Marketing with MasterFormat

As building product manufactures develop products to meet new needs in the construction industry, they should understand how their products fit into the MasterFormat. When necessary, manufacturers should not hesitate to propose changes to the standard.

MasterFormat is the construction industry's standard for organizing construction-related information according to "work-results" based on construction practices. It is used to organize construction specifications, cost information, and building operations and maintenance information. Modifications can be proposed by users to keep the standard up to date and responsive to industry needs.

For example, I proposed the following changes that have been added to MasterFormat in the most recent update cycle:

09 78 19 Cementitious Interior Wall Paneling

09 78 23 Phenolic Interior Wall Paneling

13 19 19 Animal Washing Tubs

26 01 40.13 Operation and Maintenance of Lightning Protection Systems

32 18 23.63 Equestrian Surfacing

Additional information is at www.masterformat.org.

Good News about Guide Specifications

The quality of guide specifications published by building product manufacturers has improved significantly. I made a survey of 200 guide specifications in the mid-1980s and found that more than half of them were not in compliance with formats and principles of the Construction Specifications Institute. Now, in contrast, the overwhelming majority of guide specs are in substantial compliance with CSI guidelines.

Several factors have contributed to the improvement, including:
  • More architects and engineers have been trained and even certified in CSI formats and principle, and they have demanded better specs for the products they want to use.
  • Better trained specifiers also means that manufacturers have more consultants they can turn to for assistance in writing specs.
  • There are now more specification publishers, including Arcat, Arcom, BSD, E-Spec and others, that encourage manufacturers to follow CSI formats and principles.
I am gratified to see the improvement, as I have been proselytizing manufacturers for over 30 years -- conducting specification training programs, writing articles, and writing specs for more manufacturers than I can remember.

There is still room for improvement, of course. I recently saw a guide spec that was so poorly written that the manufacturer's misspelled its own name!  This bad example, however, cause me to reflect on how much the industry has improved.  And that is good news for all of us.

Should a manufacturer request a substitution during bidding?

I posted this question on CSI's LinkedIn group:
One of my clients, a building product manufacturer, calls architects during bidding to ask them to accept his framing accessory as a substitution. (He gets their names from a subscription service of jobs being bid.) When I said that Instructions to Bidders typically states that architect consider substitutions only if requested by a bidder, the manufacturer said that many architects don't abide by their own documents and he has a high rate of success at changing the specs. Now he wants my help with calls.

What would you say to this manufacturer if he told you his strategy? Should a manufacturer treat specs as inviolate or accept the realities of the marketplace?
Here is the gist of the feedback I got from CSI members. As a group, they want manufacturers to know and follow the instructions to bidders as published in the bidding documents.  CSI members may not be representative of the industry as a whole, but it is dangerous to ignore them:

  • Tell him "No, it's not right". Just because he breaks the rules does not mean you have to. There is a possibility that you will loose this client, but doing the right thing never fails. I have witnessed this principal to be true many many times. I understand that sometimes the rules must be broken, but from my perspective, this is not one of those times. 
  •  I would absolutely tell the manufacturer "no." If bidding documents say no substitutions or approved manufacturers only, then we should abide by them. I don't accept any calls from manufacturers during bidding as any information would give them an unfair advantage in bidding. I refer them back to the General Contractor or CM.
  • I would stick to your specs as the product manufacturer should be looking to get into your own office MasterSpec for future projects and not just for the "Now" project.
  • Manufacturers who market by playing outside of the rules or riding the fence can develop a reputation with the specifying community that is less favorable. It is the merit of the products and the value brought by good support of the products, that really wins, in my opinion. 
  • I would say that in that situation, the manufacturer needs to spend his efforts to convince the architect to include his product in future projects rather than the one out to bid.
  • ...the design professional is the one who's on the hook. If something is designed in, added by addendum, or approved after award of contract, it makes no difference; the person who certifies the documents is responsible. That alone makes me wonder why architects often appear eager to approve anything that comes in the door. Note that I didn't say design professionals in general. Neither engineers nor interior designers I know show little inclination to approve anything other than what they chose, even in public sector work. 
  • I often see that we Architects and Specifiers do not follow what we write or preach. We do allow substitutions be submitted without backup materials and often it is left to us to research and analyze the substitutions. Having said that...we often allow substitution during bidding process for value engineering, but if considered, we still request a formal Substitution for formal review. 
  • As a manufacturer's rep for a line that hasn't had a lot of presence in my territory, there is not a lot of consistency on how to approach substitutions.. .At the end of the day I recognize it's persistence, follow through and building a proven track record in my market.
  • Maybe it's the backwater I work in, but local reps generally follow the rules, and the new ones have been pretty good at calling to discuss their wares before applying for prior approval or substitution. 
  •  The point of having the substitution come through a primer bidder is so that the archtiect doesn't waste time approving products that no one wants to use. And, the manufacturer/subcontractor needs to know what the rules actually are for projects.
  •  Rules is rules, but the reality is, we often make exceptions. If one of my go-to guys calls me, I'll listen. They earned that status by helping me do my job, and I will listen to their advice at any time. They will understand if there is some reason I can't do anything for a specific projects.

  • Our market tends not to have very many manufacturers who try to bend the rules. Our reps do present their products to us for prior approval to put in our specs for projects. It's only once in a half year or so that I get phone calls or letters asking to bend the rules and they are mostly from outside our market area.
  • I am in belief that bidding should be done by the process. To that end I will share a story. Years ago I put a project out to bid. The hardware schedule specified products, and acceptable manufacturers. Further, I noted that no other products are acceptable without preapproval by the architect (me), and such request for substitution must be received 7 days prior to bid. So, the contractor submitted the hardware schedule submittal with non-approved products. I sent the submittal back with a statement, these products are not acceptable refer to Section 08700 (the hardware section). Contractor responded that they did not understand. You need to request a substitution. More ??????? from the contractor.
    Finally, I issued a statement that the products were not allowed under the terms of the specification section. Should the hardware supplier wish request that these products be used they must request a substitution, and I would have to see the cost back to the owner for this substitution. The contractor said that he could put together the data needed for a substitution review, but that the cost savings was already in the bid price. I responded no it is NOT. The bid price reflects the specified products. Your request for substitution will have to be a cost back to the owner. Guess what I got the specified products. This required me to educate my owner and I had to hold firm in the face of an frustrated, and irritated contractor. If we as the architects, perform lazy, the contractor will seize the opportunity. When that happens, the good products reps get chewed up. I do not want our trusted advisors chewed-up.
  • I feel like my company is on the same page as most posted here, we do not let manufactures submit for substitutions, it must be the bidding contractor. Buy in is critical, why would a specifier allow a product that won't be bid, it weakens your spec. manufactures are trying to show traction to the corp levels, but in reality if the product doesn't get used everyone just wasted time and money. The other way for contractors/manufactures to do this is actually use the substitution listing form at time of bid, have the contractor bid what is specified and then show a substitution with the alternate product and cost difference. This would prove much more to the owner reviewing bids.

    Here is my own answer to the question:

    Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful answers to my questions. I spoke with my client today and recommended against his initiation of substitutions during bidding. I explained it to him this way:

    "If you approach the architect during bidding, you might get named in an addendum, but that will not help your long term cause. Bidding is a rushed, chaotic process, and most of the team that put together the contract documents will have moved on to other projects as soon as the job is put out to bid. This means that most substitution requests are reviewed by just one or two members of the project team. They might say 'yes', but that information does not become part of the institutional memory of the firm. Instead, I recommend working with the office so they understand the benefits of the product and you get buy-in from the project architects, draftsmen, specifier, engineer, cost estimator, and other members of the team. Otherwise, they will simply fall back onto old habits, cut and paste old details, reuse existing spec masters, and you will have to fight for another substitution on the next project."

    I suggested a sales-oriented approach of working with sub-contractors to submit substitutions after contracts are issued. This works to my client's advantage due to the reduced labor associated with his product.

    In tandem, I recommended a business-development goal of working with architects to show how to bring their standard details and spec masters into compliance with best industry practices.

    One of my mentors was a forensic engineer. He told me that most of the product failures he had investigated were substitutions that were rushed through without adequate research, coordination, or documentation.

Inside the Mind of the Specifier

Slides and a recording of Inside the Mind of the Specifier, a recent webinar from CSI.have been posted:
The program is recommended viewing for anyone selling through design professionals.

Networking for Fun and Profit

Two Men TalkingI got 20+ solid leads during a two-hour networking event this week.

Sponsored by a CSI Chapter, there were about 45 table top displays from building product companies, and over two hundred attendees. The leads were generated by brief contacts in the exhibit space, in the lobby outside the meeting space, and even in line for the parking lot attendant afterwards. The leads created opportunities for follow-up phone calls or emails or generated new leads and introductions. On top of that, I got to say hello to dozens of other industry contacts to keep our relationships fresh.

You can create similarly high results at similar events. Here are five tools to make the most of networking events:

1. Know your goal: I went to the CSI event with the intent to interact with a lot of people, and I succeeded. But I may have had other purposes in mind. For example, I went to a party at a trade show for the specific purpose of meeting a potential client that I anticipated would be there.  He was, and I was able to get him to join me for a full hour at a table on the periphery of the event.

2. Be prepared for surprises: Be ready to change your goals as opportunities or circumstances arise. I was at one conference, anticipating an afternoon of glad-handing, when the conference organizer approached me and asked me to be on a panel discussion in place of someone that cancelled at the last moment. Instead of 20 1-on-1 conversations, I addressed an audience of 200. At another event, I was drafted to serve at the registration desk, and got to introduce myself to everybody at the show.

3. Ask others questions about themselves: You are itching to talk about your product or service. But start by asking others about their businesses, their families (if you have a personal relationship), or any new products/projects they have. Networking has to be a win-win situation, and your interlocutor must feel a stake in the conversation. More, his or her comments may reveal needs or opportunities that are openings to sales opportunities.

4. Get to the point: Everyone at the event is there for networking. So forget the small talk during business hours; save it for receptions and the lounge.

5. Get contact info and set up a follow-up: Carry more of your own cards than you think you will need. But be sure you know how to contact the person with whom you are speaking. Get permission to recontact the person when possible. This could be as simple as saying, "I'll send you XYZ with more info." or, "Would it be better for me to call you tomorrow or later in the week?"

To learn more about networking, sign up for this webinar offered by Ceiling and Interior System Contractors Association (CISCA):
How to Construct a Strategy for Networking at Conferences
Wednesday, March 12, 2014. 2:00p.m. ET
Free for CISCA members, $49.95 for others

Networking creates an opportunity and strategy to build and maintain relationships with current and prospective customers. Networking involves more personal commitment than company money. No matter how busy we are, we all still need to make time out of our schedule to network. It requires dedication on an individual level. This webinar will examine specific ways you can expand your network for yourself and your company.

Learning objectives:
  • The Keys of Successful Networking
  • Networking Etiquette: What works…. and what does not
  • How social media can aid in your Networking goals
  • Building and Maintaining the New Relationship by adding value
Click here to register.


If you are not an exhibitor at or sponsor of the event, don't be a carpetbagger. It may be a fine line, but there is a difference between doing sales and networking.

If you are networking with an exhibitor for purposes other than learning about his or her product, do it only when there is not a real prospect in or approaching the booth.

More on GreenFormat -- Comment Deadline is Friday

In a previous post, I expressed concerns about the proposed revisions to GreenFormat. have the following, thoughtful letter from George Middleton, AIA CSI, Chair of the GreenFormat Revision Task Team:
Michael – Thank you for your comments about GreenFormat. You have highlighted an important issue we face in the GreenFormat Task Team where we typically receive two kinds of feedback:

1. Technical Feedback – what gets said, how it gets said, where something goes, what headings should be, etc.

2. Existential Feedback – we need GreenFormat, we don’t need GreenFormat, it should be broader, it should be narrower, give us more, make it stop, etc.

For the moment we answer the existential comments by simply saying that GreenFormat exists. That decision was made some years ago and it is currently a CSI standard. It has moved on to be a standard separate from its earlier iteration as a product search and comparison website. So since we serve at the behest of CSI’s Technical Committee and CSI as a whole, our charge is to bring our best thinking to what GreenFormat could be or should be going forward. Presumably the market will determine whether it is useful or not, and will vote with its support and dollars, using GreenFormat as the basis for useful secondary products not unlike we see today with MasterFormat, SectionFormat, etc.

With that said, I tend to agree with you that perhaps all the materials, products, systems and technologies we deal with could be adequately described using a universal set of salient feature criteria. As you point out, it’s probably true that the industry has no pressing need for a FireSafety Format, a ProductMaintenance Format, or a DecorFormat.

But what separates GreenFormat from those hypothetical formats is an important component of sustainability that historically has been advocacy for a green point of view. There are people in the marketplace for whom GreenFormat’s sustainability-related content is potentially useful in marketing and selecting green products that presumably have lower environmental impacts and are therefore better choices for the planet and its people, than products not having green properties. As you point out, whether or not that ends up being true depends on how those products are actually chosen. Many would agree that a comprehensive life-cycle (holistic) approach is better than depending on single attributes which might in fact lead to choices that don’t perform as intended. There is nothing sustainable about that.

Perhaps GreenFormat’s role going forward can be that of a filter or a sub-set of a much larger set of product selection criteria. It can serve to organize and classify the information that building owners, designers, constructors, suppliers and even regulators exchange as they consider the environmental, economic and social impacts of the products they make and use. The challenge of course will be for the tools based on GreenFormat to enable good decisions by being sound, objective, science-based and comprehensive enough for users to make choices that are actually better.
I have expressed my existential feedback in my blog post. George's letter motivated me to also submit my technical feedback directly to the committee.

If sustainability is an important part of your product marketing, I urge you to send your feedback in the next few days.

You can download a draft of the proposed GreenFormat and a White Paper by its drafters at http://csinet.org/Home-Page-Category/Formats/GF.

Public comments can be submitted until February 28th (02/28/14). Submit comments to cgummo@csinet.org.

GreenFormat Revisions: Public Comment Invited

Manufacturers could use this on collateral.

Formats are key to transforming data into usable information. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) has played a vital role in our industry by developing formats to organize construction information.

A decade ago, CSI launched GreenFormat, a website for organizing data about the environmental sustainability of building products. In the early days of "green construction", GreenFormat was a useful marketing tool for building product manufactures, a place to publish their information and demonstrate commitments to sustainability. Now, the GreenFormat website is off line and an Institute task team has proposed revisions to GreenFormat.

I question the continuing need for a GreenFormat. While our industry needs a way to organize the types of information included in GreenFormat, I argue that "sustainability" should not be separated from other types of product information.  My son is fond of saying, "the green building movement is over. It won." His point is that green considerations are now on par with other product attributes. "No one speaks about a 'fire safety' movement," he explains, "because fire safety is part of building design. So is sustainability."

