Apps of Interest April 2017 Edition

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Job Site Communication:


Keeping everyone on the same page and in the know is hard. But streamlined, effective, re-al-time communication means fewer errors, a better experience for your employees and cus-tomers and a better reputation. BuilderTREND was created especially for the construction workspace to connect everyone involved in a project (from the builder, to the contractor, to the customer) with every single detail--every step of the way. It features automatic updates and real-time notifications that allow builders to manage projects, collaborate, and com-municate with subcontractors, vendors, project managers, and customers.

Features • Easily document and share job logs from the field--record notes using voice to text (or your keyboard), and add a progress photo each step of the way • Assign to-do items to yourself, your workers, or your associates • Share and annotate photos and blueprints right from the job site • Use in-app messaging (fast, easy, and organized) to communicate quickly; search by top-ic, leave a comment, and restrict who can (or can't) see your response • Coordinate with subcontractors and trade partners--send big requests and purchase or-ders straight from your mobile device • Track and accept online payments

Project Management:


Ever wish you had an extra project manager on site to help you evaluate, bid out, and complete a project? Now you have one in your pocket. Co-Construct is a project management tool for home builders and remodelers that stores all the information you need to build or remodel a home. The app can be used at every stage of a project's lifecycle, from the initial bidding process through to completion and beyond. Use it to create project estimates and proposals, invite and manage bids from subcontractors, store all your plans and specifications, track project costs, schedule and manage jobs on the worksite, create and manage change orders, update your accounting data, and manage punch list items on completed projects that are still under warranty.

Features • Reduces paperwork at every stage of your project: from proposal to completion. • Improves communication with your clients and subcontractors. • Includes bid management, cost management, and labor management tools. • Syncs with QuickBooks to create invoices and cost forecasts. • Allows you to manage all your projects from a single dashboard.


AutoCAD 360

If you are an engineer, it is highly likely you use some form of AutoCad in your daily life. This design software makes sketching out your ideas a breeze and it's also offered in a mobile app allowing you to view and edit DWG files on your mobile device.

Apps of Interest February 2017 Edition

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JobFLEX Google Play

Being able to quickly and easily create estimates for customers using an estimating app is critical. The difference between gaining a new client and losing a potential job often hinges on how quickly and professionally you can turn that estimate around. With JobFLEX, there's no tech savvy needed. Deliver estimates on the spot, with or without a cellular connection. Create and edit customizable forms, then just drag and drop line item costs, materials, and photos. When you're finished, preview, email or print the estimate with one tap.


iEngineer Perfectly Simple Apps, LLC iTunes

If you need a screw database, iEngineer is the answer. The app has a comprehensive list of U.S. and metric screws, including dimensions for different head styles, material grades, and different screw sizes. For U.S. screws, the app has a catalog of 93 different screws from #0 to 4-in. They are categorized by their nine different head styles including flat, oval, hex, and truss along with 29 material grades ranging from different SAE and ASTM standards. The metric catalog has over 200 metric screws ranging from M1.0 to M100. The most helpful information comes in the form of advised torque, lubricated torque, and clamping force for the screw chosen. This will help engineers determine installation requirements.


MyPantone iTunes Google Play

For over 50 years Pantone has been the international language of color. This app now gives you access to the entire Pantone catalogue of over 13,000 colors and makes it easy to create and share color palettes. Capture and extract colors from photos and snap to the closest Pantone color.


Arc Flash Analytic Arcad Inc. iTunes Google Play

The app has been developed based on IEEE 1584 Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations as an easy to use and comprehensive tool for calculating incident energy and arc flash boundary, determining limited, restricted, prohibited approach boundaries and hazard risk category required by NFPA 70E, NEC / CEC and OSHA when work is to be performed on or near the energized equipment.

Apps of Interest September 2016 Edition

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Field Supervisor $0.00

Field Supervisor from Bentley Systems provides construction field workers with onsite views, personalized for their specific project roles, into multiple project data, ensuring real-time decisions are made using the most relevant and current information. At the same time, it eliminates the risk of relying on potentially outdated printed materials. Field Supervisor connects to multiple project data sources, including Bentley's ProjectWise system of collaboration servers and services and eB, which controls information throughout the lifecycle of change. This allows users to directly access secure electronic documents for inspection and confident decision making.

