What is CSI in 2016 to You?


On February 12, 2009, I joined the ranks at CSI and my then home Chapter of Allentown, Pennsylvania (now named Greater Lehigh Valley).  I had been invited to attend my first meeting in Pittsburgh the previous month by a spec writer for a prominent school design firm after I had been introduced to CSI by a design library coordinator at a firm in Pittsburgh. Having been involved in construction off and on since 1998, I hadn’t been directly introduced to CSI until this gentlemen informed me that in his opinion the acronym CSI on my business card would pull more weight with him had he seen it on my card.  A bit of research and a Chapter meeting later, I joined and got involved.

I have recollected many times over the years since I joined CSI that had I not sat down and struck up a conversation with the gent next to me in Allentown, who happened to be the Chapter President, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today in CSI.  For me at the time, having met a Board Member was a very important thing and the fact that he chose to talk to me meant that as a member, I was important in his eyes.  A very intelligent man, and one of my CDT instructors, Mitch Miller, has said that ‘membership retention starts on day one’ and I couldn’t agree more.  However, in order to retain a member, a member has to be involved with the Chapter and attend a meeting.  In order to attend a meeting, a meeting of value to the member needs to be booked and promoted.

That brings me all back around to the ‘moral’ of this post.  What makes an in person meeting of value to you, whether CSI or otherwise?  Are you in it for the credits? The networking? The camaraderie? The education?  For many years, education was a focal point of a CSI meeting.  CSI meetings have traditionally offered top notch education, but no longer can education be relied on as the core value.  In person presentations that offer HSW credits are a dime a dozen if you work in a design firm of note.  Credits can also be easily attained via the web, so there is no shortage of delivered credits.

So, let me ask you, what gets YOU to a CSI Chapter meeting?  Or is a Chapter meeting even relevant as part of your membership? As we evaluate our Vermont Chapter programming for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017, I would like to hear from you, our membership.

Being a relatively “new” Vermont Chapter member who has yet to meet many of you, I am curious. Are CSI programs and meetings relevant to you and your needs? Whether here in Vermont or otherwise, I would like to hear from you! Please reach out by email at elussier@precisionathleticsurfaces.com or feel free to call me at 802-922-8407 and tell me what 2016 means to you.

Meanwhile, here in Vermont we plan on meeting as a Board, which as a CSI member you are ALWAYS welcome to attend, on the second Tuesday of every month in the downtown Burlington area.  Please contact me at the info above and I will let you know when our next meeting is.

With our new leadership at the Institute level, I’m excited for where CSI is going and I’m glad to have you on board.  Please let me know how we can serve you on a Chapter level.

Dear CSI: I Met Your Mark at CONSTRUCT 2015

For the past 5 years, I’ve taken a full immersive through CONSTRUCT, the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) annual conference and trade show. Chock-full of industry leading education by real world instructors, coupled with a product show of cutting edge exhibitors that include manufacturers, contractors and product representatives, you are bound to find me tucked away somewhere during CONSTRUCT. In 2011 it was Chicago, Phoenix in 2012, Nashville in 2013, 2014 found me in Baltimore and just this past week, September 30th to October 3rd, I was in St. Louis for the 1st time ever.

Each year I return back to the grind renewed. With fresh energy from the education, camaraderie and revelry that is CONSTRUCT, coupled with a wee bit of vacation, I find my own #MondayMotivation. I probably won’t be the first to admit that I found my sails a bit deflated after Baltimore in 2014 when just a few weeks after our Monday return, we heard that CSI’s Executive Director and CEO of 8 years, Walt Marlowe was stepping down. Coupled with a member database update from Hell that impacted communications and departure of other key CSI staff, including my friend Joy Davis, who was CSI’s Communications/Community/Web Director, it made late 2014 and the first 8 months of 2015 difficult for my normaly full passion for CSI.

Things started looking up when after an extensive search, CSI named a new Executive Director and CEO, Mark Dorsey, in mid-July. Taking the reins on September 1st, CONSTRUCT was going to be the grand unveiling, if you will, of some fresh blood within CSI. Mark’s background in associations is extremely strong, including being a Fellow in the American Society of Association Executives, but it was his non-construction background that most interested me: which includes the American Snowsports Education Association, which is home to the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

Initially, I had a fear that someone not fully vested in the construction industry couldn’t possibly understand the day-to-day activities of a typical CSI member, whether a specifier, architect, engineer, contractor, facility manager, product representative, manufacturer or owner. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized a NON-construction industry professional is EXACTLY what CSI needs. Someone not steeped in the 65+ year tradition that is CSI. Someone that can ask “Why is it done this way?” and “How come?” and tackle it from a new vantage point.

