For project managers, having a file structure template for your jobs is a best practice for project documentation. So, if you don’t already have a file structure template, you can find one in this article for free. If you already have a template, then you can use this to check against your files and add as needed.
Click here to download the zip file to the file structure template. This template file should be useable on both Windows and Mac operating systems.
You now have a project folder template to work with. This can be used as a baseline for any new project that you have moving forward. As you work on projects over time, you can refine the items to your needs.
There are many folder structure templates out there, but this one applies to construction. This template was created based on my personal experience and the most common documents you will see on a project.
If you’re part of an already established construction company, chances are they’ve already got their own folder templates in place. This would typically reside in a cloud storage location and accessed by many. So, this guide is best suited toward individuals who are in need of a new structure.
The folder structure
This article will act as your guide to use the folder structure that I have provided. Understand what documents you should place in the different folder types so you can navigate to the folders quickly.
When it comes to construction there’s hundreds of project documents that are involved. If you don’t have these properly sorted and organized, it’s easy to lose track of where everything is. As a project manager, you need to learn to be organized and file management is just the beginning.
Parent folders file structure
Before we can get into the structure for the individual projects, we need to look at the parent folders. These will be the first few folders that someone sees as they access the shared drive. From there, someone can navigate their way to the project they are looking for.
The main folder should consist of the following items:
- Active Projects
- Closed Projects
Within each folder you should include the individual years that you have projects or bids you submitted. Next, you need to look at the file names for your projects/bids. This should involve some careful consideration, but I recommend using the year and bid number.
For example, if the year is 2023 and you just received your first invitation to bid. The project number would start with the last two digits of the year and the bid number. Since this is your first bid of the year, it should be number 1 or 001.
You will end up with a project number like 23001. I suggest you include the zeros before the number “1”. That way you don’t have to change the number format as the projects come in.
Then, add this with the project name. It will end up looking like, “23001 Hospital Renovation Project”.
Bid phase folder
This folder should include all the documents you receive during the estimating/bid project phase. You should be able to find your RFP with the plans and specs, along with any addendums and general requirements.
Additionally, these folders should be included:
- Plans and Specs
- Addendums & General Requirements
- Bid Quotes
The bid quotes folder includes any prices you receive from subcontractors or vendors. During the bidding process, you will need to obtain their pricing to generate your proposal. So, anything that was received during the bid time should be placed in this folder.
Make sure that once the bidding process is completed, this folder is only used for reference purposes. Remember, you’re not the only one using these folders. If anything is placed here during pre-construction, you could create some confusion for team members.
Project default folder structures
After the project has been awarded, duplicate the folder from the bid phase to the “Active Projects” folder. Then you will add the remaining subfolders into that for the documents that will be generated during construction.
As the folder suggests, this is where you will be storing any of your contracts. Whether you’ve received this from a general contractor or owner, it can be stored here.
I recommend creating subfolders within this for contract review and markup. When you receive a contract, it will need to go through a review process. Keep all those markups within a sub folder for future reference.
Also consider making a separate folder for the fully executed contract. A contract is considered fully executed once both parties come to an agreement and sign the contract.
Bonds & COI (Certificate of Insurance)
This is usually dependent on the requirements of the contract specifications. You will always need to provide a COI for a project so this is a good place to keep it. YOu can also keep the COI’s of your subcontractors here.
Bonds can vary as it is sometimes dependent on the contract dollar amount. Additionally, this is mainly a requirement for the general contractor to pick up. So, if you’re working as a subcontractor, then you shouldn’t need to worry about this.
If you don’t need to get a bond, then you can modify the file to just state “COI”.
Most, if not all construction projects will require a permit of some sort. You will need to have a hard copy of the permit on the job site but a digital copy is also good to have. Once the project is completed there’s no sense in holding onto the physical copy, so store it here.
The first subfolder you will find should include the change order proposal (COP) number along with the description. You can duplicate and create different folders as needed. This can also contain your change requests for each COP that you make.
