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 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
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
Construct per-specs blog template

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.

Recognition: Different Things to Different People


As one of the 11,000+ CSI volunteer members (and also one of almost 20,000 CDTs), my involvement with the Construction Specifications Institute is because I truly do believe in its Mission: to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.  I just celebrated my 5 year anniversary of joining CSI last week and in that time, I’ve gained countless valuable friends and had innumerable experiences and memories that will last me a lifetime.  

Proper involvement within CSI should go well beyond joining and adding CSI to your business card and email signature.  Chapter meetings are a great place to start, with most meeting one day a month.  Joining a Chapter committee is another way to get involved, as is passing your Certified Document Technologist (CDT) exam or attaining one of the 3 advanced CSI certifications – the CCPR, CCS or CCCA.  The CSI Annual Convention and trade show, CONSTRUCT, may be the grandest experience of them all.  A convergence of over a thousand members from all walks of life who congregate to hug, shake hands, learn, share and laugh, happens to take place this year in Baltimore from September 9th to the 12th, 2014.  The grand finale of CONSTRUCT is the induction of the new CSI Fellows. Since CSI Fellowship was introduced in 1959, only a few hundred members have been elevated to Fellow. Fellowship is one of the highest honors bestowed by CSI and one of many awards that the Institute bestows on their members.  The various CSI Regions and Chapters also give out awards and as CSI members are volunteers and not paid positions, these awards are a true thank you to the work that is put in by the recipient member.

I have been extremely fortunate to be active in the Allentown Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute over the last 5 years. A Chapter that now has 2 active member Fellows in Sal Verrastro and Mitch Miller, that is hosting its 36th year running a very successful product expo & educational seminars on April 16, and one that has now received five Outstanding Chapter Commendations from the Institute.  I believe we have been most fortunate to have an incredible Immediate Past President who also is our Program Chair and Awards Chair in David Wrigley, the Director of Specifications for Spillman Farmer Architects.  I consider myself lucky to call Dave a friend and can only fathom the hours he has spent over the last few years alone submitting the Allentown awards into the Region, as well as the Institute so that the hard work of our Chapter members can be duly recognized.  Just last week he shared the news that our Chapter received FIVE Mid-Atlantic Region awards, including:

Lee Ann Slattery – Winner of the Robert P. Brosseau Memorial Award, Dave Fenstermacher – Winner of the George C. Neuhausel Memorial Award, Jon Lattin – Winner of the Communications Award, Barry Isett And Associates – Winner of the Organizational Certificate of Merit and Mitch Miller – Winner of the Education Award.

Being fortunate enough to know Lee Ann, Dave, Jon and Mitch, I know the work that they put in during the day that pays the bills and then the additional time they put in before and after work for the Allentown Chapter of CSI.  These awards are a true way for them to receive thanks for all that they do and the time that they spend to contribute to the same Mission of CSI that I live by.

I have been extremely blessed to have received an Award from the Allentown Chapter and further, one that could rightfully be given to any active member.  As then President of our Chapter, David Wrigley led the awards announcements on June 20, 2012.  These words alone are ones that will stick with me for a long while:

“This next Award is a very Special Award, because it is given to the person whom the President feels has shown amazing devotion and selfless personal commitment to the Chapter in the administration of the Chapter’s affairs over the past year. Whenever I have asked the gentleman for something, no matter what it was, he got it to me as quick as he could, as correct as it could be, and with his own opinion on what he thought was best and why……I respect that. I said earlier that I thought a sizable portion of the Expo’s success could be attributed to his e-mail blasts and the constant contacts lists he has, not to mention the tweeting and blogging he does on behalf of the chapter. But it is also his unbridled devotion to CSI that has gotten him to where we are tonight.

On a more serious note: Last September, we were both at the National Convention, in Chicago. After the convention, we ended up driving home together. He quizzed me and asked me questions about spec-writing and all kinds of other construction related topics, like he was actually interested. We talked almost the whole ride home. I don’t know about you, but spending 11 hours in a sealed vehicle……..talking with a spec-writer………… more than most individuals can stand in a lifetime, let alone in one day!! Now if that isn’t amazing devotion and selfless personal commitment to the Chapter, I don’t know what is!!