Then, I got to meet Mark Dorsey. Quickly. In passing on Tuesday night, before CONSTRUCT officially started. And then again on Wednesday night at the CSI Young Professional’s Mixer at Flamingo Bowl. I had the chance to hear him interact. To joke. To quip. To converse. It was truly impressive. Watching him talk to a young professional, then, a peer. Then, turn to co-workers of his and share his inside joke about working with them. And then I spoke to those that knew him more, some involved on the Institute board and some of those co-workers. I received more of an inside scoop as to Mark the person and professional.  Not only was it impressive, it was inspiring. It was uplifting. It was exactly what this six year veteran of CSI needed after a hard year within the organization. I recently continued saying Yes to CSI by agreeing to become CSI Vermont’s President-Elect, taking term July 1, 2016. I decided that if I was going to continue in my leadership role inside the Chapter and Organization that I had to be all in. The best way to be all in with CSI is to attend CONSTRUCT, and two weeks before St. Louis commenced, I was unsure if I was going to attend. Looking back, barely 1 day after I return home, St. Louis is exactly what I needed. A break from the normal day-to-day and a full on transfusion of the old blood of CSI with the new blood that I truly believe will be CSI with Mark Dorsey at the helm.

So, October 5th finds me refreshed and re-inspired in my role within the greatest construction organization in the industry. St. Louis rekindled my passion for an organization that I fell in love with years ago. I reconnected with friends and colleagues that I get to see in person only yearly, but converse with plenty thanks to social media. We all share our own love for this organization in our own way and I truly hope that Mark Dorsey becomes our new pied piper that I believe he can be.

Now, the biggest question I’m left with after CONSTRUCT: who does Mark look like more?

Dorsey (2)     OR     Dorsey (1)

Be sure to put CONSTRUCT 2016 on your schedule now.  September 8-11 in Austin, TX. Stay tuned to  www.CONSTRUCTshow.com for details.

Experiencing #CONSTRUCT

Fy14 award

Four years after attending my first CONSTRUCT, the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) annual meeting, education sessions and affiliated tradeshow and it is hard to put my finger on any one thing that makes it click.  It is EVERYTHING that makes it click.

After spending 2011 in Chicago, 2012 in Phoenix, 2013 in Nashville and this past September 9-12, 2014 in Baltimore, it is hard to describe in words just what makes CONSTRUCT so unique and special.  The education, the tradeshow, the host city and the people all make it a can’t miss event.

First: the education.  Where else can you learn from industry leaders that are also your peers?  A juried selection committee whittles down hundreds of applicants to the 60 or so classes that make up the CONSTRUCT education segment.  This year featured 90 minute sessions, as well as 60 minute sessions and the brand new ‘boxed lunch sessions’, which were all well attended and led by instructors that are specialists in their field.  Professionals who have been there, done that and know how to back up their talk.  You can challenge them, you can learn from them, you can question them, but in the end, you can walk away knowing that the knowledge and information you are being delivered is top of the line and meet the four C’s of CSI: clear, concise, correct and complete. You can read more on the education at CONSTRUCT in one of my previous blog posts here,

Second: the tradeshow.  The CONSTRUCT tradeshow is the only exhibit hall in the industry that meets the needs of all of the project players involved in CSI.   Whether a specifier, architect, engineer, contractor, facility manager, product representative, manufacturer or owner you will be able to gather leading construction industry knowledge on building products and services from the hundreds of exhibitors on hand.   The exhibit hall also featured show floor discussions and a learning pavilion which was a designated area on the show floor that offered free education to participants.

Third: the host city.  I have slowly been using CONSTRUCT as my opportunity to see parts of the Nation I have never visited.  Before I attended in 2011, 2012 or 2013 I had never seen Chicago, Phoenix or Nashville respectively.  All three ended up being an amazing experience in cities that I can’t wait to visit again.  While before CONSTRUCT in 2014 I had previously visited Baltimore, it had only been for brief visits to see the Orioles host the Yankees at Camden Yards.  This year allowed me to spend more than 5 hours in a great city that I truly under-appreciated.  Arriving on Sunday afternoon and departing on Saturday morning allowed almost a full week to not only enjoy a great conference but also a fantastic city.  I finally had the chance to make it to the Inner Harbor and enjoy the sights around it, and also be ON it.  The Baltimore Chapter of CSI hosted a dinner cruise on the Inner Harbor on Wednesday and with the 200th anniversary of the writing of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ being celebrated complete with the ‘Tall Ships’ in town, being on the water was truly the place to be.

