The Supplier's Fault?

I don't know where this tale originates, but it is worth retelling:

A young family lived next to a vacant lot. One day, a construction crew started building on the lot. The family's 4-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in the activity going on next door and spent much of each day observing the workers.
Eventually the construction crew, all of them "gems-in-the-rough," more or less adopted her as a kind of project mascot. They chatted with her, let her sit with them while they hadbreaks, and gave her little jobs to do to make her feel important.
At the end of the first week, they even presented her with a pay envelope containing ten dollars.
The little girl took this home and her mother suggested the girl take her "pay" to the bank and start a savings account.
When the girl and mother got to the bank, the teller asked the girl how she had come by her very own pay at such a young age.
The girl proudly replied, "I worked last week with a real construction crew building the new house next door to us."
"Oh my goodness gracious," said the teller, "and will you be working on the house again this week, too?"
The little girl replied, "I will, if those a##holes at the supply yard ever deliver the f##king drywall!"

In addition colorful jobsite speech, the tale also describes other conditions found on some construction projects:

  1. Underpaid laborers.
  2. Work done off-the-books.
  3. Scheduling problems are always the supplier's fault.

(Graphic from

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

Worker's Memorial Day

 "Workers' Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers." OSHA

I urge you to use Worker's Memorial Day, an annual international event, as an opportunity to improve:

1. Safety in Your Operations:
  • Review your business operations and safety procedures.
  • Provide training to your employees and co-workers.
  • Recommit to total safety in your business.
2. Safety of Your Products:
  • What can you do to make it safer for builders to handle, install, and use your products? 
  • Redesign it to be safer.
  • Improve installation instructions. 
  • Provide more effective warnings on labels? 
  • Provide better training to installers?
3. Safety Awareness Throughout Industry:
  • Incorporate safety messages into your advertising. 
  • Dedicate part of your website to safety awareness. 
  • Provide superintendents with resources for job site training programs. 
  • Send your crews out into the field as ambassadors for training.
  • Submit safety-related stories to the media.
  • Organize safety-training programs at your distributor's warehouses.
  • Create safety posters for job trailers or site signage.
2014 Construction Industry Fatalities
Using Worker's Memorial Day as a stimulus for doing good can also improve your business's success. Safer operations reduce liability. Safer products improve customer satisfaction. And being a Safety Champion helps create a positive image for your customer.

5 Observations about Prefabrication

Why is Australia so far behind other nations 
when it comes to prefab or offsite site modular?

That's the question someone posted at Australian Construction Innovation, a LinkedIn group. Curiously, I hear the same question about prefabricated construction in the United States. So the question is one of perspective.

My sense is that prefabrication is at exactly the right level. Here are five reasons:

1. Prefabrication is very common.

Consider: Prefabricated trusses, metal buildings, precast concrete structures, HUD Code (mobile) housing, prefabricated classrooms, panelized wall systems, and more. Cutting and bending concrete reinforcing used to be done on site; now its prefabricated. I can cite many similar examples.

2. Large Scale Integration are Vulnerable to Economic Cycles. 
I was a consultant to a firm that built a highly automated factory to prefab panels for complete building structures. The high-performance, semi-finished panels assembled quickly in the field to enclose entire buildings in a single day. Then the Great Recession of 2008 hit. While it hurt all of us, capital intensive companies were hit harder. When work fell away the firm had to idle the factory and then went bankrupt due to financing costs.

3.  Site Work Can't be Prefabricated.
Next time you hear about how quickly the Chinese can erect a prefabricated building, note that the days until completion does not include the time it takes to run utilities to the site, place foundations, and attend to other sitework. When projects are built on site, above ground construction overlaps the sitework.

4.  Prefabrication Imposes Design Restraints.
While fabrication automation continues to improve, no prefabricated whole-building system can provide as much design flexibility as a project assembled from open sourced components. Designers and developers like flexibility. They also require it to deal with unique site conditions.

5. Site Assembly Is Amazingly Efficient.
This is my favorite explanation. Today's construction systems can be really efficient. Consider what the screw gun and pneumatic fasteners mean to the time required for framing. Concrete masonry units may take more time to set than precast, but they are in inventory and can can be installed in the time it takes to engineer, get approvals, fabricate and ship prefab components.

Looking ahead, the whole discussion about prefab will change when we start using onsite systems to print structures, assemble them with robots, or using other emerging technologies.

prefabAUS, an Aussie trade association that promotes prefabrication says, on its website, "Prefab has often been referred to as ‘architecture’s oldest new idea’." They chronology begins with the Romans in 43 AD. I push the beginning of prefabrication back to even earlier to the tents of nomads.

Animation from Wikimedia Commons 

The Wrath of Abibarshim

Recently excavated clay tablets shed new light on the most famous engineering failure in antiquity. Although some of the words are conjectural, this translation contains a clear message for modern engineers. Do you know someone who might benefit from this voice from the past?
as heralded by PRODUCTION ENGINEERING Magazine
I, Abibarshim, Great King, King of Kings, Ruler of Kish, Babil, Agade and Sankhar, and of the regions across the Hilla, conqueror of Ninevah, destroyer of Sepharia, having striven mightily and met with grief, lay down this Code that ye may not also strive mightily and meet with grief, nor fall flat on thy ass.

