Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Word Cloud Reveals BuildSite is All About Submittals

Word clouds are a fun way to get a bird's-eye view of your website, blog, or Twitter feed. I recently ran a word cloud for the BuildSite News Blog using Wordle, and here is what I found:

Read about these topics and more on the BuildSite News Blog.

Not surprisingly, our biggest topics are electronic submittals and construction products. Phew, at least we are staying on message!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Adding Value with Electronic Submittals

In my previous post, I presented how projects can reduce costs with electronic submittals. In the third of my three-part series on electronic submittals, I will look at how project managers can add value for owners with electronic submittals.

Leading companies in construction are moving toward Integrated Project Delivery, with the Building Information Model (BIM) at its heart. Contractors are adopting 3D BIM software for its multitude of benefits, including clash detection, scheduling, cost estimating, and material tracking and ordering. But the model has the potential to extend beyond the construction phase of the project and provide information to owners and facilities managers that can replace a room full of paper.

Building Information Models link the design database with building material properties. Information such as manufacturer details and product data, much of which is found in the project submittals, can be attached to objects in the design model. By providing submittals electronically, for example, the approved mix design for the concrete footings can be attached to the footing object in the model. The design model has the potential to hold all the information to the project in a single electronic resource.

Tekla Structures' Building Information Models link the design database
with building material properties available at BuildSite.

At the end of the project, the owner gets a fully-digital 3D model of the finished building, rather than a room full of paper. Facilities managers do not need to comb through file cabinets of documents to find the warrantee they need. Instead, they can go to the electronic record and access product information from submittals that are attached to the model. From a building owner’s perspective, an as-built electronic resource adds enormous value to a project over the alternative paper system.

In considering an electronic submittal process, business owners may have to push adoption of electronic systems by other members of the project team. Division I requirements may ask for a rubber stamp on a printed submittal. But there are now software tools available for creating submittals and tracking approvals, not to mention incorporating these into full-fledged project management and BIM. And the movement in construction, as with BIM and Integrated Project Delivery, is toward a seamless electronic documentation process.

In the future, construction data flows electronically from specification to submittals to project management and design. We may well see the demise of Banker’s boxes and rubber stamps in construction. It’s certainly worth working toward.

This is the third in a 3-part series on improving the submittals process with an electronic system. A similar article was published in the September 2011 issue of Construction Business Owner called How to Streamline Construction Submittals.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Primary Workspace is "In the Field" for One-Third of Construction Users, Survey Finds

This week ENR released the preliminary results for a survey on technology use among AEC professionals. The survey, conducted by a committee of young professionals in the Construction Users Roundtable, had several very interesting takeaways. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The primary workspace for almost a third of respondents was "in the field."
  • Results suggest engagement is strongest among age groups 30-and-under and 51-and-over.
  • Tablets are not yet seen as the most important technology tools companies use, whereas email and database management are highly valued.
  • BIM is seen as the most important technology tool among 20% of respondents ages 30-and-under and among 18% of those 51-and-over.

See the full article by Tom Sawyer, senior technology editor at ENR, Embrace of Technology in Construction Swings With Ages and Attitudes, Survey Finds.

Photo by cobalt123.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reducing Costs with Electronic Submittals

In my last post on electronic submittals, I wrote about a process that one construction expert called tedious, time consuming, and redundant. In the second of my 3-part series, today I look at the cost savings of an electronic submittal process.

The first and most immediate return on an investment in electronic submittals is a reduction in the cost of distributing submittals. Multiple parties need to receive submittals, including subcontractors, the general contractor, the architect, structural engineers, consultants, and the owner. With a few assumptions, it is easy to see how the cost savings adds up.

Consider that each spec subsection requiring a product data submittal has, on average, eight items. Each item in the submittal has two to three pages of product data and often installation details as well. That adds up to 17 to 25 pages per submittal, including the cover page. Project specs can require as many as eight copies of each submittal. With multiple copies, each spec section can generate as many as 200 pages. Submittals also go through a review process, so there are often iterations that need to go back and forth between an architect and the general contractor or subcontractor.

When you combine multiple spec sections with multiple copies and iterations, you are paying for thousands—or even tens of thousands—of pages to be copied and delivered throughout the course of a project. It is no wonder large commercial and infrastructure projects have full-time document managers, with entire rooms devoted to storing these materials on the job site. The amount of paper for product submittals alone is staggering, even before considering shop drawings, LEED® submittals, and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manuals.

