Strategic Alliances

by Sheldon Wolfe, CSI, CCS

Jane Baker made two interesting announcements at the annual convention in Denver.

  • CSI is working with Architects' First Source to revitalize the Spec-Data and Manu-Spec programs.

  • CSI and the Design Build Institute of America are working together to develop master guide specifications.

The alliance with Architects' First Source (AFS) will allow CSI to remain a leader in construction specifications. The immediate effect will be convenient, but not earth-shaking: instead of quarterly loose-leaf updates, members will receive SpecData and ManuSpec once each year.

Unfortunately, the greatest potential of this union - immediate access to manufacturers' information via the internet - was not addressed. AFS opened a web site in May, providing links for about 1,000 products. To be truly useful, all of the 9,000 plus companies in the printed version should be listed, and CSI/AFS must push all of them to provide on-line information.

The situation is similar to that when MasterFormat and SectionFormat were introduced - CSI dictated a common format to make specifications easier to write, edit, and interpret. Manufacturers, specifiers, and contractors have all benefited from the imposition of standard formats. So, too, will we all benefit from a common format for distribution of the information that is used to prepare specifications.

Our chapter's web site has already taken the first steps to implementing an information standard. Directories of local product reps, A/E firms, and contractors will provide quick access to those listed. To be included, information must be presented in a standard format.

Design Build Specifications
Design-build is rapidly displacing traditional project delivery systems. In 1987, only one of every twenty projects used design-build; in 1995, it was used for almost one of four projects. Some projections indicate that over half of all commercial projects will be design build by the year 2000. The new guide specifications are scheduled for publication within 18 months.

The National Institute of Building Sciences has assumed responsibility for maintaining this program. The remaining question is "What will happen to SpecGuides?" Unless the program is expanded to cover all sections, it has no hope of being successful. MasterSpec "green sheets" already serve the same purpose; perhaps CSI should concede this particular market, or join in another "strategic alliance" with Master Systems.

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