Schedules: planting, retention, in blueprints, and projects

My intended audience for this blog is anyone who feels connected to organizations that are empowered by the natural and built environment. Organizations fitting this bill could be land trusts, architecture firms, town governments, and even higher ed institutions. You could be a graphic designer for an engineering firm who appreciates multidisciplinary settings, or perhaps you’re a horticulturist for a public garden, and are interested in concepts deployed by administrative staff. Alternatively, you may be a facilities manager for a municipality and understand the need to make connections and learn the trends of allied fields. While my posts may sometimes appear to be comprised of a jumble of topics in information science, sustainability, and historic landscape, the central theme of organizations empowered by the natural and built environment is always present to unify these topics. For example, last month’s topic of plans in the natural and built environment really drives this point home.

This post is no exception, and will discuss five common schedules undertaken by organizations in the natural and built environment. I’ll demonstrate the diversity in schedules deployed by the selected user group by formulating a simple list below:

Type of schedules

  • Retention schedules [in records management]
  • Planting schedules [in horticulture and landscape]
  • Blueprints [as in door schedule, for example; in architecture]
  • Project schedules [in project management]
  • Work schedules [in human resources]

So perhaps you’re familiar with most of these, and the hope is that you’re about to learn a little a more about a few of these and maybe even a concept will be totally new to you. But in general, having a basic understanding of all of these concept as whole will make you a more effective member and contributor of your organization. Context is everything! Also, I’ll warn you right now by saying that I’m using most of this post to talk about retention schedules, which a majority of people likely do not fully know about. Let’s go!

Retention Schedules

All organizations create recorded information that must be properly organized and stored for various retrieval activities. These records can be divided into various uses and needs, and some common categories include records that are vital, active, and/or inactive. Generally, vital records should be planned and cared for with the greatest attention, whereas active records should be readily accessible, and inactive records should be organized with economic storage as a top priority. All organizations at the very least have a records management program to plan for their recorded information that is either legal-based [tax information, contracts, etc] or is vital to its mission-critical activities [client files, plant records, facilities information]. Of course, many organizations do not use the term “records management”, and probably have documents or instructions called “archive policies” or something similar. If these documents identify collections of recorded information and explain how long and where these documents should be kept and stored, then its effectively called a retention schedule.

In light of this, what exactly is a retention schedule?

Retention Schedule: a list of record series maintained by all or part of an organization together with the period of time that each record series is to be kept.

When creating a records schedule, a records inventory must first be undertaken to collect the information needed to prepare retention schedules. A record series is a group of logically related records that support a specific business or administrative operation performed by a given program unit.

Source: Saffady, 2011. Record and Information Management.

Perhaps out of all the schedules listed above, you’ll understand and appreciate that the retention schedule is probably the most important of schedules for an organization. Sometimes state and federal law dictate these activities, and generally it’s in the best interest of the institution to understand their lifecycle of recorded information. Its expensive to store many records onsite; it can also be expensive in the form of time and man hours to retrieve misplaced files. It limits the risk for mistakenly purging records as well as unnecessarily keeping unwanted files. Lawsuits are a very expensive activity, and your organization could be at risk if you retain unnecessary documents, or alternatively if you fail to keep important records for certain periods of time as mandated by laws.

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Sample retention schedule. Source:

In legal retention criteria, for example, the American Bar Association states how long closed client files legally must be retained, with most states mandating at least seven years. Other types of retention criterion concerns operational, administrative, and scholarly retention criteria. For the architecture firm that i work for, we have identified close to 30 record series that must have specific retention rates. For the most part, series like financial records associated with a project must be held for seven years after the project is complete. These are identified as inactive records because we have little need to access the information after the project is complete, so they are stored off site for this duration. As the firm is in the business of communicating how to construct and assemble buildings, many of our record series associated with drawings are held indefinitely, or for the life of the building. And some of these even have scholarly value, and eventually  go to a university design school archives for long term preservation.

Planting Schedules

If you work with professionals in the landscape and horticulture industry, they often prepare planting schedules on their plans to help communicate information about the plants and their installation. Items included are common name, botanical name, quantity, size of materials purchased, and sometimes mature spread and price.

Sample planting schedule


The above example planting plan is one I created for a rooftop garden concept several years ago, and it clearly demonstrates a landscape professional’s expertise needed for informative planting plans. This type is schedule is fairly self-explanatory in general, but is a critical piece of information in contract documents.

Schedules in Blueprints [ie door schedules]

If you’re an architect, engineer, or tradesman in the building sciences, you know that all plans and blueprints should have schedules for the various components and assemblies that are specified. These components or parts often get grouped by type, and like planting schedules, are listed in a table format to describe useful information to interpret the drawings such as dimensions, manufacturer, and any remarks. Basically, if you take the example component of doors, a door schedule would list in table format all of the types of doors that are specified and labeled in the plan. Instead of crowding a blueprint with tons of product information, any needed stats are listed in a concise table for enhanced clarity. All the types of doors in the drawing are then easy to find and locate.

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These days, modeling software such as Revit and AutoCAD can automatically generate schedules for components that have been pre-specified in plans. It’s a huge timesaver for architects these days to click a button to generate a schedule, as opposed to manually creating a new one every time there is a change of plans in component types.

Project Schedules

All well planned and prepared built projects have a detailed schedule that clearly communicates what general activities will occur throughout the lifespan of the project. The obvious main purpose here is to track progress and identify milestones, as the schedule is often revealed in the contract as a reference point to maintain accountability of time. Project management teams consisting of the owner and consultants will work closely with the project schedule to ensure financial, staffing, and contractual goals are being met.

2018 Bond Project Construction Schedule

A project schedule is another self-explanatory schedule in this list, but it’s important to note that this graphic can be used as a very powerful tool for consultants in clearly communicating and instilling confidence in the client from winning the job at the interview process and throughout the lifespan of the project. Especially in the architecture world, a well thought out and graphically sophisticated, yet informative project schedule speaks volumes to the abilities of a firm. At my place of employment we have several great examples set aside to consult when revising and creating new project schedules.

Additionally project schedules are an essential part of best practices in the management of any type of project, whether a program, initiative, or other non physical project.

Work and time Schedules

And perhaps the most ubiquitous and obvious schedule in the list is your run of the mill work schedule to help track the time of staff over a certain period. If your job concerns billable hour activities, then working with this type of schedule is a more laborious activity. There are many applications and software out there for individuals to track their hours, as well as for payroll staff to organize records to disperse appropriate compensation. ADP is a big player. In the AEC industry, Deltek is a common choice.

In conclusion….

Who would have thought that there’s so many schedules involved in running an organization? Perhaps the most interesting point here is that most of these are critical components in their particular scope of work, and contribute greatly to outcomes. By understanding all of these, we can have a more complete comprehension of how an organization in the natural and built environment works on the whole.

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