Sunday, July 30, 2017

Being Part of the Solution

Let's Fix Construction workshop in Eugene, July 28, 2017. Eric Lussier (standing, red shirt) and Cherise Lakeside (standing to Eric's left) preside over the meeting.

This past Friday’s Let’s Fix Construction interactive workshop (conducted at PIVOT Architecture’s office in Eugene) was an unqualified success. Kudos to Cherise Lakeside, CSI, CDT, and Eric Lussier, CSI for facilitating an energetic discussion intent on identifying solutions to what have too often been intractable AEC problems. The workshop was true to the Let’s Fix Construction mission, which is to better the industry by sharing knowledge through open, positive communication and collaboration.

Twenty-two attentive and engaged participants—a good mixture of design professionals, contractors, and product reps—contributed to the lively and thought-provoking discourse.(1)  Cherise and Eric split the group into five teams, and assigned each a challenging question:
  1. Is there an alternative project delivery model that would better address the challenges and realities of today’s design and construction industry?
  2. Clients often ask for impossible schedules. What can be done to address the issue of severely compressed project timelines?
  3. What can be changed to achieve truly meaningful (and cost-effective) sustainability goals?
  4. Are LEED and other rating systems really effective, or do they incongruously reward, as in the case of the new Apple headquarters, Gold or Platinum ratings to projects that are actually examples of what we shouldn’t do? Are we and our clients blinded by the pursuit of LEED points?
  5. Baby boomers are retiring in unprecedented numbers. The AEC industry is woefully short of Gen X’ers and Millennials to fill their shoes. What out-of-the-box steps can we take to promote young professional development at a much faster pace? 
While each question prompted specific responses, a thread common to all was a belief in the value of collaboration early in any project, at the highest levels possible. Additionally, everyone agreed the intricacies and pitfalls associated with every construction project demand a fundamental understanding of the processes involved and the importance of construction contract document literacy. 

The breakout group comprised of Randy Evans of KPFF, Shyla Keays-Goodman of PAE, Christopher Deel of Studio-E Architecture, and Marina Wrensch of Cameron McCarthy ponder the question posed to them prior to sharing their thoughts with everyone.

Cherise and Eric masterfully shepherded our diverse group, eliciting some truly insightful exchanges. The principal takeaway is we can all be part of the solution, as opposed to being part of the problem. Adopting the right perspective and applying it to the work we do is a prerequisite to “fixing construction.”

Alas, the workshop’s two short hours went by all too quickly. No matter, the exercise fruitfully planted a seed in our minds. If we didn’t before, we all now understand the exponential power of collaborative problem-solving as a means to ensure the best possible outcome for any construction project. 

Me presenting Group 2's "solutions" to the problem of unreasonably compressed project schedules, as Jan Filinger (foreground) of Studio-E Architecture takes notes. 

Thank you Cherise and Eric! Your passion and personal investment in the Let’s Fix Construction project is not going unnoticed. Thanks too to Scott Huff of Versico Roofing Systems for sponsoring the workshop, and to PIVOT Architecture for accommodating our group! 

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As Cherise mentioned, because the organization’s membership represents the entire spectrum of the building industry, the Construction Specifications Institute is uniquely positioned to tackle its challenges. If you’re not yet a member, join today and become part of a dynamic association in need of individuals like you who care about the future of construction. For membership info, click the link below:

Membership in CSI comes with a variety of benefits. First and foremost though, being a member means you’ve invested in your career and are committed to becoming a better-informed, highly valued construction industry professional.

