The downturn has left little room for good news, but the story of James Otis, a partner in Accord Development in Glenwood Springs, Colo., reminds us that there's always housing activity somewhere.
When Otis started Accord about three years ago, he knew he wanted a technology that could help him manage his costs, sales contracts, and production processes. The company selected Corecon, a Web-based system that takes builders from estimating to procurement.
Corecon, available through Huntington Beach, Calif.–based Corecon Technologies, is best known for having an estimating system that lets builders set equations that update quantities as one moves through an estimate, similar to an Excel spreadsheet.
“In about three hours, with a set of plans, I can come up with a sales number that I'm comfortable with,” Otis says, adding that from the cost estimate, he can go directly into the procurement wizard and send work orders.
Otis says he plans to grow Accord to accommodate the influx of people coming into the northwestern part of the state to explore for natural gas and oil shale.
“If the natural gas and oil shale industries go well and the labor force keeps following the growth, we'll just tag along,” explains Otis, who says his company will build 15 homes this year but plans to eventually build 200 to 300 homes annually.
“All you need to run Corecon is an Internet connection and power, so moving someone 50 miles down the road [as gas and shale exploration continues] won't require a huge technology expense,” he notes.
Corecon typically costs $40 to $60 per user per month. Visit www.corecon.com for more information.
Upgrade Your Faxes
A Web-based fax service helps a Florida builder rein in its paper trail.
Craig Baranowski, President of CJB Construction, a custom builder in the Panama City Beach, Fla., area, worked for computer companies for years before starting to build in Florida two years ago, so he's comfortable with technology. He uses Quick-Books and Microsoft Project and also carries a Samsung BlackJack smartphone.
What he learned pretty quickly, though, was that many of his workers still depend on faxes, and he found himself accumulating mounds of paper proposals from his subs. Baranowski would scan the faxes one by one and turn them into PDFs, but that was too time-consuming.
The solution was MyFax, from Protus IP Solutions in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Web-based service costs $10 a month for 200 inbound pages (those coming to the user) and 100 outbound pages (those going out through MyFax). To send faxes to Baranowski, MyFax converts the documents to PDFs and e-mails them to him. To send faxes out through MyFax, Baranowski sends a document as an e-mail, which the service then picks up and delivers as a fax to the appropriate sub or supplier.
“I get large spec documents of 70 pages or more from architects all the time and typically only have to send out a small portion of the specs to my subs,” says Baranowski, who explains that his electrician may need only the 15 pages that include the electrical specs.
“In the past, I would have to print out the 15 pages, then fax them over manually. Now, I can segment out the 15 pages the sub needs, convert [them] to a PDF, and send it without having to print something,” Baranowski says. “It's a great time-saver.”
Visit www.myfax.com for more information.
More Referrals Faced with a down market, home builders need referrals more than ever. That's why BuilderMT, best known for its purchasing and workflow system, came up with Post-Construction Suite, a group of three products focused on customer service. The idea is that better customer service will lead to increased referrals. The new suite includes BuilderMT's warranty product; AxisPointe's call-center, walk-through, and online-manual services; and Avid's customer ratings service. The suite starts at $100 for the BuilderMT warranty software. Visit www.buildermt.com for more information.
Spanish Works Looking to service the influx of Hispanic workers and professionals in the construction market, Nemetschek North America, maker of Vector-Works, recently started shipping a Spanish-language version of its CAD software. The Spanish edition is part of the product's 12.5.2 release, which is also a maintenance upgrade for Nemetschek's VectorWorks Architect, VectorWorks Fundamentals, and RenderWorks.