Posts Tagged ‘CSI Membership’

Recently, a product rep friend of mine posted a tweet with the hashtag #justasalesperson. Because this individual is a CSI member and a CDT, the hashtag should have read #TrustedAdvisor.  She exemplifies what a product representative should be, and therefore, qualifies as a Trusted Advisor.

What qualifies a product rep as a trusted advisor? To begin with, a product rep that holds a CDT or CCPR knows what the design and specifier communities are looking for: expertise.  They know their product, construction documents, and they understand the construction process.  A good product representative makes the effort to know her/his competitor’s product as well.  They meet regularly with their clientele and thus forge an ongoing relationship.  Occasionally, they may need to advise that their product is not the appropriate one for the job and need to send me to their competitor.

It is out of this long-term relationship that trust emerges. As a design professional and a specifier, if I don’t know the product I’m specifying, I will contact someone I know that has experience with the product.  Preferably, this would be the company’s local representative, but I don’t always know who this might be (shame on you absentee reps that never show up).  Chances are that I know someone with a connection to the product I am looking at through my connections made over twenty-eight years of CSI membership.  Often, that contact may be in another part of the country.  I know I will get a correct answer through this network.  Additionally, they will usually put me in touch with the local rep and I am able to forge yet another relationship.

In general, if someone comes to see me with CDT or CCPR on their business card, I make an effort to make time for them. They will usually be knowledgeable and know where to find answers that may not necessarily be on the tip of their tongue.

So, for those readers that are product representatives that are not CSI members, you need to join. Being active in the organization puts you in contact with a large and professionally diverse pool of potential customers.  You can further step up your game by sitting for the Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) exam during the examination windows each spring and fall.  Obtaining this credential indicates that you possess knowledge of construction delivery methods and processes, construction documents, and building life cycle activities and needs.  The CDT is also a prerequisite to all CSI certifications including the CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative).

All of these things qualify you as a trusted advisor, and assuming you are active in the organization, you would likely be the first one I would call for product information and advice. With that said, when registration for the Spring Certification Exams opens in January, I would strongly encourage you to sign up.  After all, you don’t want to be just a salesperson.


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My membership in CSI paid for itself again last week.

“I can find the information on the internet.” I hear this statement often, and to a large extent, it is true.  But not all of the information is necessarily in one place, and it can be very difficult to connect the dots.  To my point, yes the information is there.  But knowing where to find it and what the limitations of said information are is not necessarily discernable from a single website or multiple websites.

With that said, I ran across an issue last week where a client was looking to do something that was apparently a code violation. Given that the issue involved electronic access/egress control and related fire safety issues, I reached out to a fellow CSI member and CCPR that I knew would have the answer.  Of course, he was eager to take my call and discuss how to meet my client’s intent.

As I suspected, the client’s original suggestion turned out to be explicitly prohibited by the International Building Code. As the conversation progressed, I was asked the appropriate questions about the client’s specific needs, which we discussed at length.  The response was immediate, as this particular issue is often a problem within my client’s industry, and my colleague often has to address this issue.  The solution to my client’s problem involves integrating my colleague’s product with a product of a different manufacturer, as neither company’s product would solve the problem in isolation.  By combining the two systems, the issues of security and life safety are both addressed and the client’s needs are met.

You would not find this information on a manufacturer’s website. Had I not been an active CSI member, I would not have been aware of who to call to get the needed information.  With apologies to Mastercard, the information available from a CCPR is priceless.

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Yesterday, I became aware of a significant structural movement in a condominium building in Alexandria, Virginia. As best I can tell from the news stories on the subject, the movement and resulting damage are by-products of water intrusion and poor maintenance.

At issue (in the mind of this writer) is the relationship between the condo association and the owners themselves. Associations have a fiduciary obligation to be good stewards of their members’ funds.  This isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Oftentimes, an association will simply be cheap and pinch pennies in the interest of short-term cash flow.  This sort of thinking will often backfire when maintenance takes a back seat to expedience resulting in higher life-cycle cost when a major repair has to be made to compensate for deferred maintenance.