Archisketch: Sketch and Doodle to Scale

Urban Design

Free - $9.99

Archisketch, formerly Archipad, is a new iPad sketching app by Urban Design that's ideal for architects, interior and product designers. While there are many sketching apps on the market, what makes Archisketch unique is that it's scale aware. Once you set the scale of your drawing sheet, the drawings will be completely scaled to the real world, even down to the line thickness. In addition, Archisketch has many other features that cater to architects and designers, including layer rotations, shape and freehand drawing tools and more. Archisketch is easy enough to use for professionals and non-professionals alike. Similarly, it has a tiered pricing structure--it's free to download for small projects. As projects become more complex, the user can buy a subscription for however long or short they need the app for.

Engineering Professional

By Multieducator Inc $17.99

ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL combines all of the formulas from our Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Environmental, Hydrology and Mechanical Engineering formulator apps. This program is perfect for any Engineering student. Over 650 formulas allow you to determine everything from calculations on shafts to calculation on loads on beams. This one app lets you calculate the widest range of calculations. In addition there are 100 conversion formulas, as well as a section for determining Area formulas.

All formulas can be saved. You can easily access recent or favorite formulas. You can also e-mail the results from any formulas. While we regularly upgrade and add formulas to the underlying programs, ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL will be expanded as well. We expect ENGINEERING PROFESSIONAL to eventually grow to over 1,000 formulas.

Translucent/Light Transmitting Concrete

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Translucent concrete (light-transmitting concrete) is a concrete based building material filled with optical fibers that run from one end of a poured piece of concrete to the other.

Effectively transmitting light due to fibers running through prefabricated blocks and panels, concrete is given a new look without sacrificing its strength and durability. The fibers can transmit light to over 50 feet and, as they occupy only a small percentage of the total concrete block or panel, they do not significantly affect the structural capabilities of the poured pieces. This results into a certain light pattern on the other surface, depending on the fiber structure. Shadows cast onto one side appear as silhouettes through the material. The fibers can also be used to create lettering, pictograms and "light patterns" in the concrete. Colors and light remain remarkably consistent from end to end, but with a natural variation from the pouring process that actually softens the effects considerably.

More information may be found at:

Alternative Ways to Deal with a Wall Base

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Baseboards are traditionally used to cover the intersection between walls and floors. They protect against damage from feet, vacuum cleaners and other objects and they hide imperfections in levels and finishing. But they also collect dust, may not be the most attractive finish and you may want to consider alternatives.

Applied Base
The baseboard is an applied base in its most traditional form, typically a 3.5 inch profile fixed at the base of the drywall where it meets the floor. However, you can have variations that include:

  • A larger baseboard that is both taller and thicker than it needs to be in order to add presence
  • A smaller and thinner baseboard that retains its protective functionality but is less significant within the overall design
  • Low profile, square baseboards for a more modern effect.
Depending on your choice, the baseboard can be emphasized by detailing or coloring so it stands out or can be the same color as the wall or floor. It can be in various materials and can be designed to align with doorframes, windowsills or cabinets.

Flush Base
The baseboard is incorporated into the base of the wall rather then being fixed to its surface. It therefore still fulfills the function of protecting against knocks but minimizes the problem of dust collection.

As for an applied base, it can be in various materials and colored to either blend in with the wall or floor, or to contrast as a feature. A flush base can provide a clean transition to stairways or similar areas.

A flush base is more complex to install, with the need to keep the wall and base properly aligned. The finished wall surface and the base should also be fixed to the same underlying material to prevent cracking of the joint over time.

Rather than hiding the joint between the floor and the wall, a reveal seeks to emphasize it. A clean edge is provided as a shadow line, created by inserting a strip of metal or plastic between the floor and the wall base.

The reveal itself can contrast with or match the color of the wall and requires both intersecting surfaces to be precisely aligned for a clean finish. It is usually only suitable for areas that aren't likely to take a lot of knocks.