In the effort to obtain LEED credits or achieve other sustainability goals, we are too often tempted to select products to meet a single criteria, for example, whether wood is FSC certified or if a product is PVC-free? These may be important criteria, but they are not the only ones. I believe there are no green products, only intelligent choices.  

Instead of GreenFormat, we need a comprehensive format for building product information. The format will have a place to indicate VOC emissions and life cycle performance, but it will also include installation instructions, structural and operational data, product limitations, cost, and other information necessary to make a sound decision about a using a product. CSI used to have Spec-Data format and  Construction Specifications Canada has a Product Format that deserves greater utilization. Sustainability information fits nicely into either of these programs.  For more info on them, click here.

You can download a draft of the proposed GreenFormat and a White Paper by its drafters at http://csinet.org/Home-Page-Category/Formats/GF.

Public comments can be submitted until February 28th (02/28/14). Submit comments to cgummo@csinet.org.

CSI Programs for Sales Reps

 Feb. 14 FREE Webinar:  Inside the Mind of a Specifier -- 8 Things Product Representatives Should Know About How A Specifier Works
Ever wonder how decisions are made about which products are included in a project specification? Want to know how you can help make project specifications better? Want guidance on what to include in meetings or presentations with architects and specifiers? This course, from the point of view of one independent architectural specifications consultant, is for product representatives who want to work better with specifiers, and better understand what makes some specifiers "tick." Our speaker is Liz O'Sullivan, CSI, CCS, CCCA. This webinar is FREE to CSI members and members of CSI's Product Representation Practice Group. Register now!
Academies Banner 350x200 v4 copy
20 Sessions Designed for Construction Product Representatives
The Product Representative Academy (March 27-29, Indianapolis)

How many times have you heard a marketing expert speak and thought, "That's not true in construction"? Construction product representatives make complex sales and create long-term relationships. CSI's Product Representative Academy was designed by product representatives working in the construction community to train representatives in this industry.  At this event, you'll talk to experienced representatives, specifiers, and contract administrators about the roles and responsibilities of each member of the project team, and best practices for presenting products and supporting the design and construction teams. The 20 sessions offered for product representatives this year include:
  • Good, Bad, & Ugly Specifications: Dealing With Design Professionals When Their Spec is Unclear, Incomplete, & Incorrect
  • Delivering More Than the Meal: Building the Best Box Lunch Presentation
  • How to Submit the Ultimate Substitution Request
  • Blueprints to BIM - How Can I Navigate this Environment?
  • Bringing Home Projects from Trade Shows and Conventions
See a complete list of sessions, or register now at www.csinet.org/academies.

NEW Trusted Advisor Workshop (Denver, May 16)
What does it take to be a trusted advisor? Regardless of what product you represent, much of your success will be determined by: your skills, training, and understanding of construction; your ability to manage your network and resources; and your integrity and trustworthiness in the eyes of the community you work in. We'll address all three of these areas during CSI's Trusted Advisors Workshop. Topics will include: Ethics, Integrity, and Trust; Developing and Managing a Network; Identifying and Managing Your Representation Resources; and Know the Construction Process and the Players. Learn more.

Online Right Now
Watch "Tips From Product Representation Experts" on YouTube
CSI has posted a recording of the webinar "Tips from Product Representation Experts" on the Institute's YouTube channel. Watch it or download the slides, or read notes from the session that were tweeted.

Join the Product Representative Discussions in CSI's LinkedIn Group

Each week, CSI posts a question about product representation in its LinkedIn Group. Recent discussions include:
  • What is the preferred way to approach Specification Writers/Architectures as a vendor in order to have them specify your product or add you as vendor?
  • Advice for Product Representatives on Subcontractors?
CSI members are let into the group once CSI has checked their membership status. Non-members are also allowed in the group case by case. Join the group!

Products & Programs

Product Representative Practice Guide Available
pgpr book cover
The must-have reference on construction product representation and the essential study aid for the Certified Construction Product Representation (CCPR) Exam, the CSI Construction Product Representation Practice Guide is an authoritative resource for the principles and best practices of effective construction product representation. This easy-to-follow guide covers a number of topics, including: the construction process and the roles a construction product representative can play in it; information that clients require to select appropriate products to meet project requirements; and the role a  product representative plays in an Integrated Product Delivery (IPD) workflow. Member price $68/Non-member price $85. Learn more or order it.

Corporate Partners Program
Building product manufacturers are using CSI's Corporate Partner Program to increase their exposure in the commercial construction industry. Each partnership is customized to the company's strategic business goals and objectives. Partner organizations enjoy value pricing on membership, education and certification, sponsorship and recognition opportunities, and increased visibility through CSI's network of construction professionals. See all 50+ partners and learn more at www.csinet.org/CorporatePartners.

