Enter your email:

Construction Topics




















Become a FB fan

Construction Network

Trades Hub


December 6, 2010

Top 10 Requirements for a Great Construction Phone App
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

Having written six apps and now reviewing lots more, I’m starting to get a sense of what quality looks like. My son Lex furthers that understanding by bringing the Net generation sensibility. By outlining the requirements for a great construction phone app, I’m hoping to help the entire industry get better. Here are our requirements:

  1. Clear, Descriptive Name. Since many of us will have dozens of construction related apps, we need to easily be reminded what we have and what it does.
  2. Solves a Reasonable Problem. Multiplying three numbers together and diving by 27 to obtain concrete  volume doesn’t need an app. It shouldn’t be a toy, it should be a productivity game changer.
  3. Clear Purpose. A useful app shouldn’t try to accomplish too many different tasks…unless they can be easily delineated and selected. Generally, an app should limit features of limited value and be focused.
  4. Help Screens that Lead a Novice Through the Steps. The help screens should both show the steps and show a worked example when possible. Terms must be defined, even basic terms.
  5. Clear Inputting. Too many apps have tiny input screens, difficult to manipulate and read on the jobsite.
  6. Professional Graphics. Screens should be easily readable. Color is a plus, but not a requirement.
  7. Simplicity. Remember the best training advice ever. Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS). Clear, simple and brief is the goal.
  8. Ability to Share Results. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth saving. Results must be able to be texted and emailed.
  9. Don’t Require Memorization. We all have enough things in our lives that we struggle to remember. Forcing the memorization of construction calculator steps shouldn’t be added to the mix.
  10. Have a Strong Website and a Great Response Time. Customer service matters. There must be the appearance of great customer service.

We’re excited about construction phone apps because they could greatly enhance jobsite productivity. As the construction phone apps get better, we all win.


December 3, 2010

App Review for iPhone Project Quote Estimate

There is definitely a need for a good field estimating app. Unfortunately, the Project Quote Estimate for iPhone probably won’t completely fill that need for most of us. While it has some very interesting features that I like, the strictly Residential nature of the app limits its value.

Being the only construction field estimator app available at this time, it may be worth purchasing just to see if it works for you. I like the 18 tool screens. Some will be useful: concrete, drywall, acoustic ceiling, stairs, sheathing and roofing. Others seem useless: paint, wall paper, tile, asphalt, seeding, etc. The lumber calculator wouldn’t work for me, but others may find it useful. They included a Scale calculator for plans that are reproduced to the wrong scale (a handy device) and several other useful estimating tools. The lack of equipment pricing would also be a problem for me.

As you can tell from my comments above, I’m a bit conflicted about this app. On the one hand it seems like a toy that won’t get used, yet it has some features that you may find helpful. As a final comment, the user interface works well, you will be able to just pick it up and use it without instructions. I’d like to hear feedback from anyone else that’s downloaded it.


December 2, 2010

App Review for Roofing Estimator

Our Best of Construction Apps page, we list all the construction phone apps we’ve been able to find. We also give you info and reviews. I’m excited about this page. I think we can all learn about what tools are available and hopefully improve the market as we improve our own productivity. So I’ll be reviewing various apps and letting you know the skinny.

The Roofing Estimator by Lake Simcoe Concrete Forming for the iPhone performs area calculations. The program, though simple, lacks adequate descriptions of terms.

Basically, either a gable roof or a cottage roof can be analyzed. I’m assuming a cottage roof is what I’d call a hip roof, but the app doesn’t clarify. The inputs are done well with pitch, overhang, eave and house width and length all required.

The outputs are number of sheets of plywood and bundles of shingles. The outputs are given to two decimal places, so I assume (again, clarity would be a benefit here) that no waste factor is included. As for improvements, I’d like to have area in square feet included (useful for other things) and the ability to text or email the inputs and outputs to create a record.

Overall, it’s an ok app, but should really have the improvements listed above.


April 24, 2010

Accessibility Phone App Finally Completed

Sorry for the recent lack of posts, I’ve been fanatically working to complete the phone app for Accessibility and ADA. I start these projects thinking, “That should be simple. That couldn’t be that much work.”