This is the ultimate minimalist approach, with nothing covering or filling the gap between the wall and the floor. It provides a clean look with fewer areas to collect dust and fewer materials for the installation.

This approach does, however, have drawbacks:
  • The wall has to be properly finished and the floor must be absolutely even to create the required clean line
  • The joint between the floor and wall needs to be kept open to allow free movement
  • Damage to the wall base is more likely.
Added Complexity
To achieve the finish you require, care must be taken with planning and installation. The alternatives can add complexity as well as cost to the project so you must think through what you're trying to achieve and test the outcome thoroughly.

Using Sustainable Materials in Landscape Design

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Environmental design is often associated with the inside of buildings and how they work. However, a true holistic approach will consider the whole site and that extends to landscaping.

Construction in general has many impacts on the environment, economy and human health, and that's equally true of the site generally as well as the buildings on it. Landscaping materials use resources in their extraction or manufacture, when transported to site and during installation and use, causing pollution, waste and possible health problems. So great care should be taken with the design of the site to ensure it's as environmentally friendly as possible, both during construction and when in use, to reduce negative impacts.

Driving Principles
Design practice should to a great degree be driven by the principles of 'reduce, reuse, recycle'. That doesn't in any way mean you should compromise on the quality of the project but should simply:

  • Aim to reduce the amount of materials used in it by down-sizing the scale of landscaping where possible
  • Incorporating reused materials into the design, such as reclaimed stone and timber, which can add character to the finished project
  • Recycling any construction waste, whether within the site or elsewhere, such as using rubble as the base for paths.
In essence, you should concentrate your design thinking on certain key areas:

  1. Reducing Water Use and Wastage. Water is an increasingly scarce resource in some areas while at times it can cause problems of flooding, soil erosion and compaction. Meet the relevant challenges by using permeable paving and other materials that let water soak through, collect rainwater for irrigation and select plants that reduce the need for watering.

  2. Using Sustainable Materials. By using the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle, you can limit the amount of materials going to landfill. Rather than treating the lifecycle of materials as a linear process that starts with extraction and ends with disposal, it becomes a circular process that avoids the use and processing of new materials each time, with resulting savings in energy use and pollution.

    Also try to source materials locally if possible since this saves unnecessary transport miles as well as supporting the local economy. For new wood products, ensure they carry FSC or PEFC accreditation so you know they originate from sustainable forests.

  3. Preserve Existing Features. It isn't necessary to totally clear a site before redeveloping it. Where possible, retain existing features that fit in with and enhance the overall design, particularly native plants that support local ecosystems.
Sustainable Benefits
Sustainable landscape design is increasingly demanded by clients who are keen to contribute positively to the local environment. However, it can also save construction costs due to the reduced use of new materials and can save operational costs through reduced water use. Some cities even offer landscaping rebates to homeowners who upgrade their land in a sustainable manner, so there are financial incentives for being green.

Innovations in Commercial Construction

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Construction is often seen as a conventional industry that largely uses traditional methods. However, many businesses are using exciting and innovative techniques, and becoming familiar with them will help you provide a better service to your customers and gain additional work.

Improved Methods

Modeling techniques that provide a virtual view of the finished project can ensure complete customer satisfaction and avoid expensive mistakes. By letting the customer see exactly what they will be getting, you can be sure it's what they want and will be able to make required changes before getting too far.

Once the project is underway, modular construction is being used more frequently to produce many of the building elements off-site. Unlike earlier pre-fabricated buildings, these modern versions are of at least equal quality to those created by traditional methods and offer many benefits:

  • better manufacturing methods and quality control in factory conditions
  • faster construction due to elements being produced in parallel and delivered to site exactly when needed with less bottlenecks
  • fewer vehicle movements as a result of planned deliveries
  • safer working through reduced exposure to the elements.


There is a trend towards greener buildings and that's reflected in increasing demands from customers to incorporate environmental features. These comprise:

  • solar installations that are beginning to include photovoltaic glazing that turns a whole building into a solar panel
  • efficient layouts and use of natural lighting and ventilation to reduce energy needs
  • creating electricity from kinetic energy produced by the movement of people or vehicles
  • use of better materials, such as concrete that self-repairs cracks to prevent harmful emissions and better insulation to prevent heat loss through walls.

