Saturday, August 19, 2017

CSI Distinguished Member: James M. Robertson, FCSI, FAIA, CCS

James M. Robertson, FCSI, FAIA, CCS

Distinguished Membership is the most prestigious honor conferred upon a member of the Construction Specifications Institute. It is bestowed on individuals who have performed distinguished services to the construction industry in fields of activity related to the Institute’s mission. CSI recently named two most worthy individuals to receive this lofty accolade: Paul Betram, Jr., FCSI, Lifetime Member, CDT, and James M. Robertson, FCSI, CCS.

Having worked alongside Jim for nearly thirty years, I know him as well or better than most people. I can think of few others as deserving of the honor. The following excerpt from the Willamette Valley Chapter’s nomination document promoting Jim’s candidacy for Distinguished Membership enumerates his many accomplishments:

James M. Robertson, AIA has been a member of CSI for over 41 years, and has been continuously involved in national and international technical activities for more than 32 years. He has served as a leader at all levels: the local chapter; the Northwest Region; Institute committees and task teams; the Institute Board as a Director and as Vice-President Professional; and as a representative to international organizations.

Through his exemplary leadership in the Construction Specifications Institute, James M. Robertson, FCSI, FAIA, CCS, NCARB has developed and promoted international standards for design documentation and construction contract administration advancing significantly the practice of design and construction.

Robertson is an award-recognized architect who keenly understands and appreciates the value of standardization. Through his many leadership roles in the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) he has committed over 33 continuous years of his professional career to advancing the standardization of construction document organization; improving the practice of contract administration practiced by architects; improving collaboration between architects and others in the construction industry; achieving industry-wide efficiencies; reducing waste; minimizing construction costs; and increasing the quality of construction-related project information. For his service and contributions, he has received some of the highest honors bestowed by CSI, the Northwest Region and AIA.

Robertson has been instrumental since 1984 in the development of international standards used by architects for formatting and organizing contract documents. These standards include: MasterFormat™, SectionFormat™, PageFormat™, and PerSpective®. He also championed a new format for Preliminary Project Descriptions which was released in 2010.

Robertson has made significant writing contributions to three editions of CSI’s Manual of Practice which is recognized as a leading resource for architects on the proper principles, techniques and formats for writing and organizing specifications. He was also involved with developing the current generation of this influential series of manuals.

Robertson chaired the 1990 Ad Hoc CSI MasterFormat™ Committee charged with examining the future of this important classification system. The noteworthy recommendations presented in his report paved the way for important improvements to MasterFormat™ that has aided architectural practice. His leadership fostered open communication between disciplines and agencies within the design and construction industry.

Robertson played a prominent role in the development and writing of the original Construction Contract Administration (CCA) Module of the CSI Manual of Practice. He helped develop the Construction Contract Administration Education Program used by instructors around the country. He helped formulate CSI’s first certification program for CCA. This work has elevated architects and others in the industry, demonstrating the importance of effective contract administration in achieving quality projects.

Robertson has consistently shared his knowledge and expertise in the art and science of building design documentation and the project delivery process. Through his speaking and writing, he has contributed to the knowledge of the construction industry, enhanced the practice of architecture, and promoted the creation and implementation of national and international standards for construction information. He has made more than 60 presentations, promoting the standards he helped develop and conveying the importance of standardization in design and construction documentation. His local CCA seminar program has been so valuable to architects, interns, and others involved in design and construction that it has been repeated annually for 21 years.

Robertson is recognized internationally as a leader in technical construction standards and he represents CSI in international organizations involved with development and promotion of standards for specifications and contract documents. He has represented the interests of the architectural profession in crafting important industry-wide standards, and he has bettered the perception of architects within the construction industry and with international organizations. He is respected as an architect and was appointed by the Governor to the Oregon Board of Architect Examiners. In addition, he contributes to the profession as a member of NCARB’s ARE Committees/task teams.

What’s most remarkable about Jim’s significant contributions is that he made them all while running a successful architectural practice and being the consummate family man. The time commitment demanded by his volunteer efforts on behalf of CSI, NCARB, and OBAE has been considerable. As his colleague, I’ve witnessed firsthand his effectiveness as a leader, architect, and construction specifier. Undeniably, he has accomplished much more during his professional career than many of us can ever hope to in ours. As the Willamette Valley chapter’s only other Distinguished Member Paul Edlund, FCSI wrote in his endorsement of the nomination, Jim has demonstrated “exemplary leadership, tenacious commitment, and donation of time and expertise” in service to CSI, very much deserving of our acknowledgment and appreciation.