Then reality happens. I get partially done and realize that I’m going to be partially done for a long time. Finally some mental switch flips for me and I realize that I need to do whatever it takes to finish. Well, I did and it is.

Here’s a sample of the information the phone app provides.

1. Accessible Routes

1.1.    What is an Accessible Route? A pedestrian pathway (accessible by wheelchair) from public transportation, public streets or sidewalks, or accessible parking spaces to any location in the facility except areas explained more fully in IBC 2009 1103.2. Examples of the exempt areas are equipment spaces used primarily by maintenance personnel, raised platforms less than 300 sf, most Group U Utility buildings, most floor levels that have less than 3,000 sf (IBC 2009 1104.4), walk-in coolers and freezers, construction sites, one and two family detached homes, etc.

1.2.    What slopes are required for an Accessible Route? Slopes for walkways may be up to 5% (<5/8th inch per foot) with cross slopes being a maximum of 2% (<1/4 inch per foot) (ANSI A117.1-2003, 403.3). see graphic.

(Note: sorry graphic isn’t posting right now due to a glitz, we’re working on it).

Understand that slopes less than 5% are not a ramp and don’t require handrails.

1.3.    What widths are required on an Accessible Route? Minimum clear width for doors or passage ways less than 24” long is 32”. Minimum clear width otherwise is 36” (ANSI A117.1-2003,  Table 403.5). see graphic

(Note: sorry graphic isn’t posting right now due to a glitz, we’re working on it).

1.4.    Which door types can’t be on an Accessible Route? Revolving doors, revolving gates and turnstiles may not be part of an accessible route (ANSI A117.1-2003, 402.3).

1.5.    What areas can’t an Accessible Route pass through? The Accessible Route should be similar to the general circulation path. It should not pass through kitchens, toilet rooms or storage rooms (IBC 2009 1104.5).

1.6.    How many accessible entrances are required? 60% of public entrances need to be accessible or at least one for a restricted entrance building (IBC 2009 1105). Note that accessible means of egress (IBC 2009 1007) are different than accessible entrances.

1.7.    When are Accessible Means of Egress Required? All accessible spaces need an Accessible Means of Egress except alterations to existing buildings, certain mezzanines and certain Assembly areas (IBC 2009 1007.1).

1.8.    Can an Exit Access Stairway be part of an Accessible Means of Egress? Yes, a stairway with 48” minimum clear distance between railings and an Area of Rescue Assistance (IBC 2009 1007.6) may be part of an Accessible Means of Egress (IBC 2009 1007.3). Fully sprinklered buildings are generally exempt from that 48” minimum width between railings and the Area of Rescue Assistance, but the specifics should be reviewed in the code book.

Please let me know if you find this helpful or have any comments. Though at this point it’s off to India for programming and will soon be released with the other phone apps. We are within a few days of getting the first four apps released and I’m excited. I have no idea if anyone will actually want them, but that’s what makes business fun…in a sick sort of way.


February 10, 2010

Useful Facts when Converting Construction Units
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m finalizing the first four construction phone apps and want to add some helpful facts to the Converting Units for Construction program. While it’s helpful to have all the units available to convert weights, volumes and densities, it’s even more helpful to have a few sample densities listed that keeps the process in perspective. For example, finding that steel weighs 480 pounds per cubic foot (pcf) while aluminum weighs 165 pcf and wood about 35 pcf may help you solve some real problems on the jobsite. I have a list of densities below (do you think more would be helpful? Anything specific you’d suggest?):

Density of Common Units in pounds per cubic foot (pcf):

Aluminum: 165 pcf

Brick: 120 pcf

Concrete: 145 pcf

Copper: 560pcf

Corn: 45 pcf

Crushed Stone: 100 pcf

Fresh Snow: 8 pcf

Glass: 162 pcf

Lead: 710 pcf

Paper 58 pcf

Steel: 480 pcf

Water: 62 pcf

Wood: 25-45 pcf

I’m also considering other useful facts to add into the phone app. For example, the various values of energy and power listed below are occasionally useful. Do you have any other ones you would add?

