Cherise Lakeside, FCSI, CDT is a Senior Specification Writer at RDH Building Science in Portland, Oregon and has experience with many facets of the project team in the built environment. She has worked mostly in architecture with stints in construction, MEP Engineering, and now building science during her career.
🎧 Or, listen here:
In this wide-ranging episode we discuss:
- Cherise’s journey to Senior Specification Writer at RDH
- being heard in a traditionally male-dominated profession
- creating processes for successful specifications on projects that encourage the team to start project specifications sooner
- the scarcity of the role of a trained Specifier
- the current state of specifications in the industry
- the actual role versus the perception of a Specifier
- how Specifiers bridge the gap between supply and demand
- the current challenges our industry is facing in the gap
- the importance of relationships between supply and demand
- the problems that the lack of understanding of other roles on a project lead to
- the issues of blindly copying & pasting risk into a firm’s project specification
- what the supply side needs to understand about design professionals to be more effective
- the importance of a properly written specification
- why it’s a problem to put warranty requirements in part 3 of the specification, and where they actually belong
- the problem of dictating means and methods in specifications
- correct locating information in the contract documents versus simply throwing everything in the spec with “CYA language”
- the importance for the supply side to understand the project context a design professional is operating within
- the problem of ill-timed information delivered at lunch n’ learns
- insight into the specification writing process during design
- the one thing that drives design professionals and specifiers insane about manufacturer’s websites
- the thing product manufacturers know better than anybody and why they are an undeniable resource
- how product manufacturers can make valuable connections inside architectural firms under current circumstances (offices reopening)
- what certification product reps can use to get in the door faster than those without
- what attributes define a quality specification for design professionals
- the opportunities and benefits of designing a modern specifications workflow within a firm
- the necessity of creating a feedback loop via lessons learned throughout construction to increase the efficacy, reliability, and quality of office standard documents
- and other topics
Cherise is a CSI Fellow, past President and current Certification Chair of the Portland Chapter of CSI and former Director-at-Large on the Institute Board. Cherise currently teaches the CSI CDT certification program and has had hundreds of students over the last 9 years.
Cherise is passionate about young professional development, public speaking/education engagements (300+ over the last 8 years) and is particularly interested in improving project coordination and communication. Her latest adventure is as the host of the new ARCAT sponsored AEC podcast “Detailed”.
She is fondly referred to as the #CSIKraken. Connect with her on LinkedIn or you can follow her on Twitter @CheriseLakeside.
- Cherise on Twitter
- Cherise on LinkedIn
- List of CSI Fellows
- RDH Building Science website
- Portland Chapter - Construction Specifications Institute
- Portland CSI CDT certification course
- Arcat AEC podcast: Detailed
- Advice for the Next Generation of AEC Professionals (YouTube)
- Contractor's Guide to Change Orders by Andrew M. Civitello Jr. (2nd Edition) (Amazon)
Learn more and subscribe at https://peopleverse.fm
Welcome to Peopleverse. I'm your host, Evan Troxel. And I'm an architect. Peopleverse is a show where I talk with people throughout the building industry to unearth authentic stories from interesting people to entertain and inspire. You might have heard of the metaverse Well, we're doing something different here. In many ways, the building industry is still very much like the Wild West, even in a time when technology and data are abundant.
Peopleverse explores the people and the stories behind the projects to remind us why we got into this industry in the first place, and to build relationships along the way. This show is brought to you by Tect. And you can learn more about what we're doing to connect the supply and demand sides of the building industry tect.com And you can learn more about Peopleverse peopleverse.fm.
Today, I have Cherise Lakeside on the show. Cherise has experience with many facets of the project team in the built environment. She has worked mostly in architecture with stints in construction, MEP engineering, and now building science throughout her career. Cherise is a CSI fellow past president and current certification Chair of the Portland chapter of CSI, and a former director at large on the institute board.
Cherise currently teaches the CSI CDT certification program, and has had hundreds of students over the last nine years Cherise is passionate about young professional development public speaking educational engagements with over 300 Over the last eight years, and he's particularly interested in improving project coordination and communication. Her latest adventure is as a host of the new art cat sponsored AEC podcast detailed, she is fondly referred to as the #CSIKraken, connect with her on LinkedIn. Or you can follow her on Twitter @CheriseLakeside, and I'll have links to that stuff in the show notes. Cherise Welcome to Peopleverse!
Hello, Evan, how are ya?
I don't think it's been too long since we talked. It's been I'm doing well. Thank you. And I'm excited to have you on here because you speak the same language as what we're trying to accomplish here with with this podcast with this YouTube show. And so I'm excited to have this conversation with you today.
Crazy language you speak crazy language. Okay, we'll get along just fine.
I read a little bit about kind of your career history here. But maybe you could give us kind of your origin story so that we can orient everybody to who Cherise Lakeside is
origin story. So like I was born in,
I'm kidding. In the industry, I know what you met. And just being a smart aleck.
You know, it's kind of funny because none of what I do was ever in my plan. As a young person, I happen to my senior year in high school, I have enough credits not to have to go to school all day. So I took a job as a receptionist in a construction company did not just answering the phone making copies before computers caught that makes me sound old. And still wasn't in this didn't become my plan to well into my career to be perfectly honest. And I did that for a while I went off and did some other things.
And then when I was 20 years old, I got a job as a receptionist in an architecture firm. And seriously, the rest is history. I started there, I was at that firm for 22 years. And I started there answering the phone. And I'm just a person that is not I am not a good person to be bored or not be challenged. And so it was a smaller firm. And I kept taking on more roles and more roles. And I got to a certain point where I was writing the specs, I was writing the contracts. I was doing all the marketing materials.
