Capital idea!

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

In "Worst case", I said it is time to stop using uppercase font on drawings. Let's continue that discussion, this time looking at specifications. Not that we should be using one set of rules for drawings, and another for specifications; the same rules should apply to both. With a few exceptions, text should use sentence case - capitalizing only the first word of a sentence and proper nouns. This seems reasonable, but, as we will see, it rarely happens. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 251: By the Numbers

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Hup-2-3-4; Hup-2-3-4 [cadence]; strike 3; 16-1/2x34, 36/30, 34B [uh, we’ll go no further here]; $3/gal; 70 mph; 32 mpg; $1 a dozen; 10 cents [oh no, that newspaper is $1 now]; 4 minute mile; .49.3 for 50 yd butterfly; $100-$300 for groceries; $8 beer at ballpark; $1/hour parking meet; 25 cents penalty for late return of borrowed library book; $22,482 tuition; $7,895 for one on a cruise with no guarantee and prompt return; 88 cents for a two-core concrete block; $2 for an 8-foot 2x4 which is really only 94 inches long; $0 no one’s credit card balance; $20 a pound for high-end [and very good] mixed chocolates. 3, number of points Bengals lose by in most overtimes. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 250

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

On this Wednesday
There can be no other message than
We, each of us, have an inter-perception
That tells us of some happiness, in our lives-
No matter what.
It is for us to think on this
and recognize and appreciate
what we truly have—
take a moment in your busy day
reflect and rejoice.
Give true thanks.

© 2013, Ralph Liebing

Worst case

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC


One of the reasons architects and engineers have used only uppercase may have been the difficulty of learning to letter. I don't know what today's students think about lettering, but when I was in architecture school, developing a "hand" was seen as a critical part of the architect's identity. Shortly after graduating, I wrote a check at a department store. I still recall my swelling sense of pride when, after looking at the check, the cashier said, "Oh, you must be an architect!" Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 249: Differences

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

We all recognize the differences that occur in the many aspects of our lives. Some we tolerate; some we encourage; some we merely accept with little more than a nod. But maybe we should just take a minute to reflect, and compare ideas or thoughts that come out in different context, and certainly with different meanings:

“NO!” [what don’t you understand about that?]
“Well, no, not exactly that way”

Per-SPEC-tives No. 248: Think On This

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Now this is not to make fun of BIM, or to decry other possible “coming attractions” but rather it is an attempt to show that the erosion of the design professions will continue if there is not better discussion with clients, and a closer relationship between client and professional. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 247: Snug It Up!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Now granted this is a minor matter, but one that bugs the day lights out of this oldster, who for 40 years wore a collar and tie to work. For me, it was a matter of pride in self and appearance- a detail that should not distract but should enhance. But then this illustrates the architect/detailer, and latent specifications writer in me-- DETAILS count!!

It worked last time…

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

For many years, I was one of the instructors for my CSI chapter's certification classes. In addition to explaining what CSI's practice manuals say, I liked to include horror stories - real-world examples of the ways people found to really mess up a project. One of my favorite stories came from a public sector waste treatment agency. The project was a relatively simple addition to an existing building at one of the waste treatment facilities, to provide shower and locker rooms for the employees. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 246: Pennies, Nickels, and Dimes

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Pennies, nickels and dimes, left in the pocket often beget large written checks payments beyond contingencies. Why? Who’s at fault?

Quite often we, as specifiers and designers, run into clients who are erroneously determined to minimize the essentials of projects-- i.e., programming, drawings, and specifications. The shortsightedness of this effort is usually the work of uninformed corporate officials or more often by corporate operatives such as plant engineers, maintenance personnel, or others bedeviled by the bean-counters who oversee projects-- projects, incidentally, that they have no understanding of. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 245: Speak Up!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

In professional registration examinations, formulas may be required, but how you do the math manipulations is open to many methods [including fingers and toes]. Great principles are examined in the context of how they are applied in any of several solutions—but the testing is in the knowledge of what principle to use. Design problems, be they structural, architectural or mechanical, all are subjective to a point, and modified by principles, again, to produce any of many solutions. The testing is that the correct principle is used, and the solution reflects correct use of that principle. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 244: RA

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

The phone rang that December 10, 1963-- it was my Dad. “Congratulations, ARCHITECT”, came his greeting. “Don’t kid me on that, Pop”, I sent back. He went on to tell me that it was in the paper on page 5, near the bottom at the fold [of course!]. Read More...

2013 Northeast Region Conference

Your Northeast Region Conference is just over a month away. If you haven't already made plans to attend, please consider it. Thanks to generous support from our Platinum Sponsors ASSA Abloy and ATAS International, we are prepared to have a great event. The trade show booths are all but sold out, registrations are coming in, the logistics have been worked out with the hotel, presenters are putting the final touches on their workshops and the learning units have been applied for. It will be a fun and educational event filled with networking opportunities with fellow construction professionals from around the region.

The only way you, your company and your chapter benefit is to join us. So check it out. Make your reservation. And come have fun while advancing your career and your Northeast Region CSI.

The details can be found on the web at:

Note the hotel block rate for CSI members is only guaranteed until October 14th. After that it is subject to availability. So please don't procrastinate!


Per-SPEC-tives No. 243: Would You Believe...?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Sometimes the most unusual things, or facts occur and we just wonder how they came about, why and the timing. Quite often we have a good surprise; or we see more clearly [as in I am now cataract free!] Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 242: The Dichotomy of Architecture

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

It is time for us to quite “footsying along” and consider the state of dichotomy that is the reality of the profession [and engineering as well]. Even the most widely accepted definition notes architecture as “the art and science of building buildings and other structures”. Read More...

Above and beyond…

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

Published each year, CSI's "Honors & Awards Guide" describes the requirements for each Institute award and honor, and contains the information needed to make a nomination. Despite the availability of the Guide, which is posted on the Institute website, many nominations are deficient in one way or another. Given the amount of information in the guide's forty-five pages, it is not surprising that questions arise, but staff, the chair of the Awards Committee, and the chair of the Jury of Fellows will gladly answer those questions. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 241: CSI: A Multi-Directional, Influential Force!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

What comes to mind if I say-- AGC, ACSA, AIA, NSPE, ASCE, ASME, NCARB, NAAB, Intern, IDP, EIT, emerging professional, students, affiliates, ICC, plan reviewers, BIM, “green”/LEED®, and a bunch more-- or simply a floating contact mine with multiple, virtually unavoidable detonators? Read More...

2013 Annual CSI Metropolitan New York Chapter Trade Show and Education Day

The 2013 Annual CSI Metropolitan New York Chapter Trade Show and Education Day will explore the ways in which teams and teamwork contribute to better building, using the experience of recently-completed NYC projects as lesson material. Come and learn with us, share your knowledge with us, and interact with others who share your quest for doing a better job of designing and constructing buildings.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Seminars: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Trade Show: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Closing Reception: 5:00PM to 7:00PM

Location: Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, New York

Featuring Project Team presentations on some of the most exciting recent projects in New York City:

Avenues: The World School, Chelsea
Perkins Eastman Architects

The Columbia University Medical and
Graduate Education Building
Diller, Scofidio and Renfro/Gensler

Solar 2: Solar Energy Building Study, NYC
Terrapin/Bright Green, LLC

NYC Sandy Recovery Projects
US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District

Specifications Roundtable
Featuring Specifications Leaders from the Featured Projects

Cost: $10 includes seminars, snacks, lunch, reception, and trade show, with AIA Learning Units. All registration fees will be donated to NYC Sandy Relief.

Learn more about the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.

Per-SPEC-tives No. 240: The Future of History

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Can’t give an accurate number or percentage, but venture to say a good number of design professionals who were trained a good number of years ago [OK, I did college in the mid- to late ‘50s, and revel in my dinosaur moniker!]. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 239: Do Knowledge and Skill, in Construction, Equate?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Yes, in a manner if we use specific limits of definitions. Namely, if we “assign” knowledge of the products and their flexibility of fabrication [with help of trusted product representatives] to the design professionals. And skill in fabrication and installation [with help of the product reps, too] to the work trade professionals. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 238: Arrogance and Spec Writing

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Did I just say that?

The question flashed through my mind as my colleague architects rounded the corner from my cube. She and he both went away satisfied with the information they asked for, but I am not at all sure that my “delivery” of it was sound. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 237: The Show…and the Show……….ER, CONSTRUCT!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

The annual round-up of the faithful and the “others”, [not all are CSI members, but are in varying situations]. All have their motive, and some anticipate much more than others. Some are busy with side issues [?] of organization business, choice of attire for the main event, practicing thank-you speeches-- and some simply to see old friends, to bend elbows and chat. Some will be missing. Read More...

Awards and honors…

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

Each year, most organizations set aside one day to acknowledge the efforts of their members, and to honor those who have made significant contributions. CSI is no exception; we have award ceremonies at chapter, region, and Institute levels. The crowning moments take place at the annual convention, where Institute awards are presented, where we honor those selected for Distinguished Membership, and where we honor those who have been elevated to Fellowship. While the criteria for most awards are fairly straightforward and easy to understand, there is a mystique surrounding Fellowship; but more on that later. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 236: The Angst with Codes and Documents

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

In the face of what appears to be a growing expansion and to some an intrusion, of code officials into the process of documenting projects, there is need for open, free and collaborative discussion. Both sides must understand the other-- fully-- and be ready to discuss, accommodate, compromise and resolve the entire issue, with mutual respect and conclusive results. Read More...

Message from the Northeast Region (NER) CSI President

Dear CSI Members and Friends,

As your newly elected Northeast Region (NER) CSI President, I'd like to share my thoughts about the 2 greatest challenges (and changes) facing our organization (and society as a whole). Within the next 10 years, CSI can either become obsolete or essential - I'm hoping for the latter!
"Change or die: there are no alternatives." *

Per-SPEC-tives No. 235: CCPR?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Recently saw a blog posting asking what I thought when seeing “CCPR” behind one’s name. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 234: The Finese of Reality Bidding

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

You know we all are so bound up in producing good design, quality documentation, reasonable and compliant materials and systems, that we lose sight of some other aspects of our projects. Like bidding.

Absolute zero

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

In the last article, "Absolute nonsense", I wrote about the great number of words available to express fine distinctions of meaning, and how, properly used, they can be quite precise. In daily use, however, words often are used incorrectly, and most would agree that many disagreements are based on different interpretations of what we say. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 233: The Confluence

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Education on a specific topic begins at an established point and progresses as added information and expertise develops. Often highly technical topics require pre-requisite fundamental information, involving a wide breadth of information, with a flexibility of application to varied situations. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 232: Potential

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

She sat in her chair merrily eating baked apple, one chunk at a time, giggling and gesturing with each. She was in a good mood-- she sang, teased, gyrated, colored, chattered, and well, was just a delight. She solves grandma’s iPad problems, and is a whiz on her electronics of all kinds. She also sings in Spanish, counts well beyond 250, watches PBS and tells her grandfather he’s being “silly”. She’s my 6-year old granddaughter. Then and after I wondered-- what will she turn out to be, since she is so sharp and aware at 6-- i.e., What is her potential? What has the Good Lord planned and put before her to do and accomplish? What does He want her to do and contribute to the world? Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 231: Hey! Wait A Minute.....!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Uh!, Hey! What the ____! Just what is going on??

My colleagues and I just sat through a Lunch and Learn which was….let’s just say, a real bummer-- and quickly said, it was NOT the rep’s fault. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 230: For the Sake of Appearances

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Does appearance count? I think so. In fact, I think we should declare, nationwide, the fourth Friday of each month as “Formal Friday”!

