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!

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