(1)   Unfortunately, no one was on hand to represent a key player in every construction project: the owner.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

AIA-SWO & CSI-WVC Summer Picnic 2017

It’s summer in Eugene, and the weather this season has been especially pleasant. The sunny weather beckons us outdoors for a myriad of warm-weather activities. Not surprisingly, gluing my rear end to the chair in front of our computer to write a blog post hasn’t been high on my list of seasonal priorities. This is especially true this year as commitments at work have also demanded my time and attention.
Fortunately, this brief entry is all about helping make the most of your summer. Mark your calendars: the annual AIA-Southwestern Oregon & Willamette Valley Chapter CSI picnic will take place on Wednesday, August 2 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Celebrate summer in the city with your design and construction industry colleagues at the Park Blocks in downtown Eugene. See what the growing buzz about downtown is all about. There will be food, drink, music, games, and best of all good company! There is no charge to attend the event itself. On-site vendors will provide a selection of food and drinks for purchase. 
Bring your family and friends. If you don’t have a family, bring somebody else’s family. Share the RSVP link with your friends and colleagues. The more the merrier! 
What: 2017 AIA-Southwestern Oregon & Willamette Valley Chapter CSI picnic; music by Caitlin Jemma and The Goodness. 
When:  Wednesday, August 2 – 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM 
Where: West Park Block, downtown Eugene 
Cost: Free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Agrarian Ales, Wildcraft Cider Works, and food trucks yet to be determined.
Sponsor: KPFF Consulting Engineers

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Dilemma Approaching Crisis-Level

Two of the Conestoga huts at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp in southeast Eugene (my photo).
Another busy weekend, so this contribution to my blog will have to be short and sweet. And sweet it is to see evidence of a growing appreciation for the problem posed to the Eugene/Springfield community by the shortage of affordable housing, particularly for those whose lack of resources is most acute. Citizen support for a variety of solutions has been encouraging, albeit prompted by a dilemma approaching crisis-level. The following are modest steps toward addressing a vexing and complex challenge, one that cities everywhere are confronting: 
Nightingale Conestoga Camp
My wife and I attended yesterday’s open house event at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp, located just down the street from our home in southeast Eugene. The Nightingale Health Sanctuary has successfully operated a City-authorized rest stop program for over two-and-a-half years. They moved to the location at 3500 Hilyard Street in the Good Samaritan parking lot earlier this year. NHS, Community Supported Shelters, and the Vulnerable Populations Working Group have been working to secure safe, emergency shelter for our most vulnerable populations in response to the homelessness crisis. While not a permanent solution, the Nightingale Conestoga Camp provides safe shelter for those in need during a period of transition in their lives. 
Springfield ADUs
Here’s a link to a Eugene Weekly blog post by Camilla Mortensen. She writes about the City of Springfield’s enlightened decision to waive some systems development charges for accessory dwelling units. SDCs are disproportionately burdensome for “tiny houses” and thus tend to discourage their creation even if the land use code is amenable. ADUs inserted within established neighborhoods take advantage of the infrastructure already at hand (as opposed to requiring the extension of roads and other utilities), so it only makes sense for cities to encourage such an efficient utilization of existing resources. 
Emerald Village
Finally, here’s a link to an article by Register-Guard reporter Derek Maiolo about Emerald Village, a tiny house community where people with very low incomes will have the security and benefit of a permanent home within a stable community. Now taking shape, Emerald Village is a project by SquareOne Villages, a non-profit dedicated to creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing. Additionally, Emerald Village is in no small part the product of the generosity and dedication of the participating design-build teams and contractor partners, many of whom are members of AIA-Southwestern Oregon. 
We may never entirely solve the housing affordability quandary, but I am encouraged to see momentum build toward real solutions on a number of fronts.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Guest Viewpoint: Sheldon Wolfe

Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CID, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC
Self-professed “curmudgeon” and “heretic architect,” Sheldon Wolfe is a construction specifier who works in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and a Construction Specifications Institute stalwart and cheerleader for many years. He’s also a prolific writer, having penned more than three-hundred construction-related articles. His TechNotes series discussed CSI technical documents, specifications, and coordination of construction documents; GUI Bytes explored how computers, email, and the Internet can be used to prepare construction documents; he wrote Mr. Wolfe Goes to Washington, about CSI Board activities, during his term as Institute Director. Since then, he’s been well-known to CSI members for his Curmudgeon’s Corner column. In addition, Sheldon maintains two blogs: Specific Thoughts, dedicated to day-to-day musings, and Constructive Thoughts, where he offers more in-depth posts. 
With Sheldon’s permission, I’m publishing here on SW Oregon Architect a recent contribution of his to the CSI-Connect online community forum. Always the zealous advocate, he pointedly and persuasively argues from his perspective why CSI’s certification programs are the surest path to proving a level of knowledge critical to being an effective and competent construction professional. As the chair of the Willamette Valley Chapter’s Certification Committee, I likewise want to see everyone I work with pursue their CDT credential, and beyond that CCCA, CCS, or CCPR certification as appropriate to their circumstances. 
Certification – It’s all about me
I want you to be certified. Becoming certified is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, but to be perfectly clear, I want you to do it for me. Of course, if I never work with you it probably won't affect me, but if you and I are going to work together, I'd like to have some confidence that you know what you're doing. 
What is it that makes certification important? Nearly everyone can, through working with others, through trial and error, and through the School of Hard Knocks, learn about their jobs. But wouldn't it be smarter and faster to acquire that knowledge through study and certification? Although experience may be the best teacher, that teacher doesn't always get it right. Experience might teach you that some things work, but those things might not comply with applicable codes and standards, and might even be illegal. 
Knowledge you may have gained through only experience cannot be verified unless we work together and you have the opportunity to demonstrate what you know. Certification, on the other hand, comes only after proving that you know your stuff. It's true that certification does not guarantee that a person knows something, but it provides a level of confidence that will make it easier for someone else to accept your knowledge and that will shorten the time it takes to build an important relationship. 
If you are certified in your field, I immediately know two things. I know that you care enough about what you do to demonstrate your knowledge. And, by passing the examinations, I know that you have studied and understand those things that are required for your certification. 
Regardless of what product or service you offer in the construction industry, though, you can and should take part in CSI's certification program. To get the CDT, CSI's entry-level credential, you must have a good understanding of the AIA general conditions of the contract, of the relationships between contract documents, and of how the entities involved in construction should interact. I consider this knowledge to be essential, and when meeting new product representatives, the first thing I do is look for CDT on their business cards. If it's there, they have immediate credibility. If it's not there, I explain what it is and why it will be important for them when dealing with other specifiers. 
CSI's advanced certifications show a greater commitment to providing superior service. The CCS, CCPR, and CCCA show that a person knows even more about construction documents and about the roles and responsibilities of manufacturer, supplier, and other members of the construction team. It's important to note that the CCS is not limited to specifiers and should be considered by those who write specifications, such as hardware representatives, for their companies.
I want you to enjoy the benefits of certification, but I also want you to be as good as you can be when we work together. Specifiers have a simple job: know everything. Unfortunately, I can't know everything about the countless products and processes involved in construction, nor can any specifier. So please, give us a hand—learn as much as you can and prove your knowledge through certification!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Our Changing Downtown: What’s Going to Happen?

The West Park Block on a recent sunny afternoon (my photo)

In addition to the proclamation of 2017-2018 as Paul Edlund Year and the presentation of the annual chapter awards, last month’s meeting of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute featured a presentation on the City of Eugene’s efforts to make its downtown safer, cleaner, and more welcoming to all.

City Planner Will Dowdy and Facilities Director Jeff Perry began by enumerating the reasons why downtown is important. Too many people, they said, do not understand why a vibrant downtown should be an imperative and fail to recognize its importance to the overall vitality of the community. The bottom line is downtown Eugene is the civic heart of the region: the city’s economic engine, cultural center, and living room. In the reality of today’s economy, a vital downtown is critical to attracting the talent and capital that in turn bring well-paying jobs, economic prosperity, and the positive feedback that accelerates further investment.

