and renovations to go undocumented. In this case, a scan of the building in its current state wouldn’t reflect under-the-surface changes.

Leveraging the right kind of notation technology, like Matterport Tags and Notes, makes it easy for your team to leave updates and comments about changes on a project as it develops. Coupled with the quick scanning capabilities of the Matterport Pro3, your team can easily deliver daily scans with updated tags and notes throughout. And the same goes for any retrofitting or renovations.

Inaccurate measurements

One inaccurate measurement can throw off an entire as-built document. With one wall or frame inaccurately measured, the square footage is now off, walls don’t line up, fixture placement is wrong, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s easy for inaccurate measurements to occur when you’re doing everything by hand, potentially understaffed, and lacking the right technology.

While a manual process is prone to human-error, survey-grade scanners can be overkill, taking too much time to scan and process depending on the scale of the build. 

Matterport’s Measurement tool allows you to quickly view measurements of any scanned space.

Measurement mode example

Coupled with something like the Matterport Pro3, and you can efficiently create as-built models with detailed measurements of every surface and angle. Best of all: this technology is much quicker than survey-grade scanners while delivering usable scans and measurements on the go.

Incompatible technologies and file types

This industry has never had access to more technologies, softwares, and advantages. The downside? These many file types and tech don’t always get along. It’s easy to wind up locked into one vendor, or spend exorbitant amounts on numerous tools simply because you want a single feature.

Matterport’s E57 file contains a point cloud scan that’s vendor-neutral and easy to import into most major platforms. From there, you can make a detailed point cloud that goes beyond your typical XYZ file, as AI further cleans up the noise and makes it easier to work with.

With the E57 file, you can create digital twins, pull measurements for as-built documentation, communicate via Matterport Tags and Notes, and do more with the team and resources you have. 

See how Corgan, a leading architectural firm, reduced their time to capture existing conditions by 50% using Matterport’s digital twins.

The future of as-built documentation

There was a time when as-built documentation required multiple on-site visits, perfect manual measurements, and attempting to keep track of scattered notes and records. As construction projects grow in scale and speed, and countries enact stricter building and safety codes, as-built documentation is increasingly important. But, you can only do so much with the resources you have.

Using digital twins for construction helps drastically improve efficiencies and as-built documentation accuracy, at a fraction of the time and cost. And if your teams are distributed around the globe, digital twins enable you to collaborate remotely while reducing money and time lost to travel.

Matterport supports documentation at every stage of the construction process — from design to the construction phase to commission. The breadth of formats available from one digital twin sets everyone up for as-built documentation success.

This near real-time collaboration and delivery of digital twins and as-built documentation can help you build an organization renowned for quality management and set you up for future success — one detail at a time.


  • Tips & Tricks
  • Build
  • Architect/Engineer/Construct
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

As-built documentation FAQs