Compliant Document Review (CDR) Program for Guide Specifications Compliance 200x220 5-13
CSI's CDR Program for guide specifications is a structured program for reviewing manufacturer guide specifications for conformance with CSI formats and guidelines. Through the program, manufacturers can have CSI certified experts review their guide specifications for conformance with CSI formats and guidelines. Guide specifications that conform are posted at www.csinet.org/CDR and may use the CDR logo. Guide specifications are reviewed for their conformance with MasterFormat, SectionFormat and PageFormat. Other good specification practices as identified in CSI's Practice Guides are also considered. Learn more.

CCPRs: Look for Education That Supports Your Renewal
CSI requires professionals who are renewing a Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR) certification to have participated in continuing education related to product representation. Specifically, "50% of the topics must be related to the professional practice of the certification being renewed, as defined by the CSI Practice Guide." That's 12 hours of training! The aforementioned Product Representation Experts Webinar, Product Representative Academy, and Trusted Advisor Seminar will provide Professional Development Hours (PDHs) appropriate for renewing CCPR certifications. Select events at the Master Specifiers Retreat may also qualify. Learn more about renewal requirements at www.csinet.org/CCPR, and watch for CSI events that provide PDHs related to your certification.

Speed Dating Architects

Instead of flying from city to city to meet with key architectural specifiers, imagine having them congregate in one location in a format that allows you to have one-on-one meetings and networking opportunities.

This is the "speed dating" concept of building product sales calls.  Like the social speed-dating programs where the ladies get in without charge, specifiers will attend these junkets on an all-expenses paid basis. Manufacturers pick up the tab.

Key to the success of the events is that the attendees select the slate of manufacturers on their dance card. Your tête-à-tête is with someone that has a specific interest in your product, and probably a project on the boards.

Here are two of the leading matchmakers:

Bond Events
Bond says its mission is to "To create effective one to one meetings forums which educate, stimulate and assist principal architects & interior designers from the largest firms to better serve their clients. To facilitate high-level product discussions with senior delegates from manufacturing and solution provider companies." They currently have three events:
  • Arc-US - for principals of design & specification from North America and Canada.
  • Arc-interiors - for heads of interiors from Interior Design magazine's list of largest firms.
  • Arc-Middle East - for principals from the biggest firms in the Middle East and North Africa.
The next Arc-US will be in 2014-November in Southern California and costs start at $8800. For more information, contact Chris Pond chrispond@bondevents.com or +1 617 792 5253

Construction Specifications Institute
CSI's "Master Specifiers Retreat" is similar. The gathering is more intimate and, I suspect, more congenial since many of the participants will know each other from other CSI activities. Attendees have titles like "director of specification" or "specification consultant" and fewer people with titles like "director of design" or "project architect". This more technical and product-oriented cohort is invaluable for manufacturers in many product categories.

Their 2014 event is sold out. The next is scheduled for 2015-January in Scottsdale, AZ. Costs range from $7000 for non-CSI members to $6000 for CSI "corporate partners". For more information, contact Susan Konohia, skonohia@csinet.org or +1 703-706-4744.

Credit for drawing.

Excellence in Construction Information Award won by Chusid Associates

Davis Colors, has won the 2012 Excellence in Construction Information Award (EICI) for a set of five guide specification sections written by Chusid Associates. Davis Colors offers the specifications to architects and engineers as an aid in writing of accurate and complete project specifications.

EICI is awarded jointly by the Construction Specifications Institute and Specification Consultants in Independent Practice to recognize excellence, originality or creativity in processes, tools, or documents used in development or construction of the built environment. Davis Colors was recognized in the Award's Product Documentation category.

The nomination submittal explains that:
Integral colorants for concrete can be specified in a single sentence: "Use pigments complying with ASTM C979 to match concrete color to [INSERT COLOR DESCRIPTOR]." Indeed, many project specifications and even some commercial master specifications have no more than this to say about integral coloring. This terse instruction may be suitable for outline or short form specification, but is silent about colors of cementitious materials and aggregates, uniformity of water to cementitious material ratio, curing and finishing techniques, mock‐ups and other administrative concerns, and other criteria that affect appearance of integrally colored concrete.

In the decade since Davis Colors first published guide specifications for integrally colored concrete, their documents became obsolete due to changes in CSI formats, revisions to industry standards, increased environmental concerns, new concrete finishing and curing techniques, changes in the manufacturer’s product line, and the constant evolution of construction practices. When Davis Colors decided to update their guide specs in 2011, the documents required complete rewriting and not just revision.

The company and its specifications consultant [Chusid Associates] determined that a single guide specification section would be impractical due to the complexities of different concrete work results; each required an individually considered approach to be of most benefit to specifiers. The following five sections have now been written and will soon be downloadable in word processing format at www.DavisColors.com:

SECTION 03 35 19 – INTEGRALLY COLORED CONCRETE FINISHING: This document can be used as a narrowscope section in conjunction with other sections specifying site‐cast concrete work and paving, or as a source of provisions that can be copied into broadscope sections.

SECTION 03 45 00 – COLORED ARCHITECTURAL PRECAST CONCRETE: This document suggests modifications that can be copied into Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s (PCI) Guide Specification for Architectural Precast Concrete if necessary to augment PCI’s standard language.

