18 Free Construction Apps You Need to Download Right Now
You’ve got a smartphone, and have probably ventured at least once or twice into the magnificent quagmire of Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store, which have literally millions of apps. Figuring out which ones are going to work for you and your business is no easy or quick feat.
Fortunately, we’ve built this list to help. Some of the apps we use every day, others we downloaded and tested, and the results are in—these are our top 17 free apps for architects, engineers and contractors. They might be free, but don’t underestimate them—they are powerful tools that will help you make the most of your time.
Our list is sorted into handy categories so you can scan and jump to the category of apps you are interested in. The categories are administration, safety, 3D models, document management, toolbox and driving apps.
Bonus—read to the end of the article for some extra way to use your smartphone with the tools that have already been built in.
With the Scannable App (by Evernote), you can easily scan a paper document and transfer it into a high-quality PDF scan that you can share. No need to use that old fashioned scanner at your office. Wherever you are – in your car, on the construction site, at a customer – just open the app, hold it above the paper doc, and have it scanned in seconds. Here is a video that shows how it works.
At the moment, this app is only available for iOS.
Bonus: If you’re using iOS, you can as well use Apple’s own built in Scanning App. Open Notes, and inside of any note, hit the + symbol above the keyboard and next ‘Scan Documents’. Here is a video that shows how this works.
One of the features we really like is the ability to crop the images and edit them on the go, then share them via email, WhatsApp, WeChat or a link to other social networks, and have others collaborate on them in real-time.
As you can see here, it’s also possible to edit or sign off scanned documents with this app.
3. Adobe Fill & Sign
If you often need to fill in or sign off documents, then you can also use this Adobe Fill & Sign App. Open a PDF doc, write text on it and sign it off.
This video shows how it works.
Using apps like Scannable, CamScanner and Adobe Fill & Sign you can replace the traditional tedious process that typically goes like this: 1) print document, 2) fill and sign off document with pen on paper, 3) scan the document via the traditional scanner and 4) mail the document to your contacts. From 3 minutes – traditional process – to 30 seconds by using these simple and free scanning and signing apps.
AirMeasure is a free augmented reality app. It measures the approximate distance between the user and any object. Make sure to calibrate it first to get accurate results. Here is a video that shows how it works.
There are lots of other similar apps (like EasyMeasure and Ruler AR) but if you’re using an iPhone or iPad you might as well use Apple’s Measure App:
5. Measure App by Apple or Google
With iOS 12, Apple launched its own built-in free measure App. Just like AirMeasure, it uses augmented reality to act as a tape measure or ruler, measuring objects around you with the phone’s camera. Here is a video that shows how it works.
Download this iOS App.
Useful for the construction industry is that within the Measure App from Apple there’s also a ‘Level’ functionality.
For Android users, there’s the Measure app by Google. This video – made with my Samsung phone – illustrates how it works:
If you’re using Android and you’re looking for a Level App, you can try iHandy Level.
Marea is a free app that uses Google Maps to calculate the surface of a specific lot, roof, or area. It’s a very simple app, that does just that: zoom in to the respective area and tap 4 times to indicate the corners of the area. This app will then show the distance of each of the sides, together with the total surface – and the cost if you add the price per square meter. This is perfect when you need a quick rough estimation of a surface.
Download the iOS App
This video – made with my iPad – illustrates how it works:
As you can see in this video you can also do something very similar directly in Google Maps.
Marea is not available for Android. GEO AREA measurement app is a similar app that’s available for Android.
CamToPlan is an augmented reality app that lets you create floor plans easily with your smartphone or tablet.
This video – made on my Samsung phone – illustrates how it works:
8. My Measure
Creating a sketch of a room, floor, wall, and then adding the dimensions to it can be a tedious process. What’s more, your sketch with dimensions might not be 100% clear when you look at it back at the office or hand it over to a colleague (e.g. for making a cost estimation). With the My Measures App you can take a picture (e.g. of a room, or a wall,) and add dimensions to it. In this way, the dimensions of an object or room are clear to everyone and there’s less risk on mistakes (e.g. in cost calculation or material quantities).
This video – made with my iPad – illustrates how it works:
9. Construction Works Calculator
No need to lug around your old calculator. There are many construction calculator apps out there. Some are free; some have a fee (but often not that expensive). I tried Construction Works, and it works well. It has the most common construction calculation formulas built in, like for example calculating the amount of sand or water needed for a specific volume of concrete, or the number of tiles that will be required for a specific surface, or the number of steps that go into a staircase.
10. Compass° App
11. First Aid by Red Cross
Whether you live in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, or anywhere else, most countries have a Red Cross App. In case of accidents on site, this app will guide you in a very intuitive manner through the actions to take. In the case of a brand wound, for example, the app will immediately show you the steps to take: 1) hold the wound below water, 2) call 112 and put on speaker. This app is free and has the potential to save lives, which makes it a no brainer.