For I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, and all that, did buy many Aethyopeans and hire many artisans and scribes and masons and Makers of Engines and Designers of Buildings. And great was their craft and great their number, which was one hundred and forty four thousand, give or take a few job-shoppers. Yea, they did strive mightily, too, for they knew what would happen if they strove
not mightily. And the name of my capital improvement project was the Tower of Babil.

Yea, great was their craft and wonderful to behold what the Designers of Buildings wrought on the papyrus. All who looked thereon did marvel at their genius. I, Abibarshim, did also look thereon and did declare their designs to have much nift.

But many days did pass, and many times did the moon wax and wane, and the tower was not yet builded.

So I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, did hie me to the palace by the Arakhtu where dwelt the Designers of Buildings and Makers of Engines. And there I found
not Designers of Buildings and Makers of Engines, but Drinkers of Coffee and Tellers of Tales (whom men call hurlers of bull dung). So I vented my royal spleen, which did perturb them mightily.

"Look here, O King, etc.," said the Chief of the Makers of Engines. "Some things can't be rushed. If thou wantest us to get thy bloody tower builded on time, then thou hadst better give us a little respect. For canst thou build thy tower without us?"

"But I have given thee this palace in which thy work may be done, and I pay thee many talents of gold and silver, plus all the usual fringies. What more wouldst thou have me do to get this project moving?"

"Well, thou canst start with alabaster lamps for the draughtsmen," saith the Chief of the Makers of Engines, refilling his cup. "And maybe draughting instruments of silver and electrum…"

"Thou shalt have them. Just get my tower builded." And I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, did depart the palace of the Makers of Engines with my tail betwixt my legs.

And many days did pass, and many times did the moon wax and wane, and the tower was still not yet builded. So I, Abibarshim, did corner the Chief Scribe and ask him, "What goeth on here?"

The Chief Scribe fell to his knees and said: "O Great and Merciful King, the Makers of Engines give us scrolls of materials for to purchase. But, verily, no man knoweth what the scrolls signify, save the Makers of Engines themselves. For they call not a spade a spade, but call it here a delver and there a digger and another place an entrenching tool and yet another a geovolvometer, so that the scroll of material agreeth not with the design papyrus. And strange to behold is their numerology."

So I, Abibarshim, gave certain orders to try to keep the Makers of Engines from creating their own language, saying, "How did it come to pass that those who have such swiftness of mind, even as the gazelle, lack the sense of geese?"

And many days did pass, and many times did the moon wax and wane, and the estimate did wax and never wane, and the tower was not yet builded.

So then I did ask the Chief Mason, "What giveth?" and he, throwing himself prostrate before me, spake thus:

"O King, every day we toil from dawn until the dusk! Every week the Makers of Engines say they have wrought new and niftier designs, of which we knew not, and what we have builded hath been fashioned into obsolete papyri. Then my team teareth down and starteth over, O Great King, Merciful King, King of Kings…"

So I, Abibarshim, gave certain orders that did fix those designs thenceforth.

But many days did pass, and the tower did rise slower than sap rolleth down the bark of a tree.

So I, Abibarshim, did seek out the Chief Aethyopean, who seemed to know where it's at, and asked, "How come no tower?"

And he did answer, "O Great and Merciful King, I be running short of bolt tighteners."

"Well, buy some more!"

"I have, O King, but each one either getteth used up or runneth off as soon as he learneth his trade."

"Which is?"

"The Makers of Engines have designed the granite facing panels such that no man hath arms long enough nor thin enough to reach the bolts. Thus each panel requires that a bolt tightener crawl behind and affix the bolts."


"So then he cannot get back out, O King, but is entombed there forever."

I, Abibarshim, did then call for a redesign which cost us three months and one thousand gold talents. But the days did pass and the tower had attained only four tiers in height. So I did go to the Chief Scribe to inquire why.

"O King, we have been awaiting, lo, these many months, the columns of Corinthian marble for the fifth tier."

"Is marble from Corinth so hard to find, then?"

"Nay, Sire, but the Corinthian stone cutters make columns only in heights which be whole numbers of cubits. And the Makers of Engines have specified cubits which be twelve cubits plus eleven-seventeenths part of a cubit. Such columns are not to be found in all of Corinth as an off-the-shelf item."

"Well, let's just change the drawings and round them off to thirteen cubits even."

"Nay, Sire, for they must match unto the interior columns, which are bought pre-cut from Ionia and which we have aplenty."

"Okay, we'll cut the Ionian columns down and go unto twelve cubit columns all around."

"Nay, for the Ionian columns be all of one piece with their capitals. To shorten them would mean cutting off their capitals."

"What in the name of Marduk is wrong with that? We can just fit new capitals on top of the shortened columns."

"Nay again, Sire. The entire structure unto the very top is designed around monobloc capitals. To add new capitals would weaken the fifth and higher tiers and require a complete redesign!"

I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, avouch that Makers of Engines, for all their craft, know not how to fly. For surely the Chief of the Makers of Engines and all his men would have flown down, had they known how, from the fourth level of my tower, from which parapet I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, had them flung.

Therefore have I, Abibarshim, King of Kings, created this Code and ordered it displayed at the Coffee Machine and all other places where hangeth out the Designers of Buildings and Makers of Engines.
The Code of Abibarshim
I. Once thou decidest what name to call a thing, that shall be its name forever after, until eternity passeth. Nor shall thou call any other thing by that name, for each thing shall have a name unto itself.

