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

Post Number: 1339
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - 02:19 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Many groups set standards, guidelines, and checklists, etc, but do not address quality of content. Computerized production of drawings is so prevalent today that it overshadows and obscures the fact that rapid production and ease of manipulation are not valid drawing criteria. It is the depth and quality of construction knowledge, its correct application, depiction and purposeful communication that counts foremost! But without formal instruction in the production of contract [working] drawings, the quality has suffered; and in quality of document content.. This is of grave concern.

Specifications are another, but fully equal, part of this discussion. Although few students and young professionals will engage it full time, while others may never write specifications, to provide highly detailed, technical specifications instruction too early will serve no useful purpose. Instead, the need is to understand the intent and content, the general legal implications of, and the context of specifications within the umbrella of Contract Documents. Form, style and processing of specifications are not fodder for the early education. As expertise in design, and the allied course topics evolve and progress, so too, specifications should be addressed in a generally commensurate manner. This development should have the goal of putting the basic tool of specifications in the bag of professional expertise of the full student body of prospective registered professionals, but not as a highly developed skill.

This student body relates to the portion of time noted as “Preliminary Education”-- pre-CDT. It can [and should] be developed, coordinated and taught by CSI members to ensure proper context, continuity of purpose, content and application. If nothing more, it does provide the new professional with a sound foundation in understanding and respecting specifications, but is functionally short of actual specifications production-- that and related tasks are better taught in the established preparatory CSI Certification Programs, and can be utilized by the those completing the Preliminary Education.

In essence, this is acknowledgment that there is a need for information, instruction, discussion and mentoring prior to becoming a Construction Documents Technologist (CDT). That should [if there is to be true change] take place well before the student emerges as part of the professional staffing with an understanding that CSI exists and what its function is. This will offer more insight to the young professionals’ work overall and the specifics of document production-- both specifications and drawings.
Every design concept comes to the point where it projects an image, and provides some indication of form, function, and interrelationships. This usually is in the form of information that closely resembles school projects-- rendering[s], small-scale plans and elevations, perspectives, models [virtual or cardboard], etc. At this point, the project is an unresolved piece of work, unbuilt, unoccupied, and non-functional. Between this point and the full reality of a completed project lie two major efforts-- proper professional documentation of the work, and subsequent skilled execution of that work.

The requisite documentation involves two types of documents-- working drawings [graphic representations of the work] and specifications [written data complementing and qualifying the graphics]. These are a coordinated package in the specific communication of appropriate construction knowledge, information and directions as required by the primary end-users-- the on-site construction and trade workers. The true essence of this is the proper communication of design concept information converted to directly usable construction information, terminology and vernacular which are easily understood by the trade workers doing the actual construction [and their immediate support personnel, managers, supervisors, suppliers, etc. The matter is that fundamental!

Discussion and understanding of this documentation is not to be confined to a few individuals as they pursue their academics or begin to enter their profession. It must be addressed and resolved with every individual and their professional work, no matter in what confined area of practice-- and there are many to choose from-- they may eventually engage. Project documentation is, however, the first point or task that the individuals will encounter as they start their career work. Consequently, to resolutely restrict oneself to design, or any other single aspect of practice, is flawed, and shortchanges not only the person but the process in which they will engage. It is essential that in every office the various staffers at least respect the work of others, and understand how all of the work fits together to produce the appropriate project documentation

As the student evolves through the academic experience, the prudent course is to provide a realistic founding regarding how each step in the process impacts future work. Some, primarily academics, might claim that this distracts the student from the true nature of their education. Others might allude to the principle that education is not a preparation for employment. Both arguments are shallow and miss the point of comprehensive education, where the profession as a whole is the overall and overriding context. While various degrees of involvement can be used, ultimately the student deserves to be fully exposed to the profession and its work. This is not to suggest that design be supplanted by purely technical education, but rather that a true context be given, whereby the student realizes the impact of their personal effort on each project.

Between entry level student and emerging professional [defined by former CSI President Gilman Hu as "those young, post college, new-to-the-business”] there is a requirement that explanation and discussion of the documentation take place, in segments commensurate with the level of knowledge and expertise of the participants. It is vital that this process be followed so the individuals are not needlessly overloaded with relatively remote information that its value is compromised and too easily disregarded or dismissed.

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