Nearmap’s high-resolution imagery makes work easier for homebuilders.
By Alan Dorich
When building a home, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and how your work can affect the local area. But those are only two of many ways that Nearmap can help homebuilding companies, Technical Product Manager Natasha Ridley says. She explains that the firm’s high-resolution aerial images help builders get a strong sense of what exists around their project sites, as well as find strong access points for their subcontractors and equipment.
But the benefits do not end there. “[They also] give you an advantage when you’re working on bidding on a piece of work or communicating with clients or stakeholders,” Ridley says. “Having the imagery to back up your bid in your proposal makes all the difference.” Nearmap, which has its U.S. headquarters in South Jordan, Utah, provides up-to-date aerial imagery for multiple sectors, including construction and real estate.
The firm started operations a decade ago in Australia, flying planes equipped with special camera systems at altitudes up to 18,000 feet. Today, Nearmap regularly captures photos of many of the United States’ largest urban areas, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Its imagery, Ridley notes, has allowed clients to save time and effort that would have been spent making repeat trips to job sites.
Instead to going back to a site and taking measurements, its cli-ents can open a web browser, log into Nearmap’s MapBrowser and precisely measure lines, areas, and even roof pitch on top of HD-quality imagery. “They don’t have to travel and look at what’s there,” she says. “That’s a huge benefit.”
A Valuable Tool
Nearmap recently enhanced its range of services with the launch of its Projects tool, which allows users to create, manage and save custom projects with aerial imagery. According to Ridley, this enhancement was created to help customers be more efficient and use its high-resolution imagery more effectively.
Before launching Projects, Nearmap discovered that some of its clients were exporting its images and using tools such as AutoCad, Photoshop and other apps to create layouts and plan jobs. They also were creating annotations and mark-ups on the photos during the early project stages.
But Nearmap created Projects to improve their workflow by providing the annotation and markup tools itself. Today, Ridley says, homebuilders can use Projects to create rough layouts of a particular site and highlight the things that they can and cannot move with different colors. “It can also help as a communication tool,” she continues, explaining that the builders can use it to share changes amongst team members and subcontractors in real time. “Having all the right data and information is wonderful, but if you can’t share it and it is hidden away, that’s not so good.”
Projects also allows users to easily save their work after they are finished, which eliminates the time they would have to spend redrawing changes or dragging them into other applications. “It helps with efficiency,” Ridley says. “They can keep everything together.”
Nearmap has enjoyed a strong response from contractors since it introduced Projects. “Last year when we launched it, we had a massive reception among roofers,” Ridley recalls, noting that she personally presented the tool to the International Roofing Association. “They love our technology,” she says. “Why climb on the roof when you can get the basic measurements from Projects?”
Landscapers also have responded strongly, including Cameron Ashby, a systems manager for Elite Grounds Landscaping. He recently raved about a recent improvement Nearmap made to the system. Previously, users had the ability in Projects to create unlimited layers of images for organizing objects and annotations.
But the company recently added the option to drag the objects between the layers, which won praise from Ashby. “He said, ‘I’ve been doing lots and lots of measuring over the past few months and I have loved this new update,’” Ridley recalls, noting that Ashby also has given the company insight about the tool. “That’s why it’s really great to get that feedback.”
Users also have appreciated the ability to look back and see how their projects have progressed over the course of the build. “It’s really neat for people to be able to say, ‘This is what happened before we started working on this project, and this is it is six months later,’” she says. “Seeing that progression can help at looking at the impact of the building,” Ridley says, noting that it also can help firms win future clients. “There are a lot of areas in homebuilding [where] you find there’s a huge value in having access to the high resolution and frequent, up-to-date imagery.”
Ridley sees a strong future for Nearmap, which looks forward to bringing more advancements to the homebuilding market. Recently, the company introduced Nearmap 3D, which gives users a wide-scale, 3-D model of views on the ground. One of the big benefits, she notes, is that it gives users a realistic view of existing site conditions and helps them reduce risks. It also provides users with a cost-effective way to create models and eliminates the need for physical ones.
Although Nearmap has yet to introduce the technology to the homebuilding industry, “I’m really looking forward to seeing how some of that can adapt to homebuilders’ use,” Ridley says, noting that it may help them improve their efficiency and workflows when it comes to the pre-bidding and planning stages.
“As we start to look at how we can make that much more accessible to more people, we’ll be able to bring in more innovation and have that type of technology in industries like homebuilding,” she predicts. “A lot of the massive engineering construction firms are using it.” One of the most exciting aspects of this, Ridley notes, is that Nearmap will be able to bring these benefits to the homebuilding industry. “That’s one of the things that we look [forward to] for the future,” she says.