Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
(Editors Note on January 11: Deadline extended to January 17th to submit your presentation)
From the first post in August 2016, one of the core beliefs of 'Let's Fix Construction' has been the open sharing of knowledge. Whether acquired in a classroom setting, from a trusted mentor, or learned directly in the field, what good is having facts, informationa and skills if it is not freely and willingly shared with others?
Year after year, there is one place in construction where all members of the project team: specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others converge to acquire and share industry knowledge: CONSTRUCT. The Construction Specifications Institute annual meeting and affiliated tradeshow hosts dozens of project team instructors who share their acquired knowledge to attendees who are there to learn and absorb new information.
Now is your chance to share your knowledge and turn what you’ve learned into a unique presentation that will help improve the construction community. Consider submitting a Call for Presentations proposal for CONSTRUCT 2017, which is taking place on September 13-16 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, RI.
CONSTRUCT welcomes compelling proposals that address a wide range of topics relevant to the commercial building team and those who design, build, specify, engineer, renovate and operate in the built environment. With over 40 accredited sessions and non-conflicting exhibit hall hours, the education program is an integral part of the CONSTRUCT event experience for specifiers, architects, designers, product reps, contractors, engineers, project managers, and other industry professionals.
The deadline for submitting a proposal is approaching fast on January 17, 2017. Have a topic in mind for CONSTRUCT? Now is the time to pitch your fix!
For more information about the submission process, visit
Session proposals must be submitted via the automated submission form at
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Let's Fix Construction has recently teamed with Durability + Design, who are sharing selected LFC posts in their newsletter and on their blog. To subscribe to their newsletter, which is a "Daily Report on the Architectural Coatings Industry" go here and to see the posts that D+D have shared, visit here.
The D+D newsletter features a weekly poll, which features Let's Fix Construction this week:
"A group of Construction Specifications Institute members have started an online initiative called “Let’s Fix Construction,” encouraging discourse on issues ranging from project collaboration to the lack of technical knowledge in construction documents. Do you believe construction is broken?"
So, IS construction broken? View the results here now.
Contributed by Ray Gaines, FCSI
A series of posts I shared previously on my own blog (which can be read here) began as a commentary on day to day communications when I explored the notion of how the same words could have completely different meanings given context, tone of voice, body language and other emotional cues. It quickly evolved into a second post on graphic construction communication.
This post deals with overly verbose specifications I often see from consulting engineers who are often not versed in specification writing principles:
“2.2 Materials & Equipment: standard components, of regular manufacture for this application. All systems and components shall have been thoroughly tested and proven in actual use. The commissioning requirements of this specification shall be strictly adhered to. Trane Tracer Summit ICS products are used as basis of the design. Siemens Apogee or Johnson Controls Metasys are acceptable subject to compliance with the specification”
“2.5.2 Communications: The Building Controller shall reside on the network, which is the same high-speed network as any connected workstations. The Enterprise wide network shall support the Internet Protocol (IP). Local connections of the building Controller shall be on ISO 8802-3 (Ethernet). Communications shall use Annex J of ASHRAE Standard 135-95. The Building Controller shall also perform routing to a network of Custom Application and Application Specific Controllers.”
The language I just quoted was written by a mechanical engineer as part of a building automation specification section. There is a problem with the fact that both paragraphs violate two of the four Cs of specification language promoted by CSI: clear, correct, complete, and concise. These two paragraphs are neither clear nor concise. Because they are unclear, I have no idea if they are correct or complete. They also appear to be combining prescriptive with performance specifications.
Assuming the technical content is indeed correct, the problem can be fixed by applying some basic principles espoused by the CSI in the CSI Specifications Practice Guide. The information presented should be separated into multiple (correct) locations to comply with CSI SectionFormattm. Portions of both paragraphs should appear in PART 1 GENERAL, and part of the second should be in PART 3 EXECUTION.
The remainder is correctly located in PART 2 PRODUCTS, but needs to be broken up into shorter statements using streamlined language in smaller subparagraphs to allow the reader to more easily access and understand the information.
The first paragraph could appear as follows:
2.2 Materials & Equipment
2.2.2 Basis of Design: Trane Tracer Summit ICS
The remainder of the non-superfluous information from this paragraph should appear in PART 1 GENERAL.
I could rewrite the second paragraph as well, but you get the idea. Adherence to CSI principles would facilitate communication of the information to the bidders and eventually to the contractor. Remember, communication occurs when the reader/listener understands the intent of the writer/speaker. When the information is correctly stated and presented, it is understandable by all the parties to the construction process. The CSI Education and Certification Programs are an important first step to better communication within the AEC industry.
Contributed by Ray Gaines, FCSI
We’ve all heard the expression “Don’t sweat the small stuff” which is good advice for daily life, but is it appropriate for us as design professionals to apply this to our professional lives? I would argue that this advice can’t apply to our work. All too often, documents are released for construction with dimensions missing, slopes that don’t work for one reason or another, unsupported loads, or poor coordination in general.
Within the last hour, I’ve been asked to review center line dimensions on a foundation plan and elevations on a site plan related to accessible slopes. Both are easily overlooked, particularly within a profession that has a reputation for being more concerned with aesthetics than functionality. Overlooking these issues can result in unnecessary expense during construction or liability on the part of the design professional.
Over the years, I’ve seen multiple coordination errors between disciplines such as site plans indicating backfilling against a framed wall, slopes that do not comply with accessibility guidelines, pavement that is too flat to adequately drain. I have also seen multiple cases where structural drawings didn’t reflect what was indicated on the architectural and similar issues with HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. In other cases, headroom over stairs and similar issues have been ignored by designers not thinking the design through in three dimensions. And I haven’t even mentioned the project manuals produced by repurposing the previous project’s specifications that may or may not be appropriate for the project at hand.
Granted, it is not at all easy to manage the competing priorities of the various design criteria. For example, it is essential to maintain accessible slopes on a site. This is difficult to do in rolling terrain, but designing for runoff is relatively easy in these locations. On a flatter site, designing for accessibility is easy, but in grading parking lots, avoidance of birdbaths because design slopes are too flat becomes a problem, especially in freezing weather. Ensuring the integration of ductwork and plumbing with the structural system becomes an issue when the budget requires a low floor to floor height.
Use of BIM as a panacea for document coordination is not the answer. The model/documents still have to be checked and carefully coordinated by an experienced professional. All of this is further complicated by the fact that Owners often do not want to pay sufficient fees to support this level of detail, but better to spend the money on document coordination than on demolition and replacement of components in the field.
Bottom line is this, every one of us on a project team needs to be diligent in coordinating the documents. I would encourage design professionals to do their due diligence in coordinating the documents to minimize RFIs. Constructors, if you have questions, I would encourage you to issue the RFI or ask the necessary question(s). Attention to detail on the part of all parties will result in better communication of the design intent.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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