Construction Apps for Tablets

The beginning of my career in construction also marked the beginning of my relationship with computers. The relationship has been rewarding. Advances in software, particularly scheduling, estimating, and design software, have contributed immensely to the success of the projects I have managed. When the Palm Pilot, the forerunner to the smartphone, was introduced over 20 years ago I was excited about the possibilities of having the capabilities of my office computer in a form that I could carry with me into the field. My excitement was short lived; handheld devices turned out to be small and awkward for my liking. I tried several other “gadgets” over the years, but none of them lived up to the productivity of my computer. I tried a few small laptops, but they were also cumbersome and not durable enough to meet my needs. My latest smartphone had some great apps, but the screen size was still a hindrance.

Recently I started using a tablet. Finally, the power of a computer in an easy to use format durable enough for the field. I abandoned my laptop and smartphone and went all in with my tablet. The most productive tools I use on my tablet have to do with construction plans. I spend a lot of time walking the jobsite preparing plans and comparing plans to actual field conditions. I have found a few apps that simplify these processes.

GeoMeasure is a satellite mapping tool that calculates distance and areas on maps. I would not use the tool to determine actual design criteria. However, the program is accurate enough to provide preliminary takeoffs for sizing buildings, measuring roofs, or laying out utilities. I have also used the App’s satellite imagery to create site diagrams to go along with my computer drawings.

When it comes to preparing construction plans AutoCAD is the leader of the industry. I recently used their AutoCAD 360 app to view some office floor plans. I found the annotation, drawing, and measurement tools to be a little difficult to use while I was walking the site with trades people or other members of the design team. But I did think the tools were convenient enough to prepare a few field sketches and label some equipment when I got back to the office. The ability to email a PDF of the sketch easily and quickly was an added bonus. AutoCAD offers a 30 day trial period to access the advanced features and charges a yearly fee for features other than viewing thereafter.

PlanGrid has become my go to app for recording field notes on plans. The App allows me to store up to 50 PDF plans for free. While I am onsite I can access the PDF plans and quickly add pin-point notes to a drawing with a couple of taps on the touch screen. The resulting icon consists of a small circle with a letter in the middle. The letter represents the category of the “issue”; for instance E , F, AC, for Electrical , Flooring and Acoustical Ceiling respectively. In addition to describing the issue I can designate a room, assign responsibility, and define a status. I can also attach a document or, as I often do, add a picture or two to the issue as well. When I get back to the office I can share the drawing , or refer to it to update my CAD files The app also is capable of generating detailed “issue” reports.

These are just a few of the tools that aid not only my productivity, but the productivity of my project team as well. In the coming months I will discuss some more of the Apps I use and I look forward to hearing what apps you find useful too.

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