II. And in like manner shall be the enumeration of each thing.

III. Continue not to design a thing unto perfection, for, verily, an ounce of timeliness is more valuable than a pound of perfection. Once thou hast approved a design, go not back and improve it, unless of necessity most dire.

IV. Cover not thy tracks but make thy calculations plain, that those who follow thee may trace any error to its beginning and thus set it and all its brethren upon the path of righteousness.

V. And mock not the necessary papyrus work, for it is the handmaiden of what thou createst in stone and iron. Completest all thy papyri as thou goest and hoardest them not as a surprise for manufacturing.

VI. Attendest first to that which hath the most importance. Waste not time fixing thy wind to heavy papyrus with wire.

VII. He who designeth without a plan is like he who rusheth forth into darkness without a torch. Rush not ere thou knowest whither, for there are many snares and pitfalls in the dark, and wild beasts to reach up and bit thine ass or camel on the path named Critical.

VIII. Specify not odd-ball sizes and kinds of things, but design unto standards, that the scribes may buy stuff off-the-shelf and dabble not with specials.

IX. Design not assemblies which require four arms to put together or operate. Verily, the guy we hire in these days hath not four arms but ten thumbs.

X. Remember well that all which thou designest shall be a balance of time and cost and quality and function. If thou attendest not to all four, then miserable shall be thy lot and brief thy employment (unless thou knowest how to fly).

New ADA Rules In Effect

The compliance date for the revised 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design recently passed on March 15, 2012.  The new standard applies to new construction and remodels begun after that date.  This is the first overall update since the 1991 standards.

The ADA standards have a far reaching impact on many building products, including doors, paving, cabinets, countertops, lighting, hand rails, plumbing fixtures, toilet room accessories -- almost anything that someone in a building can actually touch or see.

The standards may also impact your own place of business and how you provide customer service.

Some requirements have been beefed up, others have been backed off. An article in the current issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine details some of the changes that affect exterior design, for example.  Accessible parking spaces in very large parking lots will now need a higher percentage (1 in 6) to be van-accessible.  By contrast, S
ection 705, the requirement for tactile warning devices (truncated domes - that small field of yellow bumps that have been appearing on curb-cuts and at the edges of parking lots, which warn visually-impaired pedestrians that they are about to walk into traffic)  now omits any mention of curb cuts or parking lots.  It only states a requirement for platform edges.

Note that ADA is only one of several sets of Federal standards on accessibility, and states and municipalities may have other requirements.

For more information, visit or contact Chusid Associates.

Hot Weather App Promotes Worker Safety

With hot weather coming, a mobile app created by the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA) of the US Dept. of Labor may prove very useful.  It calculates the Heat Index on jobsites.  It's available for iOS (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and Android platforms currently, with Blackberry yet to come).

It's a pretty simple, straightforward app that lets you input temperature and humidity - or download those values automatically - and calculates the heat index, providing precautions that should be taken on the jobsite to protect the safety of workers.  The app is free, and can be found easily by searching the App Store for "OSHA."  On your computer, you can view the iPhone version  or the Android version.

This is the main screen of the iPhone version.
The Android version has a different arrangement of the
buttons, but they perform the same functions. 

If your sales force has contact with contractors, it might be good business relations to tip off them contractors about the existence of this app.  (Be forewarned, though, this app got some bad press around Nov. 2011, so it might also start some heated conversations.  See below.)  If your manufacturing operations include outdoor work, it might be useful at your factory or yard as well.

I tested this app (iPhone 3GS running the latest version of iOS) and it worked for me exactly the way it's supposed to.

There are a number of comments about the app on the iPhone App Store and elsewhere online that criticize it, some of them on a very political basis.  The ones that claim it doesn't work or that some functions don't work are, as far as I can tell, inaccurate with reference to the iPhone.  Many comments online that appeared last Autumn appear to have referred to functionality problems on the Android version.  Those may or may not have been fixed by now.

The high development cost reported, learned through a Freedom of Information Act request, is an issue I won't touch here.

What I find most interesting about the app is the option for inputting the heat and humidity figures manually.  It suggests that OSHA expects many contractors to have thermometers and humidity gauges working on the jobsite.  That would be especially on a jobsite where online info may not be available or where the local weather may not be accurately reported online.  Let's hope OSHA is correct about that.

What Would You Like to Say to Homebuilders?

The National Association of Home Builders' annual International Builders' Show (IBS), has put out a call for speakers at its 2013 edition in Las Vegas.  It is the largest residential construction industry show in the world.  

There are a range of different educational tracks for presentations, focusing on issues of the craft and business of residential construction.  It is a great opportunity to share your expertise and establish your presence with builders and designers in residential construction.  Deadline for submissions is Feb 24.

Metrication Update

Two examples of metrication crossed my desk recently, demonstrating opposing approaches to implementing metric units in the building products industry.

1. One of my clients is converting its sales literature from inch-pound to metric (with inch-pound units also shown in parentheses).

#11 1-3/8" dia.
2. The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI), reversing its decade-old endorsement of a soft-conversion to metric, now urges its members to use inch-denominated size markings.

The various approaches represent the different market conditions confronting each organization.

In the first instance, the US-based firm is aggressively moving into international markets and needs to speak the lingua franca used for most of the world's construction. The change will not harm domestic sales, since the company uses digital-fabrication to make bespoke parts without regard for the designer's system of measurement.