Will and Jeff described how the City of Eugene commissioned New York-based Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit planning, design, and educational organization renowned for its work around the globe helping communities bring about catalytic changes through the creation and implementation of specific placemaking strategies. PPS founder and president Fred Kent brought to the task the detached perspective of an outsider, immediately recognizing how Eugene should seize upon a “wonderfully transformative time” by boldly implementing a suite of short-term interventions with the goal of spurring long-term changes.

PPS canvassed citizens regarding what they perceived to be downtown’s strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side of the ledger, they saw downtown as ripe with potential, a “great destination,” very walkable, and attractive to creative and engaging people. On the flip side, the seeming lack of public safety, and the absence of opportunities for family and child-friendly activities were noted as shortcomings. Prompted by the feedback it gathered, PPS generated a series of recommendations for effecting immediate improvements intended to transform the public’s perception of downtown.

The proposed improvements are of the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” variety often espoused by PPS as highly effective means to inject life and energy into a community’s public space. The core principle is that simple, short-term, and low-cost solutions can have remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities. The most successful of these interventions have resulted in lasting and profound changes that bring life and amenities to previously lifeless and forlorn public spaces, foster civic pride, and generate enthusiasm for further investment (both public and private).

PPS focused upon four of downtown’s key public spaces:

They envision the Park Blocks, in conjunction with the new City Hall, an expanded Farmers Market, and the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, reemerging as the “Heart of Eugene” in the manner of its historical incarnation as the city’s public green. The West Park Block would become the civic plaza, providing a daily home for food & beverage vendors and games, while the East Park Block would offer activities for families with children and a versatile performance space.

Will and Jeff described the city’s plan to build a new dining deck (quickly and inexpensively) at the south edge of the West Park Block. The goal is to have the deck in place within the next month. Their hope is it will serve as a measure of what the Park Blocks might become, perhaps presaging more substantial and permanent improvements as public support builds and funds become available.

The City of Eugene's proposed dining deck, to be installed this summer at the south end of the West Park Block.

PPS imagines Broadway Plaza (Kesey Square), as the center of the shopping and entertainment district—the commercial focal point of the downtown. It would include an outdoor cafĂ© to activate the space from morning until night.

The City’s initial proposed intervention is a cable-suspended fabric awning that would cover the space, providing shelter from the hot summer sun and rain during inclement months. I’m enthusiastic about how positive an impact upon the life of Kesey Square the awning might prove to be, perhaps more so than for the proposed dining deck at the Park Blocks. I simply believe this similarly inexpensive action will have an outsized impact upon the character of the space for the better. With luck, the awning may prove to be an act of “tactical urbanism” at its finest, albeit perhaps a fleeting one. Like the dining deck, the City hopes to have the awning in place later this summer.

The proposed cable-suspended fabric awning over Kesey Square.

PPS pictures the Library Plaza as consisting of all four corners at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Olive Street. Visible, positive activity would welcome people to Eugene, creating the sense of a “gateway to the downtown.”

The role PPS sees for the Hult Plaza would be to continue its role as the outdoor presence of Eugene’s premier cultural magnet; however, the propose rebuilding it to be more visible and flexible, so that uses will expand to include convention-related activities.

Already established, ongoing projects the City has implemented include pressure-washing of the sidewalks and maintenance (using eco-friendly means) of the hanging flower baskets that adorn lamp posts throughout downtown. The City provides an attended, mobile restroom by the Park Blocks, and friendly park ambassadors who oversees maintenance and programming of the activities there.

The key to the success of all the proposed projects is to attract a critical mass of people downtown through programming and activation. PPS has found that programming and activation of public spaces, whether through special events or everyday activities, can go a long way toward attracting a broader population downtown, improving safety, and supporting local businesses.

The corollary to programming and activation is the need for robust management. The most successful parks and public spaces in the country are remarkable not only in terms of sheer popularity, but also because they have developed successful organizational structures that are able to bring together a vast array of stakeholders under one umbrella. Will and Jeff say the City of Eugene acknowledges the need to work with partner organizations (such as the County, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Eugene, Inc., and the Downtown Eugene Merchants) to establish the necessary management structure to ensure the success of their efforts.