Both CSI and the American Institute of Architects previously elevated Jim to Fellow in their respective organizations in recognition of his contributions to the A/E/C industry. As noteworthy as achieving fellowship status with both these estimable organizations is, there’s no doubt being honored as a Distinguished Member is a career pinnacle. The Institute will honor Jim at next month’s CONSTRUCT 2017 and the CSI Annual Convention in Providence, RI. I won’t be at CONSTRUCT this year so, unfortunately, I’ll miss the opportunity to share Jim’s (and Paul Bertram’s) special moment. If you likewise cannot be in Providence, be sure to let Jim know the next time you see him how much you appreciate all he has done on our behalf.

Congratulations Jim! 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Building Upon the Ephemeral

PIVOT Architecture's SIT (im.a.bench) parklet  located on Olive Street between Broadway and 10th Avenue

I finally found the time this weekend to check out the completed winners of the Eugene Parklet Competition. As I reported upon the announcement of the selected entrants, the competition succeeded in drawing attention to downtown Eugene’s ongoing resurgence and also to the outsized power of modest urban interventions designed to make parts of the city more lively or enjoyable. Step-by-step and piece-by-piece, the parklet competition and similar initiatives (such as the City of Eugene’s “lighter, quicker, and cheaper” projects this summer) have drawn welcome attention to temporary efforts that hint at the promise of more permanent and likewise transformative changes to our public space.

I’m sure each of the four parklets shone best through their debut as part of the July 30 Downtown Sunday Streets event, and the following week as featured destinations for the August 5 First Friday Art Walk. Alas, during my quick stroll-by I found all to be unoccupied, despite plenty of passersby on a busy Saturday afternoon. They appeared forlorn and all too quickly forsaken.

Perhaps it was simply a matter of poor timing on my part. By design, their appeal was preordained to be as fleeting and ephemeral as the beauty of the cherry blossom. The parklets are not permanent. Regardless, a little bit of TLC (periodic cleaning, etc.) might extend their attractiveness. The targeted date for their deconstruction is this October, so plenty of time remains to warrant their continued upkeep.

Vivid Summer parklet located on Broadway in front of the Bijou Theater; design by Lindsey Deaton and Chistopher Becker

Cameron McCarthy's pinYOUgene parklet, also on Broadway.

Framing Parklet, by Propel Studio, on Broadway in front of Townshend's Tea.

Despite my disappointment in not finding the parklets in use, there’s no doubt in my mind they fulfilled the intention of the competition’s organizers, who envisioned the parklets as part of a series of short-term, low-cost, and highly visible projects intended to catalyze more permanent and profound changes in our city’s core. The goals are to build public acceptance of a deliberate, phased approach to instigating change, and to enhance the perception of downtown Eugene as a pedestrian-friendly and an amenity-rich precinct. The challenge now will be for the City of Eugene to build upon and sustain the momentum generated by the parklets competition. Ideally, this momentum will be sustained both from the top down (through government leadership) and the bottom up (as citizens endorse the most desirable of these changes). Ultimately, downtown will thrive as more permanent human-scaled improvements appear incrementally with increasing frequency. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

EmX West Service Begins September 17, 2017

The westbound EmX West line stop at McKinley Street.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a member of the Emerald Executive Association (EEA), without a doubt the best business networking group in Eugene. We meet each Thursday morning over breakfast, most often enjoying a presentation by one of our members; occasionally though we welcome outside speakers who provide news or programs of interest to our group. We had the pleasure this past Thursday to hear from Edward McGlone, Director of Public Affairs for the Lane Transit District. He was on hand to talk about the EmX West, the newest segment of Eugene-Springfield’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which will begin carrying passengers next month. 

Edward’s presentation was before an audience comprised of small business owners who have not been universally approving of the EmX West project. EEA is an interesting group holding divergent viewpoints from across the political spectrum. More than a handful have questioned the value of a BRT system, especially when weighed against its not inconsiderable costs. A few EEA members—Dalton Carpet in particular comes to mind—were significantly impacted by the protracted and disruptive construction work. Others simply regarded the project as a boondoggle, a prime example of governmental profligacy and waste. To his credit, Edward was as diplomatic as he could be and apologized ahead of time for the disruption to affected businesses during construction. 