Not too long ago I read that the business community is moving to reduce or discard Casual Friday, etc., and return to the more conservative dress codes of years past. Hurrah! I personally think this would have a major impact on our economy by invigorating the depressed necktie market, and by using more cloth in dresses and suits [as opposed to jeans]. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 229

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

The following, as an individual, and perhaps consensus expression of a few, constitute the more obvious Bill of Rights applicable for specifications writers, specifically [as individuals, consultants, and in-house employees]-- local office restraints notwithstanding]:

1. The right to be included as a member of the design team from inception of the project; Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 228: Beef Stew

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Hearty! Chunky! Stick-to-the-ribs! Filling! Appropriate any time! Thick! Flavorful! Varied contents!

Beef Stew?

Naw!!-- specifications! Man, that’s so obvious!! These ain’t no soufflé, baked Alaska, angel food cake, or a smooooth Chardonnay! They’re not even Bud Light-- being more ale or bock. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 227: You Never Know!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Please forgive the overly personalized message, but just had a most amazing experience [as in “ain’t it a small world”?]. And through an odd blend of the old and the new. Hmmm! and Wow!

Through our company web site, a message came “looking for me”, not as an escapee, but as one who might have more information. The message was passed to me for reply. I found that the “seeker” was looking for a former colleague and saw a mutual reference and then sought me through the wizardry of modern electronic web site-- the CSI web site apparently came up with me through a search. You never know! Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 226: Old and New - Do They Ever Meet?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Do waves that hit the shore and ebb back out to sea, ever become the next waves that come ashore? Or are the “old” waves spent and lost, being absorbed or mixed in to the making of “new waves” [or advising the new one how to form better] Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 225: Success

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

“[enter holiday] comes but once a year,
But the day after is the one to fear.
Oh, dear with all this belly ache,
Pepto-Bismol you must take.”

Hey, don’t scoff-- did you write better poetry at eight? The point, dear critic, is that what is so grand, wonderful and satisfying one day, is often—indeed, too often-- far less glamorous the next. So, in regard to current events, has any convention ever been less than a success-- i.e., a failure? Think carefully.


Per-SPEC-tives No. 224: Major Surgery

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

We all know about and can cite examples of what we call “major surgery”-- disconnecting conjoined twins, removal of brain tumors, heart transplants, etc. Usually operations that take long hours-- days perhaps-- and with scores of professionals in the operating room. Certainly not the “small potatoes” of removing a splinter! Read More...

Absolute nonsense

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

A few weeks ago, while patiently waiting in that a.m. parking lot we call a freeway, I was listening to a drive-time talk show. "Not many specifiers calling in today," I thought. Caller after caller would agree with the host's comments by saying "Exactly!" - even when the stated position was complex, and the callers appeared to grasp only part of the issue. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 223: Yet Another -- The Same But This Year Different

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Memorial Day this year is still like many others past-- but different. As this is written, the middle lands of our country are a disaster. Tornados with no eyes or intent have smashed lives, taken at least 20 children, mainly in their class rooms. A teacher covered others to save them. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 222: Education, By the Numbers!

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Who needs education? We all do, of course, but other factors play into our education. One primary factor is the progressive sequence of the education, i.e., the various “levels” of topic matter that build one upon the other to provide a complete and rational array of information. In some instances the underlying education is “lost” as the final result is the information that is actively used and which has grown out of the basic prior levels. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 221: Getting Better is Really Tough

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Re-branding is very good idea! Staying with what works is really comfy! “Taking for granted” is a very fine program for failure.

Overcoming status quo, inertia and complacency is “a tough row to hoe”! We’ve abdicated “perfection” in favor of “aiming for perfection” [never to get there!]. Oh, of course, we have occasional 300 scores in bowling and maxed SAT scores, but in general we are just aiming! And footballers [and others] are always trying to “move to the next level”. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 220: Feasibility Is Not a Goal

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Showing that an opportunity or ability to do something is a possibility is not an end goal.

It is only verification [after investigation] that something is possible, but the end result requires much more study, refinement and work. It is a matter of knowing what can/should be done, and understanding and deciding if we really want to do it. Flexibility, alternatives, options, etc., are integral parts of the linkage between, “Yes, we can” and “Let’s do it this way” Read More...

24/7; Déjà vu all over again!

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

"Existing communication methods have done a good job of addressing most of the information exchange involved in construction. E-mail and electronic file transfer are commonly used between owner and architect, and between architect and consultants. One conspicuous oversight has been the contact between the design professional’s office and the contractor in the field." Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 219: The Absolute Certainty

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

We’ve got to do it!

We’ve got to better and more fully understand “the Absolute Certainty”, what it means, and how it works. In addition, we MUST teach it early, explain it, reinforce it, and DO IT!!! Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 218: The Second Meaning of "Ripe"

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

How “ripe” are you?

Never thought of this concept? Well, for a moment let’s see where we are. Read More...

CSI Northeast Region Conference May 21-23 at Shelburne Farms in Vermont

Dear CSI Friends within the Northeast Region:
On behalf of the NER, it's my pleasure to invite you to the upcoming CSI Northeast Region Conference May 21-23 at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. This event is being held in conjunction with the Vermont Chapter's successful annual "Green and Sustainable Vermont". The semi-annual NER Board Meeting is scheduled for May 23 (8:00am-12:00pm) and attendance is required by NER Officers, Region Directors, and Committee Chairs. All CSI members are welcome to attend the festivities: Trade Show, Educational Programs, After Party, and much much more!

Conference Overview:
Costs, Registration and Lodging:

Looking forward to seeing you in Vermont!

Tracey Powell, Assoc. AIA, CSI
Northeast Region Secretary and President-elect

Per-SPEC-tives No. 217: Bag of Tricks....Tools

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Every upper level student, intern and emerging professional needs to be provided with [or acquire] a “bag of tools". [Remember your tackle box in college with all of your physical equipment?] Actually, the bag is started at the lower-level student, who comes to the profession education with little if any real insight or understanding of what the profession entails and what will be required. In that there is certain sadness; a disappointment, because the current reality is that little or no collegiate instruction is given over to professional practice and basic construction methods and materials. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 216: Knowing It All

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Do we have to know it all? Well, as specifiers, we may have to come pretty close. In baseball, there is the “utility” player who is able to function pretty well at several positions [but still does not know them all]. It’s the same in football, Teaching too requires more than basic instructional methods and topics—knowledge beyond the subject matter at hand is useful. In the construction industry it is more “what you NEED to know”-- not everything when much is irrelevant. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 215: Why?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

You may not be used to it, but my wife is constantly asking me questions that start with “Why”, and for which I have no answers [and usually I am not aware if there is any answer!]. Maybe you know the kind-- “Why did he do that?”, she asks when another driver does something dumb. “I don’t know. Want me to get out and ask him? Read More...

Curmudgeon's Corner: 24/7; gone fishing

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

My, how things have changed! The brave new world of 24/7 interconnectivity certainly is marvelous; each day brings new ways to learn more about everything, sometimes too many. I'm not going to give you the old line about "When I was a kid, we had to walk two miles to school, through the snow, uphill both ways!" And I'm not going to rail against progress. I am fascinated by new technology and new products, and I still enjoy learning about everything possible. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 214: CSI, Who?

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Those of us, who are CSI members, well know the expertise, dedication and direction of the organization and the individual members-- whether design professionals, or manufacturers’ representatives. All of us may not know all the ins and outs of CSI, but there are some who have virtually dedicated their lives and efforts to the group and have overseen its correct development. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 213: Substitute by Opinion

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Bam! The stamp of approval has been laid upon the request-- the substitute has been approved!

Hey! But wait a minute! The substitute is but one 2-sided sheet, written in a virtually illegible script submitted with some snippets of information and a copy of certificate that doesn’t seem to apply to the product in question. What’s going on and WHY has this highly questionable substitute been approved? Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 212: The “Story” to be Told

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

“Once upon a time, it was a dark and dreary night...............................”

Now let’s see, where does that belong-- Part 1- Summary? Part 1- Project Conditions? Division 01, Section 011100, Summary of Work? Section 003119, Existing Condition Information? or Section 281600, Intrusion Detection? Read More...

Curmudgeon's Corner: Because we can

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

Isn't it interesting, that amidst all the hoopla about "sustainable" design, there has been little reduction in the stream of new, improved, state-of-the-art, can't-live-without-them products that increase energy demand? Most of these supposedly life-changing inventions offer needless conveniences, and most of them require electricity to operate. They appear to have been created for no better reason that someone could do it.


Per-SPEC-tives No. 211: The More the Merrier

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

In the quest to provide the best information possible, using various resources, supporting data, and references is the best direction to take . Often in using a single source, we limit the purview of our work and allow the cynic to either dispute or discredit our work and conclusions. We don’t need to excuse” our work, but rather we do, need to create credentials for it and to otherwise substantiate it to show that we are not stating a single perspective or opinion. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 210: It’s the Specs…XXXXXX !

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Be careful what you put in place of the X’s, because although we need to call attention, we should not offend-- I am sure you can insert many different words-- depending on the current venture. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 209: In the Service of Peers

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Being in the service of your peers is the hardest job of all, except when in the service of a relative [primarily your father!]. Of course, it is quite obvious that Dad sets your agenda and the measures of your work.

But when serving your peers it is another story. What are your obligations? What need you set aside of your persona to the benefit of the entirety of your peer group? It may be as simple as giving up lunch for a day, to make a presentation to your peers in the office— sharing an experience, sharing learning’s from a seminar, or instructing a class [days or evenings]on some aspect of your work/practice. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 208: Partners in…….. Success

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

In many situations, there is really a need for more than one person. Of course, there are thousands of tasks for s single person, but with two or more people there is an easier path to completion and success. Indeed, in many instances, thousands of people are involved-- like architectural, engineering and construction projects. Read More...

Curmudgeon's Corner: Faith-based specifications

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

One of the most difficult things specifiers do is try to decide if one product is equivalent to another. Fortunately, many product characteristics are based on industry standards, which can make those products easier to specify and to evaluate. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 207: Your Super Bowl

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Suit up!! It’s getting to be that time again! Everything from big hulky guys playing a rather involved, image of American football [or as Andy Griffith called the-- “a little punkin”]. To 10,000 people dancing in the dark, to music that is----well, I’m not going there!!! Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 206: Informational Submittals

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

What, in your opinion, is an “informational submittal”? What is the definition of them in specifications? What, in your attorney’s opinion, is your risk/liability inherent and hence expanded with information submittals? Read More...

Northeast Region Conference 2013: Green and Sustainable Vermont

May 21 to 23, 2013 in Shelburne, Vermont

Mark your calendars now for the return of the Northeast Region Conference.
This year’s event will include a welcome reception Tuesday evening, the all day Green and Sustainable Vermont trade show and education sessions Wednesday followed by an annual meeting, scholarship auction and cocktail party into the evening, Thursday morning’s Institute Update, CSI board and leadership sessions, and finishing with an awards luncheon Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday’s events will be held at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms, on the magnificent 1,400-acre working farm/campus on the shores of Lake Champlain. The conceptual layout for this National Historic Landmark was designed by America’s father of landscape architecture Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1880’s. Prominent architect Robert H. Robertson designed four major buildings including the Coach Barn where our events take place.

Shelburne Farms began a rebirth in 1972, when family descendants founded a nonprofit organization of the same name, whose mission is to cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future. For 40 years, the organization has offered educational opportunities for children of all ages to learn about sustainability and their connections to the natural and agricultural world.

Full details on the event speakers and presentations are being finalized. These will be posted shortly along with online attendee registration forms, hotel information, and vendor and sponsorship opportunities.

Per-SPEC-tives No. 205: The Company "Line"

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Does your firm have a published mission statement?

Have you been called upon to memorize the statement and be able to recite it verbatim? In most cases, the firm will issue the very insightful and directed statement and then ask the employees to be able to express or describe the thrust of the statement in their own words. Smart! Read More...

Golden Rep Workshop – Wednesday March 13th

Perkins-Eastman Architects
115 5th Avenue – 3rd Fl
New York, NY

Lunch provided by Metro NY CSI at no charge

Morning Session – 10AM – 12PM

Title: Golden Reps and the CDT
Wanted: Product representatives who can become trusted advisors to the design team! You must know your product, know all your competitors’ products, know how and when construction schedules and budgets are developed, know Div. 01 and three-part format specifications, and be willing to share this knowledge with architects without making them feel foolish.

You must have the confidence to tell the design team not to use your product when it’s the wrong product. You must be able to handle a substitution request, both yours and your competitor’s. Deliver all this (and take our weekend phone calls) and we’ll call you first every time, and recommend you to all our colleagues. Interested? Come to this session and we’ll discuss what designers want in a rep.

We’ll also talk about how CSI’s Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certificate and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR) Certification can help you become a golden rep while reviewing the material that will appear on the exams.
1) Learn what product reps must know about construction to support the design team.
2) Review how a construction project unfolds, and what reps should do when.
3) Learn the information that belongs on drawings vs. in the specifications.
4) Discuss handling substitution requests – yours, and your competitor’s.

Afternoon Session – 1PM – 3PM

Title: A Link is Not a Relationship
Building on the morning session, we’ll discuss how the fundamentals of product representation apply in social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and similar social media platforms are new tools – but what you should be doing with them isn’t!

They’re today’s way to support your relationship with designers, so that you can remain the go-to person your clients think of first. In this session, we’ll discuss using social media to build and maintain relationships with the design team.

You’ll leave with a strategy for getting started in social media, or, for the experienced social media user, strategies for making your social media profiles work harder for you. Submit links to your profiles in advance to Joy Davis at, and we’ll discuss what you’re doing in social media!

1) Learn to apply your product rep know-how in social media.
2) Identify the role of social media in your marketing strategy.
3) Develop basic profile information that is searchable, and that will portray you as a trustworthy professional.
4) Develop a manageable content strategy for your social media profiles.

Metro NY Chapter Meeting – 5:30 – 8:30 PM

Dupont/Corian Showroom
49 West 23rd St

Title: Relationship Advice for Reps and Architects
A construction project is not a one-night stand. Good product representatives build long-term relationships with the architects they support.

In this session, we’ll discuss the foundations of good product representation and becoming a golden rep. We’ll also discuss what designers need from reps, and what reps need from designers.

All of our discussion will be based on what CSI teaches through the Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certificate program – don’t miss this meeting if you plan to take the exam in March!
1) Understand how a construction project generally unfolds from the point of view of the documents.
2) Discuss the role of product representatives, and what expectations they must meet to support the design team.
3) Discuss social media and how it can help support the rep-architect relationship.
4) Review a checklist of items every rep must know before they walk into an architect’s office

Per-SPEC-tives No. 204: New Way of Putting “U” in CSI

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

How recently have you talked to an architectural or engineering college student about your work as a specifications writer or in regard to specifications? Tough topic! Now surely you are not embarrassed to do this, but the occasion just did not present itself—right? Read More...

Curmudgeon's Corner: Liebster Blog Awards

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

Early in December, fellow blogger Randy Nishimura honored me by nominating my Constructive Thoughts blog for the Liebster Award. "How cool!" I thought. "It's nice to know someone actually reads what I write!" Being a specifier, I know how rarely that happens, and the relatively few responses to the hundreds of articles I have written suggests those articles don't fare much better.

The thrill quickly dissipated as I read the description of the award. Read More...

Per-SPEC-tives No. 203: Going Out On A Limb

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

Is there a risk management program for “going out on a limb-- or “making an effort”, or “doing something/anything”, or “taking a stab at it”? Is there a necessarily higher risk in simply trying to do something that either has not been done before, or which you may be able to do better?

If so, why?