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keeping track of everything, with FredDB

Saturday, April 24th, 2010 by

Unsurprisingly, there are thousands of details that need to be captured and tracked when you are trying to build a house. Notebooks, clippings files, Google docs and Evernote—I love Evernote!—all come in very handy, but it is very difficult to aggregate and share all the stuff that resides in them, with all the people it needs to be shared with.

Architects, builders, lawyers, engineers, suppliers, subcontractors, etc. all need to have the latest, agreed-upon-by-everyone information, or very nasty surprises can happen. Given that I tend not to be terribly well organized, I felt that we needed a technology tool to address this problem. (Besides, I’m a technologist, and what guy doesn’t love tools? It’s a no-brainer!)

The answer was FredDB. FredDB is a FileMaker database that I created to track all the stuff we need in order to make Fred into our true dream house. FredDB keeps track of all of the features that we want incorporated into our house design, all of Fred’s rooms and dimensions, the inventory of stuff that Fred has to have a place for, all the contact information for the people who are working on Fred, and the decisions, minutes and documents that come out of all the meetings about Fred. They are all cross-linked together, so a user can easily see all the house features that are part of the kitchen, or a list of all the rooms that contain a certain common feature, such as built-in storage. (Note to readers: I love built-in storage. This will become painfully evident over time. You have been warned.)

Here are a few screenshots from FredDB; click on the image for a larger view:

FredDB can also generate PDF reports on all of its contents, organized in a variety of ways. These reports can then be used as timestamped ‘snapshots’ that provide an audit trail of decisions and changes.

FredDB is hosted securely via FileMaker Server. Our architect/build firm has direct access to it from any of their desktop machines, so they can always check out the latest status on features that we have asked for, or the decisions that were made at any of our meetings. It’s early days in the project right now, so it’s hard to say how well any of this will work, but the crew has been great about trying this out. We’ll definitely do some follow-up posts to let everyone know how well (or badly) this works!

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