In some cases, your company does not have a choice in how submittals are distributed. The architect, owner, or construction manager sets forth the submittal requirements as part of the Division I Project Administration requirements. If the requirements ask for a physical submittal with a rubber stamp, the end results is, of course, a room full of Banker’s boxes containing all the submittals from the project.

The owner does need a record of what building products were used in the building’s construction. He or she needs to know what equipment was installed and be able to access all warranties and maintenance information on equipment. But there is a better way!

This is the second in a 3-part series on improving the submittals process with an electronic system. A similar article was published in the September issue of Construction Business Owner called How to Streamline Construction Submittals.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Find 'Made In America' Building Products on BuildSite

Everyone in construction is talking about 'Made in America' building products after ABC News' David Muir ran a segment last week on the Bozeman, Montana home completely made in America.

At BuildSite, we are of course eager to tell folks that most of the products on BuildSite are manufactured domestically. To help you source American-manufactured products, look for the "Made in the USA" and "Regional MFG" icons when you search BuildSite.com. A product category search for air barriers brings up products that are made here in the U.S. and manufactured regionally:

A search on BuildSite pulls up products made in America.

Because many of the building products in our database that are made in America are not marked with icons, we went through contractor Anders Lewendal's list of 'Made in America' building products to show what you can find on BuildSite. Click on the links below to be taken to the manufacturer and product pages, then find a retailer near you using our distributor zip code search.

 'Made in USA' Products   Manufacturer  Manufacture State 
Hangers, straps, H clips Simpson Strong-Tie CA
 TJI’s  iLevel  OR
 Powder actuated pins  ITW Ramset / Red Head   IL
 Foam board  Dow Building Solutions  IL
 Spray insulation  JM Corbond  MT, TX
 Paint  Sherwin Williams  OH
 Telephone wire  3M  MN
 Duct Liner  Johns Manville  CO
 Allthread Anchors  ITW Buildex  IL
 Soulder Flux  Rectorseal  TX

We list hundreds of other manufacturers with products made in America. If you have any questions about the products you find on our site, email us. Start your search now!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The ASCC Band, Powered by BuildSite

Many thanks to Molly Dallman and Bev Garnant for giving BuildSite the opportunity to participate in the American Society of Concrete Contractors Annual Conference this year with sponsorship of the ASCC Band. The event, held in Grand Rapids, MI in September, featured band members Molly Dallman, Tom Leyes, Tom Ralston, David Fudala, Andy Baugh, and Jim Jaillet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Construction Submittals: Tedious, Time Consuming, and Redundant

Bankers Boxes file submittals in a paper-intensive process.
Construction submittals play a seemingly small but critical role in commercial projects. When submittals are done right, they can tell you almost everything you need to know about a project. They can inform scheduling and expose inaccuracies or discrepancies in the spec.

Paul Stout, Founder and Director of Education at Power Summit, an AGC partner and national provider of construction training programs, says the importance of submittals in construction projects cannot be overstated. "Traditionally, the submittal process assures owners that their plans and specs are clearly understood by contractors building the project. It is the single best way for owners to ensure quality, functionality, and compliance per the plans and specifications." At the same time, he admits,

"The process itself has been tedious, 
time consuming, and redundant."

When they are done at the last minute, submittals can create all kinds of problems, from RFI’s to change orders. Project delays can result. Because engineers need time to analyze and approve submittals, mix designs, for example, are on the critical path of a project.

Given that submittals play such a central role in a project, it is a wonder that leading design firms, general contractors, and subcontractors still use old systems for creating and distributing submittals. Plenty of projects still rely heavily on printers, photocopiers, rubber stamps, and hand delivery. These time- and paper intensive methods are inefficient at best, and wasteful, at worst.

Electronic systems for creating and distributing submittals have many advantages, including time and cost savings. An electronic process also provides an opportunity to integrate submittals with project management and design software. There is a rapid return on investment for electronic submittal processes, especially when many of the solutions available are low (or no) cost.

Next week, I will look at how an electronic submittal process reduces costs over the paper-intensive alternative.

This is the first in my 3-part series on improving the submittals process with an electronic system. A similar article was published in the September issue of Construction Business Owner called How to Streamline Construction Submittals.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How Not to Design a Manufacturer Website

Manufacturers, please don't ask me this.
If any of you have spent as much time as I have browsing products on manufacturers’ websites, I think you’ll agree when I say that many of them are nearly impossible to navigate. It’s baffling how much effort it takes to find what you’re looking for. Large manufacturers seem to be the worst offenders. Here are a few of the most frustrating usability issues I see on a daily basis. Hopefully this will help some manufacturer web designers to avoid the same mistakes.

