Archive for September, 2010

What follows is an article I penned several years ago for the Parameter, which is the newsletter of the Central Virginia Chapter of  The Construction Specifications Institute.  Other than dates and places which had to be updated, it is as pertinent today as it was in March 2004.


 I recently had the privilege of signing the certificate of substantial completion for a new custom residence.  The contractor had executed a near flawless product and the owners were ecstatic with the result.  Instead of choosing a contractor by competitive bidding, the contractor was selected on the basis of his reputation for honesty and ability to deliver a high quality product for a reasonable price.

 This particular contractor has been making clients of this author happy for the last ten years or so.  He and I had accidentally discovered one another indirectly as a result of networking with other local construction professionals. 

 Our first common project had been competitively bid, and the contractor selected strictly on the basis of price.  The pleasant surprise was the discovery during the construction process that there are in fact people out there who still take a great deal of pride in their work.  He has negotiated contracts with several of my clients since then, and has never failed to exhibit the highest level of professionalism.

 This is a story of where networking over the years has paid off.  Being able to confidently negotiate construction contracts is not unique to this particular contractor, as the story applies to several of the contractors my firm works with regularly.  I’ve said repeatedly that CSI provides multiple opportunities for networking and career advancement.  It is here that we get to know one another and get some idea of what our colleagues are capable.  In addition, the monthly membership meetings provide educational opportunities simply for the price of our dues and the cost of one dinner each month.  Otherwise put, the local CSI chapter affords us multiple opportunities to improve the way we conduct our businesses, both formally and informally.

 By getting together on a regular basis, we, the membership, are able to learn from one another.  The chapter continually puts together quality educational programs, which are often entertaining, and always useful.

 CSI, however, is more than just the chapters.  The Middle Atlantic Region meets twice each year.  In the spring, the Leadership Orientation Seminar is an opportunity to brush up on how best to run the chapters.  Additionally, it provides information for the development of new leaders.  Typically, there are representatives of the Institute, both elected and staff, to fill us in on what is going on at the national level.

 Each October (or September in colder locales), one of the seventeen chapters in the Middle Atlantic Region hosts the annual region conference.  The region conferences provide us with the opportunity for networking and professional education.  The conferences are always a lot of fun, and I always come away having learned something of value.

 Beyond the region level, CSI has its signature Institute wide event each year that can provide sufficient continuing education to maintain professional certifications.  The upcoming Construct and the CSI Convention will be in Chicago next fall.  The convention features one of the largest commercial construction product shows in the country.  Additionally, there are more than seventy educational sessions available on site.

 So coming full circle in my ramblings, in multiple ways, CSI can enable each of us to take pride in a job well done.


Read Full Post »

I recently was in a house being prepared for the market.  As is often the case, several of the rooms had been repainted.  I was struck by the strong odor (high VOC content) of the latex paint being used.

 Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, virtually all latex paints were considered low odor and therefore, acceptable to use in an occupied dwelling.  In the context of the times, this was true, since we had a long history of solvent based coatings with very high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  The solvent odors lingered noticeably for days at a time and, of course went unnoticed, but were still present for weeks thereafter.  Compared with alkyd enamel, the smell of those early latex paints was pleasant.

 In response to more stringent environmental regulations and the green building movement, the coating manufacturers spent millions on research and product development to bring out low and zero VOC paints and coatings.  The early waterborne zero VOC paints were only available in limited colors and required several coats to obtain desired coverage.

 In more recent years, paint technology has progressed to where there are flat finish, zero VOC coatings which achieve good coverage with one or two coats.  These are also available in a wide range of colors, made possible by new tinting systems.  VOC content of the enamel products has also become practically zero, but is lagging somewhat behind due to the difficulties of achieving a glossy finish without some VOC content.  Zero VOCs translates into zero odor.

 The bottom line is this:  zero VOC coatings do not cause the headaches and other negative health side effects that were part and parcel of the older coating systems, and should be a part of any healthy indoor air quality plan.

Read Full Post »