What's happening at Institute?
By Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS

​​As a member of CSC (Construction Specifications Canada), I recently received this message:

Dear CSC Member: 
The CSC Board of Directors approved an operating budget for the fiscal year 2018–2019, forecasting a surplus at 0.84 per cent of revenue. Through constant monitoring, efficient use of staff, volunteer, and chapter contributions, a successful conference, well-attended education workshops, and online course participation, CSC achieved a surplus of $116,783 (7.75 per cent of revenue) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019. CSC remains in a financially sound position and a complete set of the financial statement is available to members upon request.

This reminded me of a long-standing issue, i.e., a lack of communication from our board. In the past, we received inserts along with the Construction Specifier magazine, and there were short pieces in the magazine itself, informing members about Institute board and committee activities, membership, certification, education, and more. There hasn't been much of that for many years.

The CSI Weekly, once an informative, useful publication, has been reduced to a few really pretty but useless graphics and a few links. Granted, the subject of some links may be evident from the title, but the lack of information about others gives no incentive to follow the links. I know there's a trade-off, as too many words make the email too long and less likely to be read, but filling the email preview window with a huge logo and a meaningless picture isn't likely to encourage opening the email to read the whole message.

We've had a couple of town hall online meetings, but in general, I don't think our members know what's happening. What is CSI doing? Where are we going? Do we still have committees, and if so, what are they doing? What is being done to promote CSI to the rest of the construction industry? How is the value of CSI certifications being promoted?

At one time, convention attendance was announced at the annual meeting; later, that number was reported in the magazine. Now, apparently because of CSI's agreement with Informa, we don't know how many attend our conventions. I remember hearing at my first CSI convention, in Chicago in 1990, that attendance was more than 10,000; today, it's 2,000. Membership totals also were reported regularly; now, nothing is said.

In 1947, CSI's founders had five goals:

  • Better specification writing
  • Simpler specifications
  • Standardization of specifications for public works
  • Standardization of building codes
  • Greater efficiency and cost effectiveness throughout the industry

Were the founders starting today, I believe they would think in broader terms, expressing similar goals for construction documents in general, rather than focusing on specifications. Some progress has been made in these areas, but it seems we don't think about them much anymore, and more remains to be done.
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