Regional Report Charlotte November 2011
App-etite for construction
When Julian Clayton was a kid, the family computer was so heavy and bulky that the only place to put it was the granite countertop of a bar in the basement. Now, his company’s future is tied to a device that weighs less than 2 pounds.
Clayton, 37, is vice president of research and technology at Salisbury-based Crescent Construction Services LLC, which inspects building sites. After business slowed during the recession, he thought it could save money and manpower by using the latest technology. As soon as the iPad came out in 2010, all of its 15 employees got one. He developed mobile applications — apps — compatible with Apple Inc.’s tablet that streamlined inspections and, in doing so, created a new revenue stream.
His PunchList app digitizes blueprints and allows inspectors to make notes on them at construction sites. In seconds, these can be sent to clients, erasing hours of paperwork. “Any plumber can stick a camera down a sewer line and tell you if something’s wrong,” President Traci Williams says. “It’s the way we do it and the way we report it that makes us different.”
The company isn’t keeping its app to itself. In less than a year nearly 6,000 have been sold on Apple’s App Store website. Foresters building a park in California are using it for drainage issues, as are fire marshals determining where smoke detectors should be installed. Clayton developed a version for New Jersey-based Skanska USA Building Inc., which is helping rebuild the World Trade Center complex. In all, he has made seven customized apps, priced from $5,000 to $35,000 depending on customer specifications.
The company would not disclose revenue, but its profit margin has increased 37% since the iPad was released. Inspections still generate the bulk of its revenue, but that could change, Clayton says. After all, the worldwide market for apps is expected to reach $4 billion this year, up from about $1 billion in 2009.