The plan room has evolved from paper, to FTP (file transfer protocol) sites, to online collaborative platforms where partners can download files, and print only when necessary. The online plan room opens the door to new technology capabilities, such as integrations with other technology solutions.

This week, Barryhund Online Plan Services, www.barryhund.com, Sacramento, Calif., a Web-based plan room solution, and SmartBidNet, which is developed by JB Knowledge Technologies, www.smartbidnet.com, College Station, Texas, announced new integrations between the two platforms.

James Benham, president, JB Knowledge Technologies, says plan rooms are still a primary source for general contractors and subcontractors to find projects, but have some limitations when it comes to bidding on jobs.

The integration will allow for two-way exchange of information between the online plan rooms and SmartBidNet’s Web-based prequalification, subcontractor management, document distribution, and bid invitation solution. SmartBidNet users will be able to pull information from plan rooms to solicit subs and post public projects.

The idea of information exchange between plan rooms and bidding, estimating, and takeoff technology is not a new concept. On Center Software, www.oncenter.com, The Woodlands, Texas, provides On-Screen Takeoff PlanViewer as a viewer option to more than 140 plan rooms, allowing contractors to download and view all available and updated documents for projects.

Technology is evolving, meaning contractors can view and access plans in new ways. As more plans are moved to online collaborative platforms, subcontractors and general contractors can reduce costs associated with printing plans, but also save a significant amount of time in the early stages of a construction project.

Other recent news comes from iSqFt, www.isqft.com, Cincinnati, Ohio, which announced it finished converting all of its subcontractors to its new Web-based platform. One of the key features of the platform is a Web viewer, which means users don’t have to download software to view plans, but can instead view plans through a Web viewer and download a PDF if necessary.

Answering the question as to why iSqFt moved subcontractors to the platform first, Henry Purdy, vice president of product management, iSqFt, says the new profile allows subcontractors to provide more information, meaning by transitioning general contractors after subs, GCs have access to more targeted information.

The plan room isn’t what it used to be. The days of paper plans are becoming a distant memory, as contractors are moving their business online. As more technology providers begin offering integrations and online collaborative capabilities, contractors will be able to reduce costs and make more informed decisions earlier in the project.