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.