Energy (work done, think kw-hrs or BTUs)

Gasoline (mid grade) 1 gallon = 125,000 BTUs

#1 Kerosene 1 gallon = 135,000 BTUs

#2 Fuel Oil 1 gallon = 138,000 BTUs

#6 Fuel Oil 1 gallon = 150,000 BTUs

Ethanol 1 gallon = 76,000 BTUs

Propane 1 gallon = 91,600 BTUs

Propane 1 cubic foot = 2,500 BTUs

Natural gas 1 cubic foot = 1,030 BTUs

Wood (air dried) 1 cord = 20,000,000 BTUs (chord = 4’ x 8’ x 4’)

Wood (air dried) 1 pound = 8,000 BTUs

1,000,000 BTUs of Energy =

10 therms or 1,000 cubic feet of Natural Gas

46 pounds or 11 gallons of Propane Gas

8 gallons of Gasoline

7 gallons of No. 2 Fuel Oil (diesel fuel)

293 KW of electricity

125 pounds of air dried wood

71 pounds of coal

Power (capacity, think KW or HP or BTUs/hr)

1 Kilowatt = 3,413 Btu/hour

1 ton of air conditioning = 12,000 Btu/hour

1 person in a room adds about 250 Btu/hour or the equivalent of a 75 watt light bulb

1 HP (motor) = 746 watts (operating energy)

A Formula One racecar is 1000 HP and would use 20 gal/hour of gasoline (if it used gasoline)

A Ford Pinto is 88 HP and uses 2 gal/hour of gasoline

If you can think of any other useful facts that belong in a phone app for converting construction units, please post a comment and let me know.


December 18, 2009

Construction Phone Apps Part 5

We received the prototypes of the first 4 construction phone apps from the developer. Frankly, it’s amazing to use have these programs on our phones. Only a few weeks ago they were a concept rolling about in my head. We are testing and making some final modifications prior to releasing for sale. I’m pumped.

Here is another of the construction phone apps that’s being developed.

Communicate Better with Personality Profiles

Concept: Use this simple test to assess someone else’s (and your own) personality style, then follow the recommendations to better communicate with that person.

Details: By judging what attributes someone else seems to have, you can get a decent sense of their personality style. You will deal with that person much more successfully if you understand how to communicate with them, motivate them and generally deal with them. This simple personality profile uses four categories to help you understand.

Example: You have a boss who seems to get annoyed every time you deal with him. You quickly go through this app and find you are a Calculating Controller, someone who loves to understand the details and be precise and clear. You find your boss is a Demanding Driver (D), an impatient and decisive person. When you give lots of detail to your boss, he gets annoyed and thinks less of you. You need to learn to communicate with him in short, focused bits. You need to summarize and make recommendations. Here are 3 specifics the program would give you:

1. The details you cherish will likely annoy the D. Practice to get your points made quickly.

2. Don’t be overwhelmed by the forcefulness or bluster of the D. Remember that you thoroughly understand your agenda. Don’t let yourself be bullied or taken too far off point.

3. Remember that while a D will make a quick decision, well reasoned arguments can help the D change to a better decision.

Price: $1.99


December 17, 2009

A Simply Great Idea
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

My birthday was Tuesday, so TBW and I spent a couple of days in NYC. Walking through Lincoln Center, we got an offer for free tickets to see the Dr Oz show taping. We’ve never done anything like that, so we were sitting in the theater within the hour watching Dr Oz teach about diseases men get (breast cancer and Lupus) that most people assume are only for women.

I loved watching all the technology. I’ve never seen more lights in a ceiling. They had steel W beams about 3′ on center and hooked as many lights as would fit onto the bottom flange. One of those big hunking cameras was right next to me, so I got to watch the cameraman closely. The precision adjustments on the camera reminded me of a metal lathe.

I also got to tour the construction site under World Trade Center site. A friend of my son’s (and new friend of mine) acts as project manager on a portion of the transit station. He gave an amazing tour of his project. We shared the love of construction, of figuring out the problems like a puzzle and getting that wonderful sense of pulling things together.