The reality is public transit is an essential component of the transportation ecosystem in any community. I previously expressed my enthusiastic support for LTD’s goal of a comprehensive bus rapid transit system within its service area. Each new segment incrementally raises the effectiveness of the entire network. With the completion of its west line, the entire EmX network now stretches 28.3 miles, encompassing much of the metro area, from the Gateway area of Springfield to the north and east, to Eugene’s western extremity along 11th Avenue near Beltline. Edward said the expanded EmX system will link an additional 52,000 residents with 81,500 jobs within 1/2 mile of the route. 

The installation of the EmX West line did provide LTD with the opportunity to introduce a number of enhancements that might otherwise have not occurred. These will directly benefit the businesses and neighborhoods that surround the transit line. They include:  

  • Improved intersections with two new signalized pedestrian crossings
  • Improved street lighting for safety
  • 5 miles of rebuilt and new sidewalks
  • Curb cut-outs at cross walks to safely accommodate mobility devices
  • 3 bicycle-pedestrian bridges for improved access between West 11th, the Fern Ridge Path and surrounding neighborhoods
  • 200 more trees planted
  • Many rain gardens and water filtration systems for cleaner storm water run off
  • 26 covered bus shelters with seating and customer information
  • Public art by regional artists integrated throughout the line
All told, LTD spent approximately $100 million on the EmX West project, providing three years of local construction-related jobs. 

Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, with frequent service, quick boarding, comfortable stations, and other amenities. The service is frequent, with buses arriving at stations every ten minutes. Bus-only lanes and priority signals maximize on-time performance. EmX fare is $1.75 per trip or $3.50 for travel all day. Tickets are available at vending machines at EmX stops. Riders may use their all-day pass on LTD’s other bus service as well. All LTD passes are honored on EmX. 

The EmX system map (click to enlarge)

Regardless of where you stand on the question of whether investments in public transportation are worth it, the evidence here and elsewhere is clear. Public transportation reduces traffic congestion, saves fuel, and reduces our community’s carbon footprint. With careful, enlightened planning, light rail and BRT systems can drive community growth and revitalization while limiting urban sprawl, enhance property values, and broaden economic opportunities. Most importantly, public transportation offers personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life, particularly those who otherwise lack convenient means to travel to and from destinations. LTD and other transit agencies provide people with affordable alternatives to driving and owning a car. Everyone deserves access to job opportunities, the means to get to school, to visit friends and family, or go to the doctor’s office. I think everyone can agree on that.

Thanks to Edward for an informative presentation. LTD is building for the future. I'm looking forward to soon seeing the EmX West line in operation.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Being Part of the Solution

Let's Fix Construction workshop in Eugene, July 28, 2017. Eric Lussier (standing, red shirt) and Cherise Lakeside (standing to Eric's left) preside over the meeting.

This past Friday’s Let’s Fix Construction interactive workshop (conducted at PIVOT Architecture’s office in Eugene) was an unqualified success. Kudos to Cherise Lakeside, CSI, CDT, and Eric Lussier, CSI for facilitating an energetic discussion intent on identifying solutions to what have too often been intractable AEC problems. The workshop was true to the Let’s Fix Construction mission, which is to better the industry by sharing knowledge through open, positive communication and collaboration.

Twenty-two attentive and engaged participants—a good mixture of design professionals, contractors, and product reps—contributed to the lively and thought-provoking discourse.(1)  Cherise and Eric split the group into five teams, and assigned each a challenging question:
  1. Is there an alternative project delivery model that would better address the challenges and realities of today’s design and construction industry?
  2. Clients often ask for impossible schedules. What can be done to address the issue of severely compressed project timelines?
  3. What can be changed to achieve truly meaningful (and cost-effective) sustainability goals?
  4. Are LEED and other rating systems really effective, or do they incongruously reward, as in the case of the new Apple headquarters, Gold or Platinum ratings to projects that are actually examples of what we shouldn’t do? Are we and our clients blinded by the pursuit of LEED points?
  5. Baby boomers are retiring in unprecedented numbers. The AEC industry is woefully short of Gen X’ers and Millennials to fill their shoes. What out-of-the-box steps can we take to promote young professional development at a much faster pace? 
While each question prompted specific responses, a thread common to all was a belief in the value of collaboration early in any project, at the highest levels possible. Additionally, everyone agreed the intricacies and pitfalls associated with every construction project demand a fundamental understanding of the processes involved and the importance of construction contract document literacy. 

The breakout group comprised of Randy Evans of KPFF, Shyla Keays-Goodman of PAE, Christopher Deel of Studio-E Architecture, and Marina Wrensch of Cameron McCarthy ponder the question posed to them prior to sharing their thoughts with everyone.

Cherise and Eric masterfully shepherded our diverse group, eliciting some truly insightful exchanges. The principal takeaway is we can all be part of the solution, as opposed to being part of the problem. Adopting the right perspective and applying it to the work we do is a prerequisite to “fixing construction.”

Alas, the workshop’s two short hours went by all too quickly. No matter, the exercise fruitfully planted a seed in our minds. If we didn’t before, we all now understand the exponential power of collaborative problem-solving as a means to ensure the best possible outcome for any construction project. 

Me presenting Group 2's "solutions" to the problem of unreasonably compressed project schedules, as Jan Filinger (foreground) of Studio-E Architecture takes notes. 

Thank you Cherise and Eric! Your passion and personal investment in the Let’s Fix Construction project is not going unnoticed. Thanks too to Scott Huff of Versico Roofing Systems for sponsoring the workshop, and to PIVOT Architecture for accommodating our group! 

*    *    *    *    *    *

As Cherise mentioned, because the organization’s membership represents the entire spectrum of the building industry, the Construction Specifications Institute is uniquely positioned to tackle its challenges. If you’re not yet a member, join today and become part of a dynamic association in need of individuals like you who care about the future of construction. For membership info, click the link below:

Membership in CSI comes with a variety of benefits. First and foremost though, being a member means you’ve invested in your career and are committed to becoming a better-informed, highly valued construction industry professional.

(1)   Unfortunately, no one was on hand to represent a key player in every construction project: the owner.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

AIA-SWO & CSI-WVC Summer Picnic 2017

It’s summer in Eugene, and the weather this season has been especially pleasant. The sunny weather beckons us outdoors for a myriad of warm-weather activities. Not surprisingly, gluing my rear end to the chair in front of our computer to write a blog post hasn’t been high on my list of seasonal priorities. This is especially true this year as commitments at work have also demanded my time and attention.
Fortunately, this brief entry is all about helping make the most of your summer. Mark your calendars: the annual AIA-Southwestern Oregon & Willamette Valley Chapter CSI picnic will take place on Wednesday, August 2 from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Celebrate summer in the city with your design and construction industry colleagues at the Park Blocks in downtown Eugene. See what the growing buzz about downtown is all about. There will be food, drink, music, games, and best of all good company! There is no charge to attend the event itself. On-site vendors will provide a selection of food and drinks for purchase. 
Bring your family and friends. If you don’t have a family, bring somebody else’s family. Share the RSVP link with your friends and colleagues. The more the merrier! 
What: 2017 AIA-Southwestern Oregon & Willamette Valley Chapter CSI picnic; music by Caitlin Jemma and The Goodness. 
When:  Wednesday, August 2 – 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM 
Where: West Park Block, downtown Eugene 
Cost: Free. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Agrarian Ales, Wildcraft Cider Works, and food trucks yet to be determined.
Sponsor: KPFF Consulting Engineers

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Dilemma Approaching Crisis-Level

Two of the Conestoga huts at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp in southeast Eugene (my photo).
Another busy weekend, so this contribution to my blog will have to be short and sweet. And sweet it is to see evidence of a growing appreciation for the problem posed to the Eugene/Springfield community by the shortage of affordable housing, particularly for those whose lack of resources is most acute. Citizen support for a variety of solutions has been encouraging, albeit prompted by a dilemma approaching crisis-level. The following are modest steps toward addressing a vexing and complex challenge, one that cities everywhere are confronting: 
Nightingale Conestoga Camp
My wife and I attended yesterday’s open house event at the Nightingale Conestoga Camp, located just down the street from our home in southeast Eugene. The Nightingale Health Sanctuary has successfully operated a City-authorized rest stop program for over two-and-a-half years. They moved to the location at 3500 Hilyard Street in the Good Samaritan parking lot earlier this year. NHS, Community Supported Shelters, and the Vulnerable Populations Working Group have been working to secure safe, emergency shelter for our most vulnerable populations in response to the homelessness crisis. While not a permanent solution, the Nightingale Conestoga Camp provides safe shelter for those in need during a period of transition in their lives. 
Springfield ADUs
Here’s a link to a Eugene Weekly blog post by Camilla Mortensen. She writes about the City of Springfield’s enlightened decision to waive some systems development charges for accessory dwelling units. SDCs are disproportionately burdensome for “tiny houses” and thus tend to discourage their creation even if the land use code is amenable. ADUs inserted within established neighborhoods take advantage of the infrastructure already at hand (as opposed to requiring the extension of roads and other utilities), so it only makes sense for cities to encourage such an efficient utilization of existing resources. 
Emerald Village
Finally, here’s a link to an article by Register-Guard reporter Derek Maiolo about Emerald Village, a tiny house community where people with very low incomes will have the security and benefit of a permanent home within a stable community. Now taking shape, Emerald Village is a project by SquareOne Villages, a non-profit dedicated to creating self-managed communities of cost-effective tiny homes for people in need of housing. Additionally, Emerald Village is in no small part the product of the generosity and dedication of the participating design-build teams and contractor partners, many of whom are members of AIA-Southwestern Oregon. 
We may never entirely solve the housing affordability quandary, but I am encouraged to see momentum build toward real solutions on a number of fronts.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Guest Viewpoint: Sheldon Wolfe

Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CID, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC
Self-professed “curmudgeon” and “heretic architect,” Sheldon Wolfe is a construction specifier who works in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and a Construction Specifications Institute stalwart and cheerleader for many years. He’s also a prolific writer, having penned more than three-hundred construction-related articles. His TechNotes series discussed CSI technical documents, specifications, and coordination of construction documents; GUI Bytes explored how computers, email, and the Internet can be used to prepare construction documents; he wrote Mr. Wolfe Goes to Washington, about CSI Board activities, during his term as Institute Director. Since then, he’s been well-known to CSI members for his Curmudgeon’s Corner column. In addition, Sheldon maintains two blogs: Specific Thoughts, dedicated to day-to-day musings, and Constructive Thoughts, where he offers more in-depth posts. 
With Sheldon’s permission, I’m publishing here on SW Oregon Architect a recent contribution of his to the CSI-Connect online community forum. Always the zealous advocate, he pointedly and persuasively argues from his perspective why CSI’s certification programs are the surest path to proving a level of knowledge critical to being an effective and competent construction professional. As the chair of the Willamette Valley Chapter’s Certification Committee, I likewise want to see everyone I work with pursue their CDT credential, and beyond that CCCA, CCS, or CCPR certification as appropriate to their circumstances. 
Certification – It’s all about me
I want you to be certified. Becoming certified is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, but to be perfectly clear, I want you to do it for me. Of course, if I never work with you it probably won't affect me, but if you and I are going to work together, I'd like to have some confidence that you know what you're doing. 
What is it that makes certification important? Nearly everyone can, through working with others, through trial and error, and through the School of Hard Knocks, learn about their jobs. But wouldn't it be smarter and faster to acquire that knowledge through study and certification? Although experience may be the best teacher, that teacher doesn't always get it right. Experience might teach you that some things work, but those things might not comply with applicable codes and standards, and might even be illegal. 
Knowledge you may have gained through only experience cannot be verified unless we work together and you have the opportunity to demonstrate what you know. Certification, on the other hand, comes only after proving that you know your stuff. It's true that certification does not guarantee that a person knows something, but it provides a level of confidence that will make it easier for someone else to accept your knowledge and that will shorten the time it takes to build an important relationship. 
If you are certified in your field, I immediately know two things. I know that you care enough about what you do to demonstrate your knowledge. And, by passing the examinations, I know that you have studied and understand those things that are required for your certification. 
Regardless of what product or service you offer in the construction industry, though, you can and should take part in CSI's certification program. To get the CDT, CSI's entry-level credential, you must have a good understanding of the AIA general conditions of the contract, of the relationships between contract documents, and of how the entities involved in construction should interact. I consider this knowledge to be essential, and when meeting new product representatives, the first thing I do is look for CDT on their business cards. If it's there, they have immediate credibility. If it's not there, I explain what it is and why it will be important for them when dealing with other specifiers. 
CSI's advanced certifications show a greater commitment to providing superior service. The CCS, CCPR, and CCCA show that a person knows even more about construction documents and about the roles and responsibilities of manufacturer, supplier, and other members of the construction team. It's important to note that the CCS is not limited to specifiers and should be considered by those who write specifications, such as hardware representatives, for their companies.
I want you to enjoy the benefits of certification, but I also want you to be as good as you can be when we work together. Specifiers have a simple job: know everything. Unfortunately, I can't know everything about the countless products and processes involved in construction, nor can any specifier. So please, give us a hand—learn as much as you can and prove your knowledge through certification!