I won’t soon forget my introduction to the letters CSI beyond the television show – the Construction Specifications Institute. I was on my first trip to Pittsburgh on September 11, 2008, some 5 months after moving to Pennsylvania. I had made a sales call appointment at Astorino with Scott Dorfield, CSI, CDT, AIA and within 2 minutes of sitting down with me, he took one look at my business card and said something to the effect of “If I were you, I would look into adding CSI onto your card as I know it would carry more weight with something like me”. I was intrigued and received a quick 5 minute indoctrination into CSI from Scott before I continued with my sales call.
I drove home the next day and started my research into CSI and shared with my coworkers and my boss what I had been introduced to. A few months later I was
invited to attend my first CSI meeting in Pittsburgh by Marty Thornton, specifications writer with the Foreman Group upon my next trip to western PA, February 10, 2009. I took full advantage of this invitation and sat through a board meeting and a great gathering at Cefalo’s in Carnegie, PA. It didn’t take me long to see the cameraderie of the attendees. It seemed like everyone knew everyone and no one was above anyone else. I took this discovery back to Lancaster County with me a made a point of immediately joining CSI and a local chapter – Allentown.
Within a short time after joining CSI in February 2009, I was introduced to the certifications that they offer – CDT (Construction Documents Technologist), CCS (Certified Construction Specifier), CCA (Certified Contract Administrator) and CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative). At the time, all of these certifications were based on the PRM – Project Resource Manual. Being fairly new to the construction field, I made a decision that it would be in my best interest to look into the first required certifcation – CDT. I enrolled in the Fall 2009 study classes that the Vermont chapter was offering (as I had fellow VT co-workers who were going to attend and get certified). Unfortunately, my schedule only allowed me to attend a few meetings in person and the rest
I attended over phone and webinar. I definitely felt a diconnect with this learning environment and my test grade reflected it, failing the Fall 2009 test by 3 points, scoring a 72. The thought never crossed my mind to give up and I told myself I would pass the next attempt.
Fortunately, the Allentown Chapter offers study classes every year for the Spring testing period and I was lucky enough to attend the classes in early 2010 hosted graciously by Mitch Miller, at the USA Architects office in Easton, PA. I can tell you firsthand that spending Thursday nights driving 90 minutes one way can’t be classified as fun, but the education I pulled from the eight weeks in Easton was worth every minute. Before I started attending the CDT trainings, I focused mainly on Division 9 of architectural specifications, where you can find the sport flooring that I represent. Week after week of studying and learning from the PRM, my eyes were opened to just how much broader of a scope a project is. From project conception right through to commissioning, I was able to more thoroughly understand all of the facets and parties involved. I certainly went into my 2nd CDT testing much more prepared, thanks to Mitch and the classes and I was very happy when I passed with an 84%. I was even happier when I was able to order a new batch of business cards, this time with CSI, CDT after my name.
It’s incredible to think that it has already been a year and a half since I attained my CDT and it is a decision I will never regret. I am much more comfortable reviewing contract documents and specifications and have a tremendous respect for each and every party that works on a project, no matter the role. I do hope to attain my CCPR at some point and I know that I will look into attending a training class again, if one is available. For those that are reading from the Lehigh Valley in PA, the Allentown Chapter of CSI certification training are starting up again on Thursday, January 19th (2012) from 6-9 at the ATAS International building in Allentown. For only $50, you can attend up to 12 Thursday sessions, covering all four CSI certifications this time around. Please RSVP to Mitch Miller immediately via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 484-542-0601 should you be interested.
Whether you are CSI member or not, I cannot suggest attaining your CDT enough if you are looking for a better understanding of a building project. If you want additional general information about the CDT exam, check out the Institute’s website at http://www.csinet.org/cdt. This year the testing period has been extended as exams will be offered from April 2 – April 28, 2012, in the U.S. & Canada. Be sure to take advantage of the $60 price break if you are going for your CDT! The cost Before Feb. 2 is $235 for a CSI member and $370 (non-member) and after Feb. 2 it’s $295 (member) and $430 (non-member). This is the first year that the CDT exam is based on the CSI Project Delivery Practice Guide, which is brand new. A study class will certainly come in handy!
And lastly, if you aren’t a CSI member, you should definitely take advantage of the CSI Buy One, Get One membership program. Join the 12,000+ members of an incredible organization and check out http://www.csinet.org/bogo for more details.