The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

26 September 2016

Get your hands dirty!


Among the things specifiers grumble most about are the typical architect's lack of knowledge about how things work and how they go together, and the belief that "If I can draw it someone can build it!"

Some architecture schools do include courses about the practical aspects of architecture, but those courses are often optional, so most architects graduate with a lot of knowledge about visual design, planning, and presentation, but little understanding of materials or construction.

It's fine to have a presentation about masonry, but so much more could be learned from participants getting their hands dirty. It's easy to draw a 4 x 4 x 8 brick, but what does it feel like?

29 August 2016

How did we get here? The transition to maintenance activities

So far in this series, we first looked at the good old days, when CSI membership rose continually, sometimes at an amazing rate. During the growth period, we saw that membership in CSI offered tangible benefits. CSI was an organization that helped those involved in construction to understand how construction documents are related, how to prepare them, and how to interpret them. Much of that information was developed by CSI members, so there were countless opportunities for members to take an active part in the future of specifications. Face meetings were important because the only other options for communication were written letters, which made real-time discussion impossible, and telephone calls, which were quite expensive.

We then looked at the effect of the economy on membership. Frequently the bogeyman for many things that ailed CSI, I think it is obvious that only rarely was there a correlation between the economy and CSI membership. In some cases, membership grew dramatically during and after recessions. More significantly, upturns in the economy did not result in a return of lost members.

25 July 2016

Time for some fun!


Each summer, boards of directors make plans for the next year, education and certification committees begin preparing study courses, newsletter editors start bugging chapter presidents for articles, and planning committees search for good technical programs and tours. All of these are serious, necessary things that must be done to provide the services members expect.

But as they say, all work and no play can make things dull and boring. Chapters, usually through region conferences, show other chapters what their committees are doing and discuss best practices. I wonder, how often do we show each other what we do to have fun? In the next couple of articles, I'm going to recount stories from North Central Region conferences; I invite you to respond with your own tales of mirth and merriment.

20 June 2016

How did we get here? Effects of the economy on membership, MythBusters edition

Among the things that have been blamed for declining membership is the economy. By the time I was elected to the Institute board, membership had already fallen about fifteen percent from its peak in the late '90s, and it continued to decline. As we'll see in a moment, my term of service on the board happened to coincide roughly with the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Membership did decline during that recession, though not as much as you might think. It's more significant that in the years leading up to that recession, the economy was good, yet membership was declining.

When I was on the board, and many times since, I have heard members attribute the loss of members to the economy. While I accept that as a possibility, it seems to me that if the economy does have an impact on membership, we should regain lost members when the economy improves. I didn't think that was happening, so I decided to do look at the numbers. Please note that I am not an economic or financial analyst of any sort, but what I found does seem reasonable. And what did I find? That the economy has had little impact on CSI membership.

23 May 2016

How did we get here? The good old days


A couple of years ago I wrote two articles about how the number of CSI members and CSI chapters How did we get here? Membership, which showed how total membership changed over the years, and How did we get here? Chapters, which looked at the change in the number of chapters during the same time.

One of the things that has plagued CSI for some time is a lack of a tangible something of value.
For a very long time, CSI offered useful things of real value. The first part of our membership curve suggests CSI must have had something that brought in new members and led to the creation of new chapters. Let's see if we can discover what that something was.

02 May 2016

Bylaws again?

I suspect most members have not read their chapter, region, or Institute bylaws. Until I became a chapter president in 2001, I gave them little attention myself; I figured they were someone else's problem. The general reluctance even to look at bylaws is not surprising; often written in the legalese we all love to hate, their very appearance can be intimidating, and it seems the only time we look at them is when we're in trouble.

Why revise them again? Because we are in trouble.

12 April 2016

Please - say "Thank you!"

Among the first things parents drum into their children's heads are the words please and thank you. Parents do such a good job that these words become automatic, and, to a great extent, they become white noise. If they are used automatically, without conscious thought, what good are they? Do they mean anything? Why do we insist children use them, even if they don't mean what they say?

29 February 2016

The cost of custom

custom car imageMany products offer not only a selection of standard finishes at a standard price, but offer more options at additional cost. Some will offer those options in price groups, such as Standard, Group 1, and Group 2, where each group is more expensive than the last. Finally, some manufacturers offer to match any color.

Unfortunately, the requirements for getting a custom color often are vague, and a minimum quantity may be required or other limitations may apply.

The result? I may tell a project architect that a custom color will cost more, but because I often don’t know how much, the response usually is, “It doesn’t matter; we want custom.”