SECTION 03 47 13 – COLORED TILT‐UP CONCRETE: This document suggests modifications that can be copied into Tilt‐Up Concrete Association (TCA) Guideline Specifications, TCA Document 04‐02 if necessary to augment TCA’s standard language.

SECTION 04 05 13 – COLORS FOR MASONRY MORTARING: Mortar has a pronounced effect on the appearance of masonry as it forms as much as 20% of the surface of brick walls. Provisions from this guide specification can be copied into a masonry section as required.

SECTION 04 20 00 – COLORED CONCRETE MASONRY UNITS: In addition to language about colorants and color selection, this guide specification section calls attention to cleaning techniques and other requirements that are different for colored CMU than for uncolored CMU.

In each guide specification section, an effort was made to comply with CSI formats and principles, and to include specifier notes to support the specifier’s decision‐making process. The guide specifications supplement and are coordinated with the manufacturer’s existing data sheets, color cards, installation instructions, and other technical literature.
The award will be presented during the CSI convention at CONSTRUCT 2012 Expo in Phoenix this September. This is the third EICI Award received by Chusid Associates. Click here to read about previous awards.

Construction Sales Instigator

During a recent keynote address to the Construction Specifications Institute(CSI) West Region, I discussed the rapid pace of construction innovation, new products introduction, and far-reaching shifts in building science. How is any individual expected to manage risk and keep up with this onslaught of change?

I offered the following suggestions to the audience:
  • Can't Stop Innovation
  • Consume Some Intoxicants
  • Consider Specialists Insight
  • Continuously Seek Information
  • Compare, Shop, and Investigate
  • Cautious, Sincere, and Intelligent
  • Community of Supportive Individuals
Bottom Line:  
If you are concerned about building product sale, CSI membership can be your
  • Company's Secret Ingredient
Limited Time Membership Discount:
Join CSI online between Wednesday, June 13 and Wednesday, June 20 and pay only $192 -- a 20% savings.
  1. Visit www.csinet.org/join  
  2. Select "Join Now", and then click "Sign Up as a New Member" 
  3. Enter Promotion Code 12spring20 when prompted 
  4. Click the "Add Discount" button.
This promotion is only available to new members joining at the professional level. Chapter dues are not included in this promotion.

Tweet this to your friends using #JoinCSI  

Use Social Media to Protect Reputation

Design and construction professionals pay attention to what their peers are saying. You might never know what people are saying about your company or products when they gather around the office water cooler, but you can monitor their discussions in online social media.

An excellent example of this is a recent exchange on the Construction Specifications Institute's group at LinkedIn.com where someone posted a question soliciting advice about window films that can be applied to glass for shading, safety, privacy, or insulation.

Within hours of the question, an architect posted a warning:
"I would strongly suggest staying away from window film. You can end up voiding the warranty for the insulated glass unit (IGU) since it can overheat the airspace."
In subsequent days, several other individuals gave qualified endorsements of films, but the tone remained, as one post put it, "don't use it on IGUs."

Then a manufacturer's rep responded. He began by stating his credentials to speak knowledgeably on the subject, then explained,
"The "airspace" in a typical IGU is evacuated and replaced with an inert gas...typically Argon, but sometimes Nitrogen or other inexpensive inert gases. Inert is the key word...those gases are there to be an insulator and, as such, can't hold onto heat energy."
He then went on to share guidelines for situations where films should not be used; his honesty about these demonstrates that he is a fair broker who can present a balanced appraisal of the product. He ends by offering assistance and giving his contact info.

His answer seems to be the last word on the topic, as no one has challenged it in over two weeks. The forum automatically sends updates to individuals posting comments, so the people with concerns about films have the benefit of the reps knowledge. Further, anyone finding the conversation through an online search will benefit from his insight.

Identify the social media channels used by potential buyers and specifiers. Then assign someone on your team to monitor each channel to seek opportunities and to protect against misinformation.

Image from http://www.kolbe-kolbe.com. 

Word Processing Format for Guide Specs

Guide specifications should be in a digital format that is easy for for potential users to read and edit.

Microsoft Word is the word processor most widely used architects and engineers. But there is a compatibility issue between versions of Word. Word 2007 and more recent versions create files with the .docx extension; prior versions use the .doc extension. While it is easy to convert from one format to the other, a document can become discombobulated.

To find out which file format is most useful for guide specification, I posted a question on Linked In's Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) group. Within hours, I had my answer, demonstrating the power of social networks.

Theodore Smith, a specifer in New York City, wrote:
With Word 2007 and later you can use either .doc or .docx formats. The problems happen when you go backward from Word 2007 .docx format to earlier versions of Word .doc format files. If you are preparing guide specifications you should use the .doc format; there are a good number of firms and people who are looking at your guide specifications who are still using older versions of Word and .doc files and who will go elsewhere if your files give them problems due to incompatibility with their word processing programs. 
This opinion was confirmed by other responses.

