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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1322
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 09:04 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

STOP !..................................LOOK AND LISTEN !!
by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

Now this call is a relic of the past, when steam locomotives headed trains. The advice was simply in intent-- stop, don’t rush onto the tracks; look, to see if a train or part thereof was moving toward you; and listen to make sure you did not arrive in between shrieks of the locomotive’s whistle.

Conservative in nature, it was meant to be precaution for youngsters-- dramatic to attract their attention, and by implication a method of instilling self-safety.

So what does this have to do with specifications, specification writers, CSI, SCIP, and issues surrounding them all?

Well, there is a very lively, profound, and extensive mini-debate going on between Hans Meier and Robert Johnson elsewhere on this web site [www.4specs.com]; along with some very poignant remarks by Anne Whitacre. [See the “Should the CSI Strategic Plan Be Changed?” thread under Institute Discussions].

Chances are, in large part, this very important discussion is lost on most of the general membership. CSI does as it and its officers deem appropriate in view of a changing world.

But still there is the initial concept, and charge, to the organization. This is not a liberal/conservative discussion; neither is it status quo v. new horizons. So what is it?

Well, the suggestion is-- STOP!.............................LOOK and LISTEN!!!

No, there is no desire to halt all CSI activities, or those of others, but rather a poignant pause seems in order,
And this pause needs to be openly explained, reviewed, discussed and resolved for the good of all mentioned above.

1. CSI by definition and its middle name, is concerned with specifications. And it is reasonable to extrapolate this concern to the “betterment” of specifications. This is the root direction established at the get-go some 50+ years ago. Those folks wanted to collaborate to produce better specifications, and to form a resource well, wherein they could share experiences, problems, hints and techniques [the products of a collective mind].

2. Contract Documents, by definition usually include the Agreement, the drawings and the specifications for the project. Leaving the Agreement malaise to others, there has long been discussion about the relationship and interplay of drawings and specs. Credence was given that in the main spec writers were more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more steeped in construction lore. They were set, informally [can’t be mandatory since there is no enforcement] as the “overseers” of the document relationship—they set nomenclature; they investigated similar products in-depth to ascertain that best suited for project circumstances, despite the appearance so attractive to designers; they, in effect, mentored many a new hire, junior drafter [interns today], project architect, and Associate; they set a tone for project demeanor; and they ensured a coordinated set of documents.

Now the question that is the crux of the Meier/Johnson “debate”, is should the “acquired” scope of specification writing at the office level be made part and parcel of the CSI charge, i.e., should CSI expand its purview even further into drawings, drafting techniques and standards, and other forthcoming programs that involve both drawings and specifications?

Simplistically, should the CSI become in effect CCDI, the Construction Contract Documents Institute.?

Or, is there still a good deal that could, and should be done with and for the good of specifications, and specification writers [like increased
PR, explanation, orientation, college and student programs, outreach to other disciplines, etc.]

The question, fundamentally is, How far should CSI expand its purview before it deviates from and imperils its initial and long-standing
primary charge of ‘improving specifications’?

Best advice right now, for all members [active and sublime]—

STOP!.............................................LOOK and LISTEN !!!

Oh, yes...............and THINK!

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