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Hans W. Meier, FCSI, Honorary Membedr of CSI
Junior Member
Username: hans_w_meier

Post Number: 2
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Thursday, July 28, 2005 - 10:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Back in the early 1970's, a group of us began wrestling with how to improve respect for, and recognition of, the profession of construction specifying. I became founding chairman of CSI's Certification Committee and we initiated the CCS examination and certifying program.

Reading your comments in these columns makes me gratified and proud that the profession has developed so far in these 30 odd years. The CCS program probably helped a lot, but I sincerely believe the greatest advances have been made by you free spirits who haunt the pages of 4specs. I applaud you for your insight, your enthusiasm, and your willingness to share.

I don't think we are actually there yet. We've come a long way, and we are close, but you speak of many obstacles you've encountered.

In your opinions, what must still be done to let the profession of construction specifying take its proper place in the construction community?
I would welcome reading your thoughts on the matter.

Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 211
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 09:37 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Construction specifying, in my view, is the proverbial "light hidden under a bushel"!

I don't advcate breast-beating and ballyhoo, but certainly a incisive, professional program of showing what is being done, why and how, is in order-- long overdue. Simply there must be a campaign of pure PR to the professions, the industry, schools, student professionals,and the general public about the work, value, and importance of speficiations writing. It is a pragmatic aspect of the profession that, like many others, is lost in the overall practice, and the high profile aspects like designing, etc.

We need to increase the amount of exposure of the inherent contribution, and the overall "fit" of our work in the process of every project. We need to stand by our concerns, and values-- defending the best principles, and disspelling the utter nonsense that is at work to underscut proper documentation.

It really comes down to a paraphrase of the FRAM oil filter commercials-- "Pay now-- or pay more later"
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 436
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 10:20 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Great topic, Hans,

I think it very difficult for specifiers themselves to advocate for the profession. Yes, we can do that, but how is that taken by architects, engineers, specialty consultants and owner/developer groups. Its in their basic culture to consider it as just another specialty group trying to get a cut of the pie, or assign it to the 'necessary evil' category.

Over the 30 years of my career in doing just specifications (which I currently hope to see extend perhaps another 15 to 20 years), I have seen the culture of acceptance definitely change - but ever so gradually, if not at time grudgingly.

I have the greatest respect for the independent specifiers, they have to work often in the environment where they are totally unappreciated. I would not enjoy that, and probably would be looking to change careers by now if not sooner. Its one of the primary reasons why I have sought out only internal positions...and only taken those positions where the profession was not only accepted, but within the office welcomed and respected, and where the creation of the office model or master specification has been at the core of the quality assurance for the practice of the office. Not all internal positions do this, but over the years I have seen many evolve.

What really markets the profession? I think we need to look around to what influences the decisions of many major purchases or investments of heads of offices. What convinced offices to implement CAD, or even before that, computers in general? What influenced most their decision making processes.?

From having seen several offices go through major transitions like this, the one that sticks out the most is 'peer testimony'. That is, though someone has gone there first and take a risk, its their experiences as related to or stuidied by others that becomes a primary guide.

Thus it is not just our getting out there and marketing our value, its the testimony of those that have successfully contracted with independents or hire internals and appreciated what our professions can bring to not just a specific job, but the overall practice of the office.

And when I look around - that is the one item that is missing more than any other. I think too that this is changing/evolving. I think it could move along faster if there was a means for getting the word out. I think Institute could take a hand in this perhaps sponsoring forums at major conventions or local chapters. Again, it works best if the 'testimony' is from those leaders of firms rather than from the specifiers themselves.

People learn well by observing those of their peers experiences. That can be seen in advertising of any product or service. The best ads and marketing campaign are not direct sells, but relate the experience of other end users.

Richard Howard, AIA CSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: rick_howard

Post Number: 53
Registered: 07-2003
Posted on Friday, July 29, 2005 - 10:27 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have worked at more than a few architectural, AE, and EA firms over my career. My experience might surprise some of you.

While the average graduate architect has probably had at least an introduction to specifications and the average graduate engineer is much less familiar with them, it is the engineer who will ultimately have more respect for the spec writer, even one trained as an architect.

The firms dominated by engineers seem to demonstrate more appreciation for the skills of the spec writer than the average purely architectural firm. I believe that is because engineers tend to value technical expertise compared to the architect's focus on design.

I kwow of an architectural firm who received an award from the CSI chapter for excellence in construction documents and then tossed the award because they really didn't appreciate it. It didn't fit with their image of how they wanted to be perceived.

Corporate culture is more democratic and less autocratic than private practice. Large firms also have more diversification of duties and will have more opportunities for spec writers to manage a broader base of technical services, justifiying higher salaries and increased involvement in leadership in the firm.

I think if we want to promote our profession we need to concentrate on educating architects of the value we bring to their practice - how spec writers complement the designer. Most architect-led firms I am familiar with are lacking a proper balance of technical to design. They struggle with detailing and end up with "field conditions" that could have been avoided.

In addition to involvement with schools of architecture, we need to do more with AIA. We need to showcase our specification professionals in front of their architect peers. We need our AIA-member specifiers to be involved in their AIA chapters and talk-up CSI and the things it stands for. The CSI chapters need to take the lead in promoting events that architects feel they need.

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