Is That All There Is?

CSI's activities have remained focused on specifications; rare is the activity or article that addresses the needs of industry members

part 1

part 2


During the last fifty years, CSI has played a significant role in the construction industry. Originally a group of specifiers intent on bringing order to construction documents, the organization has grown to include a large number of product suppliers and design professionals. Founded by specifiers, the majority of CSI's efforts, until the last few years, have been directed toward specifications and other text documents used in construction.

Throughout this time, CSI has been perceived as an organization of specifiers, regardless of the true makeup of its membership. According to recent membership statistics, about five percent of CSI's members claim to be specifiers. Overall, our members are about one-third design professionals, one-third suppliers, with a handful of people in each of several other occupations making up the rest.

Obviously, CSI has grown and changed, yet its activities have remained focused on specifications - until recently. There is no doubt that construction documents are the foundation of construction; they are the legal instruments that govern the responsibilities of all members of the construction team. As such, they should always be an important part of CSI's focus.

And they are. Consider the documents that have been offered by CSI. UniFormat and MasterFormat establish rules for organizing construction products, procedures, and information. SectionFormat describes how a specification section should be written. PageFormat sets standards for the way specifications appear in print. The current Manual of Practice discusses how contract documents are prepared and interpreted, focusing primarily on text documents - but also addressing coordination of specifications and drawings. We used to have several other technical documents, their focus also being specifications.

Look at our publications and activities. Our magazine, the Construction Specifier, regularly has several articles about products, written with the specifier in mind. Chapter meetings are usually based on technical information aimed at specifiers, as are product fairs. Newsletters generally advise members about coming meetings or report on the last meeting; those that go further add technical information about products. Rare is the activity or article that addresses the needs of the industry members.

Two recent developments begin to move away from specifications, but not very far. PerSpective, developed in cooperation with the Design Build Institute of America, does not deal directly with specifications, but is instrumental in determining what will be included in them. The UDS marks a significant change, dealing almost exclusively with drawings.

But is that all there is? Are specifications all that we should talk about?

2001 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA

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Material from CSI Chapter newsletters used with permission.