New iPad app for A/E/C industry puts blueprints and mark-ups in the cloud

What do you get when you combine veterans from the construction industry with Silicon Valley insiders and some venture capital? PlanGrid, an iPad app that aims to deliver construction documents to the field, more efficiently that ever before. Perhaps more importantly, it creates an opportunity for enhanced communication and real-time tracking of changes.

Ryan Sutton-Gee is a co-founder and CEO of Loupe, the company behind the PlanGrid. His background in construction led to the realization that paper-based documents are not as effective nor as efficient in the field. But simply putting electronic versions of construction documents on an iPad isn’t enough. That is because construction drawings are a form of dynamic communication, often involving numerous revisions and alterations during the course of construction.

To address the dynamic nature of construction documents during construction phase, PlanGrid operates a cloud-based repository for PDF blueprints. The app downloads the latest version of a drawing, and annotation tools allow the user to mark-up changes. Those annotations are incorporated into a new version of the PDF file on the server. And this is where, to me as a forensic investigator, things get really interesting. Instead of updating the current version of the file, a new version of the file is saved. This allows team members and stakeholders to track changes.

So what’s next for PlanGrid? Facilitating claims and dispute resolution:

Looking ahead, Sutton-Gee says that the company has a lot more ideas for how to expand its construction services — for example linking up the whole chain from architectural designs, to the technical drawings and the final blueprints that are used to actually construct a building. That, he says, could be a massive help when a company is trying to figure out where a building project has leaked money, gone over budget or fallen down altogether.