Write about what you know.

Many individuals in building product sales develop significant expertise in their product category. If you have expertise, why not write something and get it published. Becoming a published author can do wonders for your reputation and open the door to new business, job offers, and consulting opportunities.

An example of someone doing this is Scott Tobias, a colleague whom I know through CSI. He is the author of the recently published tome, Illustrated Guide to Door Hardware: Design, Specification, Selection.
Scott was with a major architectural hardware company for over a decade and had risen to the office of Vice President of Architectural Development. He recently joined an independent consulting practice, however. While he will do well on the basis of existing relationships he has within the industry, increased recognition as, literally, the person that wrote the book gives him enhanced visibility, authority, and prestige among an expanded number of prospects.

Here is the publisher's statement about the book:
Illustrated Guide to Door Hardware: Design, Specification, Selection is the only book of its kind to compile all the relevant information regarding design, specifications, crafting, and reviewing shop drawings for door openings in one easy-to-access place. Content is presented consistently across chapters so professionals can find what they need quickly and reliably, and the book is illustrated with charts, photographs, and architectural details to more easily and meaningfully convey key information. Organized according to industry standards, each chapter focuses on a component of the door opening or door hardware and provides all options available, complete with everything professionals need to know about that component.

When designing, specifying, creating, and reviewing shop drawings for door openings, there are many elements to consider: physical items, such as the door, frame, and hanging devices; the opening's function; local codes and standards related to fire, life safety, and accessibility; aesthetics; quality and longevity versus cost; hardware cycle tests; security considerations; and electrified hardware requirements, to name a few. Until now, there hasn't been a single resource for this information.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., April 2015, 464 page, ISBN: 978-1-118-11261-8

McGraw Hill is Now Dodge Data and Analytics

McGraw Hill has been a part of my professional life since the day I entered architectural school forty years ago.  It is no more.  The construction related assets of the firm are now an independent company called "Dodge Data and Analytics."

Probably a good move for the company, since their construction products should be more nimble without the institutional inertia of the larger company.  Brands include Sweets, Architectural Record, Dodge,, and others.

Best wishes!



Dodge sold Architectural Record, ENR, and SNAP to BNP in June.

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.

These presentations from Hanley Wood's recent Foundations conference provide eye-opening research, challenge conventional wisdom, and will give you plenty to think about as you plan your next move:

The New Now: Marketing and Media for Construction
Frank Anton, CEO, Hanley Wood, LLC

Charting the Course of a Nonresidential Construction Recovery
Kermit Baker, Chief Economist, The American Institute of Architects

Housing Hits Bottom
Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moody’s Analytics

The Chaos Scenario
Bob Garfield, Editor at Large, “Advertising Age”; Co-host “On the Media” produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR; Author, “The Chaos Scenario”

Hanley Wood Housing 360: Insights Into Home Ownership
Kent W. Colton, President, The Colton Housing Group and Senior Fellow, Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies

Hanley Wood Housing 360: Insights Into Home Ownership Executive Summary
The Colton Housing Group, Kent W. Colton, Ph.D., Gopal Ahluwalia and Jay Shackford

5 Trends in Commercial Design
Ned Cramer, Editorial Director – Commercial Design Group, Hanley Wood, LLC

Residential Design Trends
Boyce Thompson, Editorial Director – Residential New Construction Group, Hanley Wood, LLC

Hot and Not: The Latest Trends in Housing
Jonathan Smoke, Executive Director - Research, Hanley Wood, LLC

A Magazine That 'Gets' Digital

Recently, I posted about the evolving nature of magazines in the digital age.  I opined that not many construction trade magazines are yet dealing very effectively with the new delivery media.

That same day, I found out about one that's doing exactly what I'd been looking for:  Sustainable Construction, a recently-launch publication from Cyngus.  It's currently scheduled as a digital quarterly, with one issue per year also being published in hardcopy.  The publisher tells me that the print issue will be separately designed from the digital edition of the same issue.

Sustainable Construction is formatted in landscape mode, and the online version looks like it would fit an iPad screen, as well.  (Cygnus is also offering a free iPad app for the magazine.)  The pages are readable without going to "magnification mode," even on my laptop screen.  The ads are big and bright and full screen, too.  The overall effect is excellent.

