The Gateway Arch, with the old St. Louis courthouse in the foreground.
It’s already been two weeks since I attended CONSTRUCT 2015, the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) annual conference/convention and trade show, held this year in St. Louis. I returned home convinced more than ever that CSI is the AEC organization best suited to lead the industry as it confronts a transformative and challenging tomorrow. Why? You’ve heard it before: It’s because CSI is radically inclusive, welcoming members from all corners of the industry. It’s because it remains the most influential voice across the entire spectrum of construction communications. It’s because construction knowledge is only becoming more complex and necessary to master. It’s most definitely because of the people who comprise its membership. If you were there, you’d know CONSTRUCT 2015 was the place to renew your faith in CSI’s mission and enthusiasm for the future of design and construction.
Despite my strong endorsement for everything CONSTRUCT offered attendees, I actually wished I could have enjoyed the experience more. It was my lousy misfortune to come down with a miserable cold just before my departure for St. Louis. That cold (which I’m only now putting behind me) kept me from taking in a number of events, including the CSI Fellowship Investiture Ceremony, the CSI Night Out party, the annual meeting, not to mention a few of the educational sessions I’d signed up for in advance. I simply didn’t feel well enough or have enough energy to do as much as I wanted. I also didn’t get to explore St. Louis much at all, disappointing because it was my first visit there.
Don’t get me wrong: Despite my cold, CONSTRUCT proved well worth my time and money. It was a definite pleasure to finally meet in person many of the members of the CSI online community I’ve come to know so well in recent years. They all truly represent the best of what CSI has to offer. It was great to hear the expressions of optimism and enthusiasm for the future of the institute from CSI president Lane Beougher, FCSI, and CSI’s new executive director, Mark Dorsey. Keynote speaker Tom Kolopoulos enthralled everyone as he asserted generational thinking is an artifact of the past and how influence is the currency of the future. The exhibitors at the CONSTRUCT Show were on top of their games, displaying the latest and greatest they have to offer. The educational session speakers were consistently excellent. In three short days I learned more about what's new in construction technology and communications than I had in the previous three years.
The CONSTRUCT Show floor.
I particularly enjoyed Matthew Foch’s presentation entitled Big-Bang Disruption: Traditional Business Thinkers Need Not Apply. Matthew is CSI’s Manager for Community Development, which is to say he works to directly support all of CSI’s volunteer chapter and region leaders, and also oversees the day-to-day management of all five of CSI’s Practice Groups. His core messages were the need to find the sweet spot of relevancy, the distinction between being accessible and being relevant, and how to craft offerings based on feedback rather than assumptions. All of these resonate with me and will no doubt influence my work as well as my blogging pastime.
Speaking of blogging, other CSI bloggers, notably Cherise Lakeside, Marvin Kemp, Eric Lussier, and Charles Hendricks, have already reported about what CONSTRUCT 2015 meant to them. Charles and I, along with J. Peter Jordan and Vivian Volz, participated on this year’s CSI Bloggers Panel. We recounted how we each started blogging, provided advice about developing quality content, and shared how having an active blog has helped our businesses. Writing my blog, SW Oregon Architect, isn’t part of my workday life with Robertson/Sherwood/Architects, but it has become an inextricable part of my professional identity. Thanks to CSI’s Marketing and Membership manager, Kaitlin Solomon, for inviting me to participate on the Bloggers Panel.
The CSI bloggers panel (from left to right): Kaitlin Solomon (moderator), VIvian Volz, Charles Hendricks, J. Peter Jordan, and me.
I’m more optimistic than I have been for a while about CSI’s future prospects, and I have my attendance at CONSTRUCT to thank for that. I clearly sensed that CSI’s new generation of leaders is attuned to how the AEC world is becoming ever more knowledge-focused and recognize the opportunity this trend presents for the institute. They know CSI is well-positioned to capitalize upon the accelerating proliferation of construction data, technology, and communication among all of the participants in the project delivery process.
It had been far too many years since I previously attended CONSTRUCT, so I’m glad I made it to St. Louis. I may not be able to go to CONSTRUCT every year, but I certainly won’t wait so long before going again. Next year’s edition moves to Austin, TX, September 8-11, 2016. If you haven’t been to CONSTRUCT yet, mark your calendar and plan on traveling to the Lone Star State for four days of education, networking, technical tours, and special events. Go. You’ll learn more than you ever thought you could in such a short period of time, and you’ll have fun doing it!