CRSI, on the other hand, focuses on regional and national promotion. As a commodity product, little quantities of rebar is exported. The industry began marking its product in nominal metric sizes when it looked like the Federal government was serious about enforcing a 1991 Presidential Executive Order mandating metrication. However, the Federal Highway Administration (FWA) retracted the requirement in 2008, and most building construction in the US remains firmly inch-pound. (The primary exceptions Government agencies such as the Department of Defense.)

Traditional rebar diameters are stated in 1/8 inch increments; #3 = 3/8 in. diameter, #12 = 12/8 in. = 1.5 in. These units just make sense when constructing a 1 ft. thick wall with 3/4 inch concrete coverage over rebar that must be spaced to allow passage of 1-1/2 in. dia. coarse aggregate. In CRSI's soft conversion, these correspond to #10 (9.525 mm) and #40 (38.1 mm) respectively. Soft conversion reduce the cost of producers, but frustrated everyone else. Builders using inch-pound had to convert sizes to traditional nomenclature to calculate positioning. And fractions of a millimeter confounded those used to using real metric sizes, where #30 bars have 30 mm dia.

Many US industry sectors are now firmly metricated. (When was the last time you bought a fifth of whiskey?) Yet it is unlikely that there will be a comprehensive countrywide construction conversion anytime in the foreseeable future.

Until then, each building product manufacturer will have to "weigh and measure" whether and when to embrace metric based on their unique marketing "metrics."

By the way:

"Metrication" is term for adopting metric measurements.
"Metrification" is term for using poetic meter.

Fearless Publicity

They say that even bad publicity is good publicity.  Nonetheless, few companies paying for PR want to go telling uncomplimentary stories about themselves.

On the other hand, the story of a problem, and how to fix it, can make compelling reading. It takes a little courage to admit that there could ever, possibly be a problem in any way connected with your peerless product. But everyone knows problems happen, and the details of how they can be overcome are valuable information. That's 'news you can use.'

We recently wrote up a case study about a concrete coloring project where the color – made with our client's product – came out wrong. A skillful contractor fixed it - again using our client's product. The product does not seem to have been at fault - some damaging agent apparently leaked onto the slab - but it was still a gutsy move to tell the story. And the president of the company is quoted extensively, so it's obvious when reading the article that the manufacturer is 'on board' with telling this tale.

Many business people would have turned off the whole notion of telling about it, without considering the value. It's a reaction to negativity that's like an allergy. They think, what possible good can I do my product by associating it with failure?

So what is the positive value?

- Contractors learn how they can address problems
- Architects and specifiers learn that the product is versatile and problems can be resolved
- The manufacturer displays honesty
- The manufacturer's involvement and support of applicators is demonstrated
- The manufacturer shows that he's not afraid of the truth, because the product is good and worthy of his faith

What's more, readers in this industry will understand and appreciate the fearlessness of it.  The story is more compelling, more memorable, because it's obviously not the usual marketing sunshine.

When seeking publicity, consider sharing your troubles (and solutions) with the world. It might come out better than you think.

The Computerized Jobsite

Contractors use metal containers to store their tools on a construction jobsite. This practice has been updated for use with the newest tools on the jobsite, computer and other digital communication tools.

For example, the BIM Kiosk from Modulus Consulting takes the computer out of the job trailer and puts it into the middle of the action. Instead of using large tables stacked high with a printed set of water stained and wind blown plans, the crew can refer directly to digitized versions of all the project documents and access all the resources on the web.

For the building product manufacturer, this is yet more evidence that your product literature, shop drawings, technical data submittals, Material Safety Data Sheets, and other information has to be ready for digital use in the field. For example, it becomes more practical then ever to use video instead of print for installation instructions, and for your customer service and technical advisers to use Skype instead of relying on phone calls.

Conference: Composite Materials & Digital Manufacturing

Take a look at new materials and technologies that may be important to building product manufacturers. Chusid Associates is attending, and looks forward to seeing you there.

Material beyond Materials:  
A Composite Tectonics Conference on Advanced Materials and Digital Manufacturing in Architecture and Construction

Friday, March 25 through Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hosted by Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc),
Los Angeles, CA

Fostering direct exchange between architects and companies invested in the field of advanced materials and fabrication technologies, SCI-Arc hosts Material beyond Materials—a composite tectonics conference on advanced materials and digital manufacturing.

Taking place on the SCI-Arc campus in downtown Los Angeles, the two-day forum is open to the public and will explore technological advances in composite materials, innovations in construction, and current design discourse—with some of the most important names in today’s building, fabrication and design industries.

Material beyond Materials combines progressive presentations in the fields of architecture, the arts, engineering and materials research. Conference participants will present and discuss their most innovative ideas, projects and positions concerning materials, technology and the impact on the architecture and construction disciplines and professions.

Introduction to SCI-Arc: Material Beyond Materials
By Eric Owen Moss

Keynote Lecture: Evan Douglis
Introduction: Composite Tectonics
By Marcelo Spina

Panel 1: Integrating Complexity
Systems integration and the inherent complexity derived from them are assessed from the viewpoint of composites. Topics include structural performance, complex analysis, lightweight properties, and integrated assembly. Aspects such as construction code and city requirements are also discussed. Panel focuses on the potential for streamlining construction and the integration of composites within a larger available material palette.

Panel 2: Synthesizing Behavior
Synthetic behavior and qualities are at the core of composites. Topics include material variability as opposed to traditional materials, anisotropic materiality, gradients, coloration, light transmission, real vs. synthetic as well as emerging effects derived from all of these aspects. Panel focuses on new possibilities for innovation enabled by designing and altering material at the level of matter.