Without throwing rocks at anyone in the incident that inspired this post (this sort of thing often happens), maintenance is often overlooked when the manager is unaware that he/she needs to be watching for a hidden problem. Granted, such problems are often difficult to detect and diagnose.  This is where membership in an organization such as BOMA or CSI can be helpful.  I will focus on CSI, as it is the group I am most familiar with.

The membership of CSI is a professionally diverse group of experts on the built environment. We are members of the architectural, engineering, construction, supplying, and owning communities – emphasis in this case on the last one.  Active CSI members develop long term inter-professional relationships with one another.  As a result, we learn from one another.  More importantly, we know who to call when an issue arises or for advice on how to prevent an issue from arising.  In the case of one of my clients, it was a recent CSI encounter I had that prompted me to check into a looming facility problem.  Turns out, the problem was far worse than we anticipated, but preventative action was taken before the issue reached catastrophic proportions.

The takeaway for me is this: building owners, including managers of condominium associations, need to be active members of CSI. The relationships developed are a first line of defense against construction related problems that inevitably develop as a facility ages.  Information relating to membership in CSI can be found at http://www.csiresources.org/communities/membership/individual-membership .  Membership in a local chapter is invaluable.  For those in my locality, I look forward to meeting you at our next chapter meeting.

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It never ceases to amaze me how many construction proposals contain the very short specification “to code”.  What amazes me even more is that there are actually consumers who believe this statement or some variation thereon assures them of a quality project.

Wake up folks!  The building code is the crummiest construction that is legal.

So you ask: “How can I get better than the worst that’s legal?”

Better quality construction starts with better construction documents.  Good construction documents are usually produced by a licensed design professional.  For certain occupancies, a licensed design professional is required to seal and sign the construction documents before a construction permit can be issued by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  In such cases, simply having the seal of a licensed professional on the drawings is in the same category of “built to code”.

Better quality construction documents often involve the services of a Certified Construction Specifier (CCS).  The CCS is a certification issued by the Construction Specifications Institute more commonly known as CSI.  Holders of the CCS are required to have a minimum of five years’ experience preparing construction documents and at least two years of writing construction specifications.  In addition, a CCS will have passed a rigorous exam to receive the certification.

Unofficially, a CCS is an experienced professional with a vast body of technical knowledge.  As a member of the building team, the specifier will often prompt the other members of the design team to think about issues such as constructability, compatibility of materials, water-tightness, and similar issues.

Once a project is documented, it will need to be constructed by a qualified contractor.  One characteristic to look for in the course of selecting a contractor is whether or not he/she has a CDT on staff.  A CDT knows his/her way around a set of construction documents.  They understand the information presented and know where to look for certain information within the set of documents.  Additionally, a CDT has a basic understanding of the relationships called for in a set of construction contract documents.

With this in mind, when shopping for construction services, hire someone who holds a CSI issued certificate or a CSI certified professional.

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Did you ever spend time pondering facility life cycles?  Do you know who is on a typical construction project team?  Do you know which construction documents are contract documents?  Did you ever wonder how projects get built?  Do any of these questions keep you up at night?

If you are a member of the AEC industry and don’t know the correct answers to these questions, they should keep you up at night.  If you are employed in the AEC industry, you should be a member of CSI, and you should hold the CDT.  CSI is the one place where all members of the project team can sit down together as equals and discuss matters of mutual concern.  The Mission of CSI is to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.

The CDT is the entry level credential offered by CSI.  According to the CSI website,  “the CDT Program provides a comprehensive overview for anyone who writes, interprets, enforces, or manages construction documents. Project architects, contractors, contract administrators, material suppliers, and manufacturers’ representatives are all realizing the advantages of being Construction Documents Technologists”.  “By being able to understand and interpret written construction documents, CDTs perform their jobs more effectively. By understanding the roles and relationships of all participants, CDTs improve communication among all members of the construction team”.  The credential is beneficial for architects and engineers, construction administration staff, construction product representatives, constructors, and professionals in other construction occupations.

