Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why CSI?

I’ve been a member of the Construction Specifications Institute since my return to Oregon in 1988. Prior to joining I did not know exactly what CSI was all about. My boss, James M. Robertson, FCSI, persuaded me to attend a meeting of the Willamette Valley Chapter to learn more. This would be my introduction to a diversified and close-knit community of construction professionals, many of whom I now count as trusted friends and advisors.

While the accomplishments of CSI include continuous development of construction documentation standards (such as MasterFormat) and the education of professionals to improve project delivery processes, it is perhaps the organization’s diversity that is its greatest achievement. Unlike the American Institute of Architects, which primarily exists to serve the good of the architectural profession, CSI membership is open to anyone interested in the advancement of construction communication standards. In addition to architects, the institute welcomes the participation of engineers, contractors, facility mangers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners, and of course construction specifiers. The only qualification is a common desire to contribute to the improvement of communication in the construction industry.

Before I became a CSI member, my contacts among the many non-architect participants involved with construction projects were most often limited to job-related exchanges. Seldom were my encounters of an informal or social nature with contractors or the others. My association with the Willamette Valley Chapter broke down the unspoken barriers I was accustomed to, allowing me to develop meaningful cross-disciplinary relationships. Today, these relationships have improved my effectiveness as an architect. There’s no substitute for mutual respect and friendship when it comes to working together to successfully complete complex and difficult projects.

The Willamette Valley Chapter is one of the more decorated and active of the 140+ CSI chapters around the country. Numerous WVC members have held offices at the region and national levels as committee chairs, region directors, and Institute president. I’m not sure, but it would not surprise me at all if the Willamette Valley Chapter has a higher proportion of members who have been elevated to Institute fellowship than any other. We are blessed with an incredibly energetic, motivated, and collegial group of construction professionals.

Jim Robertson is a case in point. Throughout his lengthy involvement with CSI, Jim has helped to develop and promote standards for design documentation and construction contract administration. These include CSI MasterFormat and contributions to CSI’s Project Resource Manual, which is recognized as the foremost primer about the proper principles, techniques, and formats for writing and organizing specifications. Along the way, Jim participated on numerous institute committees and boards, including service as Northwest Region director and national vice president. He now represents CSI as one of eighteen member organizations of the International Construction Information Society (ICIS), which is dedicated to establishing international construction documentation standards.

Besides Jim, other Willamette Valley Chapter members welcomed and encouraged me to make the most of what CSI has to offer. They included Paul Edlund, FCSI, who to this day remains the chapter’s sage and its heart and soul, as well as Ron Eakin and Jim Chaney (Institute president 2000-2001). My network of mentors also numbered long-time members Gary Bartel, Ken Nagao, Linn West, and the late Jim Bernhard. The depth of knowledge and immense pool of experience and wisdom I was able to tap helped shape who I am today as a professional.

Thanks to their encouragement, I would eventually assume a number of Willamette Valley Chapter board positions, culminating in my tenure as chapter president in 1995-96. From a personal development perspective, my period as a board member and as president proved enriching and instructive. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from this experience and applied it to my work and everyday interactions.

Veteran members have also been the foundation of the education and certification programs CSI offers. Offering their knowledge and time without remuneration, Paul, Ron, Linn and others have shouldered the burden of teaching the certification programs. I took advantage of these offerings early on to secure both Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) and Certified Construction Specifier (CCS) certifications. These credentials definitely carry weight in the industry and are evidence of my competence with construction documentation and communication.

Additional benefits of my membership with the Willamette Valley Chapter of CSI include the monthly chapter meeting programs and CSI-sponsored “lunch & learn” presentations. I’ve consistently found these to be informative and convenient means to acquire many of the continuing education credits I need for the purposes of maintaining my State of Oregon architect’s license and membership with the AIA.

It’s important to point out that I fully consider my involvement with the Construction Specifications Institute to be a complement to and not a substitute for my AIA participation. Both organizations serve my needs well as an architect and are not mutually exclusive.

Now is a great time to become a CSI member! If you sign up online between Wednesday, June 13 and Wednesday, June 20, you’ll pay only $192—a 20% savings—for your membership. Use the promo code “12spring20” when you join at promotion is only available to new members enrolling at the professional level. Chapter dues are not included in this promotion.

I’m certain those of you who are not yet members of CSI and become so will come to realize many of the same benefits of membership I have enjoyed. The ability to communicate effectively is increasingly a valued commodity in the business world. This is especially true in the fast-changing construction industry where so much is typically at stake and placed at risk. You owe it to yourself, your clients, and your projects to learn everything you can to become as conversant and effective as possible in your construction documentation and communication.

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