Email management for AEC firms: the ultimate guide

Alex Hauger
July 8, 2024

Email management can often be overlooked within the AEC industry or thought of as a problem to deal with at a later date, leaving firms open to the possibilities of missing information, time wasted searching for information, lost communication, and increased risk of litigation.

It’s estimated that 347.3 billion emails are now sent daily, with the number increasing by 4.3% from the previous year. But how many of these emails are stored correctly? And how are they being managed? 

This guide will highlight the importance of email management systems, the best time for implementation, and what to look for when selecting a successful system. 

Key takeaways

•Email management is now a necessity for AEC firms due to renewed focus on organizing and storing project information

•Implementing an email management system early is the key to success, particularly in terms of improving workflows and mitigating risk factors

•When selecting an email management system, there are certain factors that you must consider in order to select the right one  

Why is email management essential for AEC firms?

There has been a revival of interest in email management within the AEC industry following  the implementation of the Building Safety Act (BSA) , particularly due to its 'golden thread' requirements. 

“The BSA has definitely impacted how AEC firms now approach information and data storage” highlights Marcus Roberts (Head of Atvero), “and email is usually one medium people fail to consider as communication that needs preserving.”

The golden thread concept mandates that a project must maintain a comprehensive and continuous digital record, ensuring that reliable information is available throughout the entire life cycle of a building. 

This requirement aims to enhance safety, accountability, and transparency in building management by preserving detailed and accessible records of all relevant communications, decisions, and actions taken during the project's lifespan. This includes any conversations, documents, and drawings transferred through email relating to a project, no matter how minor the exchange.

Volume of communication

In the AEC industry, communication has increasingly become centered around email for both internal and external exchanges. This includes interactions with clients, contractors, suppliers, and members of the project team. 

Email has become the primary medium for discussing project details, coordinating tasks, and sharing important documents and updates. Being able to keep track of this high volume of communication is step one of the process, as ensuring that it’s secure, stored, and accessible to all relevant parties is also essential.

With a personal inbox, there is no way to guarantee that someone hasn’t missed, deleted or lost vital information in the sea of daily correspondence, and by the time it is realized —it’s too late.

Project coordination

With such a vast amount of communication occurring through email, it’s crucial to have a reliable system in place to organize the information effectively and efficiently. As Project Coordinators are being given more and more responsibility, email management is more critical than ever in facilitating project coordination, as it promotes accountability, transparency, and cohesion between project members. 

Disorganized email management can be detrimental to a project, with deadlines, sign-offs, contracts and much more hanging in the balance. Ultimately disorganization with communication can lead to frustrated project members and could potentially jeopardize the project success.

Risk mitigation

Email management is also crucial from a risk mitigation angle as the AEC industry as a whole involves a lot of litigation risk, which often requires proof or documentation of decisions . Properly integrated email systems help track critical decisions related to design, budget, and timelines, providing a clear historical record and context for future reference and accountability. 

Clear, recorded communication can reduce misunderstanding and help to minimize errors both within the team and externally with contractors, helping enhance the success of a project and reduce the possibility of risk. 

Joe Emanuele (Head of AEC at CMap), states that “'fee claims are often settled on gray areas' when a company is unable to find or produce all the evidential documentation. For example, having an organized and comprehensive searchable system, firms will be able to find critical information quickly and conclusively. Thus, being able to efficiently mitigate the risks associated with fee claims." 

Efficiency and productivity

Email management directly impacts efficiency, productivity, and overall project success for an AEC firm. Well-managed emails save time, reduce stress, and allow professionals to focus on creative work , thereby enhancing the productivity of the entire firm. Without an email management system, valuable time is wasted searching for specific emails, tracking down pieces of information, and scrambling to follow up on missing communication.

An effective email management system ensures that all emails are organized, indexed, and easily searchable. This means that project managers and team members can quickly locate the information they need, respond to queries more efficiently, and spend less time on administrative tasks.

Regulatory compliance

As the AEC industry is highly regulated, it’s imperative that firms remain up to date with the latest legislation and the frequent updates/amendments that accompany them. A key example of this is the BSA, and its specific focus on information under the golden thread. 

A quality email management system ensures that you and your firm are in line with these new requirements; remaining organized with centralized email archives, automated systems, and secure long-term storage as it is not just best practice, but now can help you meet legal requirements.   Remaining compliant is essential for AEC firms as being non-compliant can delay a project and damage a firm's reputation. 

When to implement email management in your AEC firm

Effective email management is crucial for AEC firms wanting to ensure that their communication is organized, secure, and easily accessible. Implementing an email management system early guarantees that all project-related emails are automatically filed, searchable, and secure, facilitating smoother communication and risk mitigation. 

Regardless of company size, establishing a robust email management system from the outset promotes an organized environment and streamlined communication. As companies grow, the complexity of manual email management increases, making early adoption even more beneficial. 

Is it too early to implement an email management system?

The short answer? It’s never too early to implement an email management system.

Establishing a system early on ensures that all project-related emails are automatically filed, searchable and secure, which facilitates better adoption, smoother communication, and peace of mind in regard to mitigating risk. 