Lunch Break

Panel 3: Performing Environments
Performance and environments are understood in a broader sense, to relate material to our physical environment or to suggest that materials themselves can constitute immersive environments. Topics include new and smart materials, green technologies, the impact on sustainability, but also issues such as fire rating, life cycles, material performance and economies. Panel focuses on the environmental potential of designing with composites.

Panel 4: Manufacturing Construction
Manufacturing construction as opposed to manufacturing buildings is at the center of the discussion. Topics include prefabrication processes, on site vs. off-site construction, digital fabrication and the role of craftsmanship, refined versus rustic, tooling and tools; automation, and the role of robotics in new design paradigms.

Concluding Remarks/Q&A Session

Closing Reception
The Material beyond Materials morning and afternoon sessions on Sat, March 26, have been registered by the American Institute of Architects (AIA)/Continuing Education System (CES) to offer Learning Units. Click HERE to read the full announcement.

Admission to the event is free and open to the public. RSVP to reserve your space—email your name, company, address, and daytime phone to

CWA Standout: Chusid Associates

Ceilings Plus Image 
Re-published from the Construction Writers Awards Newsletter, CWA eXchange March 2011

Michael Chusid couldn’t make up his mind between a career in architecture or marketing, so he found a way to combine both. After earning degrees in design and architecture, he worked in product development for a building product firm, and then spent a decade in architectural practice. These experiences taught him how much architects depend on manufacturers for design inspiration and technical support. Recognizing an opportunity, Chusid Associates was born.

Since then, the firm has been a marketing and technical consultant to more than 200 building product manufacturers, and has produced some standout entries in the Construction Writers Association’s (CWA) journalism, photography and corporate communications awards. In 2010, the firm captured three CWA awards, winning in both the corporate communications and e-newsletter categories, and receiving an honorable mention for the Godfrey Award.

Chusid, a Fellow of the Construction Specifications Institute, loves writing about building products, and utilizes his experience as a registered architect, product designer, and certified construction specifier to help building products manufacturers connect with design professionals and contractors. “Our work helps clients sell their products, but our most important service is helping our client’s customers avoid selecting the wrong material for a given construction need,” said Chusid.

His award-winning entry in CWA’s corporate communications competition, the Idea Box™ campaign for Ceilings Plus, shows how the firm delivers positive results for their clients. “Our challenge was to create a piece of collateral that was so useful and attractive that architects would keep it at their desk,” explained Chusid.

The solution became the Idea Box, a perforated anodized aluminum box that Ceilings Plus fabricated with its own CAD/CAM-driven equipment. It contains product samples showcasing their materials, fabrication capabilities, and installation processes. “We needed a visual showpiece,” said Chusid, “something that would appeal to the creative community.” The campaign also included a corporate capabilities brochure as well an Idea Pad™. The magnetized Idea Pad sought to immediately engage architects by offering them an opportunity to “play” with various trapezoid and rhombus shaped metal swatches. The strategy quickly communicated that the design possibilities of Ceilings Plus offered “freedom from the square grid” required by conventional ceiling systems. “We wanted something that the salesman could tuck under his arm and deliver, that the architect would immediately open up and engage with,” added Chusid.

The creative effort did not go unnoticed. According to Chusid, the results have exceeded the client’s expectations, and the company’s sales continue to grow despite the recession.

Chusid’s inspiration comes from clients who are raising the bar for best industry practices. “What excites me about Ceilings Plus, is not only that their products are beautiful, but they represent a higher level of performance at a lower cost than the technologies they replace.”

Chusid credits a talented team of five staff members and five associates for the firm’s continued success over the past 25 years. He also recognizes the value of his membership in CWA. “We have been able to work with CWA members all over the country, both freelance writers and editors, and I am grateful for the way they have been willing to share their expertise,” said Chusid. “Being part of CWA raises my own sense of professionalism, because I can look at the work that others are doing and ask myself how my work compares to the outstanding work that they do.”

By all accounts, very well.

For more information about Chusid Associates visit and its blog at

Published and distributed by the Construction Writers Association. Copyright 2011.

"Atmospheric Rivers" and Architecture

Q. What would happen in California if it rained for 40 days and 40 nights?

A. Massive flooding, landslides, and devastation exceeding that of the largest earthquakes predicted in the state.

This is not an idle concern. Such a storm occurred in 1861-1862 producing massive damage and bankrupting the state. And similar but smaller events have happened since then.

Relatively new scientific models say these storms are the result of "Atmospheric Rivers" that transport tropical moisture across the Pacific and throw it at the US West Coast with "firehose-like ferocity," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What will this mean to building construction once regulators, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders start factoring these risks into equations?

Along the Eastern Sea Board and the Gulf Coast, and near major rivers in the Midwest, flood resistant construction is already of concerns, and hurricane resistance is already required in South Florida and other vulnerable jurisdictions. In the decades to come, flood-resistant architecture is likely to become an even more significant factor in design and construction, and to become a factor in areas not previously thought of as flood-prone.

Flooding from atmospheric rivers is likely to be conflated with flooding predicted to accompany climate change, including: inundation of coastal areas, changes in precipitation patterns, and increased intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms. Katrina and recent flooding in Australia suggests the potential scale of the widespread damage that may occur, and emergency management agencies and other regulatory bodies are starting to take note.

