Change to Wikipedia may affect you.

WikipediaIn 2010, this blog posted:
Have you searched for your product category on Wikipedia? Does the page exist? If so, is your product properly represented? Remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia, so add your information if it's not there. Play fair, though. Wikipedia's community of editors will zap you if you don't, and the backlash can be worse for your reputation than missing information would have been.
What's new?
Wikipedia's parent organization, Wikimedia, has proposed an amendment to its terms of use that puts a control on the "anyone can edit" principle. The amendment states: 
you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution to any Wikimedia projects for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation. (emphasis added) You must make that disclosure in at least one of the following ways:
  • a statement on your user page,
  • a statement on the talk page accompanying any paid contributions, or
  • a statement in the edit summary accompanying any paid contributions.
As I will explain below, this change may impose difficulties and risks on your company that would make Wikipedia less attractive as a social media platform.

The introduction to the amendment explains:
Contributing to the Wikimedia Projects to serve the interests of a paying client while concealing the paid affiliation has led to situations that the community considers problematic. Many believe that users with a potential conflict of interest should engage in transparent collaboration, requiring honest disclosure of paid contributions. Making contributions to the Wikimedia Projects without disclosing payment or employment may also lead to legal ramifications. Our Terms of Use already prohibit engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. To ensure compliance with these provisions, this amendment provides specific minimum disclosure requirements for paid contributions on the Wikimedia projects.
What does this mean to you?

Wikipedia depends on the willingness of users to share what they know. Since many building product companies have a great deal of expertise in-house or on retainer, it serves the community spirit of Wikipedia to have your experts contribute information to the online, community-sourced encyclopedia. Under the proposed guidelines however, your employee or consultant would have to disclose that he or she has a financial relationship with your company.

I have three concerns:

1. Will disclosure of your expert's relationship hurt or improve the public's acceptance of the expert's edits. Some people will assume that the pecuniary relationship makes the information biased and untrustworthy. I posit that disclosure of the expert's qualifications could also make the information more credible by establishing it as originating from a source that can be vetted.

2. The new rule may make many real experts want to avoid Wikipedia. As it is now, your expert can make edits with a certain amount of anonymity. Others can (and usually will) change what your expert contributes, but there is no repercussion on the individual.  By disclosing the individual's relationship with an employer or client, the expert loses anonymity, and may be expose to harassment or other tribulations. 

3. Of most consequence, your employee's or consultant's statements may be interpreted as a warranty issued by your company. (A warranty is any claim you make about your product's performance, not just the things covered in your company's warranty form.) As it is now, edits are made by individuals acting as individuals, not acting on their employer's behalf. The proposed change, therefore, could impose a new legal liability and risk.

Take a look at the proposed changes, discuss this with your PR person and attorney, and let me know what you think about this.

Wiki Revisited

I was asked, recently, about the potential for a new and improved internet-based source for building product information, a comprehensive and reliable source of information about construction means and methods.

It seems the industry already has many powerful tools for distributing information; the crucial issue is how to create and maintain the content. My suggestion is to "crowd source" it, allowing the learned members of the construction industry (including building product manufacturers) to create content.

Wiki tools, such as Wikipedia, are a good way to do this. I use Wikipedia frequently as a quick source of information, as demonstrated to the many Wikipedia links embedded in this post.*

When looking for building product information, many architects and builders begin their investigation on a search engine where pages from Wikipedia are often the first result returned. is another wiki specifically for architecture. Yet I note that these sites are woefully limited in building product information and neither uses industry standards for organizing data. They could be more useful to the construction industry if it were cross-referenced according to MasterFormat and OmniClass, industry standards for organizing construction information.

At the time of writing this, Wikipedia, for example: 
  • "Ceiling" does not cross reference MasterFormat Division 09
  • A search on "Acoustical Ceiling" returns 13 hits, but most of these are tangential. Wikipedia does not have a prime entry for the topic.
  • Wikipedia's "MasterFormat" entry links to the entry for "50 Divisions" where Division 09 links to a page on "wood finishing" --- hardly a complete discussion about finishes.
Amazingly, the following common building product terms do not have pages in either wiki:
  • "Concrete Admixture"
  • "Division 04"
  • "Single Ply Roof"
This makes me wonder if the construction community is willing to support a new, non-profit product database. Perhaps an individual or organization could champion such an effort. Is this an initiative that should be undertaken by a trade organization such as the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)?  Is it a viable commercial venture that could be financed by selling ads? Or will a new generation of online tools soon render wikis as antiquated as three-ring binders?

Marketing Opportunities
While the industry sorts itself out, you have a great marketing opportunity. If you are in the ceilings industry, for example, why not take it upon yourself to provide and maintain good content about your area of interest.