Early adoption also encourages a smooth transition for users to become accustomed to the new system in place before the volume of communication becomes too large, or too frequent, to manage effectively. 

Does company size matter?

In the case of email management software—size doesn’t matter. Whether you have an employee count of 10+ or 1000+, there will always be email. Companies of any size will all benefit from moving emails out of personal inboxes and into a shared, stored, and secure space. Naturally however, as a company grows, the volume of email and people collaborating on them grows, increasing the demand for an email management system.

By encouraging the use of an email management system early, the chances of creating an organized environment are improved and communication will remain streamlined. For large companies or projects, getting a system in place prior to a project start is key for thorough integration. Early adoption also reduces any disruption that a new system may cause for users and it can even be more cost-effective as there will be a smoother transfer of information. 

Workflow upgrades

The built environment sector is fast-paced, and so keeping workflows efficient and productive is key to keeping up with project demands. Integrating email management into this process ensures that communication stays clear and streamlined. 

A centralized system makes it easy to find project-related emails quickly, cutting down on search time. By standardizing communication protocols and automating email filing, manual work is reduced and there is a lower risk of missing important messages. 

Email management also improves tracking and accountability, integrates seamlessly with other project management tools, cuts down on redundant emails, and ensures compliance. Scalable email management solutions can grow alongside a firm, keeping workflows optimized without causing bottlenecks.

This is crucial as a streamlined workflow can lead to higher project efficiency, which in turn equals greater client satisfaction and a better chance for future bids.

In times of crisis

During a crisis, an efficient email management system is critical for quick access to all necessary information passed through email. Organized, filed, and searchable emails allow for AEC firms to retrieve emails quickly and without hassle, removing time wasted sifting through hours of communication. Ensuring that this vital information is readily available from any location is one of the key reasons why quality email management is now so crucial for AEC firms.  

What should the optimal email management system have?

Assisted filing

Assisted filing is a game-changer for managing the high volume of emails typical in the AEC industry. Having a system that files emails within a conversation greatly improves organization down the line. This is emphasized when a system is then able to file any future emails received in the same conversation, reducing time spent manually filing emails and increasing efficiency—leaving more time for actual project work. 

Advanced searchability

Advanced search capabilities are indispensable in the AEC industry, where emails often contain crucial project details, drawings, contracts, and technical documents. The ability to search not only emails but also attachments and even within attachments offers several benefits, such as:

• Quick access to information which allows you to find specific documents, drawings, or correspondence swiftly, reducing downtime and facilitating faster decision-making.  

• Enhanced collaboration ensuring all team members can locate and retrieve necessary information, improving cooperation and efficiency.

• Reducing the risk of errors, which is achieved by easily accessing the correct version of documents or emails.

Seamless control

In the AEC industry, professionals often work on various devices and platforms. Providing seamless control of email across Windows, Mac, and mobile devices is vital for maintaining productivity and collaboration. 

When selecting an email management system, you want to guarantee accessibility, with emails available 24/7. You also want to provide consistency and flexibility for all project team members, so flexible work arrangements are supported and don’t compromise project efficiency. 

Reliable security

When selecting an email management system, it’s imperative that security is considered. Security is paramount in the AEC industry due to the sensitive nature of project data and client information. A robust email management system should include regular back-ups to ensure no data is lost, protection from unauthorized access, and compliance with industry standards for data protection to safeguard sensitive information. 

Cloud-based storage

Migrating to a cloud-based email management system offers more advantages compared to traditional physical servers. Cloud-based storage offers easy scalability for your AEC firm, as when your business grows, the storage system grows with you. 

Moving away from traditional physical servers is also cost-efficient as there will be no maintenance, access, or upgrading costs with a cloud-based solution. Moving to the cloud is also great for facilitating remote access for you and your team, allowing everyone to stay connected and access emails from any location, enhancing your firm's flexibility and collaboration.

User-friendly interface

Marcus Roberts says: “Usability should always be at the center of any product as there’s no point making anything that isn’t easily adoptable.” An effective email management system must be user-friendly to ensure widespread adoption and use, with intuitive design that allows users to quickly learn and navigate the system, reducing training time and increasing productivity. 

Additionally, customization options enable users to tailor their email settings and views to suit their personal workflows and preferences. Comprehensive support and training resources should also be provided to help users maximize the benefits of the email management tools available.


Effective email management is vital in the AEC industry, ensuring that communication is organized, secure, and easily accessible. With the increasing volume of daily emails, particularly those containing critical project details, having a comprehensive email management system in place is no longer optional—it’s essential. 

Implementing such a system early in a project’s life cycle can streamline communication, reduce risks, and enhance overall efficiency and productivity. The ability to maintain an extensive digital record, as required by the Building Safety Act, underscores the importance of these systems for compliance and accountability.

Selecting the right email management system involves considering features like automated filing, advanced searchability, seamless control across devices, reliable security, cloud-based storage, and a user-friendly interface. These elements collectively contribute to improved project coordination, reduced risk, and better workflow optimization. 

By adopting a scalable email management solution, AEC firms can ensure that their communication infrastructure grows with them, maintaining high standards of organization and efficiency even in times of crisis. This not only supports immediate project needs but also lays a foundation for long-term success and compliance in a highly regulated industry.