The Role of the iPad in Construction Consulting, Green Building and Forensic Investigations

I have written before about construction experts using iPads, companies that have created applications specifically for construction quality control, and even attire for construction consultants and experts using iPads. With the recent unveiling of the second generation iPad, I wanted to provide some additional thoughts on the role that this device will play in construction consulting, green building and forensic investigations.

As construction has become more complex, building codes and standards have also become more complex. Modern construction projects are data-intensive. There are construction documents (including drawings, contracts, specifications), manufacturer recommendations for various products, industry standards and a host of considerations during active construction. Having access to this information on a single device like the iPad allows construction managers, quality control professionals, field supervisors, design professionals and others to minimize risk in real time. While construction is certainly in a slump, the projects that are moving forward will likely see much greater scrutiny.

In green building, a device like the iPad makes perfect sense. For one thing, it allows for reducing or even eliminating paper altogether. One of the risk factors in green building are the new materials and methods that improve efficiency and reduce waste. That requires a much greater attention to detail. Another facet of green building practices is commissioning. According to ASHRAE, commissioning is “a quality-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of facilities, systems, and assemblies meets defined objectives and criteria.” Commissioning is also required under the new California Building Code for all projects over 10,000 square feet. Need to perform commissioning services? There’s an app for that. I expect that it will only be a matter of time before savvy energy auditors have an iPad app for evaluating building performance.

When is comes to forensic investigations, the iPad is a natural fit. The ability to document conditions, respond to digital checklists, review floorplans/details/specifications, and to create digital sketches, without lugging around heavy binders and massive clipboards? Priceless. Now the iPad 2 introduces built-in cameras. While the resolution is not as high as one would find with even the typical point-and-shoot digital camera, it does create an interesting use case. Many firms that are involved in forensic investigations have developed proprietary photo-driven databases. By incorporating the ability to capture photos from the iPad 2 itself, all of the necessary evidence could be collected on this single handheld device. Information collected in the field could be transmitted back to the office and many hours could be shaved off of a typical investigation. Of course, not everyone will appreciate a reduction in time spent – especially those firms that bill by the hour…

People often see the construction industry as a whole as being somewhat conservative and old-fashioned. The truth is that innovators in the construction and design fields have not only embraced technology, but are actively pushing it forward. The recession is leaving a lot of professionals in the industry on the bench. The ones that will survive are the ones that are willing to seek new ways of doing things. I’m on the bus. Are you?