Technological Advances

Technology is featuring more and more in construction, leading to better sharing of data between all parties involved in a project. That results in better collaboration, reduced duplication, quicker resolution of issues, smoother progress in general and overall cost savings.

Effective asset mapping shows where equipment needs to be installed in a building and, once there, means all features of that equipment can be recorded. By connecting to real-time software, performance can be monitored, maintenance undertaken when needed and operating costs can be reduced.

The availability of 3D printers using concrete and composites means companies can produce forms that are not possible with traditional methods. This allows many different styles to be incorporated and reduces building costs through automated processes.

Integrated systems enable smart buildings with automated building controls available to property occupiers. This leads to better security, improved environment through more adaptive controls and, overall, a more efficient building.

Playing Your Part

Depending on the size of your company, many of the more complex innovations may be beyond your capabilities. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of what's possible so you can serve your customers to the best of your ability. Additionally, you'll often work with others and you have to be prepared so you can contribute to the overall success of the project.

Tips for Getting Paid on Time

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Getting work is challenging but being paid for that work is equally important. In fact, unpaid work is worse than no work because you'll incur expense and effort with no reward. You must ensure you get paid for everything you do, and promptly, so you retain profitability and have sufficient money to pay your workforce and suppliers.

In the construction industry, you have the protection of the mechanics lien that allows you to seek payment from other parties and to claim on the project site as collateral for unpaid debts. However, this requires you to issue a preliminary notice of claim early in the project and be willing to take action should things go bad.

Ensuring Prompt Payment
Generally, you don't want to resort to the mechanics lien to recover a debt. It's far better to be paid in the normal way because this ensures a more constant cash flow and avoids hassle. This doesn't necessarily require a lot of effort and mainly means adherence to basic business principles.

  1. Build a Good Relationship with Customers. It's good practice to establish first-rate relationships with customers because they're more likely to provide further work. It also helps with payment since customers are more likely to pay first the suppliers they rely on and use regularly. You need to build a feeling of trust, which requires you to do what you promise, respond to questions and sort out problems quickly without fuss.

  2. Set Out Terms Clearly. Ideally, every job should be covered by a contract that's signed by both parties. This will set out clearly the service you will provide and when, the cost and when payment is due. When billing the job, state clearly on the invoice when payment is due and set out payment methods.

  3. Be Prompt. Make sure you get the job completed by the stated time and, when done, submit your invoice straightaway. Any delays give an easy excuse for late payment that some customers will exploit.

  4. Stick and Carrot. Encourage prompt payment by offering a settlement discount, such as 5% for payment in seven days, and imposing a surcharge when payments are late. Make these terms clear in your contract and on the invoice.

  5. Chase Late Payments. When customers are late in paying, make sure you follow up quickly. If you use billing and accounts payable software, this can often generate automatic reminders but, if that has no effect, make a phone call and ask for payment. Always be polite but don't be afraid to push hard because it's your money and the customer is at fault. If the customer still fails to pay after several attempts, don't hesitate to use the mechanics lien or other means to get paid.
Construction is an industry where profit margins are generally low, which makes it more important you don't lose out on payment. Make clear what is expected, complete your side of the deal and follow up relentlessly if the customer doesn't comply.

Healthy Trends in Construction Data

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Recent figures show the construction industry in a very healthy state, as it has been for a few years. Nevertheless, results vary by state and sector, with some growing quickly and others falling back, so it's useful to know where to concentrate your efforts.