So, in lieu of combat pay…………….. I am very pleased, and happy to present the 2011 – 2012 President’s Award to Mr. Eric Lussier”

The plaque above is only a reminder of how great it felt to be recognized for all of my work and effort that I was more than happy to do.  The President’s Award was the icing on the cake and the ultimate recognition that we all really do like to hear.  Who doesn’t like to hear ‘You look nice today’, ‘You did great work on that proposal’, ‘Congratulations on getting that project’ or ‘I am very pleased, and happy to present……’?!?

Take the time and help recognize those CSI members that continue to go above and beyond.  The deadline to submit nominations for the FY14 CSI Honors & Awards program (including the Outstanding Chapter Commendation for FY2013 covering data from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) is 5 PM Eastern, May 2, 2014. Recipients will be recognized at CONSTRUCT & The CSI Annual Convention in 2014. Submit your nomination at

Special honors, including Fellowship, have unique and specific requirements. Download the 2014 Honors and Award Guide (PDF) at



Final Registration is 2/28 to get #CSIcertified

CSI Certified

Whether an emerging professional, new to your company or new to your position, personal advancement through a professional certification is a tremendous asset in more ways than one.

In the construction industry, the certifications through the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) carry weight with many of the major players of a project – the owner, the architect, the general contractor, product representative or construction manager.

CSI’s Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) program is the prerequisite to CSI’s advanced Certifications: Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA); Certified Construction Specifier (CCS) and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR).

Whether you are new to the construction industry or a 50 year veteran, the CDT program can and will help you with an overall building project. If you find yourself lost in a 1500 page, 32 division project manual, the CDT can help you understand where to find what you are looking for and just how that project unfolds from conception to delivery.

I can tell you first hand how much attaining the CDT has assisted me in my job. As I mentioned in my previous post, 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.

The time has come to register and the final push is on as the final registration deadline for CSI certification is March 2, 2012. Register now at

You are never alone when you work with CSI, either. Whether a member or a CDT test taker, fellow CSI members like myself are always there to help. Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or the tried and true phone call, we’re always glad to help.

CSI Bloggers include David Stutzman, CSI, CCS from Conspectus. “What was my first project after graduating college with an architectural degree? A prominent design? No, measuring and documenting 65 existing buildings at Letterkenny Army Depot; calculating energy savings; estimating construction costs; and finally writing the project specifications using the Corps of Engineers master specs.” Read David’s blog:

Liz O’Sullivan, CSI, CCS, CCCA: “There’s SO MUCH to learn – all of us in the construction industry are constantly learning (or should be). Much of this knowledge can ONLY be gained through experience, but not all of it has to be.A really good way to learn about how your documents may be interpreted by the users is to prepare for a CSI certification exam, starting with the CDT (Construction Documents Technologist) exam.” Read Liz’s blog:

Tara Imani, CSI: “I’m also a CSI CDT; meaning I took the time 111 years ago, to understand how a good legal set of contract documents are put together and administered.So, as you can tell, I have a lot of education but it’s all because I thought it was important to broaden my understanding of this complex industry at that time in my career; I didn’t do it to add initials after my name!” Read Tara’s blog:

The last few weeks to register are here!  Head over to to sign up.

Out of All #CSIstats, You’re the 1 that Matters


As of late, some numbers have been circulating under the hashtag #CSIstats and on the CSInet blog (   In case you have missed it, CSI launched the #CSIStats information campaign with the goal of helping CSI leaders understand where CSI stands today by sharing facts about the Institute.

While some of these numbers hit home with most of the membership (1 in 4 members are architects or designers and 1 in 4 members are product representatives), there are also those that are more surprising (1 in 6 members either gave no email address or have addresses that are blocked/undeliverable and 56% is the average retention rate for members under the age of 50).  Although the #CSIstats program is relatively new and has produced four weeks of numbers, it has been intriguing to see the results.  Fortunately, I’ve been involved with multiple regions, as well as multiple chapters, so I have seen these numbers in action.  All in all, an interesting mix of people and groups over my five years with the Construction Specifications Institute.