The CDT Exam is administered each year during set periods in the spring and fall.  Because the exam is not an easy one, the time to begin study for the Spring 2016 exam is NOW.  Study materials are available from the CSI website.  The CDT Candidate Handbook lists the domains covered by the exam and the proportion of the exam dedicated to each.  It also lists the source materials that are to be studied by the exam candidate in order to pass the exam.

The CDT is the gateway to CSI’s Certification Program, and is a prerequisite for all of the advanced certifications offered by CSI.  It is a lifetime achievement and use of the letters CDT on your business card will gain you recognition within the industry as an individual who is knowledgeable in the construction process and documentation.

Watch the CSI website for when the registration window opens for the exam, but you should be studying now.  The information you need is available at http://csinet.org/main/certification/CDT .

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After returning from Construct 2015 last week, I asked one of our younger employees what she liked about the conference, and she didn’t hesitate to respond “The people”. I pressed her a little further and asked if she had learned anything, and her response was that the education sessions were great, but the people she met were the greatest value to her.  I was pleased to hear this, because I owe so much to my CSI friends all over the country.

I should clarify that even as a seasoned professional, I still run across questionsSTL Construct Banner for which I don’t have answers.  This is particularly true in this day and age that there is so much new technology out there and so much new information.  I consider myself fortunate that when I run across something I don’t know related to the AEC business, there is generally someone in my professional network who knows the answer.  That professional network includes the trusted advisors I know through CSI.

My network of professional peers includes, of course other architects, but it goes much further than this. I consider design professionals in other disciplines, product representatives, contractors, subcontractors, independent specifiers and other allied professionals to be my peers and trusted advisors.  It is through CSI that I know hundreds of these folks and have access to thousands of others through their contacts.

I have often said that my CSI membership pays for itself every day, because rarely does a day go by that I don’t communicate in some manner with other CSI members outside of our firm. Sometimes, it is as simple as a “good morning” on Twitter, but often it will be a personal e-mail or telephone call with a pressing technical question.  Over the years, the answers to these questions have at least made me a better architect and specifier, and perhaps, they have kept me out of court.

So this is only a small part of my CSI MVP: Member Value Proposition.  There are many other opportunities that membership presents.  These will be the subject of future posts.

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Once again, my CSI membership and attendance at Construct over the years has paid for itself. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve posted anything, so I figured I should pick up where I left off.

This afternoon, I was having a conversation with a local plan review official and the topic of fire safety entered the conversation. The bulk of what I brought to the conversation I learned at the 1992 CSI Convention in Atlanta.

Prior to that convention, I was a big believer in compartmentalizing buildings with rated assemblies to prevent the spread of fire in lieu of installing a sprinkler system. As I learned at that convention, it is virtually impossible to do this perfectly, and the result of such imperfections is rapid spread of fire through narrow openings where a firestop may have been missed during construction. Where there is a small orifice (perhaps a ¾” hole drilled for a wire that was subsequently deemed unnecessary) a virtual blowtorch is created resulting in flashover of the adjacent space in a surprisingly short span of time.

My professional firefighter friends have taught me a thing or two about the behavior of fire in a building and how to fight it as well. This has led me to advise clients to add a layer of gypsum board to the underside of the joists spanning an unfinished basement to buy a little time for firefighters to rescue building occupants.

Even though this allows a few extra minutes of structural soundness, there is no substitute for fully sprinklering a building. If the fire is extinguished (or at least knocked down) there is far less smoke generated; and therefore, the occupants have a chance to escape the potential for a smoke related fatality.

Moral of the story is this: if we sprinkler and protect the building, in so doing, we protect the occupants. Life safety is what it’s all about. As far as I am aware, only one of the buildings coming out of this firm has ever burned, and there were no injuries. My understanding of fire started because of my participation in CSI and the predecessor of Construct.

Later this month, many of us will return to Construct where we will catch up on the latest in building technology, pick up a years worth of HSW requirements, and who knows, we might just save a life as a result.

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I spent this weekend attending the CSI Middle Atlantic Region Conference in Gettysburg, PA. My time was well spent, as my membership once again paid for itself.

How so, you might ask?

