CSI Academies 2014, Indianapolis – Recap

I have just returned from my third trip to the annual CSI Academies, this year in Indianapolis. The CSI Academies is a three day event concentrated around education for all members of the project team.  The sessions are presented in three different tracks that include the Construction Specifier Academy, Contract Administrator Academy and the Product Representative Academy.  You can read about what the event had to offer this year here:  http://bit.ly/1gIL3Md

I attend this event as much for the quality of the education as I do for the outstanding networking and brain trust of professionals with which to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Many of us have a choice of any number of industry associations related to the AEC Field. I chose CSI because it is the only organization that brings all members of the project team to the table as equal members, with equal input.  Nowhere else have I found such a rich and varied network of experienced professionals and trusted advisors.  Imagine that you can attend a class on, for example, QA/QC procedures and get the perspectives of an Architect, Engineer, Contractor, Owner and Product Rep all in one room.  You would be crazy if you didn’t see the value and time efficiency in this kind of learning.

Many still operate under the misconception that CSI is all about Specifications. If you haven’t checked out CSI lately, it may be time for another look.  The organization continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of all members of the team.  Check out CSI here:  http://www.csinet.org/

On Day 1 of this years Academies, we kicked it off with a general session presented by Ujjval Vyas on the role of the specifier in a world of changing technology. Ujjval proposed a new definition for a specifier:

“A specifier is a building information manager, a highly valued professional who plays a pivotal role in actively minimizing transaction costs for the owner.”

It was an interesting and thought provoking presentation with real world suggestions for change going forward.

After the general session, groups split off to their different tracks to learn in their area of interest. One thing that is absolutely beautiful about the Academies is that you are not bound to any one track or class.  You can jump from track to track based on your educational needs.  Another value is that attendees are given a flash drive with all of the presentations and handouts.  This has been an invaluable resource for me day to day work.  As a matter of fact, just today I referenced Mr. Dave Stutzman’s presentation on PPD’s from the 2013 CSI Academies after a client request for the very same. It was helpful information to help our team prepare their very first Preliminary Project Description using Uniformat.

I personally chose to skip back and forth between tracks. A sampling of some of the sessions I attended over the 3-days were:

  • QA/QC Requirements
  • Common Pitfalls when Specifying for Code Compliance
  • Blueprints to BIM
  • Submitting the Ultimate Substitution Request
  • Do’s and Don’ts of Submittals
  • Communication, Collaboration and Social Media
  • General Conditions and Division 01
  • Dealing with Unclear Specs
  • Coordinating and Integrating Structural/MEP
  • 21st Century Sustainable Building Envelope Designs

These sessions are just a handful of the sessions offered. At next year’s Academies in San Francisco, I know that I will have an even wider variety of choices as it is rumored that a fourth track may be added.  Save the date for April 16, 17 and 18, 2015.

Now, we all know that all work and no play . . . – Well, you know the saying and this would not be a #CSIKraken blog if I didn’t tell you about some of the fun.

Besides filling my brain, CSI Academies had plenty of opportunities to network, share and have a little fun.

I flew in the day before the event and was fortunate to be invited to dinner with our illustrious President, Mr. Casey Robb, Thad Goodman and Mr. David Proudfit. If you want to get an education real quick, just sit at a dinner table with any of the CSI leadership.  If you didn’t know it when you sat down, you will certainly know it by the time you leave.

Day one culminated with a welcome reception sponsored by BSD. These events are integral to the success of the Academies.  When people connect and feel comfortable the sharing of knowledge is even richer and more valuable.   I was again fortunate to be invited to dine, this time with Mr. David Wrigley and Tim Sisock from the CSI Allentown Chapter.  Both of these gentlemen, at different ends of the career spectrum are entertaining, intelligent and have a wealth of information to share.  You are constantly learning at this event, in or out of class.

The day two educational sessions wrapped up with an Indianapolis host chapter event . CSO Architects Inc. was kind enough to open up their offices for our group to have appetizers, beer and wine.  This was just another opportunity to meet more people from different disciplines, make new contacts and share stories and ideas.

Dinner followed the host chapter event with an invitation to dine with the esteemed Mr. David Proudfit, our incoming President-Elect Mr. Lane Beougher, Mr. Randal Reifsnider and my buddy Mr. Andy McIntyre.   Hmm, after this dinner, I think I know why they call them the Great Lakes Region Cartel.  I am trying to get them to let me join!

But, in all honesty, the crowning moment came on the morning of the last day before the final sessions began. At long last, after much CSIKraken pressure, begging, pleading and threats – We finally got Mr. Greg Markling and Mr. Sal Verrastro to sign up on Twitter.  They said it couldn’t be done!  I beg to differ.

CSI Members were tweeting like crazy at the Academies and sharing the valuable information with our members across the country.

CSI Members are so dedicated that our very own Mr. Eric Lussier, who could not make it to the Academies this year, was still actively participating and compiling the tweets under both the #CSIAcademies and #CSIKraken hashtags so we could all see and benefit from them in one place. If you were just following tweets, you would have thought he was there.  This is just the kind of people that make up CSI. To get a running monologue of comments, pictures, events, learning and all the fun – check out Eric’s consolidated record of all of the tweets from the event here:

We wrapped up the final day with a last set of sessions and lunch to talk about plans for the next CSI Academies in San Francisco. As always, the planning committee is looking for new and innovative ways to keep the education relevant and cutting edge for CSI Members at all levels of professional development.

None of this happens without the amazing CSI Staff who work so hard to pull these things together. Kelly and Erica, you rock.  Your grace and poise in the face of all the craziness is to be commended and admired.  I swear, I have no idea how you tolerate us!

So please, think ahead and consider joining us for a refreshed and expanded CSI Academies Program in San Francisco in 2015. I can promise that you will learn more than you imagined you could in 3 days, you will make amazing new connections and you will have fun doing it!

See you in ’15!



  1. So glad you had a good time. Enjoyed reading your blog entry on the Academies. I personally love being a Building Information Manager. Just wanted to make one correction, the host chapter event was at CSO Architects, Inc. offices. It was such a great turnout and so many great conversations. Glad so many could attend.


    1. Ivette, thank you for your kind words and my apologies for getting the Firm name wrong. I have corrected it. Your firm was more than gracious to host our group and we all appreciate it. I hope you see you at future CSI events.


    2. Hi Ivette! and thank you for showing us around your wonderful offices! It was a great evening and I’m glad we could attend.

      David S. Wrigley, CSI CCS
      Allentown Chapter


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