While the food was great all week long in Baltimore, it’s not all just seafood.  In addition to crab cakes and fish tacos, I had the opportunity to have an amazing burger at Alewife, great food and drink at Pratt Street Ale House, Italian food that I still rave about at Amiccis and French Fries that I dream about at Joe Squared in Power Plant Live.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly to me, are the people.  Since joining CSI in February 2009, I have had the incredible opportunity to meet dozens of amazing people that I am fortunate enough to call friends and associates.  Whether having met them locally at my Chapter, at a previous CONSTRUCT, on social media or working for the Institute directly, the fine folk that I’m able to reconnect with during CONSTRUCT are worth my price of attendance alone.   For if you read my last blog post, you understand that the people involved in CSI are what make the Institute click.  You are not just a membership number, a random attendee or a stranger when attending CONSTRUCT.  Within CSI, you are among industry peers and never among strangers.

One of the highlights of CONSTRUCT for me was on Wednesday as I was fortunate enough to host and moderate a bloggers panel that consisted of industry friends who share their knowledge publically for all to read.  I sat with Sheldon Wolfe who blogs at Constructive Thoughts, Marvin Kemp, who blogs at The Accidental Leader, David Stutzman, who blogs at SpecWords, Lori Greene who blogs at I Dig Hardware and our blogger newbie Cherise Schacter, who decided to ‘Jump’ in the game and gets ‘Into the Groove’ on her blog The Voices in My Head.  It was an absolute privilege to sit with friends who I look up to for their writing abilities and to get to pick their brains for the attendees and myself to hear.  Ginny Powell of Hager Companies posted a great review (on the Hager blog of course!) of the panel here.

The other highlight for me took part during the CSI annual meeting and member forum when I was recognized with a national award for ‘my continued devotion to CSI and the Allentown Chapter through my blogs, excitement-driven tweets, and extraordinary communication effort.’  Here I am receiving my award alongside fellow Allentown member and good friend, Jon Lattin of Corrosion Technology Systems who was also recognized for his Allentown Chapter work with Marvin Kemp (left – Awards Committee Chair) and Casey Robb (Right – Fiscal Year 2014 CSI President)


One of the last matters of business at the CSI annual meeting and member forum is the passing of the panic whistle.  This is when the current host city ‘passes the torch’ onto the host Chapter of the next conference.   CONSTRUCT 2015 will be hosted in St. Louis from September 30 to October 3 next year and I was certainly not the only person to utter the phrase ‘Meet me in St. Louie’!  CONSTRUCT is not just one thing, it is EVERY thing.  The days are already marked on my calendar and if you want to attend the leading AEC industry conference and meet some memorable people along the way, I suggest you add the dates to yours.


#CONSTRUCT: Thousands of People Strong

construct 2014

National events, tradeshows and organizations are filled with attendees, members, associates and numbers.  Names and faces can be lost in the crowd.  People come, people go.  They attend one year, perhaps skip the next.

How many functions are a must attend for you?  Perhaps your annual family reunion? Greenbuild? That friend’s party that comes along every Summer? Inbound?  I can name just one for me: CONSTRUCT. The Construction Specifications Institute’s annual meeting and tradeshow, which is being held this year in Baltimore from September 9-12. www.CONSTRUCTshow.com

Since attending my first CONSTRUCT in Philadelphia in 2010, I’ve blocked out one week per September to ensure that I will make it to my must attend event.  While the show itself moves from city to city each year (2011 in Chicago, 2012 was in Phoenix, 2013 was Music City – Nashville and 2015 is slated for St. Louis),  the people themselves remain constant.