Search for ‘First Aid Red Cross’ in the Play or App store and download your local Red Cross App.
12. AccuWeather App
Dangerous situations often arise due to unfavourable weather conditions such as rain, snowfall or storms. Site safety is the most important parameter for construction projects. Accurate and reliable weather data for construction sites, therefore, play a pivotal role in increasing site safety. There are lots of free weather apps. AccuWeather is one of the best of them. It’s free and provides a clear understanding of current and future weather patterns.
13. Decibel X
Do workers protest when you tell them they need to wear hearing protection? Show them proof that they’re hearing is at risk with this free noise meter App.
3D Model viewers
For those of you that don’t have a desktop BIM software, there are solutions to view 3D models on your smartphone or tablet.
14. Field3D by Tekla
When you receive an IFC file, you can, for example, put it in your Dropbox and from there open it with Field3D to view it. This app does just that: viewing 3D models from your phone or tablet.
BIMx is a free App to view ARCHICAD models on your phone or tablet. Architects often use BIMx to present or share designs with clients and contractors. It features the BIMx Hyper-model, a technology for navigating the integrated 2D drawing sheets and 3D models.
This video shows how it works.
Waze (or Google Maps) is a must-have app to help you avoid traffic. This is especially for architects, contractors and construction engineers, who are often on the road. Waze is a free social navigation app that saves you tons of wasted time in traffic. Waze uses user feedback, like mentions of traffic jams, police locations and roadblocks, in order to get better routes for your next trip. Without exaggerating, Waze has saved me hours, if not days or weeks, of time lost sitting behind the wheel.
Google Maps is very similar to Waze, but I prefer Waze because it has some useful features like:
- Connecting with your agenda so you can see your appointments on the map and just tap on them to start the route
- Need to meet someone for a quick meeting? Let them know when you want to be at a certain location: Waze will then send you a push notification when you need to start your route (based on your location and the actual traffic)
- Showing useful info on the map, like the closest gas station, parking garage, or cafe, as well as traffic updates like upcoming traffic jams, roadblocks, and speed controls.
17. Local Parking Apps
Almost all modern cities in the world have parking apps today. The apps let you easily find vacant spots and pay for parking right from your mobile device. Advantages are obvious: time saved in looking for vacant spots, no more walking from your car to the meter and back, and always pay exactly for the required time (not more, not less).
Document Management Apps
Google Drive and Dropbox are pretty mainstream, right?
Yet I still see quite some construction professionals print out their floor plans and drawings before site visits. With tools like Google Drive and Dropbox you have all your documents with you wherever you go: you can make them available on your desktop, phone, or tablet.
If you’re not yet using a Document Management system – like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Sharepoint, One Drive – I recommend starting with Google Drive or Dropbox.
18. Google Drive
Google Drive is one of the best free apps out there for storing and managing documents. If you’re in the construction industry (e.g. as an architect, engineer or contractor) you’re often on the road, heading from site inspections to client meetings, and sometimes it’s difficult to carry a heavy laptop, for example, if you’re at a construction site.
With Google Drive, you can store all your files, drawings, plans, contracts in the cloud and access everything anywhere, using any device. Share documents with your team members or others, or use Google Docs or Google Sheets to work real time in the same document or spreadsheet.
Google Drive is available on iOS and Android, as well as on desktop devices. The app is free to use for up to 15GB of storage, and you can upgrade to 100GB, 200GB, or even 30TB on a pay-per-month basis.
An alternative to Google Drive is Dropbox—both have their pros and cons, but since they are both free, you can chop and change or use them both. It allows construction teams to manage and share files from construction sites. The first 2 GB are free, which is not that much (so you’ll have to switch to a paying version rather quickly).
Two free tools your smartphone already has and how to use them effectively
Probably the most useful app for every construction professional comes for free with any phone or tablet: the camera :). As a construction professional you should be talking LOTS of pictures with your phone/tablet.
Here are 3 ways to use your camera
- They will help you communicate better (as the age-old adage says: a picture is worth a 1000 words)
- it can help you win disputes or court claims
- Create content and marketing materials – e.g. for sharing finished projects on social media or your website.
Voice to text
This has been a game changer for me. I highly recommend you start using the voice to text function on your phone or tablet. As you speak, written text rolls outs. Check out a simple illustration of the voice to text functionality when working with ArchiSnapper.
So, while there are millions of apps out there, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare to find out which ones are best for you to download and try out. And hey—they are free! If you don’t like it or don’t use it, no loss.
There are the ones we think you will get the most out of, but do you have an app you feel is essential to be on this list? Let me know via the comments below!