With the advent of BIM and the apps that have been created on the back of it having received extensive attention in recent times, Juliet Woodcock reports on some other apps available to the built environment.

After reading the paper recently, I was intrigued to discover that an app has been launched that predicts birth control/fertility; while you can get an app for deciding what to wear and there are a range of apps for dieting, health and lifestyle. While many people now take these as being a part of their daily lives, I decided to see what is out there for the construction industry, apart from the numerous BIM apps available.

The Dulux Visualizer App is absolutely brilliant: it lets you take a picture of a wall in your home, and then select colours to see how they suit the space. The strapline “Picture it before you paint it” describes this app well, which is intended to be used by professional decorators as well as DIYers – plus it suggests colour schemes to compliment “the look”. This app also offers Dulux Master classes through video demonstrations, as well as the company’s nearest Dulux Tailor Made Colour stockists.

While most of us will be aware that apps have been around for some while to control one’s heating and hot water at home – which also help save energy – Mitsubishi Electrics has taken this technology one step further with its new MELCloud, a new generation of Cloud based control for Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning, Ecodan Heating, ventilation and controls. MELCloud provides users with effortless control of their devices whether they are out or are just resting on their sofa at home.

Mitsubishi Electrics has also launched ME Engineer, which it describes as the next generation of service information tailored specifically for mobile users. ME Engineer provides installers and service engineers of Mitsubishi Electric air conditioning, heating, ventilation and control products easy access to the most up to date and detailed service information direct from in-house technical experts at Mitsubishi Electric.

Cosmetic repair specialist for the construction industry, Plastic Surgeon, has developed an app called the Snag Reporter, which enables the user to report any snagging issues or defects from a housing or construction project. This app
 provides the ability to set up a site location, individual plot locations and then the various spaces such as landings, bedrooms, kitchens etc. You can then record the snag/defect by selecting the type of damage, the item damaged and the size of area affected. If required you can also take photos and annotate those images directly from your smart phone.
All this information is then compiled in a user-friendly PDF and sent directly to Plastic Surgeon, who can then quote for the repair work required.

In March of this year, Kingspan Insulation launched an app to calculate U-values, whereby the user can easily vary everything from rafter depth to masonry thickness. This makes it simple to find the right insulation product and thickness for a desired floor, wall or roof U-value. It is suitable for use with the Building Regulations/Standards and covers Kingspan OPTIM-R vacuum insulation, Kingspan TEK Building System and new, lower-lambda, Kingspan Kooltherm K106 and K108 Cavity Board.

All U-values within the application have been pre-calculated by a member of Kingspan Insulation’s Technical Services Department who is approved under the ‘BBA/TIMSA Scheme for Calculation Competency Part 1 – U-value and condensation risk’. Where appropriate, these calculations also take into account fixings and bridging factors.

Metsä Wood, meanwhile, is a well-established supplier of timber and timber-based building systems and solutions for the construction industry. Its Finnframe app has been specifically designed to aid site managers and tradesmen access a quick and easy mobile guide to joist and floor installation when using Finnframe flooring system products, providing static drawings of design details and animated sequences demonstrating the correct installation procedure – thus avoiding error. This information is currently provided in the form of technical drawings on the reverse of detailed site plans. This guidance may not be readily to hand for all contractors, so the app offers immediate on-the-spot information.

Then there are home security apps: forming part of Yale’s Easy Fit range, the SmartPhone Alarm takes home security to the next level. Using the accompanying free app, the alarm can be activated, deactivated, monitored or programmed. Once the alarm has been triggered, an external siren will sound to alert the presence of an intruder, as well as sending an email and push notification (iOS only) to communicate the situation to the property owner.

Seconds after the alarm sounds, the smartphone can receive images captured on the wall-mounted PIR device to show the cause of the trigger.

Amazingly, there is even an app that allows anyone to do a quick, visual check, to ensure the home is electrically safe. The Home Electrical Safety Check app, developed by the Electrical Safety Council, enables the user to set up lists of items that need attention for multiple properties, which can be emailed as lists to your contacts from within the app. The also enables you to find local registered electricians by searching the Electrical Safety Register database.

At a cost of just 54 pence, the Smoke Alarm Messenger sends a SMS or email to a person of your choice when a smoke detector in your property sounds. Its main aim is to inform your loved ones you’re probably at risk so they can help you. This is ideal for the hard of hearing, as a third party can be informed.

Controlfacts from Aico covers all the key information you need for Aico’s RadioLINK Alarm Controller – which allows you to control your Aico Smoke, Heat and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms from one convenient location. As Aico says, “One button, no wires, simple.” The app shows the different functions of the Alarm Controller – how to test your alarms, what happens if a smoke alarm sounds and what happens if a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm sounds.

In these worrying times – especially for women – I could not finish this article without mentioning personal safety apps, which I had not come across before, and which I must share because it might just keep a reader safe. Tens of thousands of people around the world are now using a free personal-safety mobile app that allows friends to virtually walk you home at night. The Companion app, created by five students from the University of Michigan, enables users to request a friend or family member to keep them company virtually and track their journey home via GPS on an online map.

Although they can do so, the friend or family member does not need to have the Companion app installed, which is available for both Android and iOS. The user can send out several requests to different phone contacts in case people are not available to be a companion or not with their phones at the time.

Those contacted receive an SMS text message with a hyperlink in it that sends them to a web page with an interactive map showing the user walking to their destination. If the user strays off their path, falls, is pushed, starts running or has their headphones yanked out of their phone, the app detects these changes in movements and asks the user if they’re OK.

If the user is fine, they press a button on the app to confirm within 15 seconds. If they do not press the button, or a real emergency is occurring, the Companion app transforms the user’s phone into a personal alarm system that projects loud noises to scare criminals from the scene, and gives you the option to instantly call the police. Here is a link to download Companion: