Human Resources

Sponsoring Scholars

Many of the advances in material and building science emerge from academia. Here is how one company seeks to stay at the leading edge and attract talent while generating goodwill for the firm.  The following is from the website of Danzer, an major producer of wood products:

Final dissertation or thesis

Does your final dissertation deal with a topic of interest to Danzer? If so, we can assist you. Danzer will be happy to consider topics that you propose. You will be assigned a mentor from our company who will advise you when required.

Mentors do more than just answer questions related to your topic. They also see to it that you are fully integrated into the company. We will also support you financially while you are working on your paper. Students seeking a career in the wood processing sector should contact us before beginning work on their dissertation.

There are mutual benefits to completing your final dissertation at Danzer. It gives us an opportunity to get to learn you. At the same time, we offer you first hand insight into how our company operates. All doors will be open to you while you are working on your dissertation. And if we can offer you a job, the successful completion of your studies could also mark the beginning of a successful career at Danzer.

Supreme Court: Architectural Reps ineligible for overtime

A "detailer", in pharmaceutical parlance, is a person that calls on doctors to introduce new drugs and provide samples. There are also building product detailers, the factory representative that calls on architects or engineers, but does not negotiate or handle sales to dealers or contractors. Also known as "Architectural Reps", they introduce products, provide samples, offer continuing education programs, and assist in specification writing.

A recent Supreme Court decision may affect the way Architectural Reps are paid.

Federal law exempts outside sales people from overtime-pay regulations. This was challenged by several drug detailers, in a class action supported by the US Dept. of Labor, that argued pharmaceutical sales representatives were different from traditional salespeople because they don't actually sell medicines to doctors but merely promote them. Court, in a 5-4 decision, didn't by this prescription.

Justice Alito dismissed that argument as "quite unpersuasive," saying drug representatives effectively function as salespeople "in the unique regulatory environment within which pharmaceutical companies must operate," an environment that prohibits MDs from reselling drugs.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the dissenters, said the representatives' primary duty is to provide doctors with information about drugs. If a particular drug is the best treatment for a patient, a doctor will prescribe it "irrespective of any nonbinding commitment" he made to a sales representative, Justice Breyer said.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are typically paid a combination of base salary and performance-based commission, earning a median pay exceeding $90,000 a year.

It is not clear how this decision will effect industries outside of pharmaceuticals. Building product manufacturers with detailers may want to discuss the new ruling with their HR lawyer.

Photo by RayNata used under Creative Commons License.

Find the right questions

Replace the words in brackets with marketing/marketeer, design/designer, or with almost any other profession, and the quote below will be just as applicable.
"The best [petrographic] examination is the one that finds the right questions and answers them with maximum economy in minimum time, with a demonstration clear to all concerned that the right questions were answered with all necessary and no superfluous detail. In practices the approach to the ideal varies depending on the problem, the skill with which the questions were asked, and the skill of the [petrographer]. One measure of the [petrographer]'s skill is knowing when to stop, either because the problem is adequately solved, or, in some cases, because it has been shown to be insoluble under the circumstances."
Katherine Mather, 1966, Petrographic Examination. Significance of Tests and Properties of Concrete and Concrete Making Materials, ASTM Special Technical Publication No. 169-A

Post Occupancy Evaluation

A seminal work on POE.
Sometimes, the key measurements of a building product can be assessed by physical properties. But many products must also be measured by human factors and how well they meet the emotional, physiological, and psychological needs of a building owner, tenant, or user. For example, lighting can measured in lux or watts per square meter. But it can also be measured by its effect on sales revenue and workplace productivity.

Sometimes these factors can be studied in a laboratory. But in other instances, the only meaningful way to study them is to go into a building to measure the behavior of people using the facility and collect feedback. Consider, for example, a hospital, where design can actually influence patient outcomes, as measured by the amount of pain medication the average patient requires. This type of research is sometimes referred to as post-occupancy evaluation.

One of our clients sells a pre-engineered building system for schoolhouse construction. His customers have been very happy and have written nice testimonials for him. But testimonials, no matter how effusive, can go only so far to establish credibility. My client wanted a more effective tool for convincing school boards to look favorably upon his unique solution.

We proposed to conduct a post-occupancy evaluation comparing two facilities, one built with conventional construction and the other with the pre-engineered system, to understand how the buildings effect the performance of students and faculty. Armed with findings based upon student test scores, faculty turnover, absenteeism, community satisfaction, and other criteria, our client hopes to be able to offer solid evidence that will convince architects and school districts to take a closer look at his system

Sandra Goodman, Ph.D., an associate of Chusid Associates, is a psychologist cross trained in building design and is available to discuss post occupancy evaluation with you. She has conducted post-occupancy evaluations for a major architectural firm, helping to identify lessons that could be applied to other projects, and her skills can also help a building product manufacturer design better products and assess the impact products have on building users.

Green Advantage: Coming to a Job Site Near You

Green Advantage (GA) is filling one of the missing links in sustainable construction. No matter how carefully a project is designed, environmental goals may be compromised if construction crews do not understand principles of sustainability nor how to best manage a jobsite to protect the environment.

To meet this challenge, Green Advantage offers a personnel certification program by which a builder can demonstrate competency in these areas. Chusid Associates is providing marketing and technical support to the organization.

While the Green Advantage program has been gaining adherents since its launch in 1998, I believe it will soon gain critical mass and become part of the construction mainstream. One reason for this optimism is that USGBC has determined that a LEED Innovation Credit can be earned if 30 percent of a project's field supervisory personnel are Green Advantage Certified Practitioners. The Green Advantage Field Personnel Standard can also be embraced by building owners, designers, and contractors that are not pursuing LEED certification.

There are several ways by which building product manufacturers can take advantage of the Green Advantage program:
  • Employees that go onto jobsites can become GA Certified Practitioners. This credential will enhance their professional stature and help establish their credibility.
  • Having GA certified employees reinforces your brand's commitment to sustainable construction.
  • GA certification can also be a criterion in the award of subcontracts since the 30 percent standard also applies to subcontractor personnel that provide services on the jobsite.
Consider getting GA certification for all members of your field crew. Liz Boastfield, Director of Communications at Green Advantage, can help you arrange for training and testing for your organization. Call her at +1 540 822 9449 x105 or email

Finally, Green Advantage is a non-profit organization and needs corporate financial support to supplement its income from certifications. Support of the organization can provide PR and other benefits to your company. I encourage you to contact Liz to discuss this opportunity.

The "Internal" Customers

"Until now, I never really understood what we were selling."

That comment came from a senior manager working in the financial department at a building product manufacturer. Chusid Associates had just finished design and production of a new catalog for the company, a catalog that focused on positioning the firm instead of just listing products.

The manager explained, "I have been with the company for decades. I know every client we have, can tell you to the nickel what each contract was worth and how many pieces we delivered. But until I saw the new brochure you created, I never understood what what business we were really in or why our clients came to us."

Her comments reminds me that every company has both external and internal customers. The external cutomers -- including contractors, dealers, and consumers -- may make the purchases. But the internal customers -- staff, sales reps, suppliers, bankers, and other stakeholders -- also have to "buy the goods", They have to understand the company's mission and the value it brings to customers in order to know how their contribution fits into the whole.

Sure, the financial manager may spend most of her days poring over charts of accounts, but at night she needs to go home feeling good about the company and its image.