CSI Academies March 1-3, 2012 San Diego, CA

Back for the second year!  Last year’s resoounding success bodes well for a repeat performance.  As last year had an early sell-out I encourage everyone to register early.

See the preliminary session & speaker list! CSI is now planning the 2012 CSI Academies, which will be held March 1-3 at The Westin San Diego. Watch CSI Weekly, CSI’s free, weekly e-newsletter, for updates.

“The seminars were excellent and the location was great. As a product rep, I now know the trials and tribulations that GC’s go through when bidding a project, I better understand liability and product substitutions (Division 01 can help), and I learned how to make my lunch and learn presentations enjoyable for the attendees. Keep an eye out for 2012!” – Jon Lattin, CSI, CCPR

“The CSI Academies were outstanding – I learned from the experts in the front of the room and the ones sitting next to me.” Ann Baker, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA

Need training now? Consider joining a FREE CSI Practice Group, attend a CSI webinar, or visit a CSI chapter. What are the Academies? For more than 60 years, CSI has focused on improving construction communication between architects, specifiers, product reps and others to save money, time and stress for all the parties. The CSI Academies teach construction industry skills that can improve your performance. Designed for experienced professionals, the Academies:

•Instill confidence by teaching you the roles and responsibilities of all the construction teams, and how they should interact (and what to do when they don’t!)

•Improve your marketability and productivity today with skills and information you can use immediately

Product Representative Academy (PRA) Become a product representative who understands more than the product – know where and how you fit into the construction process, and become a useful resource the design team will call on again and again. We’ll teach you best practices for presenting products and supporting the design and construction teams. Manufacturers will tell you what you need to know about their products – we’ll give you the skills to present that information and succeed in the commercial construction community. See the sessions offered in last year!

Contract Administrator Academy (CAA) No where else will you find intense training for experienced administrators focused on general skills for managing construction documentation, front-end documents, and general conditions. The information and skills you gain you’ll be able to use tomorrow! See the sessions offered last year!

Construction Specifier Academy (CSA)  Let CSI, the most respected specifications information source in the U.S., teach you the best practices in specifying, LEED specifications, and BIM data management. Courses focus specifying in the real world and current issues, including getting LEED requirements into the documentation and understanding how to communicate specifications in BIM. See the sessions offered last year!

“I got some new knowledge from each and every presentation. This is a terrific forum for finding out how others do what they do.” – David Calahan, CSI, CCCA


The “Milking” Stool

thanks to my friend Ralph for permission to post this:


THE “MILKING”  STOOL  [Reminder!]                 

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT

Cincinnati, OH


Might be a good time to review our liturgy, [perhaps refresh them] and teach others– what a three-legged stool has to do with architecture, construction and specifications writing. Might just to stoke the fires again and renew our dedication; and augmenting it


Architectural and construction projects are driven by, and controlled by three, interconnected  documents working in concert–  and collectively known as “the Contract Documents”!


The premier document is called “the Contract”, or “Agreement”.  A highly legal-toned document, this is only remotely known to the general public, and of interest, mainly, to the lawyers for the various parties who sign the document.  Its fundamental purpose is to provide a common basis for the project, whereby the Owner, and the Contractor agree that, 1] there is a project to be built, as depicted and described in other associated documents, 2] the Contractor will do all of the work of buying and installing the material, systems and labor, 3] the work will be done in accord with the drawings and specifications which describe the work required to complete the project, and 4] upon satisfactory execution of the work, the Owner will pay the agreed-to price, as stated in the Contract.


The general public is more readily familiar with the drawings—still known to some, as “the blue prints”.  These are fascinating, graphic displays of the building overall, in different views, and with a host of smaller, but interrelated drawings. Literally, they show the workers how to put the building together. Closer and more enlightened scrutiny, reveals that, even with a wide array of drawings, there is a lot of information that is not included.


The additional information required is provided in booklets called Project Manuals [by many].  In these are the “specifications” [“specs” in the vernacular], which add to, explain, and describe aspects of the work that simply cannot be shown graphically.  Since there is a tremendous amount of information that is best written, the specifications become most valuable documents, and in fact are co-equals with the drawings.


No project can be built with drawings alone; neither can it be built solely by the written words, in the specifications.


Discussion of specifications needs to start with an open and frank analysis of their prevailing, and overall concept.  There is a general lack of knowledge of these documents among the non-construction public. Even to many within the construction industry, there is a rather murky mystique about the creation, writing, use, and value of these documents– and the role they play in bringing building projects to fruition.


Specifications are NOT a “handy”, nice-to-have, off-hand, peripheral documents that play only a marginal or sporadic role in the construction of a project. To the contrary, the specifications ARE a necessary, important, pervasive, and viable part of a project’s documentation, used in every phase of the work.


In that context, they need to contribute information necessary for the correct construction of the project. In their status as “complementary and supplementary” to the drawings, it is essential that the specifications augment and enhance the information on the drawings. Further, it is essential that they be as complete, clear, and concise as possible, so they are easily assimilated by the various construction personnel.

Hence, the pre-eminent function of the specifications is to “round-out”, or complete the documentation of the project through the use of specific information written in construction terms.

Specifications are pro-active instruments—not preventative, punitive, or after-thoughts. Their function is to provide decisive construction information specific to the project, which cannot be shown graphically,  but which is important and necessary. In addition, they provide detailed information which precludes the need for extensive/massive notations on the drawings, which tend to obscure or impair  their use.

The specifications are not the prime method for preventing cost expansion, etc. They establish quality of product and method, which can effect costing. It is other factors that are the causes of cost expansion or growth. Specifications need to be complete, but not speculatively all-encompassing, anticipating every possible scenario for modification of the project work. In the same context, though, they should not open-ended or ship-shod , with gaps, ambiguities, and incomplete information, or other discrepancies that forces the bidding contractor to “interpret’, or flatly guess at what is required or intended.  Specifications are an element of project control.


Another function, often overlooked, is the legal implications of the specifications. Much of the “front-end”, “boiler-plate”, or “red-tape” portion of the specifications is devoted to relationships and responsibilities as well as project-wide controls, regulations, and other parameters. Too often disregarded by the Contractors [in bidding and afterward], these provisions are crucial to proper, cohesive, and smooth-running execution of the project, within the strict limits, and direction of the Contract [Agreement] in effect.


Specifications, while essential, should not be assigned unobtainable expectations or converted to instruments which function in a wrong manner. Their proper function is unique and essential to the project— not unlike the third leg of the stool. Not too long to make the others wobble; not too short to wobble itself.           Rather a good, strong, equal  and contributing “partner”. 

Then why do we allow them to be so maligned, mischaracterized, and all but ignored at times?

CSI Certifications, are they worthwhile?

This is the time of year to begin thinking about taking a certification exam.  Why should I, you ask… well I am going to give you a few examples: 1) It keeps your knowledge current.  Regardless of what kind of degree and education you have, you can never stop learning.  20 It will enhance your career.  Becoming an ‘expert’ adds value to your portfolio.

Now, I have only given two reasons here, but I offer the opportunity for others to share thoughts and experiences in this realm.  Thanks for playing along!

Project Closeout

Getting all the paperwork in can be daunting, especially for a contractor that is new to all the requirements.  My suggestion is that you read the documents before you bid.  Too many people are suprised by the closeout requirements at the end of the project.  From the Architect’s perspective, enforcement of providing these documents can also be trying.  Holding cash from the final payment is the only way to get the attention of an otherwise lax contractor.  As we know, money talks.