While overtly commercial messages will quickly be deleted by the crowd sourced legions of wiki watchers, you will find many ways to direct prospects to your company, such as links to articles you have published, and describe technology specific to your products. Chusid Associates created the studcast page, for example, with links to articles we wrote for our client, articles that also list the client's name and contact info.

This blog is mentioned in the Wikipedia listing for scriptio continua:
Scriptio continua has become common in e-mail and internet addresses. For example, the address for the website "Building Product Marketing" is written, scriptio continua, as, without spaces between the separate words.[4]
My business has little to do with Latin inscriptions, but I have had prospects call me after finding our link in the footnote on Wikipedia. It also helps our search engine listing.

 Other than the time you invest, there is no cost to participate in most wikis. It should be part of your social media and brand management programs.

For more information, see my earlier posts on the subject.

* Wikis should not be relied upon for critical decision making since they can contain biased, incomplete, and inaccurate information. Still, they are powerful starting points for further investigation, and frequently provides links to other resources.

Burying your dirt

Sooner or later everyone - and every company - will have some dirt, some embarrassing information, somewhere online. Eventually it will be less of a social problem for individuals, because everyone will have some, but for companies it could still be an embarrassment.

Sally Adee, writing for, has an intriguing suggestion on how to manage this dirt: bury it.
While you might think that reducing your internet presence is the way to go, you'd be wrong. The key to managing your reputation is to spend more time online, not less. The advocates of this approach argue that polishing your online persona could soon join healthy eating and exercise in your arsenal of everyday life-maintenance chores.
 She relates this to the Law of Surfing - the idea that web surfers rarely look past the first page of results. Which means you don't need to eliminate your dirt, just make sure there are 15-20 more interesting (in a SEO way) links above it.

How do you achieve this? Promote yourself. Tell the story you want to tell about your company; tell it loudly, tell it often, tell it in many locations. Social media is a good route for this because the Big Four (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube) tend to pop up high in search results. So does Wikipedia, if you have a presence there.

What else can you do? Write a few articles for respectable online publications, send out press releases on the news wire, blog, and participate in a lot of forums. The more the better. If there is a bad news story, respond to it so your reply becomes a bigger news item than the actual story.

In other words, a standard, if aggressive, SEO plan.

Ideally, this is a game you will play on offense, not defense. Don't wait until someone posts something nasty about your company, or the wrong person gets copied on what should have been an intra-office memo; start now so you already hold those top spots. Then most of your dirt will automatically go straight where it belongs.


Qwiki turns data into stories

Qwiki is a new web service that turns your search results into a narrated presentation, complete with photos, graphs, timelines, and videos. It draws content from the appropriate Wikipedia page and uses a text-to-voice program to provide the narration.

Not sure what that means? Watch this Qwiki about building materials:

Qwiki is already being billed as a "Google killer". I suspect this is an exaggeration, but that does not change the magnitude of Qwiki's potential impact on the web. Especially once the technology grows beyond Wikipedia and can create these presentations from any online content it is fed.

Why is this a big deal?

Leaving aside the technological implications, Qwiki is potentially a big deal because most people respond better to messages delivered as stories. By creating the slideshow Qwiki feels more multimedia than a static webpage, even if both contain identical content, and the voice is close enough to human to make it feel personal. Like having someone explain a subject to you, rather than reading the webpage.

This makes it a great tool for marketing. Video is currently the fastest growing online medium, but most companies still have very small video libraries, if any at all. This is largely because of the cost of video production can get so high. While Qwiki will probably never reach the production level of a full-scale video, it will eventually allow you to, almost instantaneously, create a video version of your sales brochure or LEED sheet.

Check Qwiki out. Play around with it for a bit, get to know its features. Then go make sure the Wikipedia pages related to your products are up to date, go visit one of your clients, and show them your Qwiki.

Using Wikipedia for traffic generation

Looking at our blogs analytics, I found something interesting: one of the all-time highest sources of referral traffic to our blog was a Wikipedia article on Taglines. Michael had edited it a few months back, adding a link to a post he wrote on taglines for building product marketing.

That post is currently one of our ten most viewed, and nearly a quarter of the traffic came from the Wikipedia page. But if you visit the page now, our link is no longer there. Which means, in turn, the traffic has dried up.

Here's what happened, both good and bad:

What went right

This edit worked because it added depth and diversity to a page that was, before our edits, entirely about movie and TV taglines. That covers many of the greats, but ignores the wide variety of product advertising taglines from across all industries that have entered our culture. Michael fixed this, writing: "Taglines are not limited to the entertainment industry. They have been used effectively in the building products industry, for example," and including a link to our post.

This should have been a valid change; we were not promoting our product or, directly, company. We were providing general information, on a topic about which we are experts, that expanded the usefulness of the page. So what happened?