This focus on flooding is ironic, because another significant trend in architecture is increased emphasis on water conservation, and severe water shortages are prognosticated in many parts of the world as a consequence of climate change. 

As public concerns about atmospheric rivers grows, possible impacts on construction and building products include:
  • The risks of flooding, landslides, or other flood-related damage will lead to new restrictions against building on vulnerable sites.
  • New engineering standard will be required for paving, foundations, and anything constructed on the ground to strengthen structures against supersaturation of soils.
  • Pipelines will have to be designed to resist buoyancy, and other utilities to resist damage due to excessive water pressure.
  • Building envelopes will be required to have increased resistance to wind-driven rain.
  • Demands on below grade waterproofing will be increased.
  • Flood barriers will receive increased consideration to prevent flooding water from entering buildings.
  • Structural designs will consider storm surge-resistance, even in areas not in traditional flood plains.
  • Demand will increase for building materials that will resist water damage and the mold that can grow on wet materials.
  • Increased construction on stilts will create opportunities for new types of framing systems, soffits, and ways to deliver services into elevated structures.
  • More construction on landfill.
  • Et cetera.
There may also be new opportunities for companies or organizations that pre-position materials and systems for rapid deployment after a disaster.

Without trying to be macabre, some building product manufactures may see a silver lining inside these storm clouds. I encourage you to join what is almost sure to be a national discussion about these risks, and to give them consideration in your long-term marketing strategy.

Australia, reeling from massive floods in 2011 and recent years, is already considering moves like those listed above.
Consider this report, for example,
THIS is a Gold Coast developer's possible solution to Queensland's flooding problem -- mini-suburbs on stilts.

Communities on concrete pylons -- roads, houses and all -- could be the way of the future, with Premier Anna Bligh saying the State Government will consider houses on stilts as way to stop homes going under in a flood.

The Gold Coast could be home to one of the first ''suburbs on stilts'' after a court cleared the way for a Merrimac development late last year.

Industry Optimism About the Construction Market Returns

McGraw Hill Construction posted the following article, brightening the construction market future:

Industry Optimism About the Construction Market Returns

Our Cumulative Achievement

Every time it rains heavily enough to make noise on the window – which is not very often in L.A. – I am reminded of standing on the roof of my house with my long-suffering real estate agent the day we closed escrow.  The roof had acknowledged leaks, and we were hurriedly spreading a tarp in a fierce downpour.  That was the day I learned what a tough job roofs do every day, the moment I really began to appreciate what it means to have a roof over your head.

At a time of year when thoughts often turn towards both appreciation for the blessings we’ve got, and assessment of what we’ve achieved, I would like to put in a word of praise for the blessing and the achievement represented by the Built Environment.  It’s hard to find a better example of the method by which the human race grows as a species, and how far we’ve taken that growth.

We grow by being able to accumulate knowledge and capabilities across generations, by being able to quantify and record what we learn, and transmit it beyond the span of our individual years.  From the time when people first realized that caves weren’t going to be enough, we have been accumulating the skill of transforming our environment to adapt it to us, the short-circuit of the evolutionary process.

For an illuminating example of this achievement, one could look to the great pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo.  Standing 98 feet tall, it is actually a shell built over a previous pyramid, which itself was built over the original pyramid.

I once visited the inner pyramid.  It’s not on the regular tour, but we had heard it existed.  We were standing outside the pyramid when my wife saw a park employee going into a little door under the most fully-restored of the four grand staircases.  She ran up and asked if that was the way to the inner pyramid, and he agreed to take us up.

Within the door, we were in a dimly lit, low-ceilinged stone chamber.  The steps of the previous pyramid stretched upwards like a narrow, rising tunnel.  The stone treads were worn as deep as an inch in some places.  The walls sweated with little blobs of moisture that glistened in the light of the bare 40 watt bulbs strung along the ceiling.

We raced up the stairs like they were on fire, tremendously excited by this weirdly threatening place.  We arrived gasping at the top to realize that, while the Mexican government had done a great thing excavating this path and stringing the electric lights, they might have been well advised to install ventilation, as well.  We already used up most of the oxygen in the place. 

Soon our gasping turned to gaping.  Before us stood a large sculpture of a jaguar (one of the gods worshipped at this site during one of its several changes of ownership), colored bright red, with three large stylized spots made of a green stone that looked like jade.  Its back was flattened in a way that strongly suggested it was a sacrificial altar.

The tiny chamber we stood in had once been the exposed top platform of the previous pyramid.  The tiny room in front of us was the previous inner temple. I reflected how much grander the current top platform and inner temple – above our heads – were, how the capabilities of these people to move, shape and build with stone had advanced from one civilization to the next. Within this man-made stone cavern was the reflection of one large page in the story of civilization, written over hundreds of years.  Then, the page turned, but the building that characterized it lived on.

I looked upwards and realized we were beneath tons of stone, and I had no idea what was holding them up.  Yet I had confidently taken my life in my hands and raced up that staircase in complete faith that whatever held them up was going to perform as expected.

Not to belabor an obvious symbol, but all of the built environment is constructed on top of the achievements of the past.

One could examine the latest and greatest architectural and engineering achievements to understand how far we’ve come.  A modern building has so many different kinds of technology that make it perform.  It protects its occupants and contents against wind, water, fire, and earthquake. It provides locations for all manner of human endeavor.  It modifies the (interior) weather.  It gives light in the darkness.  It has hot and cold running water.  It transmits communications.  And there are so many levels of concept embodied in it that allow it to serve the functions required of it.  It is logical.  It is expressive.  It offers the visitor a multi-sensory experience.  It creates functional spaces.  It provides confidence, comfort, safety, and security.