Several voices in the group also remind us that some specification writers prefer WordPerfect, a program that uses the .wpd extention. WordPerfect can open and convert .doc files.

If resources are unlimited, consider publishing your guide specification in multiple file formats for the convenience of users:
  • .html so it can be read in a browser.
  • .pdf so it can be readily printed without a word processor.
  • .doc for use in Word.
  • .wpd for WordPerfect fans.
In most instances, however, using the old Word .doc format will delight most, and be serviceable to the rest of, specifiers.

Do you speak construction?

This blog has previously given the straight-up benefits of CSI Certification for careers in building products. So let me get the message across in a more lighthearted attempt:

When selling in Mexico, it helps to speak the language they hablan there.

     ¿Habla usted de la construcción?

Or to be fluent in Française when making a pitch in Quebec.

     Parlez-vous de la construction?

So if you sell building products, of course you'll want to

     Speak Specifese, the language of specifiers and contractors!

Specifiers and builders, like people everywhere, appreciate it it when you attempt to address them in their native tongue.

Now, you can learn Specifese even if you have never studied a second language before. In fact, many individuals become proficient in Specifese in under three months.

Language immersion classes are forming right now, at Construction Speaking Insiders (CSI) clubs around the country.

Members of the club take pride in their achievement; displaying the initials of the club's slogan,"Communicate, Don't Talk through your hat"* (CDT) after their names.

Impress your friends and family, and even your boss.

But hurry, this opportunity ends at the end of this month.
Act today, and get FREE CDT Study Guide.
Come on!
Do it
*The phrase "talk through your hat" means talking about something without knowing much about it.

Score 10 for 10 with MasterFormat

Do you know which sections apply to your products?
MasterFormat -- the filing system for organizing construction specifications and other construction information -- is updated annually to refine the system and meet newly identified needs in the construction industry. MasterFormat was developed and is maintained by the Construction Specifications Institute.

During the past year, members of the Chusid Associates team proposed ten revisions. We have just learned that all ten proposals received positive responses from the MasterFormat maintenance task team. 

Most of the proposals were made on behalf of building product manufacturers introducing new systems or trying to expand acceptance of existing products.

The revisions to MasterFormat are:
00 31 19.23 - Existing Structural Information
New section number and title.

03 30 00 - Cast-in-Place Concrete
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “pigmented mix.”

03 35 19 - Colored Concrete Finishing
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “dry shake colorants and hardeners applied during concrete finishing operations.”

09 61 19 - Concrete Staining
New section number and title.

09 78 00 - Interior Wall Paneling
09 78 13 - Metal Interior Wall Paneling
New section numbers and titles.

12 93 23 - Trash and Litter Receptacles
New section number and title.

28 41 00 - Electronic Structural Monitoring Systems
New section number and title.

33 49 22 - Storm Drainage Water Detention Structures
33 49 24 - Storm Drainage Water Storage Structures
New section numbers and titles.
The revisions were proposed by Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS and Vivian Volz, AIA CSI CCS. The 100 percent acceptance of their recommendations testies to their understanding of MasterFormat and construction specifications.

For more information on marketing with MasterFormat, see previous posts on this blog.

CSI-Compliant Specification Program

Michael Chusid has been designated a CSI‐approved Specification Reviewer. In this capacity, Michael will be assigned to review building product guide specifications from manufacturers participating in the Construction Specifications Institute's new CSI Compliant Document Program for Guide Specifications (CDP).

According to CSI, the Compliant Document Program,
"...is a structured program for reviewing manufacturer guide specifications for conformance with the CSI formats and guidelines. The guide specification should conform to the intent expressed in the application guidelines provided in MasterFormat, SectionFormat and PageFormat. Other good specification practices as identified in the CSI Project Resource Manual or CSI Practice Guides (Project Delivery, Construction Specifications, and Contract Administration) should be used for a specification to receive approval for receipt of the CSI compliance designation."
Manufacturers that pass muster and pay the fees can emblazon the CDP logo on their guide specifications, websites, and other marketing materials. Specifiers will, no doubt, find reassurance  and in this mark, giving it marketing appeal. CSI says the Institute plans to publish a directory of participating manufacturers, creating additional exposure opportunities for a brand.

It is critical, however, to note the program's significant limitation:
"The CSI Compliant Document program is not an evaluation of the technical merits, correctness of the material submitted, or the appropriate use of the work result being specified in a project." (emphasis added)
Put another way, a CSI Compliant Document can look like roses, but smell like manure. With or without CDP review, a guide specification can comply with CSI formats, language-usage guidelines, and other principles, but still be wrong, wrong, wrong!

Use the Compliant Document Program to catch a specifier's eye, but keep them in your pocket by making sure your document is clear, concise, complete, and correct.

Chusid Associates offers a free, 10-Point SpecAudit(tm) to help you understand how to improve your guide specifications. Contact us to learn how you can take advantage of this offer.  Call +1 818 774 0003.

This Weekend Only -- Testing Social Media

You can read the following to save $48, or you can read it for insight into using social media to channel the promotional efforts of your customers.

