These sites are billed as the "construction marketplace" and the "one-stop guide to the industry". Do they live up to their slogans?

This is my kind of web site. It is produced in the USA by McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group. The group consists of a number of brands – pricing manual Sweet’s, information provider FW Dodge, magazine Engineering News Record and so on. It is only really useful to firms working in the USA, but the concept is of great interest.

There is a lot of seemingly stimulating material, although, naturally, it is geared to the US market. Quantity surveyors may be interested to learn that you can do cost planning on the site. Basic cost plans are $10; a more detailed analysis is $200. After that, the payment is by low-rate fee. The service is provided by estimator Marshall and Swift and it is an excellent example of linking firms and activities via the web.

The site contains data on forecasts and trends and a daily briefing on industry news, as well as a construction bookstore. It also offers links to product information – details are held on several hundred companies and their products. Sweet’s Buyline also enables you to access the company’s information and representatives.

The site also links to firms of architects, contractors, engineers and so on. You can find a suitable firm of, say, architects, in any state using a map. You can then view samples of their work – including pictures and CAD walk-throughs.

Plans and specifications are available on-line from $50. Dodge View enables you to see plans and to take quantities from the screen. On the lighter side, there are links to weather forecasts and Dilbert cartoons.

Naturally, the site is also a portal and other organisations can link their web pages to it, thus increasing the knowledge base. General business, financial and other data can be accessed through the site. It is a very impressive operation.

In a nutshell

Content Only relevant to the USA at present, but this is a model site that could be replicated for the UK, especially for on-line cost planning. News Seems to be bang up-to-date and gives wide and interesting coverage. Updates Continual, it seems. Ease of use It is easy to move around the site and find information. Wow factor Should make you sit up and think. It certainly did it for me. Overall rating 8/10. Have a look – it’s very exciting.

Andrew Libra, general manager of Business to Business Internet,responds.

The site is a one-stop guide to provide information via easy links to other sites. In that sense, it is not a publication but a gateway, which makes it easier than going through Yahoo! looking for construction-related information. The search facility is case-sensitive because it searches through other web sites, but we are looking at it to see if there is anything we can do.

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