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.

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