Recent Performance
According to the 2016 Dodge Construction Outlook, U.S. construction starts increased by an estimated 13% in 2015, accelerating from 9% growth the previous year. This continues the expansion experienced in recent years, although increases weren't constant across all sectors:

  • Non-building construction accounted for a large proportion of the increase due to starts on several new power plants and some very large liquefied natural gas terminals in the Gulf Coast region
  • Residential building grew by 18%, both for multi-family and single family housing, the latter recovering from a flat performance in 2014
  • Non-residential building reduced after growth of 24% during 2014.
Changes in the level of construction activity had variable effects on job numbers across different states:
  • Employment expanded in 35 states plus the District of Columbia to September 2015 although only 23 of those states added jobs in August and September
  • California added the most new construction jobs while Arkansas had the highest percentage increase; others to gain included Florida, Pennsylvania, Kansas and South Carolina
  • Construction employment fell in fourteen states, West Virginia losing the highest percentage and the largest losses occurring in Ohio, West Virginia, Minnesota and Mississippi.
Factors Affecting the Changes
  1. Interest rates are increasing, adding to development costs.
  2. Labor shortages in some areas are leading to higher wages rates and difficulties in resourcing projects.
  3. Increased demand is allowing better profit margins.
  4. Population increases are causing greater housing needs.
  5. Growth in the economy is creating more confidence for development.
Forecast Growth
Overall construction starts are forecast to grow 6% in 2016, less than half the rate in 2015. However, this reflects a reduction in non-building construction and, if electric power and gas plants are ignored, construction starts will increase by 10% against 8% the previous year.

Changes by sector include:
  • Single family housing increasing by 17% in units and multi-family up by 5%
  • Commercial buildings up by 11% from 4% in 2015
  • Institutional buildings growing by 9% after a 6% rise the previous year
  • Manufacturing plants falling back 1%, an improvement on the 28% fall in 2015
  • Public works expected to be static
  • Electricity utilities and gas plants forecast to decrease by 43% following the 159% jump last year.
Some important points are coming from the various figures, including that firms relying on federally-funded projects are facing some uncertainty over future work. Additionally, depending on what they do and where they are, some businesses are having difficulty finding enough work while others are facing staff shortages to meet demand. So, in order to ensure a flow of work, it's important to know where the growth is likely to be so you can focus on the best areas.

Electrical Safety in the Home

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Everyone uses electricity in their home and it's become such an essential and accepted part of modern living that it is largely taken for granted as a resource that we use. However, we shouldn't ignore the problems electricity can cause if it isn't treated properly and mustn't underestimate the dangers.

Electrical Dangers
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 51,000 electrical home structure fires in the U.S. each year and these result in almost 500 deaths, injuries to over 1,400 people and property damage amounting to more than $1.3 billion. The majority of these fires result from electrical failure or malfunction and around half involve electrical distribution or lighting equipment. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also reports that almost 400 people are electrocuted every year in the country, with occurrences of all types understandably tending to peak in the winter months.

Although each of these incidents is a personal tragedy for those affected, there are some often quite basic measures that can be taken to prevent many of them occurring. These include an understanding of safety principles and adopting safe practices, and the best way to protect against electrical problems is to use a qualified electrician to carry out checks and necessary work throughout the home. This can open up plenty of opportunities for future work that may lead to long-term relationships with residential customers.

Providing a Service
In order to provide a professional service that truly helps home owners, you need to be organized and clear about what you can provide. This can include:

  • ensuring wiring is up-to-date or if it needs upgrading or replacing
  • checking electrical circuits are not over-loaded and extension cords are not used extensively in dangerous places; if they are, avoid future problems by fitting additional circuits and outlets
  • replacing electrical cords that are loose or damaged
  • installing tamper resistant outlets where children are present
  • fitting smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors or, if already fitted, making sure they are in good working order
  • ensuring all switches and outlets fit properly, don't cause circuits to trip or fuses to blow, aren't discolored due to over-heating and don't get warm or make noises such as buzzing or crackling when in use; replace any that are deficient
  • confirming that lamps have the correct bulbs and all appliances are used correctly with appropriate fuse protection; electrical fires are commonly caused by washers, dryers, fans and space heaters while halogen light bulbs have a higher fire risk than other types
  • fitting electrical panels with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where there is moisture (such as kitchens and bathrooms).
    • Future Work
      If you provide a competent and professional service, you'll help to save lives and will enhance your reputation as a provider of necessary safety services. That will lead to further work for new customers and open up other opportunities with existing ones.

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