President’s Message – August

By Bill Fairbanks, CSI, CDT

Robot for CSI

Last week I learned that we now use robots to layout partition lines on the concrete slabs. The robot can mark floors with drywall layouts faster than expert installers can with tape measures and chalk lines. Of course, using the robot is reducing the number of workers in the layout crew.

Consider this. A chalk line is a work product based on graphic information. It communicates specific data for a builder’s use in producing the work. Back in the day, a person decided what the builder needed to know, referred to the drawings, determined which controls were applicable and used standardized tools to produce these guide lines. Layout work is like writing specifications! Sort of. The process seems similar. At least the methods are similar but the goals are different.

The chalk line is about where. Specifications are about what. The goal of most construction specifiers is to determine which groups of competing products match the designer’s vision with the best value for the Owner and then communicate that information in a practical way. Selecting the various products and the correct features requires a high level of decision making. Technology helps us to sort through the data but computers may never be able to decide what to specify.

Master Format has 49 Divisions covering an enumerable host of building components and work. There are no simple Sections in these 49 divisions. For example: skylights have many product options. (We are a purveyor of skylights) There are at least 20 skylight manufacturers in America. But most only fabricate a certain type of skylight. Common skylights types are structural, unit, tubular, corrugated, etc. These are available in residential or commerce designs. Skylight glazing may be various types of glass or plastic; all with different features, warranties and cost. And these are only the major distinctions. There is not enough space to mention all the details that we consider for any given application. A simple skylight selection is complicated. And so is most of the work that makes up a project manual.

Successfully specifying building products is a difficult task. A trained human mind is required to determine the best system for an application and select three or more manufacturers capable of supplying the item. Project requirements and industry solutions are constantly changing. Artificial intelligence may never be capable of producing a specification section for many of systems in the built environment.

This industry needs many more qualified specifiers. Construction Specifications Institute is the educational resource for specifiers. CSI Houston is here to support Architects and Engineers in their effort to produce quality specifications. Please let us know how CSI Houston can help you build product knowledge and specification skills.

Bill Fairbanks, CSI, CDT
President, CSI Houston Chapter