It is from an email sent to CSI members with blogs, asking them to publicize a "this weekend only" discount on CSI membership.  Check back next week for feedback on the effectiveness of the promotion.

And in the meanwhile -- please consider joining the Construction Specifications Institute. It has done wonders for my career, and will do the same for yours. (You can also forward this to others in your network.)
This weekend, we’re going to offer 20% off of a professional membership to people who join between 9am ET Friday and midnight Monday. (Shhh…. Don’t tell anyone until Friday!) CSI leaders will receive this information in a separate email.

I’m writing to ask you to help us. Please post this information on your blog after 9am ET Friday, along with your view on who should be a CSI member, and why. Even if you just refresh an old blog entry that touched on CSI, it would help us out. If you want to promote your favorite chapter, by all means, do!

If you tweet this, I’m using hashtag #JoinCSI for this promotion.

I know this is short notice, and I appreciate any help you can give me.

Here are the exact directions for getting the discount:

Don't miss this special offer! Join CSI by October 31 and pay only $192 for national dues -- a 20% savings.

1. Visit www.csinet.org/joincsi
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).

Your dedication to talking about construction, architecture, and CSI has made a huge difference for the Institute during the past few years. CSI’s newsletter has high open rates because we link to your blog entries, and CSI members who can’t get to a meeting tell me that they feel they’re part of CSI’s community because they read “so-and-so’s” blog. Thank you for all the time and energy you put into your blog, I really appreciate it.


Joy Davis, CSI, CCPR
Communications & Web Community Senior Manager
800-689-2900 ext. 4795

Underestimating our Future

Michael Chusid will be a keynote speaker at the CSI West Region Conference to be held in Spring 2012. His presentation will be during a Vendor Appreciation Luncheon. With both design professionals and sales reps in attendance, any guess who picks up the bar bill?

Here is the write-up on announcing the event:

Underestimating our Future

It's been said, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." (Bill Gates) With that in mind, Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, ACI, CWA, SCIP, EIEIO*, fearlessly prognosticates a decade into the future to help us reimagine the next few years. He interprets auguries about building design and construction, material science and product trends, and whether sales reps and specifiers will, at last, find true love and commitment with each other.

Michael is author or ghost writer of over two hundred published articles about architecture, building products and marketing, and publisher of BuildingProductMarketing.com. As president of Chusid Associates (chusid.com), the leading marketing and technical consultant to the building product industry, he has seen untold numbers of innovations crash and burn, yet is adamant that his predictions will be just as wrong as those of anyone else. 
While the tone is lighthearted, the topic is crucial for construction industry professionals in a changing market.

* For those uninitiated, the author is parodying the CSI practice of making liberal use of professional credentials following names. EIEIO is a group for individuals with more than five sets of initials after their name.

Box Lunch Strategies

CSI Webinar - Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jim F. Whitfield, FCSI, CCPR, CTC, LEED APWhat do presenters do right or wrong during box lunch presentations? Hear it from an Architect that has sat through many presentations and a product representative that has provided thousands of programs. Learn the important steps to make your lunch and learn educational session more productive, effective and beneficial to your architectural audience. Discover new ways to stimulate interest in your product, methods to improve retention for adult learners, and techniques to make you their first call for product or system consulting.

Learning Objectives
  1. Find ways to become the first choice resource for your architects.
  2. Make your Box Lunch productive and rewarding for both you and your architects.
  3. Increasing the power of your presentation.
  4. Discover how adults “learn” and retain.
  5. Understand CES program requirements.
Speaker: Jim F. Whitfield, FCSI, CCPR, CTC, LEED AP
Credit: 1.5 AIA LUs, 1.5 PDHs
When:  Thursday, August 4, 2011 from 2:00PM to 3:30PM

To Register, Click Here

Twitter Augments Webinars

When you do a face-to-face seminar, the side conversations around the table help participants understand the information being presented, and to apply it to their own needs. For example, Charlie turns to Jane and whispers, "This would solve our problem on the new High School project."

This interactive aspect has been missing in many webinars.  Until now.
Twitter conversation during webinar enabled participants to ask questions and share insights.
Joy Davis, manager of CSI's online programs, conducted a demonstration during a seminar she presented recently at a CSI Chapter meeting. Her presentation was about use of social media in the construction industry. So she incorporated social media by simultaneously sharing her slideshow and talk with specifiers across the nation via webiar. Participants were also encouraged to engage in side conversations via Twitter.

A transcript of the Twitter feeds is at http://storify.com/csiconstruction/csis-first-tweetchat. While some of the comments are just chatter, serious information is also being exchanged, and relationships are being fostered. The tweets were projected on a screen at the live CSI meeting so the people in seats could benefit from the comments, and I suspect a few people in the physical audience were also conversing online.

Like it or not, this type of interactivity and further social media innovations will affect your business in the near future. Since anyone can create a hashtag to start a side conversation during a webinar, it might as well be you -- at least you will know about the conversation and be able to follow-up. Used wisely, Twitter feeds like this can be an important way to extend your sales effectiveness.