I would suggest, however, that perhaps the most illuminating example of what “cumulative achievement” really means, in terms of the built environment, is the network of standards that have been developed for construction and for building materials.  Those standards represent the length, breadth, and extraordinary depth of our knowledge, but that’s not all.  They represent our commitment to accumulating, quantifying, and transmitting our knowledge and hard-won achievements.  They further represent our commitment to our fellow human beings, to provide reliable structures for today and the future. After all, we pass along not only the knowledge, but the buildings themselves.  The inner pyramid at Chichen Itza, for example, is over 1500 years old.

Construction standards are, I believe, our most sincere expression of pride in our work, our determination as an industry to do the right thing on every project, and to continue thousands of years of advancement.

People who work in the construction industry are part of one of the signal endeavors of our species.  We have a right to be proud.  We have a responsibility to be careful, thorough, and to work by the rules, because we are, quite literally, building the world.

Construction evolving around high-tech: Emerging technologies will spur new types of buildings—and construction marketers must develop new alliances

As part of long-range corporate planning, I’m looking at how high-tech information technologies such as computers, digital communications and the Internet will affect the construction industry. What do you foresee during the next decade? C.P., vice president

The effect of new technologies on the construction industry will be felt in both the way the industry works and the types of projects it undertakes. The information highway itself will create many construction jobs as a new infrastructure is built. Every home and office will need fiber- optic cables, necessitating the rewiring of houses, office buildings and public structures. But, despite information highway hype, it is not an unprecedented change, just the latest wave in an ocean of technology.

For example, an old house I once remodeled had been rewired every 20 years. Its original gas lighting had been replaced first by knob-and-tube wire, then by flexible armored cable, which I replaced with grounded wiring in rigid conduit. But that was 17 years ago, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the current owner rewires soon for “smart-house” appliances.

Smart buildings open doors

For most of the 20th century, architectural theorists used imagery from the Industrial Revolution to describe buildings as “machines for living.” The model for the new century seems to be buildings as information systems, structures with nervous systems to monitor building status, provide feedback and control building functions.

The new construction model that integrates information processing into building systems has the potential to affect every building product category. Smart-house wiring systems will automatically adjust heating and cooling, sound, lighting and appliances to meet changing occupancy conditions. Computerized door controls, already found in most hotels, will monitor and control security and occupancy. Structural systems will be wired to monitor structural integrity and respond dynamically to changing loads. Windows will change opacity to control privacy and light.

Emerging technologies will alter the demand for and design of many types of buildings. Hospitals will downsize as it becomes easier to monitor patients in their own homes from a central location. New communication channels will create demand for additional broadcast and recording facilities to feed a growing need for content. Some children may even attend school via the Internet, reducing the need for new school buildings. Retail facilities will be redefined: For example, when almost any book can be purchased online, physical bookstores are becoming recreational venues, complete with espresso bars and conversation opportunities.

Truths and consequences
It’s difficult to predict the consequences of new technologies. If you had asked 50 years ago about the impact of air conditioning, I might have predicted increased work for sheet metal contractors, but I may not have foreseen the shift of population to southern states or the rise in indoor sports facilities.

Just as air conditioning led to geographic shifts in construction activity, high-tech communications may also stimulate geographic moves. Predicting these shifts correctly could help you locate new production and distribution facilities.

New information technologies make it possible for individuals in far-flung locations to collaborate, away from centralized offices and urban congestion.

The international connection
Even today, a colleague in Los Angeles is working on the architectural design for a building in the Far East. The working drawings are produced in Central America, where wages are lower, and contract administration is in Taiwan, where the building will be constructed. Although my colleague relies on couriers to deliver much of the project documentation, a large amount of information is transmitted electronically among project team members.

Just as the fax machine and FedEx made it easier for design and construction firms to work with out-ofstate consultants and contractors, new technologies will continue to expand the geographic spread of project teams.

New alliances for a new age

For construction marketers, the challenge will be to develop new types of alliances with sales organizations and distributors around the world. These connections may come from export divisions with worldwide vision, cross-licensing structures in which identical products are manufactured in several countries, or other innovative ways to view multinational marketing.

While individuals and businesses will have increased location flexibility, I don’t expect to see large-scale flight from big cities. People congregate for many social and economic reasons other than the need to work in groups.

However, if the number of people working from home continues to grow, we’ll need to build additional neighborhood- based facilities like Kinkos and Starbucks to provide the physical resources and social interaction found in offices. By carefully assessing niche building markets, you may be able to identify new product needs, building types, geographic areas and customer opportunities.

Waking up to the digital age
While hardly a comprehensive view of the future, these predictions may stimulate ideas to include in your long-range planning. But to really anticipate the changes to be wrought by digital technologies you need to look over the horizon and watch developments in unrelated industries.

In the retail sector, stores transmit daily sales information so that manufacturers can adjust their production depending on what’s moving off the shelves. Supermarkets can electronically track individual shoppers’ purchases and target their buying patterns. Some of these new technologies may have useful implications for the construction industry. But don’t bet the store on a single technology; business survival favors those who diversify their options.

