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Publisher's Letter: Tabula rasa - A blank slate for builders

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Publisher's Letter: Tabula rasa - A blank slate for builders

In this issue of Professional Builder (as well as in our sister publication Professional Remodeler) we argue that during the course of the past 18 months — a period of time dating to the release of Apple Corp.’s iPad — the building industry is on the cusp of huge productivity gains via the use of tablet PCs. Small, light, portable, easy to use, quick to boot-up, with great graphics — tablets have a wide array of applications in the building business.


By Patrick L. O’Toole, Publisher and Editorial Director September 21, 2011
Publisher's Letter: Tabula rasa - A blank slate for builders
This article first appeared in the PB September 2011 issue of Pro Builder.

The philosophers of ancient Greece and others up through the present day, have debated ‘nature’ versus ‘nurture.’Are we born predestined for a certain place in life, or are we a blank slate (a tablula rasa) on which can be written any future we choose? The answer lies somewhere in the middle — we now know with great certainty that genetics and social factors play a major role. I think it is a useful analogy to extrapolate to the business of home building. Is this industry destined to operate as it has over the past 70 years? Or, is the industry’s evolutionary path alterable by events and technological shifts?

Certainly economic forces have the power to shift our course. And the editors of this magazine also see technology as having the power to play a major part in transformational change.

In this issue of Professional Builder (as well as in our sister publication Professional Remodeler) we argue that during the course of the past 18 months — a period of time dating to the release of Apple Corp.’s iPad — the building industry is on the cusp of huge productivity gains via the use of tablet PCs. Small, light, portable, easy to use, quick to boot-up, with great graphics — tablets have a wide array of applications in the building business.

Tablets have been shown to aid in design, construction management, sales, marketing, customer relationship management, warranties, product selection, and the list goes on. Our talented stable of home-building industry experts — from Pat Curry and Sue Bady to our editor David Barista — have each chipped in with stories highlighting builders’ success with tablets. In addition, we have compiled a list of about 80 tablet-PC applications — software that can be added to tablets that aid in everything from choosing windows to processing credit cards.

Back in April of 2010, when the iPad was released, my sense of the technology was that it would slowly find its way into use among builders. Last fall, I observed two builders, both over the age of 55, huddled over an iPad as they pinched, swiped, and expanded views of a set of working drawings. Through that fall and spring, we saw many more builders using tablets for a variety of tasks. Something is happening, we thought. This was confirmed in July when we conducted a research study and found that more than 35 percent of builders owned a tablet and that about half of the remainder planned to buy one in the next six months. It is proof that builders are not technologically averse. And it proves that they know a good tool when they see one.

We are of the view that technology and its accompanying productivity gains hold great promise for our industry. Let’s use this tablua rasa, this blank slate, (among other tools that technology offers) and write a new future for builders.

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