Architects, CSI Is Not Just About Specs

Fellow architects, solutions offered by the Construction Specifications Institute take the brain damage out of communication in many phases of design and construction.  Also, taking advantage of the educational opportunities CSI offers can help you be a better architect.

The Construction Specifications Institute is not just about specs.  CSI offers formats and processes for the project team to use for many phases of a building’s design and construction, from Preliminary Project Description through Punch List.  (You don’t have to reinvent these things for your practice.)  CSI also offers educational programs about technical topics from building envelope performance to daylighting.

It’s fun, and fulfilling, to design.  It’s a great accomplishment to listen to a client’s needs and put solutions on paper in the form of a building design.  My favorite phase of design, when I worked as an architect, was design development.  The inefficient (in my eyes) schematic design process was out of the way, and the complicated construction documents phase was yet to come.  In DD, I didn’t have to detail things, and the client’s needs had already been taken into account in schematic design.  I could just focus on the big picture of the building itself, and coordinate and refine plans, elevations, and sections.  Fun!

But the practice of architecture is not all about fun with drawings.  Fellow architects, we are part of the construction industry.  Most of us don’t design “unbuilt work” on purpose.  Most of us are designing buildings for the purpose of getting them constructed.  When we produce construction documents, the end users of those documents aren’t our clients, and they aren’t magazine readers, they’re the people who are supposed to build a building from those documents.

The technical information that the contractor needs to know (in order to build your design) doesn’t all reside in that big book called the Project Manual.  An awful lot of the technical stuff needs to be drawn, in detail, on your drawings.  Architects (not just spec writers) need to understand the technical details of construction. 

It’s great to have a good-looking rendering.  But it’s better to have a design that gets executed really, really well in construction.  A building that lasts and looks good as it ages speaks well of its architect. 

Here’s how you get a great building, a great execution of your design:  First have good construction documents that clearly communicate to the contractor the technical details of your design intent.  Second, have excellent communication with the contractor throughout the construction phase.

CSI has solutions that help tremendously with construction documents and construction phase communication.  You don’t need to be a CSI member to take advantage of some of the things CSI offers, such as education, standards and formats, webinars, and construction industry news.  But membership opens the door to more benefits, such as networking opportunities and member discounts on the things I mentioned above.

If you’re considering joining CSI, this weekend is a good time to do so.  Right now, today through Monday, you get 20% off national membership dues.  (If you want to join your local chapter in addition, which you should to get the full benefit of CSI, that separate membership is still at the normal price.)  Here’s the scoop from CSI:

Join CSI by October 31 and pay only $192 for national dues — a 20% savings.

1.    Visit
2.    Select “Join Now”, and then click “Sign Up as a New Member”
3.    Enter Promotion Code 1220ARCH when prompted
4.    Click the “Add Discount” button

We recommend you also join a chapter, where you can attend local education sessions and networking opportunities (chapter dues are not included in this promotional offer).

One thought on “Architects, CSI Is Not Just About Specs

  1. I love your comments on DD, Liz. In the practice of many architects, it is the least understood of all project phases – most often accomplishing too little but sometimes too much. Once I understood it early in my career, it’s one that I also have thoroughly enjoyed.

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