1. Their website contains NO master list of products.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? Each company should have a list of every product they make (hopefully it’s alphabetical, but hey, I’ll take what I can get). There is no easier way to provide your information to the people who need it. Each product should have a link to its own page if possible.

If there is no master list, products should at least be easy to find. Very often large companies will have entirely separate websites for different categories of products. These "organizational" schemes seem to reflect the corporate departmental structure of the company more than the way people look for products. It is very confusing if you’re looking for a wide range of products.

2. Search bars rarely work the way you want them to.

Search bars have caused me numerous headaches. Ok, so the manufacturer doesn't have a full list of products, but at least I can use the search bar, right? Not likely. Most often the search either (a) brings up no results or (b) brings up every link or document that contains ANY of the terms you've searched for. At that point you just have to open up each link hoping it will lead you to product data--not exactly helpful to someone who is trying to spec your products.

3. Not all documents can’t be found in the same place.

This can happen with any type of document, but I see it most often with MSDS’s. So you've finally found a product and see that it has a product data sheet, but where is the MSDS? After scanning the entire page, you realize there’s a link to an entirely separate MSDS document library. So you have to do go through a whole new search for one document.

4. Document Request Forms.

This is probably the worst problem I've seen. Some companies don’t even provide their documents, or they make you fill out a “Document Request Form” before you can access their data sheets. Some companies require you to fill out a survey before you can see them. Again, this is not exactly encouraging people to spec your products. It's a good idea to make the information as easy to download as possible.

I could go on. Searching these websites daily has given me a greater an appreciation for what we do. We try to streamline the process as much as possible and give you the option to search for construction materials the way you want. I am not exaggerating when I say that a majority of our support calls come from people who found BuildSite in a Google search after they were not able to find the product on the manufacturer’s website. They’re happy to have crossed our path and find out there’s a better way to search for construction products.

Hopefully you are too.

BuildSite Mobile Featured as Innovation

BuildSite Mobile is a featured "Innovation" in July's issue of Concrete Construction. Be sure to check out the recent issue, or see the post online: Everything New in the Concrete World. As Bill Palmer writes,
Ned Trainor has been telling us about his product information and submittals website BuildSite.com for several years and it seems to keep getting better.
Thanks for the feature, Concrete Construction!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BSD SpecLink Adds BuildSite Product Search

Today we are excited to announce our integration with Building Systems Design, Inc. (BSD) to provide BuildSite product search through BSD SpecLink®. BSD SpecLink® is an automated construction specification writing application that is used to produce specifications for over 26,000 projects annually. Soon, BSD SpecLink® will link to detailed information on construction materials in the BuildSite database.

With this integration, BuildSite and BSD facilitate the industry goal of moving toward Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). The linked systems will bring data from construction manufacturers directly to architects, specifiers, engineers, and contractors during both the design and construction phases of the project.

At BuildSite, we believe the integration will provide construction product manufacturers with improved communication to key purchasing decision-makers: specifiers, architects, engineers, and the end user, the contractor. In many cases, contractors act as the “last designer” in a project. So by providing links to product information from the specifications, we allow them greater freedom to make educated purchasing decisions based on project goals.

We look forward to continuing to provide updates on this exciting collaboration. See our press release, BSD SpecLink® Adds BuildSite Product Search, for more information.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Mobility is Key" in Construction

According to our friends at Constructech, "mobility is key" in the construction industry. In an article published on Friday, Constructech covers the trend toward mobile software, calling mobile the Platform for the Future. Of course, we are happy to see BuildSite mentioned in the article, but just as important is the recognition that accessing project data in the field is essential:
Traditionally, paper documents have served as the source to send information to and from the field... Now, technology providers are offering software in specific mobile formats, which makes it even easier for users to view data in the field.
 Read the Constructech article, and learn more about why we think mobility rules.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Marketing to Contractors

As I have written in previous blog posts about marketing to contractors, getting "in the spec" is the holy grail of construction marketing today. Building product manufacturers devote a huge amount of marketing and advertising resources toward getting specified by architects and spec writers. This approach has a major payoff when it results in a proprietary spec on a big project.

In reality, the system is often not perfect. Proprietary specifications are the exception, not the rule. That leaves contractors and their trusted building materials distributors in the driver’s seat when it is time to choose the right product for the job. This role as the “last designer” means that contractors and distributors are the primary players in purchasing decisions that are being made on a project.