Coming from all walks of life in the construction industry – including specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others – most attendees of CONSTRUCT are attracted for the education (which can be acquired both in a classroom setting and the tradeshow floor), while chances are the rest are there for the people.   An AEC family reunion of sorts, friends from across the United States and our ‘neighbours’ to the North, come together for the camaraderie that is CSI.  No matter the walk of life, all members of CSI hold an equal seat at the table.  This is evident from watching people interact at CONSTRUCT.  Architects sharing hugs with product representatives, handshakes exchanged by engineers and specifiers, cordial smiles between manufacturers and owners.  Your background and profession really doesn’t matter within CSI and at CONSTRUCT.

I’ve been fortunate enough to witness this firsthand now 4 years over.  While the admission for CONSTRUCT is worth every cent for the education and events alone, the real value is in the relationships and the people you meet and connect with.  Whether you share a cab, a class, a lunch table or a dinner, it is easy to meet a stranger that has the immediate potential of becoming a lifelong friend.  CSI has done wonders for my career over the last five and a half years, while introducing me to some of the friendliest, personable and most intelligent friends I know.

What is the value of a great friendship to you? If you think the terms invaluable and priceless like I do, then the annual $240 National membership fee of the Construction Specifications Institute is quite a bargain.  You can join CSI here and the more you get involved at either the local Chapter, Region or National level, the further CSI can take you and the more incredible people you can meet.

What consistently makes CONSTRUCT my must attend event of the year is the people I’ll see.  While we may only see each other once every year, we stay in touch however we can.   Through phone calls, emails and social media we ‘talk’.  Sharing information, ideas, learned lessons and more.   These are people I know, trust and will go to bat for any day of the week.  They are my inner circle and in one months time, I get to physically see them again.

You still have plenty of time to plan and attend CONSTRUCT.  Trust me that it will be a week in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore that you won’t soon forget, due to the people that you will meet alone.  Visit CONSTRUCT online to find out more and if you are active on Twitter, be sure to follow along using #CONSTRUCT now, during the week of September 9th and beyond.


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My New Personal Mission Statement


There is so much ridiculous truth in this, it’s not funny.

Life’s too short. Live it hard. Drink good beer. Treat people well.

I can’t take credit for it. I didn’t say it, I didn’t develop it, I just read it.  A serious hat tip goes out to Jason Farrell of Vergennes, Vermont on that one.  I try to live this mantra. Every. Single. Day.

12 words. 52 letters.  It can’t be said any better in my book.

Applicable Education at #CONSTRUCT


Continuing education can be hit or miss at times, whatever your profession may be. Whether the courses themselves may be required or voluntary, paid for or freely delivered, viewed on-demand or in person, you tend to get out of it either what you want to or what a good instructor wants you to.

As a construction product representative, I have been on both sides of the spectrum. As an active member of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), I have sat through dozens of educational programs and webinars, ranging from right up my alley to the far opposite end. I have also delivered dozens of educational programs based on my specialty: indoor sports flooring. I’v’e sat through the dry, boring presentations from instructors that are just going through the motions and I’ve sat through captivating, thought provoking programs from thought leaders. Unfortunately, you don’t always get to choose your topic and you don’t always get to choose your presenter.

In the construction industry, there is only one true source for continuing education that meets the needs of all of the players on a project team. Construction specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and more attend CONSTRUCT, the Construction Specification’s Institute National Meeting and trade show to learn from industry leaders and authorities in their respective field.  Only in CSI do all of these trades have an equal seat at the table. 

“Attendees to CONSTRUCT are professionals in the institutional, industrial and commercial building fields that design, build, specify, engineer, renovate and operate in the built environment.” The “attendees source and spec building products. They design and specify for the education, healthcare, government, office and commercial building industry segments.”

Education is first and foremost at CONSTRUCT and “is carefully thought, crafted and put together by industry leaders for industry professionals just like you.” Culled from submissions throughout the AEC industry, you can rest assured that the education you receive will encompass the four C’s of CSI: concise, clear, complete and correct while coupled with the unofficial fifth C of CSI: well communicated.   While all classes at CONSTRUCT offer AIA/CES learning units in the conference program, the credits are not the only reason why classes are so well attended and received.  Past attendees of CONSTRUCT know well that the programs are delivered by well-versed peers that you would want to work with and learn from, if given the choice.