I’m cautiously optimistic the various projects will build momentum toward lasting changes that will finally help us achieve the downtown we’ve always wanted. The remedies need to be holistic. For example, we can’t simply view what ails downtown solely through the lens of law enforcement; the issues are much, much broader in scope. Approaching the problems from a wide-ranging perspective that encompasses place-making, business development, the role of public agencies, the issue of homelessness, and crime deterrence is necessary if we’re to be successful.

Thanks to Will and Jeff for a timely update on what we can look forward to soon in downtown Eugene!

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As I mentioned above, the June chapter meeting featured the announcement of the annual CSI-WVC awards. Congratulations and thanks to award recipients David Jones, Marina Wrensch, Kate Miller, Rhonda Tiger, and Linn West for their outstanding service. The June meeting also marked the changing of the guard as outgoing president Jim Chaney handed over the ceremonial gavel to Tom Jordan and the reins of the chapter to Tom’s incoming board of directors. Let Tom know if you’re interested in volunteering for a chapter committee. I have no doubt great things are in store for the next chapter year!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Paul Edlund Year

Me with CSI legend Paul Edlund, FCSI a few years ago at the 2014 CSI West & Northwest Regions conference in Portland

A definite highlight of the annual meeting of the CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter held last Thursday was the presentation of a very special resolution and its passage by the members present. By passing the resolution, the members pronounced the twelve months of the 2017-2018 chapter calendar as “Paul Edlund Year” in honor of its most decorated member on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

Paul was a charter member for the chapter at the time of its establishment in 1965. Since that time, he served tirelessly as the chapter’s sage, heart, and soul. There is no doubt he influenced, taught, mentored, and befriended more WVC members than any other single person in the chapter’s long history. In addition to his immeasurable contributions at the chapter level, Paul has also played a significant role in helping CSI flourish at the region and national levels, serving on various institute technical committees, the national board, and more.

Paul couldn’t attend our meeting but I’m sure he is at once deeply flattered by the chapter’s gesture and grateful for the opportunities CSI presented him throughout his rewarding career. Thanks Paul for all that you’ve done for the Institute and, on a more personal note, for being a wonderful mentor to me for so many years!

Here’s the full text of the resolution:


WHEREAS, Paul Edlund was instrumental in the organization and chartering of the Willamette Valley chapter in October, 1965; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund went on to lead the chapter in 1967, to serve on Institute committees for over 20 years commencing in 1969, and has continued to serve, inspire, and mentor the chapter for well over 50 ensuing years; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund was the first member of the Willamette Valley chapter to be elevated to Fellowship in the Institute, the first to be named a Certified Construction Specifier, and has performed exemplary service in high positions such as Region director and Institute vice-president; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund has brought recognition to the chapter and himself through uncountable awards, including the highest awards given by the chapter, the Northwest Region, and the Institute, including being one of only 13 individuals in the history of the Institute to be named a Distinguished Member; and

WHEREAS, Paul Edlund has made unparalleled contributions to the continuous improvement and development of design and execution in the construction industry, exhibiting at all times the highest levels of professionalism, humilty, integrity, intelligence, and good humor;

NOW THEREFORE, on the occasion of Paul Edlund's 90th birthday, and on the occasion of the 51st annual meeting of the Willamette Valley chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute;

BE IT RESOLVED that, in honor of PAUL EDLUND, FCSI, CCS, Distinguished Member, the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute hereby resolves and declares that the 2017-18 chapter year is designated PAUL EDLUND YEAR, in grateful appreciation for Paul Edlund's many and notable achievements and unparalleled contributions to the success of the chapter and the design and construction industry at large.

By resolution of the Willamette Valley Chapter, at its meeting held this 29th day of June, 2017 by acclamation of the members attending.