Still recording project information on paper and emails?

Yvesround75Yves Frinault
Founder & CEO

Over the course of Fieldwire's operational history, we've logged millions of tasks for our customers, ever refining the most efficient way to record and share information on construction projects. We have seen that smartphones and tablets are now well established field tools that can help crews put large quantities of multi-media content (360 photos, files and forms, annotations, specs…) at every project member's fingertips, whether in the field or back in the office. We've learned a lot about how to best organize and track information in a way that makes it useful to collaborators.

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In a fast-paced project environment, dealing with constant time and budget pressures, it is paramount to ensure a steady flow of information, to the people who need it and from the people who have it. On large projects with teams of a hundred or more, with schedules in months, if not years, information systems need to be thought through carefully. This is our recommended checklist to evaluate your solution to field management:

  • Technology adoption and ease of use
  • Accessibility, online and off-line
  • Organization and classification (task status, assignment, etc)
  • Prioritization of work tasks
  • Progress tracking and project visibility
  • Reporting and learning

Adoption is a critical challenge for any technology seeking to disrupt. It needs to meet the requirements of the job while remaining easy to learn and logical enough that users can get going quickly. Legacy platforms can present particular challenges with their bloated platforms that require months of implementation.

With people in multiple locations in and around construction sites, connectivity is often an issue and information system need to be robust enough to support difficult situations with the right technology to synchronize in real-time as well as whenever connectivity is restored.

Tasks on a project are best defined as the conjunction of a location, on your drawing set, a person or team, a timeline, and potentially costs, categorizations and various additional data like photos, files, and tags. Dealing with all this different types of data that need to be joined together can be tough: think site photos on a paper binder, or a sub's name and phone number when they're not in your corporate directory.

As tasks accumulate on everybody's work plan, it can become daunting to figure out where to start, and job sites are well served by systems that enables supervisory staff to get a good overview of a project and prioritize tasks for people who lack the necessary visibility.

Progress tracking, reporting, and learning from experience all require advanced reporting tools, and those often lie in different software packages that rely on your primary system. This can make the information difficult to retrieve and disseminate and rarely is true up-to-date reporting accessible to all actors of a project.

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Fieldwire is the construction platform we created to solve these problems. The key was to structure the platform in such a way that it is simple to use in the field but also organizes successfully the information of a large project (see our Loma Linda case study). The result is a tool that allows you to:

  • Record structured information at the source, in the office or in the field
  • Share it to a centralized location accessible to everyone, everywhere, at all times
  • Track information and notify users automatically of progress

Using Fieldwire, you can keep your head free to focus on your craft and on completing the task at hand, because that is often the difference between a good and a great construction crew.

You can read more on the benefits of using Fieldwire here


Fieldwire and MIT Dance Troupe

DavidroundDavid Vasquez
Head of Customer Support

Fieldwire is designed to help construction teams streamline their work and tackle jobs more efficiently, but in truth, our app can be applied to virtually any venture in need of effective project management. From fast food chains to social media events, Fieldwire has been deployed on a variety of unconventional projects with startling success, and the latest example comes from the world of theater. Despite the lack of a familiar setting, this unique implementation proves just how handy Fieldwire can be at making work days easier for any team in any situation.

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Since 1994, MIT Dance Troupe has made quite a creative impact at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Carissa Skye, Technical Director for MIT Dance Troupe, acts as part liaison, part arbiter of all theater setup that the student-run group requires. She oversees the efforts of the group's lighting and equipment technicians as they prepare for each new show. The tight schedule between productions used to lead to some strain on the team, until the group adopted Fieldwire during the 2016 season.

"The problem that we often run into is that we have very little time to install all of our equipment," says Skye. "There will be a certain production on one day and an entirely different one the next evening, so we have to completely change what the theater looks like and be ready within a very short period. We use Fieldwire to organize and prioritize the tasks that need to be completed."

Coordinating over 200 individuals every semester requires careful attention, and using Fieldwire helps Skye shepherd all group tasks efficiently. Each dancer contributes several hours of work and the dedicated technicians put in much more, so having all of their notes and assignments housed within the app replaces outdated methods previously used by the troupe.

"Before we started using Fieldwire, we partially worked through Google Drive. That was fine for taking notes, but the customization didn't quite cut it and it wasn't very feasible for the tasking and planning applications we had in mind. We also used to take notes on physical pieces of paper, which was significantly harder to track and distribute to everyone. Using Fieldwire is much easier. It certainly saves us a lot of time and effort when it comes to communication, which is something we're grateful for."

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While Fieldwire's task management certainly aids the coordination of Skye's team, perhaps the even bigger draw is the plan management system. The plans utilized by MIT Dance Troupe are not quite the same as construction drawings, yet the app still helps keep the group current on the latest layouts and allows them to store complex sheets in their pocket on a mobile device. Skye has eliminated a major hassle from her team's work by ensuring they have access to the right plans at all times.

"Since we deal with lighting, we have various charts and plots outlining where the lights go," says Skye. "These charts are usually too complicated to print out on anything except really large sheets of paper, and it's difficult to climb up a ladder while holding paper that's 3 feet wide. It's far more useful sharing those charts and collaborating on our work in Fieldwire to indicate any changes throughout the day.

"Rework can happen fairly often, particularly working with lighting. A common problem is when someone tries to string cables in one direction and gets halfway across the theater before realizing they should be going the other way. Or people realizing they should have talked about what they were working on before starting. So the ability to have all of our charts available in one place, especially on the mobile app, is particularly helpful for all of us. Being able to update them as we work has gone a long way toward streamlining lighting setup and reducing mistakes."

Creative Fieldwire usage like that of Carissa Skye and the MIT Dance Troupe isn't just an impressive anecdote. It's a great example of how intuitive software design can benefit a diverse range of teams on a host of projects. It may be jarring to picture a prestigious dance troupe making use of an app originally created for construction workers, but their success just proves that a little ingenuity can go a long way toward making the tools of another trade work wonderfully for your own.

Photos by Maude Gull


Design Coordination in Fieldwire

ClaudiaroundClaudia King
Construction Specialist

There’s an old adage about walking before running that always seems timely when a new construction project begins. Getting all of your ducks in a row prior to construction can often be tedious, but it’s an essential part to getting the project started on the right foot. Even before ground is broken, there is a seemingly endless stream of back-and-forth between stakeholders as the design evolves and is value engineered. It’s crucial to get everything done right during this pre-construction stage, so the importance of a reliable communication tool cannot be overstated.

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Streamlined Document Control

Preconstruction involves a range of different stakeholders who often have conflicting priorities. With early contractor involvement becoming increasingly common, value engineering and effective communication become more and more important. The design process requires a balancing act between the viewpoints of each discipline - architects, owners, contractors, engineers, designers, the list goes on. During this process, interactions between these groups is constant and evolving, and making sure everyone is up-to-date with design changes can be a challenging. Strong collaboration and a clear, immediate flow of information are paramount.

Fieldwire turns this process into an automatic endeavor. When architects and engineers issue new versions of drawings, all of that valuable and current data is shared with everyone instantaneously through our software. Fieldwire is a platform designed to keep the entire team on the same page when it comes to real-time data, so confusion caused by outdated information is eliminated and replaced with clarity.

Project drawings can all be housed within the app, viewable offline and available at all times with a few simple clicks. Sheets are automatically versioned thanks to cloud syncing, so everyone is working off of the correct sheets no matter how often they get updated. You can even set up notifications to alert the entire team when new versions have been uploaded, and unlimited storage capacity allows you to keep a record of every past iteration of your design for easy reference. There’s also an option to overlay and compare sheets, whether they’re versions of the same drawing or entirely different sheets, and export comparisons as color-coded images. This simplifies change management and ensures you can catch any inconsistencies with little effort.

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Improved Communication via Tasks

As the design continues to develop from concept to IFC (Issued for Construction), Fieldwire’s task management system makes tracking interdisciplinary collaboration a breeze. You no longer need to jot down hand-written notes and scan or photograph them to be shared with others; much like redlining and overlaying plans no longer requires a pencil, your detailed notes can be recorded and shared with a few taps of your fingertips. Any items or concerns can be marked-up, assigned, categorized, prioritized, and worked into the schedule.

If a particular design change or question comes up, a task containing that question and any other notes can be assigned to the respective designer. He or she will immediately be notified, and the task creator will in turn be notified in real-time once the designer responds. These immediate alerts keep everyone aware of updates as they happen, so no time is wasted during various back-and-forth. Tasks can be placed directly on drawings as well, so there is full transparency about the issue at hand.

Fieldwire makes it easy to capture all of this correspondence within one platform for improved accountability. The app dates and timestamps all task updates and plan markups, so you always know who did what and when they did it. As with all of the above features, this helps save your team precious time by distributing information quickly and without any strain, so collaboration is steady and free from uncertainty. You’ll know as soon as someone assigns you a task or responds to one you made, and you’ll be able to respond just as quickly. It’s also easy for design managers to remotely log in and see the complete task dashboard, which gives them an overview on the status of all outstanding tasks.

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To get your project up and running successfully, consider introducing a valuable communication and document management tool from day one. Fieldwire boosts collaboration and transparency throughout the design phase of your project, and that same convenience will carry over into the proper construction stage as well. All stakeholders and designers will be kept in the loop at all times, and you’ll never need to worry about drawn out email chains or outdated drawings. Fieldwire handles all of that for you, creating a clear and structured flow of information that will help you complete your design efficiently and on schedule.


Heavy Civil Terms 101

DominicroundDominic Delfino
Construction Specialist

Construction lingo is as diverse and abundant as the types of trades you’ll encounter on the job. We believe team communication becomes more cohesive when you can understand what your teammates are talking about, which is why we’ve highlighted a number of common words and phrases you’re likely to hear on-site. The latest installment in this series is specific to heavy civil work. Here are 15 heavy civil terms that you should keep in your toolbelt.

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  • Abutment: Supporting structure at each end of a single span bridge. Types of abutments vary based on geotechnical, geographic, and constructability factors.

  • Clear and Grub: The process of removing vegetation and material from land in the construction area. This prepares the site for excavation and grading work to take place.

  • Cofferdam: A structural enclosure installed to retain water in damp soil or bodies of water. The cofferdam is installed and water is pumped out of the enclosure to provide a dry and safe work environment.

  • Critical Lift: Per OSHA 1926.751, a lift that (1) exceeds 75% of the rated capacity of the crane or derrick, or (2) requires the use of more than one crane or derrick.

  • Derrick Barge: Also known as a crane barge. These floating cranes lift large loads while on water. These are great for offshore construction use.

  • DLB (Dig, Lay, Burry/Backfill): Term used in underground construction that describes the activity of utility installation. Dig/excavate dirt, lay your utility line, and backfill.

  • Embankment: An elevated landmass made of compacted soil or aggregate. Embankments help create roads and level surfaces for slabs or levees.

  • Falsework: These are the temporary structures that are built to hold and support cast-in-place concrete during pours and while it cures to strength.

  • Grade and Compact: The process of leveling out an area of land and exerting force using heavy equipment to stabilize the soil or aggregate.

  • K-Rail/Jersey Barrier: A precast concrete barrier that comes in 10’ or 20’ lengths. These are used to separate traffic, protect traffic from a leading edge, or designate the construction zone.

  • MSE (Mechanically Stabilized Earth) Wall: A wall system consisting of vertical panels and horizontal straps backfilled with aggregate or soil. MSE walls allow for easier and quicker installation than traditional cast-in-place methods.

  • Pile: Usually, a long structural member driven into the ground to act as support for a foundation or wall. There are many forms of pile that differ by material, shape, and size.

  • Shoring: Temporary structural support for underground excavation to prevent soil movement or collapse. Shoring is used when you can no longer excavate to your maximum allowable slope.

  • Shotcrete: Concrete that is shot onto a reinforced surface, usually wire mesh, by way of air pressure and hose. Shotcrete is a typically installed on soil nail walls.

  • Tremie Concrete: Concrete that is designed to be poured underwater through a gravity feed system. This method is often used to create underwater foundations as well as seal cofferdams and caissons.

These are just 15 of the common terms you will encounter when dealing with heavy civil firms. Understanding each of these terms will hopefully make communicating with your project colleagues much smoother. After all, boosting communication is something Fieldwire is very passionate about!


Control Terms 101

KileyroundKiley Sheehy
Account Manager

When it comes to the construction industry, there is a lot of jargon that gets used on a daily basis. Most project members will likely understand the more common ones, but the definition of “common” may vary from trade to trade. Each group has its own set of common lingo that other teams might not be familiar with, so with that in mind, I’d like to focus on ten control-specific terms you should add to your vocabulary.

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Control systems have a wide range of regularly-used terms. Let’s start off with the basics, as defined by ASHRAE:

  • HVAC: The equipment, terminals, and distribution systems that provide, either collectively or individually, the processes of heating, ventilating, or air conditioning to a building or portion of a building.

  • Building Automation System (BAS): An energy management system, usually with additional capabilities, relating to the overall operation of the building in which it is installed; this includes equipment monitoring, protection of equipment against power failure, and building security.

When you boil it down, HVAC is the setup of machines that make a room or space warmer, cooler, or more conditioned in some regard. The BAS is the digital automation that takes operation of an HVAC design out of someone’s physical hands, and moves it onto a computer interface. This makes it a computer-based system:

With the advent of a BAS for HVAC, we can eliminate much of the opening/closing and turning off/on of equipment and devices behind hard-to-reach ceiling tiles, or up in lofty mezzanines. Often times you’ll hear BAS, BMS, DDC, and EMS used interchangeably across control installers and manufacturers. ASHRAE also defines them all near-identically:

  • Building Management System (BMS): An energy management system relating to the overall operation of the building in which it is installed. It often has additional capabilities, such as equipment monitoring, protection of equipment against power failure, and building security. It may also be a direct digital control (DDC) system, where the mode of control uses digital outputs to control processes or elements directly.

  • Direct Digital Control (DDC): A type of control where controlled and monitored analog or binary data (e.g., temperature, contact closures) are converted to digital format for manipulation and calculations by a digital computer or micro-processor, then converted back to analog or binary form to control physical devices.

  • Energy Management System (EMS): A system of computer applications used by building engineering staff to monitor, control, and optimize the building's operating performance (e.g., energy consumption, occupant comfort levels). EMS optimizes building operating performance through supervisory control programs that utilize core BMS functionality.

An EMS is a more refined definition of a BMS, focused exclusively on operating performance with things like IAQ (indoor air quality), occupant productivity and comfort, and energy output as key metrics.

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But what do these things control?

A BMS is constructed to automate all of the HVAC equipment in a building - chillers, air handlers, fans, cooling towers, and much more. All things designed to move BTUs in and out of a building space via heating and cooling air and water to deliver a required temperature and humidity.

Anywhere you might hit a stat on the wall and call out a need for heating and cooling would be a HVAC zone:

  • HVAC Zone: A space or group of spaces, within a building with heating, cooling, and ventilating requirements, that are sufficiently similar so that desired conditions (e.g., temperature) can be maintained throughout using a single sensor (e.g., thermostat or temperature sensor).

Common items you might see wired up on a BMS would include:

  • Actuator: A device operated either electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically, that acts as a motor to change the position of movable devices, such as valves or dampers.

These devices actuate the position of dampers allowing airflow into an air handler, through ductwork, and down to a space. Valves are also actuated to open and close to allow fluid flow through piping in a building. It’s a nightmare manually opening and closing all dampers and valves across a building or campus of buildings, which is one of the great advantages to implementing a BMS.

  • Sensor: A device or instrument designed to detect and measure a variable.

Whenever a measurement is taken in a building (such as temperature, humidity, CO detection), a sensor is the measuring tool. It’s also the tool that reports back to the BAS.

  • Variable-frequency drive (VFD): An electronic device that varies its output frequency to vary the rotating speed of a motor, given a fixed input frequency. Used with fans or pumps to vary the flow in the system as a function of a maintained pressure.

A VFD serves to automatically optimize speeds for anything that spins in a circle. Fans, motors, and pumps are the three main users of a VFD, and they’re huge in power consumption. The more we can automate the work of these items, the more savings a building owner will see.

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So there you have it! These are ten commonly-used control terms you can now comfortably use on the job. Hopefully these definitions will help you better understand some of the lingo being used on your next project. After all, you can’t collaborate with others if you don’t understand what they’re talking about!

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