But out of all of the numbers that have been published to date, there is a unique number that matters the most as it pertains to the past 60 years of CSI and the future of the organization. That number is 1.  For 1 is all it takes to ask questions, give answers, attend meetings, present a topic, push the envelope and shake up the norm.  While the CSI organization consists of over 10,000 industry professionals including specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and more, it truly is the power of 1 that can make a difference.  

Nowhere has the power of 1 been more evident that in the #CSIkraken message that has been spread within the organization since the Summer of 2013.   What is a CSIKraken?  Portland CSI sums it up best:  It is a movement, an attitude, a desire to aspire. Kraken’s never give up, always help, are positive and supportive, they find solutions and teach.  They are committed, passionate, dedicated and make it happen.  1 is the number of Kraken’s it takes to shake up a meeting, a Chapter, even a Region or an Organization if they truly have the mentality that they want to make a difference and have the willingness to spread the Kraken fever.

1 does not have to be a Kraken to spread the message or infuse your passion within CSI.  1 should just look to get involved and see if what is offered is for you: formats, technology, education, certification and more.  The more, for me, is the 10,000+ strong network of individuals who freely share their knowledge, help those who ask for assistance and go out of their way to spread the mission of CSI: to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.

I am a month away from my five year anniversary of joining CSI. A decision that I will truly never regret and am thankful for each and every day.  Thankful for the education I have attained, for the places I’ve traveled and most especially for the people I have met.  I am excited for the future of CSI and while I know the organization is going through their own growing pains, I also know that there are people involved that care deeply enough to not let it fail or stagnate, whether a self described CSIkraken or otherwise.

I encourage you to join, renew or just plain get involved and help spread the exponential power of 1.

Are You Sharing Your Wealth?


To many, the definition of wealth is money. Being part of the 99%, I know that I most likely will never attain the financial wealth that places me in the 1%.  I’m OK with that as I have other levels of wealth that I place higher than the financial side.

I have wealth in my home life.  I am blessed with three incredible children and my fiance, who has now been with me for 6 years and whom I’ve known for 30 years.  I have wonderful parents and a great sister who live close by.  I have “in-laws” that I couldn’t ask to be any nicer.  We have a roof over our head, drive two safe and reliable vehicles and have a garage to place them in at night. I couldn’t be more thankful for all of these things.

I also have access to a wealth of information.  I have always considered myself to be a fairly informed individual. I like to stay privy of cutting edge technology, trends and more.  I have always felt that one of the tremendous strengths of Twitter is the ability to acquire information instantly.  No longer do we wait for the morning paper, the 6PM news or breaking stories on CNN.  Now it is possible to pull out a device not much bigger than your palm and FOR FREE you have access to NOW.  Sure, hundreds of thousands of news outlets are sharing on Twitter, but more so millions of individuals are sharing their knowledge and their now.  It is certainly not all ‘I’m having bologna for lunch!’ or ‘I’m out walking the dog and it’s cold!’ so, how come you haven’t given Twitter a whirl?  I find no better platform to accumulate and disseminate information and I really don’t envision a better medium coming along anytime soon, if ever.

What are you doing with your wealth of information?  I like to share mine, whether through my blog, Twitter (, LinkedIn (Connect with me! or any of my other social media accounts ( and email.  Sometimes, I even use the phone.

Personally, I really enjoy adding to my wealth of information through CSI, the Construction Specifications Institute is an organization that is 13,000 volunteers strong that understand it is in no one’s best interest to hoard information.  Free sharing of wealth is abundant within CSI. Whether you are acquiring it a local level through a Chapter or seeing a CSI Speaker in person, at a National Conference like CONSTRUCT or the CSI Academies, or through Twitter itself, you have direct (and most likely free!) access to building owners, construction specifiers, engineers, architects, interior designers, manufacturers and product representatives who share their wealth.  Chances are, you don’t even have to be a CSI member to acquire knowledge from these outlets, but it certainly helps!

I do feel that the World is in a better place when you share your wealth.  I wish I could share more monetarily, especially come Holiday season, but for the time being, I share what is valuable to me: knowledge and information.  Have a question on indoor sports flooring or concrete moisture?  Ask away. Want to know my thoughts on craft beer or music?  I like those too!  Don’t even bother asking about the Dallas Cowboys right now.  My sharing of knowledge is always free.