Michael Chusid covers this topic in a post today on his Building Product Marketing blog. He writes,
The contractor's power to select products is particularly strong with commodity and generic types of products, putting them and the distributors serving them in the driver’s seat when it is time to choose product brands for the job.
Read more from Michael Chusid here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Construction Informer Reviews BuildSite Mobile

 "BuildSite Mobile takes a bite out of product specs on paper."

These are the words of Construction Informer Duane Craig in his review of BuildSite Mobile, posted yesterday on his blog. My favorite part: he describes the "dog-earned, coffee-stained, paper submittals that might have already been superseded by new specs" that are going by way of the dinosaurs thanks to mobile tools.

Many thanks to Duane Craig for this review! Read more at Construction Informer.

"As more construction materials and products manufacturers make their specs
available online, paper-based submittals are going the way of dinosaurs."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

See Our New Commercial - BuildSite Mobile for the Digital Job Site

Our commercial for BuildSite Mobile - bringing product data to the digital jobsite - is now available on the BuildSite YouTube Channel. The concept is this: a new PM arrives on the job site and his foreman wants to make sure he has everything under control, including submittals. Sure, he says, submittals will be sent once I get back to the office.

But the general contractor's PM (or whomever you think this might be - feel free to leave us a comment!) reminds everyone that submittals are due today. This throws the PM into momentary confusion until his PE pulls out his phone. The PM smiles - BuildSite Mobile lets him "BuildSite It" and send the submittals right from his phone.

Our friends Dominic Wong from IMAN Studios and Christopher Peoples from Allegory Productions wrote and directed the piece. Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mobility Rules – A New Tool for Construction Material Field Sales

Tens of thousands of men and women sell construction materials throughout the United States. Many are “outside” reps. Representing manufacturers and distributors, they call on architects, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, and facility managers. These reps work in the office and from home, but the bulk of the action takes place in the field. Going beyond price and persistence, the best of these reps provide first class advice and technical support to their customers – they are their trusted advisors.

Customers, of course, call on their schedule, not their rep’s, with questions and requests: “How wide is the trench for 12” drain? What’s the cure time for the epoxy? What’s the flow rate on the roof drain you recommended? Is the insulation fire rated? Can you resend the submittal? Can you send me a substitution form for the ceiling tile?” Frequently, reps needed to respond by referring to data about products.

Up to now, it was hard to respond to these kinds of requests from the field. Most reps made a note and waited, or they called their branch and asked (or begged) someone to take care of the customer request for them. This took two people’s time and, on more than one occasion, has led to errors and delays.

Customers expect instant results. On the jobsite, contractors can’t wait until tomorrow to find out how to install a product per manufacturers’ intention. Reps need to turn this kind of data around right away.

Mobile tools make outside reps more efficient: more face time, less support time, and more value-added time as a trusted advisor. At BuildSite, we know the action is on the jobsite, and we believe in BIM to field. And that, in a nutshell, is why we have invested in mobile tools for our customers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

BuildSite Submittals Wins Honor

Constructech magazine just announced the winners of its 2011 Top Products awards, and BuildSite made the list for New Products with BuildSite Submittals. The Constructech Top Products honor technology solutions that have demonstrated the greatest innovations geared toward the construction market.

“The current marketplace is demanding evolution, collaboration, and strong IT strategies,” says Peggy Smedley, editorial director, Constructech magazine. “[T]he companies appearing as part of the 2011 Constructech Top Products have risen to meet the needs of their customers, and they are raising the bar for those around them.”

BuildSite would like to thank all our customers for continuing to challenge us to make a better construction workflow product. We are honored to have your business, and we would not have gotten here today without you!

You can learn more about the commercial winners of the Constructech Top Products Awards in the March/April issue of Constructech magazine. To purchase a copy, contact Dawn Cassata.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

RoofLogic Partnership Gives Roofers Direct Access to BuildSite Database

Today we announced our new partnership with RoofLogic at the 2011 International Roofing Expo® in Las Vegas. This partnership is a great opportunity for BuildSite to extend access to our product database to more top roofing and waterproofing contractors. True North Product Search is accessible directly from RoofLogic and RoofCAD applications.

True North Product Search, powered by BuildSite.

RoofLogic provides software for roof maintenance and service management, allowing customers to log inspections, generate budget forecasts, keep a complete history for every roof, and produce reports. RoofCAD provides drawing and takeoff tools for roofing professionals. Both these applications benefit from direct access to our comprehensive roofing product database.

You can see the press release True North Estimating and BuildSite Partner to Integrate Asset Management, Estimating, and Product Information.

Ned, Jim, and Dan will be at IRE until Friday, so swing by the RoofLogic booth (1858) and ask for a demo!