Of course, it's totally appropriate and not even surprising for a sustainability magazine to be largely paperless.  The unusual thing is that they've jumped into digi-screen formatting, and done it well.

Bravo, Cygnus!  I hope other publishers are smart enough to follow in your footsteps, and build a new infrastructure for this valuable communications tradition.

Another Magazine goes Online Only

Masonry Construction is the latest trade publication to drop its print edition and become online only. This trend has important implications for advertising and PR.

An announcement from its editor explains:
Being nimble and quick on your feet are necessary when business prospects become challenging. As unpleasant as they may be, sometimes changes are necessary. Masonry contractors know this as well as anyone. The publishing environment has been very similar the past couple of years. So we are moving in a different direction and have ceased publishing the print edition of Masonry Construction magazine. But along with this, there is also good news: Masonry Construction will still appear in various electronic formats to keep you up to date about the masonry industry.
No doubt the Great Recession was a factor, but it also reflects changes in how the industry gets its information. Watch for Masonry Construction and others to start publishing for mobile devices that contractors can read in the field.

Moving Beyond the Constraints of the Printed Page

Don't get me wrong, I still love reading from the printed page. There's something about the feel, the smell, the sound of turning page after page, engaging all my senses in the experience, not just processing text. I love that I can absorb the page in many different ways, viewing it as a whole or focusing on a specific section without having to go through a complex set of view-change commands, scroll bars, and magnifying glasses with small plus or minus signs. In my home life, the only time I prefer digital text is for research, where the ability to search, bookmark, copy & paste, and email far outweighs the experience of sensory deprivation.

That said, I was very excited to learn about Amazon's new program, offering novellas on Kindle. Not just because I am a long-time fan of "short stories", as most novellas are packaged nowadays, and serial fiction, but because it represents a deep understanding that e-books, and digital media in general, are more than just the online version of printed material. 

From the press release:
Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century--works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the "heft" required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated--whether it's a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.
I agree wholeheartedly; I have read plenty of books that should have been several chapters shorter, and countless magazine articles that deserved more space than the editor could give, but until recently any printed material operated under certain constraints inherent in the medium; in this case, the cost of publication.

Between the cost of writing, layout, editing, printing, transportation, and distribution, publishing is expensive. The major forms print media we have today exist because they found ways to operate within that constraint. But digital media removes many of those costs. Writing, editing, and layout remain, but the cost to "print" and distribute is the same for 500 words as for 500,000. Suddenly novellas become a profitable product; you have to charge less, but you also pay the author less so it balances out.

So what does this have to do with building product marketing and why am I so excited?

If you ever want to see me geek out on communication theory, ask me about Media Richness Theory. In short, the richness of a medium is based on the number channels - text, video, audio, touch, nonverbal, etc. - by which the medium can send information. "Richer" is not the same as "better"; in fact, the aim of MRT is to fit the richness of a medium to the task at hand. Phone calls and MP3s both only convey audio data, but they are used for very different purposes. Likewise, there are some tasks well suited to email (reminders about tomorrow's meeting), and some that require face-to-face (proposing to your girlfriend).

And yet many companies insist on making their website and online literature nothing more than digital versions of printed materials.

This causes trouble on two fronts, because you sacrifice the strengths of the webpage, such as a wide variety of information channels and easy navigation between connected concepts, and force it to do something it does badly - display a page of fixed text that's larger than the monitor it's being viewed on. That's like trying to watch an IMAX movie on an iPod, or going to the theater to watch YouTube clips.

For example: a lot of the difficulty in writing effective sales literature for construction products lies in explaining concepts it would be easier to show. Written instructions for a product might fill entire pages, while a demo takes seconds. With digital literature you can actually show it, and you can show it at the right time and in the right place: when your customer needs that information. Why limit your effectiveness by assuming digital plays by the same rules as print?

Kudos to Amazon for having the creativity and insight to realize that.

[H/T ReadWriteWeb]

Reed Construction Revived

I welcome the revival of the construction publications of Reed Construction. Having more media channels keeps advertising pricing competitive, allows messages to be targeted more effectively, and creates additional outlets for publicity.

