PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog

Bridging the communications gap over the Pacific: How PlanGrid helped VAICO work with their international partners

Discover how VAICO streamlined the process of seismic compliance in New Zealand by collaborating in real-time with their U.S. partners.

In 2011, Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, experienced a devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Already weakened by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake in September 2010 and its aftershocks, a significant percentage of the buildings in the city center were at risk for demolition due to the damage — many of them were built prior to modern seismic retrofitting requirements, making them particularly vulnerable.

Of the 3,000 buildings inspected by March 2011, 45% had ‘restricted’ or ‘no access’ stickers issued because of safety problems. As of February 2015, there were 1,240 demolitions within the four avenues surrounding the CBD.

With the help of PlanGrid, VAICO — a New Zealand-based seismic bracing design and engineering company — has played a major role in streamlining the process of seismic compliance for non-structural building services in the rebuild of Christchurch (and further afield in New Zealand).

Christchurch Art Gallery (image via VAICO)

Blueprints for these buildings were often outdated, and some of the older structures didn’t have any traceable plans. When they were available, paper prints were the standard, making accountability difficult — both for inspection and for relaying critical information.

Caleb How, Project Manager at VAICO, recalls: “It was a ‘Wild West’ construction environment — a lot of buildings didn’t comply with the NZ building standard. Often, parts of the construction process had been signed off and accepted, but unfortunately the work was never completed or reviewed for compliance.”

VAICO discovered the benefits of PlanGrid through their US partners, California-based ISAT Seismic Bracing, back when they had no construction software systems in place. PlanGrid got so much praise from their US colleagues that VAICO decided to pilot PlanGrid on their first major retrofit project. They tested the software, set up some accounts, and attended a training webinar — then it was off to the races.

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The office team immediately discovered how easy it was to communicate with their field team and US suppliers simultaneously, all in one place.

In an environment where final construction drawings often don’t reflect true conditions, VAICO needed a smarter way to survey field conditions and relay that information back to their design team (largely based in California). PlanGrid made it easy to survey large projects with multiple services and systems by providing a cloud-based platform where data could be shared internationally in real-time.

As a result of such a successful implementation, PlanGrid is now the only software VAICO uses for construction designs and drawings.

Today, VAICO’s workflows have completely changed, and PlanGrid is their company standard. When they start a project with non-PlanGrid-users, it just takes a conversation and a free download before they’re all connected. Project managers upload drawings and push them to superintendents and foremen onsite. Installers understand what the engineers are trying to accomplish, and they’re able to instantly access specs and link them to the plans.

Their compliance inspection process has also taken on new life: VAICO uses PlanGrid’s punch tool to inspect each seismic brace location as it’s installed, mark the progress of the inspection, and add photos directly to each item. Everyone onsite is held accountable for their work.

VAICO works with structural engineers, services engineers and contractors, design consultants, and general contractors. Having PlanGrid as an inspection and reporting tool has proved invaluable to everyone.

Today, over 150 of VAICO’s projects (large and small) have used PlanGrid, and the team has seen incredible time savings from keeping digital as-built drawings on hand. A report that would usually take 50–60 minutes to prepare and send now just takes moments. One VAICO job had 250+ inspection and progress reports issued by a single person within 12 months — saving VAICO and the general contractor a massive 210–250 hours.

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In the future, VAICO wants to get more general contractors involved with PlanGrid to increase efficiency and collaboration. Ultimately, they want everyone on all of their projects working from the same platform. As Caleb put it: “It works well and truly above what anyone has ever seen before, and ultimately it provides us a level of compliance and inspection records that hasn’t been seen before in New Zealand.”


Andy Rosenberg

PlanGrid Business Development Manager