Where Did the Good Drawings Go?
Contributed by Jeffrey Potter
I recently was listening to a construction podcast where one of the topics briefly discussed was how terrible drawings have become. More like copy and paste, drag and drop type documents. This isn’t the first I have heard this, but this time, I stopped to think why. Why has an industry that was known for perfection and being detailed oriented now being referred to by a Contractor of almost the opposite? Well, personally I think it comes down to several areas where Architecture has failed.
The first, and probably, the most unpopular, as I’ll get some disagreement across the board is with Architecture school programs. Note, I am addressing what I see comes out of the local college Architecture programs, not everyone single one. I also didn’t go through an Architecture program, but I see what it is and what it focuses on and what it doesn’t focus on. Architecture school focuses on design and theory where students are almost suffocated with the amount of work they have to do. All the interns and recent new hires I ask, say they get about one semester of professional practice, but that no one pays attention because it doesn’t matter, and they have to spend more time on their design classes. Now design is great, it needs to be taught, it needs to be understood, because design gets you the “W”. If a firm puts out crappy designs, they are not getting Work. So, design is a huge component.
However, I think the technical aspect of the profession is missing and contributing to the overall thought that construction drawings are terrible. These young students come out of school with no technical training. They are expected to learn this technical training, which is a huge part of the job, on the job from others. I have had conversations with PM level employees or employees who have been in this industry for a long time that don’t know what specs are, how to read them, or how they relate to their drawings!!! Are you kidding me!!!?? We expect these young professionals to be the production and the Project Architect to direct the technical aspects of the project, but what if the Project Architect has no idea either or is a poor teacher? How are these young professionals supposed to learn!? Many firms don’t invest in the training needed to learn and fully understand the implications of their Work. They have no idea that one simple mislabeled keynote could cost their firm thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Gimme Just One Good Region
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) has ten distinct regions across the United States. About seven years ago, J.W. Mollohan eloquently penned a piece that I shared on my personal blog called 'The Core Missions of a CSI Region' where his region identified the services provided to their constituent chapters and members.
I had always thought that CSI regions were held and attended for Chapter leaders and were led by former chapter leaders who felt the continued need to give back to the members. It took J.W.'s post to realize I was only half right. CSI regions provide events at a more local for anyone that wants to attend and especially those that are not able to attend the CSI annual meeting and affiliated tradeshow, CONSTRUCT.
I've been fortunate to be a member within two well-respected and active regions over my eleven years with CSI. While I'm now in the Northeast Region, I started my CSI tenure as a member of the Mid-Atlantic Region when I was active in the former-Allentown CSI chapter, now Greater Lehigh Valley. The Mid-Atlantic Region comprises of 13 chapters across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
With many good friends across those Chapters, I have continued to follow their work from afar, and when Cherise and I were asked by our friend, Charles Hendricks, of The Gaines Group Architects, well over a year ago to visit Harrisonburg, VA and attend and present at MARC2020, we know we couldn't say no.
Billed as "Vision for the Future", we're excited to join the ranks of 18 Learning Unit sessions from the O.G. Young Architect himself, Michael Riscica (who is presenting 'How to Pass the ARE' and 'Entrepreneurship for Architecture Students'), Phil Kabza AKA SpecGuy (presenting 'Specifications 2020: Hindsight, Foresight, and Insight'), Paul Bertram, FCSI (presenting 'Off-Site Modular Constructions Trends and Specification Pathways'), Brent Williams (presenting '– Personal Branding as a Designer in the Connected Economy' and more across 3 days in early April, including Golf, Sporting Clays, Ice Cream, our very own Let's Fix Construction workshop along with a Young Professionals Day and a CSI Night Out.
If you act fast (as in today or tomorrow!), CSI members can attend for as little as $199 with discounts for Young Professional members and students.
Don't find out too late in your AEC career about the benefits that a CSI region can offer. J.W. spelled it out to me seven years ago, and I wish it had been written four years before that.
EDITOR'S NOTE 2/17/20: From Central VA CSI: Early bird registration is being extended to Midnight EST on Monday, February 24th.
Specs + Data = ?
Contributed by Jeffrey Potter
The AEC industry is finally recognizing their treasure chest of data. It’s like the explosion of analytics with baseball (aka sabermetrics), it took over 100 years for baseball to realize what data chest they had and how to implement it. The same event is happening within the AEC industry and you better hop on the train now because it’s moving fast. Everything from the design of the building to the construction of the building is using data now in some capacity, but what about the specs, how can data assist or improve the role of specifications? The answer is probably not what you think…
When I realized the treasure chest of spec data I was sitting on, I work with a software where everything is stored on a server, my mind literally had one of those light bulb moments. Initially, from our project history in the server, I was able to figure the most commonly used sections and do two things. First, I cut down our 100-page specifications checklist to 40-pages, and finally to what is now 10-pages, of all the common sections for selections. Second, I created a historical archive where we keep those sections that have only been used once or twice in the past 4 years to be stored. My mind was blown, the possibilities where endless. I got amazing reviews for the two items above, and had so many other ideas on how to extract specification data and analyze it, but was going in the wrong direction until…
A few months later, I had another light bulb moment. There is such a thing as good data and bad/useless data. I was moving into the bad/useless data realm. For one example I wanted to figure or set up a template project with the top X amount of sections. Because every good size project has the same basic sections, it would be easy to set up and save time, but this conflicted with the Revit Model and how we bring specifications into our software. Which essentially does the same thing as a template project, although much quicker and smarter. Then, what would I do on small projects or much larger projects? This wasn’t the solution I was looking for on my data set.
My next train of thought took me down some exciting new avenues on how we can leverage data with specifications: product use and production. Product use is extremely important and I simply define it as “a product specified on a project that was installed”, pretty simple. Why is this important? Because if I am specifying Product A on 85% of my projects, yet on 75% of those projects, the Contractor is substituting for Product B… Why am I specifying this product? Why is the Contractor substituting? Is it because Product A cost more, harder on labor? Is it a regional item where Contractors in a specific region want Product B? Is my firm specifying old technology? Is one office favoring Product A over Product B? As you can see many questions arise, but the big ones are …
Sell Solutions, NOT Products
Contributed by Michael Chambers
As an architectural marketer, educator, and trainer, I have tried to identify and present the most effective ways of reaching architects, establishing relationships, getting products listed in specifications, developing great educational programs, improving presentation skills, minimizing substitutions, networking, and a host of other strategies and tactics to effectively market architectural design professionals.
Marketing not Sales
I have long pounded home the notion that you don’t sell design professionals; you market them. The critical strategy is how to overcome the “peddler” image of the product rep and become a key resource and industry expert. Time and time again, I have made the point that architects don’t buy products; they specify them. I have offered the notion that marketing is really education; so, don’t sell, educate.
While marketing is a key aspect of the effective construction product representative, it still is not the whole package. Issues on specifying and specifications are integral to success. Developing and presenting outstanding continuing education programs are incredibly effective in opening doors into design professional offices are crucial. Learning to be marketer-educator instead of a salesperson is the hallmark of a successful construction product representative.
What is Missing?
What then is the missing element in highly effective construction product representative? I have found myself coming full circle in the process and am convinced that in the end, the bottom line is selling. Not selling products, no, never that, but selling solutions. Design professionals operate on the basis of identifying problems and developing solutions for those problems.
Products Rarely Solve Problems
Products are merely elements in a solution, and it is critical to being effective with design professionals to make this key differentiation.
Solutions solve problems; products are a part of a solution, but not the solution itself.
Don’t misunderstand, products are critical to good solutions but are rarely the sum total of an actual solution to a problem. Solutions are made up of a series of issues, elements, constraints, and opportunities that can be simple or complex and require a range of responses to solve. A product is merely on element of a solution.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
“People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they're exactly like the old ones.” —Charles F. Kettering
There are fewer industries that exemplify that statement than construction. Slower that most to implement technologies and trends, AEC continues to lag behind in keeping up with the times and acknowledging industry and world issues.
We'll be hearing plenty of 2020 vision lines over these next twelve months as we look into this new year and beyond. The economy is strong, construction is booming and "The Times They Are A-Changin'", as Bob Dylan says.
A quick reminder that if you want to do your part in implementing a bit of change and future vision into the construction industry, the time is ripe to submit your thoughts as the initial round for the Call for Sessions for CONSTRUCT 2020 is closing tomorrow evening, January 8.
Being held September 30 – October 2, 2020 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, TX,
CONSTRUCT offers "a platform for exploring and refining innovative solutions to solve complex problems facing the AEC industry today. During the three-day educational program and two-day expo, industry leaders converge with a common goal of educating and inspiring for the betterment of the industry."
The same old sessions need not apply. Industry leaders at CONSTRUCT are looking for solutions to real-world problems, in diverse areas such as:
Your complete presentation does not need to be submitted now. Put your summary and learning objectives together and act fast as the call for education session proposals closes at 11:59 pm PT on January 8, 2020.
Be a part of CONSTRUCT 2020 and be a part of the solutions that the construction industry needs, learn how to submit your proposal and share your knowledge today!
Disclaimer: As the author of this piece, I should let it be known that I have had the honor to be on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council since 2017. The Council assists CONSTRUCT show management in developing the Education Program by reviewing and grading the call for presentations submitted for consideration, providing input and suggestions for improving current and future educational activities, including recommending new and diverse educational presenters, topics, and formats.
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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