The conference included a slate of excellent technical seminars. This in and of itself is a good value. More to the point, getting up and into a seminar at 8:00 AM on a Saturday resulted in my picking up a bit of information which will result in a revised detail on an upcoming project. The owner is thrilled that this subtle change will add value by saving maintenance costs in future years with little or no additional up front cost.

That said, we need to think out of the box in terms of how we do things. A professional standard of care is normally met when we do things the way we’ve always done them, particularly when it comes to keeping water out of our buildings (assuming we did it correctly in the first place). This alone should keep us out of court. This kind of thinking is about the same as saying “we’ll build it to code”, which is often touted as quality by some members of the construction industry. It is also the crummiest construction that is legal. So what happens if you do just a little bit more and, in the process, add value?

This is exactly what came to my attention because of the efforts of the Central Pennsylvania Chapter who hosted the conference. I would have missed this had I not been a member of CSI.

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Recently, a local TV station ran a feature on the 11 o’clock news about a couple of lovebirds who are approaching their 70th wedding anniversary. During the teaser, I recognized the husband as someone I had worked with on a couple of projects in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Several years following the end of our professional relationship (precipitated by Earl’s retirement), I ran into Earl at the local gas station and noticed a window sticker indicating that he and his wife were members of the Order of the Eastern Star. Knowing that my wife’s grandparents were very active in that organization at the state level, I asked Earl if he had known them. As it turns out, he and his wife had known my grandparents-in-law quite well, and so it is that Charlottesville connects with Culpeper Virginia in multiple ways at multiple levels.

Since the world is interconnected through the various relationships we have, I have to think of the many wonderful relationships I have developed over the last twenty-five years as a member of CSI. The relationships cultivated through the years have resulted in enhanced professional development beyond the plethora of CSI sponsored educational programs I have attended.

By being active in the organization, I have come to know hundreds of professionals from all over the country and Canada who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. As a result, there have been multiple occasions where I would pick up the phone with a question and one of my CSI friends would be able to get me the correct answer. On other occasions, I’ve been more than happy to reciprocate.

By having this large network of friends, I have been blessed both professionally and personally because of my membership. I have to say that CSI is probably the most economical professional organization I belong to, in spite of holding membership in multiple chapters. Even if the dues weren’t what they are, the value is far higher than the memberships I have in organizations with far more expensive dues.

With that said, I would strongly encourage construction related professionals, and especially students in construction related curricula to join. Getting involved is easy, simply go to http://www.csinet.org and follow the directions. I’m certain you won’t regret it, and perhaps, someone may remember you to a mutual acquaintance in forty-some years.

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Once again, my CSI membership paid for itself.  This time, however, it was in a way I never would have imagined 24 years ago when I first joined the organization.

At it’s October dinner meeting, the Central Virginia Chapter of CSI hosted a program on NFPA 285 and its inclusion in the International Building Code.  More fully known as NFPA 285: Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, the standard establishes the testing protocol for evaluating multi-story wall assemblies in buildings of all but Type V construction.

Here’s how I once again benefited from my CSI membership.  My design student daughter often seeks my counsel regarding her projects, at times to get an idea whether she’s going in the right direction, and others when she simply wishes to show me what she’s up to.  This morning, I received an e-mail from her asking my opinion as to whether insulated concrete forms (ICF’s) would be an appropriate material for her project on tornado resistant design.  Knowing that my firm often recommends the use of ICF’s, she knew I would have an opinion on the subject.

In this particular instance, I believe the ICF wall would not be the appropriate system.  For starters, she needs the wall to be impact resistant, so a hard, almost structural, cladding would be necessary.  Secondly, I went on to explain, the wall assembly would have to be tested under NFPA 285.  This is something I would not have been aware of had I not been an active member of CSI.  My thanks to Kirby Davis of the Dallas Chapter for making me aware of that which has been largely unenforced locally at Construct 2012 in Phoenix in September.

And so, my membership paid for itself in allowing me to pass a bit of knowledge on to the next generation.  I find this tremendously rewarding.

Membership in CSI is easy to come by.  Simply ask a current member, or contact the Institute ( www.csinet.org ).  You will be welcomed.

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