Topics at CONSTRUCT 2014 run the gamut, from professional etiquette and marketing, to working with collaborative teams and mentoring.  From those few subjects alone, it should be clear that the presentations are not all about building design.  Personal, professional development is a major component of CSI and the Institute does an incredible job at making sure their members are not just well educated about building design and components, but also well-rounded in other important, relative traits that we all need in our life.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to attend the last three CONSTRUCT conferences in Chicago (2011), Phoenix (2012) and Nashville (2013).  I can attest first hand that not only have I been pleased with every class I’ve attended and sat through, but what has been more important and vital to me is the people I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from.  Whether I had spoken (or tweeted) with them before or if I ended up sitting and speaking with a complete stranger, there is a mutual feeling of respect and camaraderie felt among the attendees.

In professional education and development you can’t always handpick your courses or your instructor, but you do you have the chance to pick from the cream of the crop when you attend CONSTRUCT.  Registration is opening soon and the conference is almost 100 days away.  I hope you learn from some of the best instructors in the AEC industry and attend CONSTRUCT in Baltimore from September 9th – 12th.  Be sure to visit www.CONSTRUCTshow.com for plenty of information, including education sessions, exhibitors and more. 

If you are not already a member in CSI and are interested in joining, you have an opportunity to save 20% on your National membership if you act soon.  From now until May 31st, pay only $192 for national dues — a 20% savings.
1. Log onto www.csinet.org/join
2. Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
3. Enter Promotion Code CSIsocial14 when prompted
4. Click the “Add Discount” button
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The Fifth C of CSI

CSI Project Team

If you are familiar with the Construction Specifications Institute or architectural specifications in general, you may recognize the Four Cs.  According to the CSI Construction Product Representative Practice Guide, there are Four Cs for effective communication of construction specifications:

Clear: Use proper grammar and simple sentence construction to avoid ambiguity.
Concise: Eliminate unnecessary words, but not at the expense of clarity, correctness, or completeness.
Correct: Present information accurately and precisely. Carefully select words that convey exact meanings.
Complete: Do not leave out important information.

Proper architectural specifications are formatted as per CSI”s SectionFormat and PageFormat and are essentially written for a bidding contractor’s estimator so that a facility can be built as per the designer and owner’s vision and intent.  Simply put, “everything that can’t be communicated by a drawing goes into the specs” says Denver, Colorado-based independent architectural specifier, Liz O’Sullivan.

Architectural specifications may be generated or assembled in numerous ways, such as a design firm’s dedicated specifier, an independent specifier, MasterSpec, Speclink, input from a construction product representative, manufacturer or something of the like.

No specifier or method of construction specification is an isolated island, as the procedure itself is a thoroughly researched method of compiling processes, methods, systems, equipment and materials that is being more accurately refined as our technology, knowledge and relationships assist us.  Ask any construction specifier where he collects his product information besides Google (or on the internet in general) and his architectural library, and he or she should will most likely give you a growing CSI industry buzzword: my trusted advisors.

Whether for MEP, door hardware, building envelope, rainwater collection, concrete design, indoor sports flooring, or any of the thousands of sections of MasterFormat 2014, most construction specifiers have their Outlook address book and speed dial list full of their trusted advisors. Those go-to acquaintances, those ‘golden reps’ that now act as more than just consultants, but essentially act as minutae building designers for their individual specialty.  As thoroughly informed as a construction specifier needs to be, it is impossible for them to know the ins, the outs, the finer points, standards, and details for the tens of thousands of products and systems that go into a building.  This doesn’t even mention keeping abreast of the ever changing building product industry with new models, designs and technologies being added almost daily.

This all comes down to the Fifth C: COLLABORATION.  CSI has long touted that proper building design is more than just the designer. It is more than the owner’s vision.  It is more than the contractor and it is more than the material manufacturer or supplier.  It is ALL of these entities and further: ALL of the employee’s that work for these trades and have their hands in the recipe. CSI’s diversified membership is filled with thousands of allied professionals involved in the creation and management of the built environment and all with an equal seat at the table.  While one party may have more ingredients in the recipe, if any one entity or ingredient is missing, the final product will be lacking.

While collaboration has become a popular business buzzword as of late, it is a word that has long been used by the Construction Specifications Institute.  Defined by Merriam-Webster as “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something”, it is truly at the basis of the Mission of CSI: “to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.”

We have all heard and used the phrase “there is no I in team” and it holds tried and true with the members of CSI. Those construction specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others that know, understand and realize that the words and drawings on paper (as in the construction documents) are not published by any one person, but by the entire project team.

Interested in learning more about CSI? Visit their website here or attend a local Chapter meeting and find out what collaboration within the construction industry is truly all about.