The COP folder should contain the estimate and proposals that you put together for the change order. Also, any pricing that you obtain from your vendors and subcontractors should be within this folder.
This folder should contain the purchase orders (PO) that you release to the vendors. A PO is a formal document that will let your vendor know you’re committed to purchasing their material or equipment. Include specific information like the specs, estimated delivery date, and more in the PO.
The PO should also act as the vendor contract, I suggest having some legal terms attached to this document to hold them accountable.
Use sub folders to keep track of your vendor quotes as well. Keep the vendor quotes that you use in a dedicated folder to avoid sorting through a collection of files. I suggest naming the file to include the vendor, equipment or material type, and the date.
For example, it should look something like “Carrier – FCUs 12.1.22”.
This folder will not only contain your subcontracts but a few additional items as well. You will need to make a folder for each subcontractor that you will be hiring. Within that folder you will include the individual contract along with any review comments they have.
Similar to the contracts section, both parties will need to come to an agreement on the contract. Once this has been made, then the contract can be fully executed.
I will leave it up to you if you want to create a new subfolder for the fully executed contracts. At a minimum, you should change the name of the file to include something like “FE” in it. This would be one indication that the contract is good to go.
Last item to include in this folder would be your lien waivers. As the work is completed and the contractors get paid, they need to sign this document. It’s an agreement that they will not take out any liens on their work.
To learn more about construction liens, click here.
However you keep track of your budget on the project, you should keep a monthly record of how the job is progressing. Print out a copy to pdf and store it in this folder.
You may use software or just a simple excel sheet to manage your budget. Either way, it’s good to get a monthly snapshot of where the job is at and store it in this folder. That way you have something to refer back to and compare month to month.
This folder will contain all your billing documents for each month, this is called progress billings. Each month should have its own subfolder, then you will store the relevant billing files there.
Keep documents like your schedule of values (SOV), invoices from subcontractors and vendors, and any forms required for billing. Sometimes general contractors will have specific forms that will need to be filled out each time you want to bill.
Once the project is underway you will be referring back to this folder monthly, so it needs to be well organized. You’ll be copying over the SOV to the next month’s billing period to add upon. So, to save yourself time you need to be able to find the SOV easily for each month.
You’ll mainly want to look at keeping any email correspondence in this folder. I want to be clear that you’re not going to print every single email to PDF to store here. Rather, you’ll need to determine which emails hold importance and should be kept for quick reference.
When you’re storing the email, you should create a subfolder that also provides a brief description.
For example, I just issued a PO for the vendor to release equipment into production. I still need them to provide confirmation that the equipment has entered production and they provide a lead time. Once I get that email, I print it to PDF and store it in the correspondence folder.
Then, make a subfolder where the PDF will reside. You could use something like, “Equipment Order Confirmation & Lead Time”. This is just an example, you’ll know best what to name the subfolder.
Some other emails you’ll want to store here could be as follows:
- Anything that is related to the construction schedule. Confirmation or changes to the schedule. If your subcontractor agrees to be onsite on a certain date, then document it and include it here.
- Any responses to documents such as change orders and billing approvals.
- Emails that you find might impact the project costs in any way. If a subcontractor requests for more money due to an unforeseen condition, or a portion of the project is descoped.
Drawings & Specifications
Use this folder to hold your contract drawings and specifications. It will also be a place where you can store shop drawings and as-built drawings depending on your company needs.
If you do get involved with shop drawings then I would recommend that you create subfolders within the shop drawing folder. During the drafting process to create shop drawings, it will go through multiple iterations until it’s ready to submit. You will need a place to store the multiple revisions, this would be the folder.
The same applies to as-built drawings. Within this folder, create a subfolder named “redlines”. This is where all the field markups on the shop drawings will be stored for future reference.
Once it’s time to create the as-built drawings, the drafter will look to the “as-built folder” to make the necessary changes. Like the shop drawings, this drawing set will also need to go through multiple iterations before it’s completed. The project manager will need to review the drawings before it’s sent to the customer for their records.