What went wrong

Michael's addition was removed by another of Wikipedia's volunteer editors, which is also the way Wikipedia is supposed to work. Whether I agree or not, this editor acted properly to remove what was viewed as a commercial interest. The editor explained the removal, saying: "took out web address of ad for commercial business services in text, left reference in case this is really the only example of other use of taglines."

Wikipedia works as well as it does because the community keeps it honest. Even though this change went against us, I am glad it was made because the editor acted on right principles.

What should have happened

What prompted the deletion here was that ours was the only example of other types of taglines; that made it look suspicious. I can see that; Hollywood movies and building products are not two categories that usually go together. What we should have done is included examples for other types of products, possibly with examples.

For most building product manufacturers, the more direct application will be including links to multiple sources with useful information on the topic. Also, expand the discussion beyond the point where your product is used. The richer and deeper your changes are, the more likely they will stay put.

Finally, if the topic is one that's important to you, monitor it for future changes. This was not on our watch list because "Taglines" are a very small piece of what we do; the discovery it drew so much traffic was bigger than the discovery that it was gone. If this had been something more core to our business, like discussing social media in construction on the social media page (hmmm....someone should add that), we would watch more closely.

Creating New Words

Construction is a field where new technologies and practices often justify the invention of a new term. As an example, I coined the phrase, "studcast" to describe a new type of wall panel that consisted of a hybrid of prefabricated light-gage steel frame with a thin precast concrete veneer. I offered the term to all the manufacturers of this type of product, and most of them now use it to as a standardized, simple, and descriptive term.

However, some invented terms are unnecessary and can lead to confusion.  A case in point is the recently coined term, "civionics".

I first encountered the term in the article "New civionics technologies for structural health monitoring" in the November 2010 issue of CE News. While the article shares valuable information about the evolving science of structural health monitoring. I question whether the use of the term "civionics" was equally valuable.

The author, Nathan Yang, defines the term as "the synergistic combination of civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, photonics, and other disciplines for [structural health monitoring]. This definition suggests that "civionics" is an equivalent term for "structural health monitoring", a field that already encompasses a variety of disciplines. Indeed, electrical and computer engineering are already integrated into the practice of civil engineering. In this case, "civionics" is a word of of questionable value in a field already cluttered with jargon.

A search of the CE News website reviews that "civionic" has not previously been used in the publication. Similarly, a search of the internet reveals that the term has few users -- most of its occurrences on the internet result from one site quoting another. A similar concern has been raised by a commentator on Google Talk who opines, "All of the references describe [civionics] as an emerging field, yet they seem to point in a circular manner as to establishing the notability of this term. Wikipedia is not a place to establish notability. So if this term is not widely used in the engineering field, it should not have an article here." Nor, in my opinion, should notability be established by an oblique reference in a magazine article.

But marketing is marketing, and I note that the author of the CE News article works for a company that sells electronics to the Civil Engineering community. Maybe he feels his company will benefit from embracing new term. How ironic, then, that the term "civionic" does not appear in his website, either.

Social Media and the Paradox of Choice

On the way to work this morning I was listening to a 2008 episode of Radio Lab about choice. The lead story had Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, discussing that for most people decision-making capability drops sharply when they are confronted by more than seven options. Listening to him as I walked, I realized this could also explain one of the major obstacles to social media adoption: there are too many channels for businesses to make effective decisions about which to use. And if there are too many options for businesses, what is that doing to our customers?

The answer is not to limit choice, but to sharpen focus.
A new client recently asked me what I considered "essential social media" for a B2B company. Off the top of my head, I listed (in no particular order):
  • Blog
  • Twitter stream
  • Facebook fan page
  • LinkedIn profile for key executives and company
  • Email newsletter
  • YouTube channel
  • Online photo gallery
  • Website optimization
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Mobile landing page
...and then I paused to take a breath. Is it any wonder my client felt overwhelmed? Seeing the panic on his face, I considered the list and refocused. The first thing we did was narrow the list down by combining similar items:
  1. Website overhaul (which includes blog, mobile page, and SEO review)
  2. Online media gallery
  3. Social networking
  4. Email marketing
  5. Online brand monitoring
Suddenly we had a manageable list.  Sure, creating an "online media gallery strategy" takes more work than starting a YouTube channel, but it made it easier to see the full picture and start our next step: prioritizing.

We began with goal setting; what was the purpose of this online campaign? The client's experience showed that their existing sales network was very effective; the major needs were brand awareness, education, and maintaining customer loyalty. That suggested a single technology to me: email newsletters.

