On most construction projects, owners, architects and engineers work closely to come up with a design using sophisticated digital tools. Once consensus is reached, the design is printed on piles of paper and handed off to the construction team.
While this is oversimplified, it’s interesting to note the entire exchange of information is digital until the point when actual construction takes place. Because of this, tons of innovative software has been created to make the design part of the building process better and more efficient. In fact, architects and engineers have gotten so good at being efficient they typically only make up 8 percent of the total cost of a building. Meanwhile, contractors in the field have been slower to adopt a paperless workflow.
The iPad is poised to change this, as it’s smaller, handheld, more durable and has a longer battery life than typical laptops. While these benefits seem more evolutionary than revolutionary, to construction field workers the iPad represents the difference between using a tool that almost works and a tool that fully functions on the jobsite. The iPad 3, released March 16, should accelerate adoption by construction companies. As a result, in the coming years the building industry can expect to see software that will transform construction as much as AutoCAD transformed architecture and engineering.
Following are a few ways the iPad will impact the construction industry by delivering more effective computing to the jobsite.
- Fewer paper plans. The first thing that will disappear is paper. It’s expensive and always out of date. And with the push toward green building, an increasing number of owners are asking their project teams to go paperless.
- Superior communication. When someone in the field needs clarification from the architect, he or she leaves the jobsite, heads to the construction trailer, grabs a set of blueprints, heads back to the jobsite, looks at the problem, makes notes on the plans, heads back to the trailer, scans the plans, emails the scan to the architect and then walks all the way back to the jobsite. This process eats up at least 20 minutes for every question. With the iPad, workers can just open a blueprint app, mark up the problem and send it directly to the architect.
- Real analytics. One of the most frustrating things about running a construction company is that the majority of revenue is generated in the field, yet getting reliable data on what is actually occurring there is very difficult. No field computing means no field data, which means a general contractor won’t know the low-bid electrician it hired is actually 30 percent slower than the electrician the firm used on previous jobs. Analytic capabilities will shine a lot of light on field practices and ultimately change how things are done.