Building professionals are generally aware that construction cameras make projects more efficient, but they also tend to think of them as essentially an added expense. In fact, the opposite is true.
Depending on the sophistication of your hardware, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 for a construction camera and necessary equipment. Factors affecting price are everything from the camera resolution to its power source (such as solar), type of camera (fixed or PTZ) and customization, such as specialized mounts.
Monthly service fees range widely, too, depending on the camera resolution and the rate of image transmission. At the lower end, you can expect to pay $200-$450 per month. At the higher end, the range is $500-$900 per month. But most construction camera companies offer service discounts for bulk or enterprise accounts.
Regardless of the price, most of today’s time-lapse construction cameras are designed to meet the very specific needs of the industry they serve and actually help save money – or even better – actually make money for the builders and developers who use them. They are must-haves on many job sites precisely because of the value they bring to projects and the positive impact they have on the bottom line.
Specifically, a time-lapse construction camera can contribute to your bottom line in five ways:
Avoiding costly delays
One of the biggest savings advantages of a construction camera is preventing delays that can cost builders in penalties and lost revenue. Retail store owners stand to lose substantial revenue when opening for business is delayed. When decision-makers have timely access to accurate and easy-to-understand images, they can make faster decisions to avoid potential problems and keep projects on schedule – and on budget.
Kevin A. Cooke, director of operations for Bond Brothers, Inc., a general contractor, used construction cameras to keep a complex project on a tight schedule.
“Being a fast-track job, there were people in the industry who told me that this building could not be built in the time frame that was required,” recalls Cooke.
Cooke was able to manage the project from off-site during extended hours without compromising the aggressive schedule.
“In the time it would take me to get to the job site to address an issue, I could log into the camera and see what was happening and call the right people based on what I was seeing,” says Cooke. “It enabled timely responses to situations that occurred after hours.”
Preventing costly errors
Another key benefit of a construction time-lapse camera is preventing errors before it’s too late, as happened on a project by D’Argent Companies, a development, and construction firm based in Alexandria, Louisiana. Blake Gremillion, D’Argent’s president of construction, recalls watching in real time as the exterior block was being delivered to a job site.
“We were able to catch that it was the wrong color,” he says. “It turned out to be an error from the manufacturer, but that would have been extremely expensive to replace had it been installed that way.”
Sometimes a construction time-lapse camera can save a company millions of dollars by explaining a costly error after the fact. That’s what happened with ProLogis, a global developer of industrial real estate.
“We’ve had roof failure in one of our developments. We were able to go back to the time in the archived images and find out exactly the conditions when that roof was laid. With the weather data being captured with the image and date stamp associated with it, we were able to refute a $2MM roof placed improperly and in the wrong weather conditions and in the wrong temperature. That saved us $2MM.”
Reducing travel expenses
One of the most commonly cited benefits of using a construction time-lapse camera is that it reduces the number of visits needed to the job site, without compromising knowledge of what’s taking place on the job site, saving both time and travel expenses.
“It’s definitely a worthwhile investment, especially with project teams more widespread than ever,” says Keith Murley, information systems manager for Schimenti Construction. “They help cut travel expenses, provide 24/7 visibility and maintain healthy client-contractor relationships.”
Headquartered in Ridgefield, Connecticut, Schimenti has a strong reputation in the retail construction industry, building for Kohl’s, REI, Barney’s New York, Target, Banana Republic and other leading national retailers.
“If you haven’t used construction cameras in the last [several] years, revisit them and see the value that they can bring,” adds Murley. “The technologies have grown by leaps and bounds.”
Today, Schimenti uses a time-lapse construction camera on a majority of its job sites.
Increasing capacity to handle multiple projects
Time savings and new-found efficiencies increase a builder’s or developer’s capacity to handle more work or simultaneous projects. Pat Cowan is senior vice president for KZ DevCo, a California-based real estate development company that specializes in single-tenant, build-to-suit developments for national tenants, including CVS, Dollar General, and Starbucks. His team uses construction time-lapse cameras to maximize productivity, along with minimizing travel time and expenses.
“Even though we’re a small firm, we handle an extraordinary number of projects,” says Cowan. “Right now we have three projects under construction in Hawaii.”
The construction cameras are also an important part of KZ DevCo’s executive-level reporting process. The developer’s leadership team can quickly scan the company’s entire portfolio of ongoing projects from a single dashboard. That same feature also provides an extra layer of client visibility into project timelines.
“It’s great to be able to provide access to the [CVS] executives in Rhode Island,” says Cowan. “It’s a level of reporting that they haven’t experienced before.”
Attracting new business
That level of reporting helped D’Argent Companies grow its business. D’Argent bought its first time-lapse construction camera when it was expanding and trying to make a name for itself in a new industry with a new client.
“Our use of construction cameras started with a new client in the oil and gas industry – our first – and we wanted to impress them,” explains Blake Gremillion. “That project just kept leading to more and more work because they were impressed with us and the ability to go online and look at the project anytime.”
So, are professional construction cameras worth the price?
Yes. A construction camera can protect and even add to the bottom line by helping to:
- Avoid costly delays
- Prevent costly errors
- Reduce travel expenses
- Increase capacity to handle multiple projects
- Attract new business