Keep technology in balance
Computers and the Internet are only tools, not ends in themselves. The adaptability and resourcefulness of your human resources remain critical to your firm’s success. Don’t lose focus on product value in your rush to embrace high tech. If you had just awakened from a 20-year sleep, you might be surprised by the proliferation of computers in architectural offices and laser levels on the jobsite, but you’d find that construction fundamentals haven’t changed significantly. The best forecast we have for what our industry will look like in the future is the way it looks today.

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
Send an email to

By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1998

CSI Product Representative Academy (PRA)

The CSI Academies are your chance to learn the construction industry skills that can improve your performance.
Become a product representative who understands more than the product – know where and how you fit into the construction process, and become a useful resource the design team will call on again and again. We’ll teach you best practices for presenting products and supporting the design and construction teams. Manufacturers will tell you what you need to know about their products – we’ll give you the skills to present that information and succeed in the commercial construction community.

*Reposted from the following site.*

A Durablity Index For Home Building?

Is there a way for a home buyer to know not only what a home is made of, but how well the home is built?  Should there be?

"At the "Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) Annual Meeting being held in Orlando Florida on October 6-8, 2010, a group of government, industry, and corporate leaders as well as a variety of Subject Matter Experts will finalize ongoing work to define the features and performance standards for the Durable and Green house of the future."

This work is expected to eventually result in a Durability index, a result that could have major marketing implications if the index gains wide acceptance.

Read the whole post here.

FLASH is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting disaster safety and property loss mitigation.

Industry, general trends shape construction customers’ needs

Ten Trends—Part I

As part of our strategic planning, my company is trying to identify trends that will affect the future of the construction industry. What major issues do you see for building product marketing during the coming decade?—J. W. H., market analyst

Many forces that affect other industries also shape construction, but with results unique to our industry. The following significant issues should be considered as part of your look over the horizon.

1. Greening
Environmentalism uses both sticks and carrots as incentives. Legislation and court action are the sticks. Regulation of certain products portends enormous opportunities for companies that can introduce successful substitutes. Regulated substances include volatile organic compounds in paint, chlorofluorocarbons in air conditioning equipment, and asbestos.

The carrots are consumers who increasingly prefer products considered safe for humans and the environment. Herman Miller enjoyed outstanding public relations last year when it announced plans to drop its veneers made from endangered rain forest woods. Relocatable partition manufacturers are repositioning their systems as the environmentally safe alternative to waste disposal problems associated with conventional walls.

Expect a strong demand for energy- saving products such as high-performance glass and more efficient plumbing and lighting. Also in demand will be products and services to abate existing hazards such as contaminated soil and lead-based paint.

With waste disposal costs increasing, consider ways to reduce your product’s packaging. Find ways to recycle scrap or demolished materials. Waste gypsum board is now collected and sold for agricultural use, for example, and a growing franchise chain reconditions and sells used carpet.

Many buildings are planned for a relatively short commercial life. Environmental impact statements and financial pro forma eventually could be required to consider the cost of disposing of a building and restoring its site. This could stimulate demand for products and systems with longer service life and flexibility to accommodate change.

2. Demographics
Aging baby boomers affect not only the types of buildings built but also how they are built. The “age wave” will stimulate demand for health care and nursing home facilities, trade-up housing, and other types of buildings catering to a mature market. Along with this will come a preference for more conservative colors and styles.

The related “baby boomlet” is creating a resurgence in school construction which has not peaked yet. Look for niche opportunities to position products for these markets.

Another demographic shift is a slow but steady increase in the number of women in design and construction decision-making positions. This has already meant a decrease in “cheesecake” photography in advertisements and product literature. Catalogs must be designed to appeal to both men and women. Mass mailings should not use phrases such as “Dear Sir.” Male-oriented sales meetings will hurt a company’s image. Good sales presentations will target women as part of the audience. Products may be restyled to appeal to female buyers and users.

3. Existing buildings
The value of remodeling, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of existing buildings exceeds that of new construction. Most building products are designed for new construction and then adapted with varying degrees of success for use in existing facilities. This creates tremendous opportunities for products and systems designed expressly for remodeling. Manufacturers and their dealers or contractors should look for ways of tapping the aftermarket for maintenance and services.

4. Construction labor
Many areas of the United States will experience a labor shortage in the construction trades. This is partly due to demographics, with baby boomers now past the age of entry into the field and their children still too young. But it is also due to a change in attitude in which construction is viewed as low-tech, corrupt, unsafe, and without job security or adequate rewards.

Manufacturers should respond with products that require less labor or fewer skills. Prefabrication, easyto- assemble building systems, and labor-saving products should do well.

Construction remains among the most hazardous occupations in the country. Building material and equipment manufacturers should be in the forefront of the effort to change this.

Construction trades are still dominated by small, independent firms that are undercapitalized and have difficulty benefiting from advances in technology and management. The industry is ripe for innovative approaches to franchising or networking to provide contractors better purchasing, marketing, and management support.

5. Construction as manufacturing
Some aspects of construction are like build-to-order manufacturing, and building systems installation sometimes takes on characteristics of mass production. Construction theory, however, has focused on the differences between manufacturing and construction. Now, advances in manufacturing management are moving out to the jobsite.

New scheduling and management software may be an agent in this movement. The just-in-time manufacturing and purchasing concept reduces onsite losses and the interest and handling costs for stored materials. Large contractors are establishing direct electronic links with their major suppliers to handle order entry, credit, and delivery.

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
Send an email to

By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1991