E-newsletters can be very effective at keeping your brand top-of-mind for both new prospects, who need education and awareness, and existing customers, who are reminded of past positive experiences. With the right set-up it is even easy to send multiple versions of your newsletter at once, each customized for a particular audience. Better yet, all of the other online options we discussed suddenly became part of a single project by contributing content to the newsletter, building awareness of it, and building a subscriber base.

It is also important to remember that no company can be successful in every social media venue, so it is always acceptable - encouraged even - to pick the few you want to focus on and ignore the rest. Redesigning the social media mix is fairly simple, so there is little opportunity cost involved. Still, this experience with my client was a good example of how asking the right questions and focusing on goals can change a seemingly impossible list of options into a single manageable project.

The Market for Renovating Existing Buildings

The construction industry is too big to capture all at once, so successful building product marketeers look for segments that they can penetrate and dominate. The market for renovating existing buildings is often overlooked by many building product manufacturers. Maybe they are under the illusion that market for historic buildings is only for firms that make reproductions of antique materials. There is a place for period piece manufacturers, but the biggest challenge in rehabbing old buildings is to integrate NEW materials and technologies into the existing structure. Early in my architectural career, for example, I got to remodel the Manitowoc, Wisconsin court house ( While some locations in the building required specialists to recreate or repair historic materials, most of our challenges were to find new materials that could tie into existing materials -- physically and aesthetically.  

I am reminded about this while reading a summary of the market posted by Restore Media, publishers Traditional Buildings and other media focusing on the existing building sector. It is reprinted below with permission.

Traditional building is an estimated $170 billion market, including both residential and non-residential historic restoration, renovation and new construction in historical styles. The market’s professionals—contractors, building owners, facility managers, developers, planners, preservationists, architects, custom builders, interior designers and tradesmen—buy and specify an estimated $50 billion of building materials per year.

As of this year, 2010, just under 30% of the U.S. housing stock is more than 55 years old. Likewise, about 25% of the commercial, institutional and public buildings are now 55 years old or older. From 1995 to 2010, old buildings, as a percentage of total building inventory, have grown by 8.2%. Add to this the old buildings built between 1953 and 1972, and the old building inventory swells to nearly 53% of the U.S. total building inventory.

Traditional building is defined as the restoration, renovation, maintenance and preservation of historic buildings, architecturally important buildings or both. It includes the new construction of period-style or contextual additions and buildings, such as “new old" houses, traditional neighborhood developments, commercial/ institutional infill and adaptive reuse. For a glossary of traditional building terms, see below.
Old houses, schools, churches, hotels, house museums, retail and office buildings, as well as public buildings like historic post offices, courthouses and state capitals, are part of the $170 billion traditional building market if they are historically and architecturally significant and in need of expansion or repair. 
  • The integrity of the location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.
  • A building that is an excellent example of a style, period, or method of construction.
  • A site where a historical event occurred or an important person lived or worked.
  • A structure that represents a turning point in architectural design, planning or technology.
  • A site that has yielded or is likely to yield important historical information.
(Source: "AIA Guide to Historic Preservation 2001")


An aging building stock: by the end of 2010, 28% of America’s housing inventory will be 56 years old or older; 52% will be 35 years old and getting older. There are over 41 million houses in this age bracket.

The federal government manages 430,000 buildings, most of which are historic. (Source: "Carying for the Past, Managing for the Future: Federal Stewardship and America's Historic Legacy")
There are 14,000 historic districts.

There are 24,000 schools built before 1951, most or all within walking distance of older neighborhoods. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
Changes in federal funding programs have strengthened historic preservation’s connection to urban planning and community development. For example, since 1992, $10.4 billion has been apportioned for transportation enhancement programs with a major traditional building component. (Source: "Transportation Enhancement Activities: Appointments for FY 1992-2008," U.S. Department of Transportation)
Public transportation is available to 60% of older, established and historic neighborhoods compared with 75% of new housing that has no access to public transportation.

The cost of fuel and resulting government emphasis on public transportation, infrastructure, urban revitalization and context-sensitive design have reversed the tide of suburban flight. For example, there are now more residential housing units on Wall Street than there are offices.

According to the Urban Land Institute, by the year 2050 the U.S. urban population will grow by 300 million people.

According to the Metropolitan Institute, there will be 55,000 multi-housing units built in the next 40 years, much of this from the adaptive reuse of historic buildings on commercial and transportation corridors.
According to the Department of Energy, there will be twice as much commercial and institutional renovation than new construction in the next 20 years.

The Department of Interior approves federal historic tax credits for approximately $3.5 billion in historic restoration and renovation per year. In 2006 alone, federal tax credit projects jumped 15% to 1,253.

As of 2008, 29 states were offering additional state historic tax credits to encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Of these, 23 states offer a tax credit to homeowners. (Source: The National Trust for Historic Preservation)
The National Main Street Center has rehabbed over 180,000 historic buildings on main streets across America. (Source: National Main Street Center)

Despite declining real estate values in 2007-2008, price appreciation for older buildings in close-in neighborhoods has held steady or increased.

The construction of buildings accounts for nearly 50% of new greenhouse gas emissions. Building demolition accounts for 75% of landfills. There is a shift away from new to 'renew", from new construction to restoration, renovation and adaptive reuse.(Source: “Trends in Building Related Energy and Carbon Emissions: Actual and Alternate Scenarios,” Energy Information Administration)
By 2007 22 states, 55 cities, 11 counties, 8 towns and 11 federal agencies had adopted green building initiatives. Governors in 25 states have adopted climate action plans with 14 more now developing plans. In Arlington Virginia, for example, municipal buildings must be LEED rated, by law. (Source: USGBC) 
The U.S. Green Building Council recently approved LEED points for the “embodied energy” in existing buildings. This will make tear-down and re-build projects less likely in the future. It will drive the growth of “greening” existing and historic buildings, already well underway in Portland, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The professionals who work on traditional buildings have unique information needs and interests based on the special challenges and, in some cases, government regulations that historic buildings require. Extensive research is always required before breaking ground. At the very least, designing and building to fit an existing neighborhood or vernacular tradition require an aesthetic sensitivity to classical architecture: the right scale, proportions and materials. In a complex historic restoration and renovation, professionals are challenged by a whole range of issues, from restoring or replicating historic products, to meeting Department of Interior (National Park Service) federal tax credit standards.

Architects play a very important role in traditional building, both on high end residential period homes and historic commercial/institutional/public work.

The traditional building architecture firm:
  • does a yearly construction volume of $10,960,000 (average size firm);
  • has an average 18 employees;
  • operates in a local/regional market but because of its specialized historic work, also serves clients nationally and internationally;
  • relies on commercial/public and institutional historic restoration, renovation and traditional-style new construction as significant parts of its work; and
  • breaks out into large firms (20 architects or more on staff) that typically do commercial/public/institutional work only and small to medium-size firms that do high-end residential and light commercial work.
According to the AIA, 30% of all architect billings are from government work.
(Source: "AIA Firm Survey; Traditional Building Audience Research 2008")

TRADITIONAL BUILDING CONTRACTOR PROFILE The general contractor, restoration/renovation contractor and custom (period-style) builder play an important role in traditional building

The traditional building contractor:
  • is a firm with a yearly construction volume of $7,780,000 (average size firm);
  • builds for an average $300 or higher per construction foot;
  • has an average of 10 employees;
  • operates in a local/regional market but will follow local clients to national and international destinations; and
  • relies on traditional building as a significant part of its work.
Very large firms ($50 million or more) typically do commercial/public/institutional work only, while small to medium-size firms do high-end residential and light commercial projects.

(Source: Traditional Building and Period Homes Audience Research 2008)

  • Quality products and service
  • Availability; short, and/or predictable lead times
  • A great website that addresses the professional’s needs and interests
  • Product brochures to share with clients
  • Technical support, accessed via an 800 number
  • Personal service offering solutions to problems
  • Market segment expertise
  • Continuing education credits
  • Shared risk and call-back resolution
  • Design flexibility
  • Period-accurate and authentic products
  • Options and choices presented in a good/ better/ best scenario
  • Comparative analysis vs. other product brands/competitors
  • Proven but unique products
  • Green products that last a long time and can be repaired
(Source: Restore Media, LLC, Audience Research, 2008)

(order of importance but varies by product type and project demands)

  • Quality
  • Durability
  • Historical accuracy
  • Ability to match custom specs
  • Availability/lead time
  • Manufacturer reputation/dependability
  • Green attributes
  • Low maintenance
  • Customer service and support
  • Ease of installation
  • Price
  • Terms
(Source: Restore Media, LLC, Audience Research 2008)

The greatest benefit of historic preservation is the protection and interpretation of our cultural heritage. Buildings are a true record of the period or society that created them. They are a primary source of historical information. The historic and social value of preserving older neighborhoods, restoring a landmark county courthouse or adaptive use of railroad stations or other underutilized buildings across the country far exceeds the direct economic benefits. Preservation makes a significant contribution to the beauty and enjoyment of our cities, towns and rural landscapes and to the quality of life in these special places.

At the same time, the economic benefits of preservation are not inconsequential. Solid documentation exists regarding benefits to the tax base of communities and stimulation of the economy.

Both public and private owners have come to realize the economic benefits of preservation. Savings in costs, materials and energy in the adaptive use or preservation of existing buildings are significant. In adaptive-reuse projects, the cost per square foot can be substantially less than that for new construction. In addition, both energy and natural resources can be saved by re-using existing structures rather than constructing buildings using new manufactured materials delivered to the jobsite.

Owners of buildings that are recognized historic landmarks or are located in designated historic districts may qualify for other financial benefits. Federal tax laws and Internal Revenue Service regulations provide tax credits for the restoration of commercial buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. State and local grants and special tax deductions may also be available.

(Source: "The American Institute of Architects Guide to Historic Preservation")

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one set of interrelated community-building challenges.

CNU advocates the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments and the preservation of our built legacy.

Physical solutions by themselves will not solve social and economic problems, but neither can economic vitality, community stability, and environmental health be sustained without a coherent and supportive physical framework.

(Source: Congress for New Urbanism Charter 2001)

Preservation: applying the measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity and materials of a historic property. Preservation work generally focuses on the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic fabric rather than extensive replacement or new construction.

Rehabilitation: adapting a property for continuing or new compatible use through repair, alteration and additions, while preserving those portions or features that convey its historical, cultural or architectural values.

Restoration: accurately depicting the form, materials, features and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time. Restoration retains as much of the historic period fabric as possible. Inconsistent features may need to be removed and missing features faithfully reconstructed in accordance with the restoration period.

Reconstruction: depicting by means of new construction the form, materials, features and character of a historic property that no longer exists, as it appeared at a particular period of time, in its historic location.

(Source: "The American Institute of Architects Guide to Historic Preservation")

AIA Historic Resources Committee (HRC)
American Institute of Building Design (AIBD)
Association for Preservation Technology Intl. (APTI)
Congress for the New Urbanism
Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America (ICA CA)
International Network Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU)
National Town Builders Association
The National Trust for Historic Preservation
New Urban Guild (NUG)
Preservation Action
Preservation Education Institute (PEI)
Preservation Trades Network (PTN)
The Urban Land Institute 

Ocean Day

My calendar lists July 19 as "Ocean Day (Japan)". We've been discussing a lot whether "blue" is becoming the new "green" as water-conservation awareness grows, so I did some quick research on the holiday.

Ocean Day, or Marine Day, is a national holiday set for the third Monday in July; originally fixed on July 20, it was moved to create a three-day holiday weekend at the beginning of the summer beach season. Historically the holiday celebrates the return of Emperor Meiji from a boat trip to Hokkaido in 1876, but the modern holiday was founded in 1996 and focuses more on beach trips and "gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan" (Wikipedia entry, 7/6/2010).

This sounds like a great marketing opportunity, especially for companies with a presence in Japan and eastern Asia, to discuss your company's stance on water conservation and protecting the oceans. Have you started to put together your "blue" story yet?

5 Essential Social Media Tools for Manufacturers

With so many social media options available, the biggest challenge in starting a campaign is deciding which systems not to use. Most successful social media campaigns will be multichannel, but starting with too many platforms is overwhelming. For most companies it will work best to start with a small, focused campaign, and gradually grow to include new networks and technology. With that in mind, here are five tools I consider essential for a successful social media launch:

  1. Photo Sharing: A recent study by Architect magazine found that most architects begin the design process by searching images online to find inspiration. I consider a good online photo gallery the most important, and most overlooked, part of your online presence. The big players right now are Flickr and Picasa. Photos should be clearly named and tagged to enhance searchability.  
  2. Video Sharing: First the web was about linked documents; text. As bandwidth increased it became about graphics. Now the big thing is video; more importantly, it's mobile video. Estimates suggest over 200,000 new videos are posted on YouTube per day, and that number is growing. Installation videos, project case studies, and video product announcements are all great material for video. The goal should not be to create the next big viral video, but to provide useful, searchable video information.  
  3. Blog: A major contributor to improved SEO, a forum for getting your message out, and a place to demonstrate your industry expertise; a successful blog is all of these. The topic of your blog is essential; if  it feels like an advertisement or a collection of links and fluff, no one will subscribe. But pick a topic that gets to the core of your message, and provide content that helps your audience do their jobs better, and you can build a community that sees every update, reads them, comments, and comes to you for more information.
  4. E-newsletter: It may seem archaic given the range of media now available, but email is still one of the most widely used internet technology. Constant Contact estimates that 90% of internet users use email (personally, I wonder about that other 10%). As I've discussed before, creating a newsletter can be very simple; use the most popular posts from your blog, add in important news and upcoming events, and be sure to include links to the rest of your social media activities. Pick a regular update schedule and stick to it, and be a firm believer in opt-in marketing.
  5. Wikipedia: Have you searched for your product category on Wikipedia? Does the page exist? If so, is your product properly represented? Remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia, so add your information if it's not there. Play fair, though. Wikipedia's community of editors will zap you if you don't, and the backlash can be worse for your reputation than missing information would have been. Read Wikipedia's guidelines, and when in doubt ask the community for help.
Conspicuous by their absence from this list are all the major social networking platforms. These networks can be very powerful tools for developing customer relationships with your brand, but for most buliding product manufacturers and reps providing useful content will be more valuable and beneficial than building a list of friends. Once you have developed content, however, use these tools to spread your message across the net.

Which social media tools are most valuable for your company?

Tessellations - An Important Architectural Trend

When the history of 21st Century architecture is written, the first decade of the century will be remembered as the era of blob-like, curvy architecture as exemplified in the work of Frank Gehry:
This decade is shaping up to be the era of the tessellated surface. Tessellating a surface, in a simplified definition, means to cover it in polygonal patterns. An article I wrote on this topic has recently appeared in Construction Specifier. May 2010, page 84.

Chief among the driving forces that make complex tessellations practical are BIM-driven CNC-controlled fabrication systems that make it possible to mass-customize components. As the article states, "The machines don't care what shapes they make."

Here is a recent example of a tessellated facade:
Manufacturers of curtainwalls, interior finishes, ceiling systems, and other products are rushing to capitalize on the interest. Ad agencies are incorporating tessellations into graphic designs.

Be wary, however: Architectural fashions lose favor as quickly as they rise.

Photo Credits:
Experience Music Project building, designed by Frank Gehry.
Photo by Rebecca Kennison under Creative Commons.

Iluma, designed by WOHA
Photo © Patrick Bingham-Hall

How to measure PR results

Measuring the real significance of a single press release is notoriously difficult. If we were doing a large, consumer oriented PR campaign, it is much easier to measure results. For example, a big PR campaign about a new record shows up almost instantly in iTunes downloads. Most building products, however, have a much more diffuse and slower path to market.

We can share anecdotal information: For example, a contractor told one of our clients that he had just finished comparing two bids, and our client's was high. The very same day, however, the contractor saw an article about our client's product and remembered how much more efficient it was to install than the competitor's. The article inspired the contractor to accept our client's higher priced bid. When people call or email you, do you always inquire where they learned about your company? Doing so, and tracking the information, can provide valuable data.

Another way we can measure is by adding up the cost of buying an equivalent amount of advertising space. For example, a trade magazine article will probably be six or more pages in length. Purchasing the same amount of ad space would cost about $20,000 plus the cost of designing the ad, much more than you would pay to write and place the article.

PR generates awareness, and awareness is accumulative and builds slowly. Our clients still report inquiries from publicity we placed a decade ago. This is even more likely to happen in the new online era, where documents remain in circulation indefinitely. A Google search on your building product after sending your press release will now show your site in the top 20 hits. With continued PR, we may be able to raise its ranking to the top 10.

PR is never meant to stand alone, but to work in conjunction with other marketing efforts. For example, Wikipedia may not allow us to insert your company's URL directly into its website; but we can now link building product) to one of the online postings based on your press release.

In advertising, you control the schedule for when an ad reaches its audience. With PR, you surrender much of this control. While many online news outlets pick up wire service stories almost instantly, other editors file press releases away for later use -- and this could be as little as two months from now or as great as one year from now.

Finally, don't discount the possibility, even the likelihood, that your product had an immediate impact. Some building owner or designer may have seen the press release the same day it went online, and forwarded the post to his project architect to use on the project where they are just beginning the landscaping plans.

These are some of the reasons we recommend establishing an ongoing PR budget to keep your product visible, continuing to build brand awareness, planting seeds that will bloom in their own season, and continuing to improve your search engine standings.

Beyond Wikipedia: Archiplanet

Some research this morning took me to Archiplanet, a wiki dedicated to "the facts, photos, and drawings here on your favorite structures of all kinds, anywhere, from your own cottage to the latest skyscraper to your nation's capitol." It served as a good reminder that there are many other wikis beyond Wikipedia, and your marketing campaigns will be more successful if you use the correct ones.

Wikipedia is very firm about what Wikipedia is and what it is not. The content criteria are strictly enforced by the members/editors. Ignoring these rules can get your pages deleted, and accounts banned.

According to their homepage, "Archiplanet is a community-constructed collection for all the buildings, building users, and building creators on planet Earth." It is sponsored by, one of the leading online architectural magazines. For many building product manufacturers, this will make it a better tool than Wikipedia.

Confusing Acronym is Ripe for Greenwashing

There's a new green label afoot, DfE, which stands for "Design for Environment." It's a concept for sustainable product design, described on Wikipedia, promulgated by a number of US and European consultants and universities, and cited in CSI's GreenFormat in the Life Cycle section. Each source seems to cite a slightly different list of principles that comprise DfE. However, DfE is also a certification and labeling program offered by the US EPA for safer chemistry in cleaning and facilities management products. Unfortunately, because the term applies to both a general concept and a specific label, it's especially vulnerable to confusion. That makes it likely to be interpreted as greenwashing, even if the science behind the use of the term is sound.

Imagine, if you will: A building product is designed according to two of the principles of DfE cited in GreenFormat: "dematerialization" and "designed for disassembly". While updating the product web site to reflect the information shared in the GreenFormat entry, the marketing director wonders if he should use DfE on his web site. After all, the dish soap in his kitchen has a DfE label on it. Could his product have one, too?

The answer, unfortunately, is "Probably not." If a design professional sees DfE on the web site, will she know what it means? If she doesn't, the information is lost on her. If she thinks she does, but she can't find the product in the EPA's DfE product listing, she loses trust in both the label and the product. Even if she knows about DfE product design principles, the acronym alone doesn't tell her what makes the product sustainable. Instead of telling a green story, the term is meaningless, or worse, seems to be a lie.

If confusion is the culprit in greenwashing, specificity and clarity are the cures. Paints, cleaners, and floor care products that are entitled to use the EPA's label should use the entire logo. On the other hand, manufacturers of products designed according to DfE life cycle principles should name the specific properties and principles employed. These manufacturers should never let DfE stand alone in their literature. The industry doesn't need another confusing green acronym, especially this one.

Richmond Olympic Oval

Richmond Olympic Oval, Richmond, BC, Canada. The principal and lead project architect: Bob Johnston of Cannon Design.

From Wikipedia: "It has been built on a site beside the Fraser River, a few blocks away from Lansdowne Station on the Canada Line. From the air, it is the first Olympic venue many visitors will see flying into the Vancouver, and the roof takes the stylized native shape of a heron's wing, a tribute to the Salish First Nation and the large wading bird that cohabited the riverbank at first European contact 230 years ago. It is a 33,750 m² facility, including a 20,000 m² main floor that includes a 400 m refrigerated track. It can accommodate 8,000 spectators. The Oval was built to qualify the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Scale (LEED) Silver certification; for example, the Oval's refrigeration plant is designed to heat other areas of the building through the utilization of what is otherwise waste heat from cooling the ice surface.

A distinctive feature of the Richmond Oval is its unique "wood wave" roof. This roof, which is one of the longest clear spans in North America, includes one million board feet of B.C. pine-beetle kill wood linked together in undulating sections to create a beautifully rippled effect. These one of a kind wood panels were designed by structural engineers Fast + Epp and constructed at the design build firm StructureCraft Builders Inc. in Delta, B.C. As a result, the Oval was given an award of excellence in architectural innovation by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada specifically for the innovative use of pine beetle-killed wood in its ceiling."

Comment from Michael Chusid: The photos are by Vladimir Paperny. His photographic, journalistic, and scholarly projects allow him to travel the globe, giving him a chance to stay on top of new developments and trends in architectural design. We are glad to have him as part of the Chusid Associates team.

Paid vs Social Media

A major issue in planning your company's online marketing is whether to use paid media or social media. Most of the time the answer is a blend of the two, with the final proportions determined by the company's current needs.

Paid Media:

Paid media includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, banner ads, and sponsorships, to name a few. These vehicles are good for meeting immediate needs. Social media campaigns can take a comparatively long time to produce results, so projects that require quick turn around - such as boosting sales, testing new messages, and estimating consumer demand - benefit from paid media.

ROI: Paid media also creates a clear path for establishing return on investment (ROI). It is difficult to relate social media expenditures to eventual sales, but with paid programs you can determine exactly the cost per impression, conversion rates, and final cost per sale, making it much easier to evaluate the effectiveness of specific ads.

Message Evaluation: This process allows you to experiment to find the most effective message for each audience. Google's AdWords is a good tool for evaluating which keywords send the most traffic to your site. Ads can be refined and distributed quickly to stay abreast of the latest trends, ensuring your message is always fresh and up-to-date.

Social Media:

Social media includes forums, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and similar networks. They are good for creating relationships with your customers; social media marketing campaigns can take longer to show results, but once they are up and running new information can spread very quickly.

Community Building: Does a forum exist for your product category? If not, start one. Is there a notable blog discussing issues important to your company? If not, write one. Social media is great at creating a sense of belonging and involvement, especially when users get helpful information from the community.

Reputation Management: Social media's greatest benefit is as a listening device. Instant updates keep you informed what people are saying about your company, your products, and your industry.

Trends: What are architects looking for but not finding? What problems are contractors facing?

Relationship building is one of the most powerful tools in building product sales. In the final analysis, the reason to develop your online presence is because the A/E/C community is increasingly working online. They turn to Google and Wikipedia instead of product binders. Meet them where they are.