The Simply Great Idea came as I was speaking with this young PM about the phone app for converting units. He mentioned that he uses often. One of the things he most often needs to find is the density of various materials. I’ve memorized many of the common ones over the years (steel = 480 lbs/cf, concrete = 145 lbs/cf, wood = 35 lbs/cf, crushed stone = about 1oo lbs/cf, etc.). He wondered if I could include the densities of many common materials, so he’d have them in his phone for instant access.

I realized how useful that would be for me and for so many folks in construction. Then I decided to add some other basic info to the other tables. For example, in the energy section, I’ll include various fuels and their BTUs. In the power section, I’ll include the horsepower of various typical machines. I’ll also have a section where the user can input their own items that are often used.

This simple improvement to the Converting Units for Construction phone app will improve the utility substantially. I love it when an idea comes together.


December 15, 2009

Construction Phone Apps Part 4
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — nedpelger

This phone app should help anyone involved in construction. I’ve just included the common units that we find ourselves needing to convert, though I couldn’t resist including cubits as a nod to Bill Cosby and Noah.

I often am standing on a jobsite and need to convert units to make a better decision about a problem I’m trying to resolve. To be able to pull my phone from my pocket and be able to get an answer within 30 seconds without memorizing anything would be great. I’m hoping others feel the same way.

Converting Units for Construction Problem Solving  and Converting Inches and Decimal Feet

Concept: A simple to use measurement conversion that includes most of the common construction conversion units.

Details: Unlike the all encompassing unit conversion programs that have so many weird units that complicate things, this simple phone app presents the most common construction units conversions (length, area, volume, mass, density, pressure, acceleration, energy and power) for quick and easy use. The Inches to Decimal feet is also included.

Example: You know your propane temporary heating unit produces 25,000 Btu/hour. You have a 5KW electric heating unit that you could also hook up, but wonder if it’s a waste of time. How close are the two heaters? A quick check shows that the electric heater will almost double your temporary heat.

Price: $1.99

Would you find this useful?


December 12, 2009

Construction Phone Apps Part 3
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — nedpelger

Here’s another phone app I think many will find useful. What do you think? I’d really appreciate some feedback if you think you’d be interested. Do you have an iPhone, Blackberry or Android? Would you want any of these applications on your phone?

Wood Beam Design for Contractors

Concept: Design a wood beam

Details: A simple beam design program that considers a single centered point load or a uniformly distributed load for various lumber types, with input for span and beam dimensions.

Example: You have a wood 6 x 6 spanning the top of scaffolding and a come along lifting from it. You want to make sure the wood beam is more than adequate for the load you are hoisting. You know it’s treated yellow pine, spans 5’ and is trying to lift a 1,500 pound load. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if the calculation supports what your gut tells you?

Price: $1.99

Please either post a comment here or back on the Forum.


December 9, 2009

Construction Phone Apps Part 2
Filed under: Phone Apps for Construction — Tags: — nedpelger

From the onset, my idea driving was to help Construction Supervisors and PMs do their jobs better and advance their careers. By having useful technical and people skill information easily available, Supers and PMs can learn and grow.

To some extent that concept has worked, but being on a jobsite and stopping to get connected to a website just isn’t convenient. I thought more Supervisors would look up items at home on their off time, but I guess people have lives. When a Construction Supervisor would benefit from knowing the exact dimensions of a steel I beam, for example, he should be able to grab that info in 30 seconds. That’s the beauty of the Construction Phone Apps.

The second construction phone app I’ll be releasing in a few weeks will solve that very problem.

Steel Hot Rolled Shapes
Concept: Have all the hot rolled steel tables available in your phone.
Details: Find the dimensions and weight if you know the member name (W8x18) or find the member name with the dimensions of an existing steel member.
Example: The structural drawings show a C12x21 that gets notched into a block wall. You need to find the dimensions in order to properly saw the block wall. This app allows you to quickly get to a screen that shows the important dimensions of steel rolled shapes. On the other hand, perhaps you have a steel beam on an existing building and know the dimensions but need to find size.
Price: $1.99

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »