iPads in the Field

Posted by Macie Melendez on March 08, 2013
iPads in the Field
The FileMaker solution allows building inspectors to capture minute details on the spot, such as which direction a building faces.

As energy efficiency becomes an ever more important factor in a home’s value, developers and homeowners alike need assurance that their energy investments actually produce the returns they expect. Enter Builders Energy Rater, a home energy rating company that has created a custom FileMaker solution (that run on iPads) to streamline the process of collecting and analyzing home performance data. 

“With FileMaker on iPad, we capture data in the field and import it directly to our modeling software—no paper required,” explains Charles Ballard, rating administrator at Builders Energy Rater. “This saves us a tremendous amount of time and enables us to tell customers right off if there are deficient situations that must be corrected before construction can continue.”

Builders Energy Rater is nationally certified in EPA’s Energy Star program, RESNET’s HERS score, and USGBC’s LEED system. Formed as an offshoot of San Antonio, Texas-based Key Insulation, Builders Energy Rater has rated over 6,500 new homes in the San Antonio and Austin markets since 2006.

How It Works

Leveraging the capabilities of the FileMaker Platform, Builders Energy Rater’s inspection management system enables the company to create new types of energy-rating services based on updated regulations and link them with program-specific tasks that must be completed to comply with the latest industry regulations. Each task and its requirements are also associated with a set of skills required to successfully complete the task and assigned to an employee with the appropriate certifications.

When field inspectors sign onto their iPads, they are immediately presented with their tasks for the day. As each task is completed, the data is uploaded to FileMaker Server and exported directly into the company’s modeling software, which estimates the amount of energy a house will consume. Office employees can also access the energy inspection management solution from their desktops via the Internet.

“Construction happens in specific stages beginning with insulation first and then dry wall. So, if the tasks aren’t completed when due, then it might not be possible to obtain the data later,” Ballard points out. “With FileMaker, we can make sure that all tasks are scheduled and completed on time so we don’t miss a step.”

Greater Office Efficiency

Delays of even a day in house construction can be costly. According to Ballard, the average time to rate a house is traditionally 5.3 hours, but with the new platform he expects to reduce that time by up to 20%. “The largest area of improvement is in administration,” he says. “We have eliminated scanning paper forms and re-keying data into the modeling system. And, we’re improving accuracy, too, by the use of intelligent forms that provide the inspector with default data that can be altered as needed, and that review changes to ensure the information is accurate.”

Because all the field inspectors have iPads, unusual conditions can be photographed to provide a better understanding of the situation, resulting in fewer return trips. Photos taken are automatically stored with the right form and linked to the appropriate project.

Raters in the office also benefit by having much of the field data imported directly into the modeling software, without manual data entry, providing more complete information in less time. “All [of this] translates to greater efficiency and higher quality service to our customers,” says Ballard.

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