Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
Construction industry waste – where does it start? Sometimes it starts with the contractor team. Sometimes it starts with the design team. And sometimes it starts with… owners.
Have you ever suddenly needed ice to make an icepack for a child’s injury, or drinks for unexpected guests, gone to the freezer, and found nothing but empty ice trays? Ever needed toilet paper and suddenly realized all you had in the bathroom was an empty cardboard roll?
These are familiar experiences for people living with children. But we understand that we just need to teach the children to consider the needs of the people who come after them. (This may be an ongoing effort.)
When people living with only other adults experience these things, it’s incredibly frustrating. (Why didn’t she just tell me we were out of toilet paper? Why didn’t he just fill the ice tray after he emptied it? It’s so much harder for me to get ice at this point – it will take hours to freeze after I fill the trays. If he had just filled the trays when he used the last ice cubes last night, there would be ice for all of us now.) The shirker saves herself a little time, but creates a problem for someone else in the household. Adults should know better, but sometimes, like children, adults need to be reminded, too.
A little work done at the right time by the right person means that things get done the right way. If they don’t get done right, the next person has to expend more work, or more time, which is inefficient in the big picture. It’s not the right way to work.
Lately, my deadlines have been moving targets. One week last month, I had 3 bid sets going out 3 days in a row. I turned in the first one, a relatively small project, early on the due date, and got going on wrapping up the next one. A few hours after I turned in the first project, my architect-client emailed me with an address change for the building. (Head smack.) The building’s address was on every header of the project manual, and scattered throughout Division 00. (When I use my own master spec sections, changing all headers is not terribly time-consuming, but I had to use the owner’s messy “master” spec sections on this project, and had to change each header manually.)
If I’d had the correct address before I’d started the project, instead of the address that I was given (without any warning that it may not be the correct address) I would have wasted no time. If I’d been given the correct address after I’d put in the wrong address, but before I’d done the final edits for the project, I’d have wasted only about an hour, at a much more convenient time. If I’d been using my own masters instead of the messy documents, I’d have wasted only about a half hour. As it was, I wasted 2 hours redoing the address, at the most inconvenient time imaginable in the entire month of October.
I could have refused to make the changes, because I had 2 other clients’ projects to consider, but then the documents would have had an incorrect address throughout, causing confusion for bidders, the building department, and the constructor. I couldn’t have delayed until after my other 2 deadlines – we were going to bid and permit that day – three days later would not have been acceptable. Laying blame: The city had assigned an address to the project that was not the address the owner wanted. The owner should have spoken up right away, or should have told the architect that the address they had was probably not correct, and the architect should have told me, so we could plan for that situation. (I would have waited on my final edits until after I had the info. I would not have wasted time compiling the project manual and getting it over to the architect.)
Contributed by Randy Nishimura
Change is a constant in architecture and construction. If anything, the pace of this change is accelerating. We all struggle to keep up with the latest developments in an effort to remain competitive. Our success is contingent upon how quickly we adapt in an environment buffeted by forces largely beyond our control. Survival of the fittest is a maxim always in play.
If there is another constant in our industry it is the importance of clear, concise, correct and complete construction documentation and communications. Architecture and construction are increasingly dependent upon the effective conveyance of design intent. They are likewise dependent upon the clear definition of project responsibilities and roles detailed by the forms of agreement most widely used in construction projects. It’s important and necessary for everyone — owners, architects, engineers, specifiers, general contractors, subcontractors, construction materials suppliers, and others — to understand project delivery options, standard forms of agreement, means for organizing drawings and specifications, etc.
Change and the Four C’s of construction documentation are not incompatible. A key to managing the former and mastering the latter is knowledge, specifically fluency with the lingua franca of our industry. Knowledgeable employers highly value those who understand the language of construction, its underlying principles and terminology, and the critical relationships between all the participants in any design and construction undertaking. Employees who thoroughly understand this language not only survive but are more likely to thrive. They are the winners in today’s challenging and constantly changing environment.
So, how can you demonstrate your construction knowledge and competence? How can you stand out in the crowd? One of the best ways is to achieve CSI's Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) status.
The Construction Specifications Institute developed the CDT program decades ago to provide training in construction documentation for architects, contractors, contract administrators, specifiers, and manufacturers’ representatives. Since then, it has become the cornerstone for all of CSI’s certification programs, which presently include Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA), and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR).
Passing the CDT examination means you have become fluent with construction project processes and communication. It means you’ve demonstrated professional commitment, credibility, and reliability to your employer, colleagues, and clients. Obtaining CDT status benefits you, your company, and your customers. Getting your CDT also means acquiring the privilege to add “CDT” after your name on your business card and resume.
In some respects, I regard the value of the CDT as analogous to that of a liberal arts degree, in that both provide a foundation for more advanced learning. I became a CDT back in 1989, and subsequently achieved Certified Construction Specifier status a couple of years later. There’s no doubt in my mind that studying for and passing both examinations has served me very well professionally. What I learned provided me with a solid knowledge base I’ve relied upon throughout my career. I know I’m a much better architect than I might have been without the benefit of what I learned through those two certification programs. I truly believe this knowledge equipped me with the ability to better cope with the accelerating changes in our industry by ensuring I first thoroughly grasped the time-tested fundamentals of construction documentation and communications.
I highly encourage any of you who are simply curious about CDT certification to seriously consider learning more about its value. Ask others besides me who have become CDTs. Or check out CSI’s YouTube channel for informational webinars about its certification programs. The webinars provide more information than I have shared here. Each webinar covers the requirements and resources needed for successful exam preparation and study. Many local CSI chapters also offer educational courses to help those interested prepare for the examinations.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Knowledge provides a competitive edge. Give your knowledge about construction documents and communication a boost by becoming a Construction Documents Technologist. The true value of CDT certification is beyond calculation—it’s priceless.
(Editors note: the next testing window for CDT & advanced certification will be Spring of 2017)
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
For those who have not read my previous blogs, I have worked in Construction, Architecture and Engineering for the entirety of my adult life. The longest stint in this career journey was in a small architecture firm for 23 years that specialized in K-12 schools.
Because it was a small firm, I was fortunate enough to wear many hats. By the time we closed the doors in 2008, I had done everything from accounting to negotiating contracts. I could be writing specs for a project one day and preparing marketing materials or an RFP the next. With the exception of actually working on drawings, there was little I did not do during my time there. I was lucky enough to work for three men who were willing to teach me anything that I wanted to learn and who encouraged me to constantly take an expanded role in the firm. I had no idea just how valuable that would turn out to be.
To be brutally honest, when we closed the firm I was terrified that I may have limited opportunities in AEC because I had pigeon-holed myself in a small firm for such a long period of time. I couldn’t even go into a bar when I started working there. Then, 23 years later, I found myself unemployed in an economy that was in the toilet. During that time, absolutely nobody was hiring in AEC which left me working in my mother’s resale clothing store until the economy started picking up again. That is another story.
Eventually, the economy did start to pick up. During a slow period at the shop, I was perusing Craigslist for jobs in AEC. To what did my wondering eyes appear but a job at an MEP firm that my architecture firm had used for many a year. Because of my past role, I knew many of the Principals at this firm. In my typical fashion I completely ignored the requirements for applying for this job and emailed one of these Principals. My question was “Do I want to work there?” Apparently, he thought I did because he took my resume (prepared in about 30 minutes) straight up to HR and told them to put it on the top of the pile. That was my first indication that just maybe I hadn’t made a mistake staying in one (small) place for such a long time.
Long story short (OK, that’s a lie), I had two interviews and a job a week later. One of my current bosses still says that I interviewed him more than he interviewed me. This July, I will celebrate five years with this firm. Because of my background, I have been able to craft a position that is customized to my experience. This is a unique position that you don’t find in many design firms. I get to help make some of the rules.
This opportunity came because I crossed the line. It came because I was not afraid to venture out of the discipline in which I was most familiar and take a crack at it from another angle.
It turns out to be the best thing I have ever done.
It turns out that my exposure to the inner workings of a construction company and what it takes to actually construct a building made me look at my work in a design firm in a different way. It turns out that wearing multiple hats in my small architecture firm gave me a perspective about coordinating the design team and a project that few people in our industry have. It turns out that I have a much deeper understanding of what it really takes to get a good project out the door than I ever realized. I turns out that I did have something to offer.
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
Among the things specifiers grumble most about are the typical architect's lack of knowledge about how things work and how they go together, and the belief that "If I can draw it someone can build it!"
Some architecture schools do include courses about the practical aspects of architecture, but those courses are often optional, so most architects graduate with a lot of knowledge about visual design, planning, and presentation, but little understanding of materials or construction.
It's fine to have a presentation about masonry, but so much more could be learned from participants getting their hands dirty. It's easy to draw a 4 x 4 x 8 brick, but what does it feel like?
It takes no more effort to draw a 3-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 11-5/8 brick or a 3-5/8 x 3-5/8 x 15-5/8 brick, or, for that matter, a 12 x 8 x 16 concrete masonry unit, but what difference does it make to the mason? It doesn't take any longer to draw a large masonry unit, but does the size affect installation time?
Until you pick up a brick, mix the mortar, and try to build a wall, you simply cannot appreciate what your details mean in the real world. This shortcoming presents a tremendous opportunity for continuing education programs.
In June of 2000, twenty-five architects from my office went to the masonry apprentice school in St. Paul for an afternoon of fun, down-and-dirty continuing education. The program was set up by Olene Bigelow, our local International Masonry Institute (IMI) rep, and contact for the Brick Industry Association (BIA).
The apprentices set up a series of stations, each showing a specific part of the job. Demonstrations included reading drawings and specifications, estimating, mixing mortar, laying brick and CMU of various sizes, installing door frames, and more. After the book learnin' discussions, the architects got their hands dirty at each station and learned how their decisions affected construction and schedule.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of CSI visited the school and followed the same program. It's easy to complain about what architects don't know, but they are not alone. Specifiers may know more of the technical properties of materials, but many have had no more practical experience in construction than architects.
I used masonry as an example, but similar programs could be done for everything that goes into a building.
ALL of us can us do better if we know more about how other team members do their jobs.
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
In my preparations for an educational conference, I got to thinking about how much the AEC industry has changed in the 30 years that I have been a part of it. As the voices in my head tend to wander, my thoughts strayed to the top five risks for design firms and how they have not changed since 1973.
What have I seen change?
I could go on for days about how the work that we do has so drastically changed but that is not what is important. The important question is whether we are changing with it. If the top five risks have not changed since 1973, then the answer is no.
Sure, maybe we are learning the software but are we changing the way we deliver, communicate and collaborate on our projects. Is that change happening fast enough?
The bottom line is that ‘I have always done it this way’ is rampant in AEC. That is why the top five risks have not changed in over 40 years. We can’t do this anymore!
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