Here's the press release:

Scranton Gillette Communications Partners With MB Media
Construction Titles to Re-launch in September 2010

Scranton Gillette Communications (SGC) has partnered with MB Media to form a limited liability corporation (LLC). This new equity partnership will oversee the construction group brands that MB Media acquired from Reed Business Information (RBI) in May 2010.

The new partnership includes the following print and online properties: Building Design+Construction, Custom Builder, Construction Equipment, Housing Giants, Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler, Construction Bulletin, SpecCheck,,,, and

These properties represent more than 325,000 construction professionals, including contractors, engineers, architects, remodelers, single-family home builders, and equipment managers and owners/developers working in residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, single-family, and multifamily markets.

The construction group properties will continue to be led by MB Media CEO Tony Mancini and MB Media President Rick Blesi. Many key team members also will continue to support these titles following their re-launch in September.

The move also increases the construction portfolio of Scranton Gillette. Its brands include: Water & Wastes Digest, Water Quality Products, Storm Water Solutions, Infrastructure Solutions, Roads & Bridges, Transportation Management + Engineering, Residential Lighting, Hospitality Lighting, and Home Fashion Forecast.

Reed Construction Data and Hanley Wood Announce Alliance to Deliver Enhanced Product Directories to the Construction Marketplace

We just received a notice that Reed Construction Data and Hanley Wood, LLC will be entering a strategic alliance that we believe will enhance the way information is transferred among the building product industry.  Read below for the press release.

NORCROSS, GA (June 10, 2010) - Reed Construction Data (RCD) and Hanley Wood, LLC today announced they have signed a letter of intent to enter into a strategic alliance that will open up proprietary information channels in a pioneering effort to deliver richer, more valuable content to the construction industry.

The alliance will leverage the existing products, audiences, customer relationships, capabilities and expertise of each organization to deliver the most comprehensive, data and content rich directories in the commercial construction marketplace and other construction related audiences.

"With this agreement we're embracing an integrated strategy that will leverage core information assets of our respective entities to benefit a broad array of construction industry professionals," said Reed Construction Data CEO Iain Melville. "Hanley Wood is a true leader in the construction media and information business and we're excited to work with an organization that has proven its commitment to finding new ways to deliver innovative solutions."

"We're pleased to be moving forward with this collaborative strategy to enhance our collective commercial market product offerings and capture additional market share," said Hanley Wood CEO Frank Anton. "Reed Construction Data is a well respected provider of product and project information, cost data and market analytics in the construction space. Coupled with the rich content and audience mindshare of Hanley Wood, together we will create solutions that deliver broader and more in-depth access to industry information."

The endeavor will initially focus on integrating content from RCD's construction product directory, SmartBuilding Index, with information available through several of Hanley Wood's Web and tradeshow channels. In addition to providing enriched content, this joint effort will create new and unique marketing opportunities for building product manufacturers and construction companies.

R.I.P. Building Design & Construction

In July of 2009, Reed Elsevier, announced its intentions to cease its Reed Business Information U.S. publishing business. Over the past year, many publishing brands have also closed. On April 16, 2010, Reed announced the closure of the remaining publishing brands and their
associated products and services. Therefore, the April 2010 issue was the final issue of Building Design & Construction.

We are very sad to see this happening as Building Design & Construction was one of the first magazines to put Michael Chusid's writing in ink. We wish the best to Reed and all of the other publications who are closing and would like them to know the important roles they've played in the industry.

Enhanced Online Magazine Edition

I have yet to see an online edition of a print magazine that is easy to read. Sure, digital editions are useful for retrieving specific articles, but my notebook computer's small screen does not duplicate the experience of being able to see an overall layout of a story and focus in on the text or individual elements.

Still, digital editions continue to increase in circulation, and publishers are finding ways to add features to enhance the experience. For example, Interiors & Sources magazines has announced that:
Beginning in April every print issue will also be accompanied by an enhanced digital edition. Ours is not like other digital editions you might be familiar with. We're pushing the envelope. It will include everything from the print issue, with oodles of additional project photos, product information, and other content to give our readers and your customers the sort of design inspiration they desire. Editorial and advertising can be enhanced with video and rich media content. The reader experience will be enhanced and readers will consume the content in the format of their choosing.
Advertisers and publicists need to take note, and be prepared to offer this additional content when submitting an ad or story.

Water Usage in Buildings

While the efficiency of plumbing fixtures comes immediately to mind when thinking about water conservation, concerns about water usage affect many other categories of building products. Just as many buildings attempt to go off the power grid by generating electricity on site, designers are now looking for ways to take buildings off the water grid by collecting and reusing water on site. Roofing, wall cladding, and sitework must all be re-evaluated in terms of their use in water systems. On-site water storage and processing requires new types of tanks and structural systems. And surfaces that are self-cleaning or otherwise reduce the amount of water used for maintenance are being introduced.

A conceptual study of a highrise designed to optimize rain collection illustrates the growing interest in water efficient architecture. Designed by architectural student:
they decided to design a tower, whose structure will allow for capturing and processing as much rainfall as possible to provide ... water for its inhabitants.  ...we focused at shaping and modeling the surface of the roof to capture as much rainfall as possible. Under a roof's surface, there are water reservoirs in the form of a large funnel and reed fields, which serve as a hydro botanic water treatment unit. The unit processes water into usable water that is further transmitted to apartments. 
A network of gutters on the external surfaces of the building is designed to capture rainfall flowing down the building. such flowing rainfall is transmitted to floors and its surplus is stored in a reservoir under the building. water captured and processed by the building may be used for flushing toilets, feeding washing machines, watering plants, cleaning floors and other domestic applications.
As is appropriate for a student project, the design is more of an exploration of ideas than a practical scheme for construction, but suggests where design may go when water becomes part of the design program. (For the record, one of my student projects, during the 1970's, also focused on water conservation and was equally idealistic. I became so wrapped up in the theoretical implications that I never finished the presentation drawings.) 

For product managers looking into water-usage related opportunities, McGraw Hill has recently published:
Water Use in Buildings: Achieving Business Performance Benefits through Efficiency

This 40-page printed report (available as hard copy or PDF) reviews the role of water efficiency in buildings.  Among other topics, the report covers: involvement and importance of water efficiency, business benefits of water-efficient practices and methods, drivers and obstacles to water efficiency, types of water-efficient products and methods and sources of information behind product selection and use.
Charts throughout the report demonstrate detailed information and successful strategies in order to take advantage of opportunities in the water-efficiency market. For example, the top two motivators to the incorporation of water-efficient practices & products are illustrated in chart form. Energy use reduction is the number one motivator at 78%, and operating cost reduction is 84%. High-efficiency toilets, water-saving sinks, and waterless urinals are all products associated with these cost reductions.
The link between energy and water continues to become transparent and widespread. Both government drivers and the desire to lower energy costs are expected to lead to faster adoption of water-efficiency products and practices. This report finds that 85% of industry players rank water efficiency as a very important part of a green building in 2013, up from 69% in 2008.  Overall, the report research finds that water-efficient products and practices have been embraced for the green buildings of tomorrow.

Hanley Wood aligns with AIA

Hanley Wood, already a powerhouse in construction industry publishing
and tradeshows, appears to be heading deeper into architectural markets:

WASHINGTON, DC -- (Marketwire) -- 01/15/10 -- In light of existing contractual agreements due to expire at the end of 2010, the Board of Directors of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) selected Hanley Wood, LLC to begin negotiating development of an integrated media approach for the AIA's official publication and annual convention. The AIA decision was made following a confidential RFP process, due diligence of a Board-appointed Integrated Media Task Force guided by criteria developed by the Board, in-depth discussion of the attributes of the proposals, and thorough evaluation of the responses based on those attributes. The Board instructed the AIA President and Executive Vice President/CEO of the AIA to begin discussion with Hanley-Wood on creating an integrated convention and publication offering that encompasses print, online, digital, and convention/meetings.

This may have a big impact on McGraw Hill's Architectural Record, which is currently distributed to AIA members as a membership benefit.