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Building Business

Building Business

Self-Taught MBA: An App to Eliminate Callbacks

comments (0) June 18th, 2014 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor

Screen shot of typical construction detail. You decide how you wnat to see the infomraiton and how much infomration you want. 
Screen shot for rain screen around window. 
Screen shot of typical construction detail. You decide how you wnat to see the infomraiton and how much infomration you want. Click To Enlarge

Screen shot of typical construction detail. You decide how you wnat to see the infomraiton and how much infomration you want. 

Anyone that has experience investigating construction defects will tell you that the number one cause of building failures is faulty installation. Well intentioned tradesmen will misapply window flashing, over-nail vinyl siding, and put plastic sheathing up on the wrong side of the wall cavity. With today's tight building methods, even small mistakes can lead to catastrophic consequences for the homeowner and the contractor alike. At best, improper detailing will lead to costly callbacks and hurt your reputation as a quality builder.

But it's difficult to provide your trades with detailed installation specifications for the hundreds of products and assemblies that make up a standard house. Justin Wilson, one of the principals at Construction Instruction, a consulting firm that specializes in helping builders implement quality-control standards, knows the problem well: "After we worked with a builder, we wanted to give him a tool, something to refer to in the field," he explained, telling me the story of how he and his partner, Mark LaLiberte came up with the idea for what has become one of the building industry's most useful and popular apps.

Construction Instruction

Available at iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, the free, Construction Instruction-HD app works on any mobile device, providing instant answers on installation methods, manufacturer specifications, and building-science conundrums. Designed primarily to answer the question, "How does it go together?" The app provides the answer when and where you need it most: on the job and even at the top of the ladder. The app provides brief, high definition, 3-D video animation of installation details in a first-person perspective.

Although Ci has not become a serious threat to FaceBook, the application has been downloaded over 120,000 times, and has an active community of 64,000 regular subscribers. These are very good numbers for a construction app, and they are bound to grow now that former Fine Homebuilding executive editor Dan Morrison has taken charge of building Ci's online audience.

The app has three overarching purposes, Dan told me, and the first involves providing succinct and useful installation instruction through video animation. For example, click on this link to an animated construction detail showing the proper installation of a vented rain screen around a window--a construction detail that could cause a lot of head-scratching in the field. You'll notice the video lasts only 36 seconds, and that no matter how much you turn up the volume, you won't hear a thing. All of the Ci building-detail videos are succinct and communicate through images without a narration. Anyone, including non-English speakers can follow along and see how it's done.

The app also provides manufacturer-specific installation details and product information. Here Dan and the technical team at Ci exercise strict editorial control. Manufacturers can upload their specifications, Dan told me, "But we filter the content, limiting it to installation instructions, specifications, and product details. We allow no marketing material whatsoever so our subscribers get only the content they want without enduring a sales pitch." Thus far, the app offers extensive product information from about 30 of the largest building-material suppliers, including Anderson, Delta, Whirlpool, DuPont, and many others.

Last, but not least, true to the company slogan, "Building science for everyone, everywhere," Ci offers a massive library of building-science education in crib-notes fashion, with short instructional videos, 15 minutes or less. Check out this 12-minute class on the Eight Rules of Building Performance.

Free for You

With all this free stuff, you may wonder, "How do they make any money?" Advertising is not a part of it, thank you! Ci makes money by charging manufacturers a fee to be associated with the app.  This allows manufacturers to upload content to the app, subject to Ci's approval. Some of that content is product-specific animated details. The technical team at Ci, which includes storied building-science luminaries Mark LaLiberte, Justin Wilson, and Gord Cooke, will take a manufacturer's installation guide into the field and then follow the instructions step by step. More often than not, the instructions could be better, or may even be wrong. Ci works with the manufacturer to create a clear and accurate installation manual in 3-D animation. 

The Ci team built this app as a side business back in 2008. It grew from a part time job to a full time one. At first, few builders paid much attention, but since 2012 subscriptions have climbed quickly. The app has become a viable business on its own, which is why our executive editor joined the Ci crew. "I don't need a part-time job," says Justin. Dan intends to redesign the user interface to make it highly intuitive, "So you don't spend any time fumbling for information," and adding more content, including newsletters and media offerings with content uploaded "from the front lines," says Dan, where Ci does its work, inspecting, correcting, and instructing builders on how to get the job done right the first time.  

You can checkout Construction Instruction at and download the Ci app for your iPhone or Android by clicking on the hyperlinks, or go straight to iTunes, Amazon Apps, or Google Play.


posted in: Blogs, business, energy efficiency, green building, water and moisture control

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