Make sure you create folders for each iteration of the drawings so there’s no mix up later in the project.
RFI stands for request for information, and this can be one of the most important folders to get right. These questions require that the engineers and owners provide clarification to their design. Additionally, this can be your ammunition if you need to end up requiring a change order.
Keep track of the RFIs you’ve sent and a separate folder for the responses. The last folder that you should keep here should contain a log for all the RFIs in the project. It’s good to have a dedicated folder because some projects might require that you submit your log occasionally.
So, as you print out your log to PDF to be submitted, you’ll need to use the “RFI Log” folder to store the files.
Submittal documents will be the first items that you will work with on a project. You’ll be required to submit these for the engineer’s and owner’s review and approval. So, keeping track of all the documents as they go back and forth is important.
Maintain multiple folders so you know what stage each submittal is at. Depending on the size of the project you can end up with over 100+ submittals, so folder organization is key here.
We’re using simple folder structures here to allow other users to quickly navigate through the submittals. For example, if I go to the submitted folder, all of the submittals that have been sent in for review should be stored here. Also, anything in the “Revise & Resubmit” or “Approved” folder should contain submittals with corresponding responses.
Monitor these folders occasionally, you don’t want the wrong version to be uploaded to create confusion for your team.
Lastly, you will want a keep a log for your submittals as well. Similar to the RFI log, this is something you may occasionally submit to the owner. It provides them with an understanding of where the submittal process is at.
Know that in construction, the schedule comes in various forms. You have your typical schedule which will display all the project tasks. This will have more general activities, but will still provide valuable information to the team.
There’s also something called a 3-week look ahead schedule. This schedule is much more detailed and will only provide you with the activities for the next three weeks. You can expect to receive 3-week look ahead schedules once construction starts, a good contractor will send this out weekly.
Dailies are required on most job sites, this will be completed by the field crew and sent to the general contractor or owner. It will outline the work that was completed for the day, along with hours worked, equipment used, issues, and more.
Along with the daily report, the field crew may have to fill out a pre-task planning worksheet. This form is required before any new activity begins or before any major activity. Some safety plans might require this to be completed daily, it’s all up to the job site requirements.
Keep all your safety files for your project in these folders. The subfolders are broken into different requirements for the job site. Depending on the work your company does you may not need the folder named “Hot Work Permits”. You can either delete or change this folder name to something that is more relevant to your work.
The other folders are standard safety documents that are used on most commercial projects.
The activity hazard analysis (AHA) or job hazard analysis (JHA) needs to be completed when starting new activities. This document goes through the potential hazards associated with each task. The AHA is required so the field crew is aware of the risk and they know how to approach the work in a safe manner.
Equipment inspection forms need to be completed daily for any heavy equipment that will be used on the job site. This is a better way to validate that the equipment is safe to operate.
The safety data sheet (SDS) is required for any material that you bring onsite. The document has information on what is contained within the material and if you need to take any caution with it.
All of these documents hold importance on the job site which is why the subfolders were included in the template.
This folder is left blank intentionally, as you take pictures on the job site create an additional folder describing the photos it contains. I suggest labeling the folder with the date as well. For example, if you go on a job site visit, then the folder would be “Job Site Visit + Date”.
As the project nears the end, you will be required to submit a list of close out documents. The requirements will be listed in the project specifications on what you need to submit. The subfolders that are included in the template folder are typical to most projects.
I suggest you review the specification and modify the subfolders as needed here. The specs will also provide you with information on what each document will need to include.
This is the end of the user guide to this project management file structure for construction projects. Feel free to make modifications to the template as you gain more experience in the industry. You will find that there will need to be minor tweaks to best fit your needs.
As a project manager, document management is one of the key skills that we need to have to excel in our industry. The best way to be successful with organizing your documents is by having a good file structure.
I suggest making use of the table of contents so you can quickly refer back to any section you might have questions on.
Thank you for reading.
Table of Contents