The spectacular view of New York City's skyline, extending from Columbus Circle to the Empire State Building, is what prompted Justin Nolan, Director of BuildingBlok®, to enter the construction industry. The cranes and scaffoldings crowding the sidewalks told him that New York City was in a construction boom and was full of opportunities to make the construction process more efficient and productive. Nolan recounts, “I started BuildingBlok® to bolster the construction industry, with specific tools, leads, and construction networks. The goal has always been to help companies manage their projects better and grow their businesses faster.” Located at the heart of NYC, BuildingBlok® provides a comprehensive range of services for small and mid-sized contractors in design planning, bidding, construction, and job costing.
A Humble Beginning:
Before starting BuildingBlok® in 2007, Nolan worked in Finance. When he joined the Hill International consulting firm, he noticed the bottlenecks in the construction industry. “On the very fast first day at Hill International, I was led to a huge room full of unmarked cardboard boxes, stacks of paper, and hundreds of filing cabinets. I was asked to trace out Change Order #1 from the piles in the file room.” That project was already delayed by more than 3 years by then and was running nearly $300 million over budget. Nolan faced countless impediments while searching for the project details, getting the information only to figure out that the subcontractor who had done the work had gone out of business waiting for his payments. In his next task, he was asked to perform punch-listing. During those days, Nolan spent each morning walking around the building with printed spread sheets over 10,000 items long. With a camera and compass, he checked every item on the list, then copy his notes to an Excel file.
This firsthand experience taught Nolan that project bottlenecks often laid in rudimentary, manual processes. He realized that the widespread use of technology could bolster productivity and reduce workloads. Nolan started incorporating technology into these laborious manual processes. He founded BuildingBlok® in 2007 to provide an online construction management system to make these processes efficient and simple.
“The first BuildingBlok® prototype was a punch-listing tool that allowed us to make updates on a Personal Data Assistant,” Nolan reminisces. Understanding that technology can help overcome the odds, Nolan started looking for an anchor client. Today, BuildingBlok® has become the preferred choice among many in the industry, like Ash forth, CHS, RICE, BOBBITT, Gateway, Robert Wolfe, Sunora, and many more in APAC region.
Web Based Project Management Meets Construction Management
Construction stakeholders—contractors, engineers, architects and facility owners—all need to be on the same page every day, with up-to-date project information. Keeping construction documents current and organized is vital in getting the right information to the right team members at the right time and enables them to focus on their own deliverables and not get bogged down with unplanned activities.
For instance, engineers usually need to go through a lot of paperwork to complete reviews and answer RFIs and submittals. Equipping all the stakeholders with the right set of tools is the only way to maximize efficiency and improve productivity. BuildingBlok® provides the sophisticated tools and processes that help construction companies manage their projects better.
BuildingBlok® integrates the many tools required by the construction industry on a single platform. It covers entire life-cycles of construction projects, including but not limited to: bidding through closeouts, field communications, and reporting. The secure, cloud-based platform can store and share documents in order to facilitate collaboration. It speeds up the review process by standardizing channels through which engineers receive RFIs and submittals. The platform delivers construction documents and automatically creates logs and keeps track of the due dates. Instead of receiving documents via email that need to be manually added to an Excel RFI or submittal log, engineers can now manage documents more efficiently and track them with better collaboration features that come with BuildingBlok®'s online platform.
The company's mobile app allows workers to update daily reports from their mobile phone. Any worker with a mobile phone can become the reporting source, upload field data, and help track progress. The image-capture feature in the mobile app allows photos to be added to all the documents, so engineers can see what the subcontractor or GC is describing. Using the mobile app, engineers don’t need to carry any other tools to record project status as they walk the site. Though originally built for GCs to manage bidding, construction management workflows, and communication, over the past year BuildingBlok® has added a number of subcontractor tools, like timesheets, to improve the efficiency of everyone working on the project. “We also assist architects, owners and engineering companies that need BuildingBlok® to help them interface and manage their projects and GCs,” says Nolan.
BuildingBlok® integrates the many tools required by the construction industry on a single platform
BuildingBlok®'s online platform integrates many powerful features to help companies manage their projects while being in the driver's seat. Some of the useful features include Vendor Document Management, Bidding, File Storage and Management, Timesheets, Construction Scheduling, Daily Reporting, Punch-Lists, Rfis, Submittals, Change Orders, Pay Apps, and Invoicing. Unlike others in the industry, the company is flexible in its offerings. It keeps pricing affordable and allows small- and medium-sized contractors to purchase individual tools, instead of forcing them to buy the entire suite of offerings.
Fostering Technology to build unique solutions
The team at BuildingBlok® firmly believes that technology doesn’t need to be limited to one user. “We have a daily reporting app that includes unlimited users, projects and file storage,” Nolan explains. The app can be set up in about 5 minutes and a company’s implementation time is only as long as it takes their field personnel to download the app and login.
Discussing the future of BuildingBlok®, Justin Nolan says, "We will try to let our existing customers chart our course for us, as they’re the experts. Our job, as I see it, is to service their needs.” The company aims to add even more robust time- and money-saving tools to its repertoire. Releasing its own ‘app store’ in the summer of 2016 is the next foreseeable target for the company. BuildingBlok®’s goal is to continue connecting customers to the wide range of tools they need to grow their businesses.