I was doing all of the accounting. It really was the most valuable thing I ever did because I had to touch every piece of this business from the architecture. That was the architecture tunnel. I went down other tunnels. And then in 2008 the economy tanked and I was terrified. Like, is anybody going to hire me? Do I have anything to offer? Anybody I've been since I was a kid in this firm. And I didn't go to work anywhere for a while because nobody was hiring. And I eventually got a job at interface engineering, which is an MEP engineering firm to help them I'm with their master specs.
And so kind of completely stepped out of what was originally an admin role that my old boss at that firm, he still emails me, or text me every year on my birthday just to say happy birthday. And we close that firm down, I didn't just lose my job, I actually helped pack out the last box. And he tells me all the time, we should have made you a partner, which is just, you know, mind blowing. At that time, that would have been. And so then I worked in MEP engineering for six and a half years.
And a pretty large anchor moisten architects. Were my mentor, works Rakhi sermon, called me up and said, Hey, would you like to come be a spec writer for us? In here, that was scary. Okay, now I'm going back to architecture architecture in this big firm, after being in MVP for like six and a half years, went to work at ankrum. I was there a couple of years, they had some layoffs. And then I went to work for another architecture firm in Vancouver, l SW architects. And it's just been progressive, progressing and progressing. And while I was in interfaces, when I joined CSI, I always knew about it.
But I just I was raising a big busy family and didn't, didn't think I had time, I wish I would have known better to be perfectly honest. And everything just kept it was like this snowball effect, getting more opportunities and growing. I did my first speaking engagement about eight years ago now. And I've had over 300 Now I didn't say anything more than Hey, your trophy money is due on Friday at one of my kids events before that. And then I worked with an architect who was a principal at ankrum, who was then had moved to Rdh, where I'm at now. And he called me up and said, how happy are you? When I was at LS W and I said, I'm really happy.
This is an amazing, firm, amazing people. You're gonna have to move the sun, moon and stars to make me consider leaving this firm. And you said, done, done and done. Yeah, well, so he had he said, Well, we just come talk to the boss. And I did. And then I talked to all the bosses. And they did they moved the sun, moon and stars. And, you know, I said, I need to be able to be me, I need to be able to be involved in all these things. As well as my job. I need to be able to innovate. And
I get all of those things. And they're super, super supportive. And, and I'm heard and being being a woman in this business, I have gone from the time where you didn't see a woman and an architecture firm, to things obviously being very different now. So I haven't always been heard or valued throughout my career. And I work pretty hard. And I usually wear 25 hats, if somebody will let me I'm not necessarily saying that's a good idea. And so fast forward all these years and, and now I'm doing the building science gig.
There's so many things we could jump into there. I definitely want to get to the importance of CSI and specifications, because I think the audience's here may have differing opinions on that. And I know you have really pointed opinions about the quality of specifications, things like that. So let's get there. But before we do, in you already mentioned that you kind of fell into this, you didn't plan for this. But is there any story from your childhood? That looking back predicted what you are doing today?
So you sent me the list of these are questions I might ask you. Yeah. And I looked at that one. And I'm like, oh, like, how in the heck do I answer that? And I really couldn't exactly think of one because none of this was in my plan. This this is I didn't, I didn't even know what a spec writer was. Yeah, you know, or ever had any affinity towards architecture or the building environment. But I would say that a couple of things.
I think that might have made me a little different that led me here and to being I feel pretty good at what I do. was like when I was in school, I always had friends in multiple different groups. And kids tend to kind of you know, they find their their core group and that's where they stick and I had friends that were the honor roll students and I had friends that were athletes and I had friends that were the stoners in the park. I mean, I really truly had friends in all different groups. And I think that has my ability to get along with just about anybody has served me well, in the job of being a spec writer, spec writers
are in the middle of it all. And when you're talking, when you're saying that I think of you as the glue that's holding it all together, you do bridge the gap between the supply and demand sides as a specifier. yourself, right? Like, you have to speak both languages, you have to call it as you see it, you have to keep people on task and on deadline. And a lot of times, you as a spec writer, I would imagine coming from an architectural background myself, are kind of out of sight out of mind, especially if you're the only one in a firm.
It's like, I don't need you till I need you. But then when I need you, I need it. Now, as a designer, you know, somebody on an architectural team, of course, like, which doesn't give you the due time that you need to actually accomplish things. And I know you've done a bunch of work to create processes and systems so that it doesn't happen like that, because putting out fires all the time is no fun, it burns everybody out.
And especially when everybody's looking at you for answers as the sole specifier in a company, right. And that's why these systems are so important. That's why master specs for a firm are so important. So that you don't have to do all that work all the time. But I really do see you kind of sitting in the middle holding it all together,
you really are because the spec writer will be working with the client, they'll be working with their teams, they'll be working it, I mean, it's a little bit different now in building science, but in, you know, in architecture, you're working with all of the consultants to get all of their pieces and parts, you're, you have 1000s of pieces of information going through your brain every day.
And if you don't have, I'm not real fond of doing a crappy job, I'm just not. And when somebody drops something on you in the at the 11th hour, it really does prevent you from doing a good job. So if you can set up processes that encourage people to start their spec sooner, and you make it easy for them to do that, then guess what they do?
And then it gives me the time to do my job better, and put out a more coordinated and risk free document. And yeah, some of those I've done. I think the biggest spec I ever did was altogether the whole thing, including consultants and everything was 5000 pages.
That is a lot of information. You know, last minute stuff does not go over well with me. Everybody knows it. I mean, I've had I had a principal at one of the firms I work worked in, knows I like good beer, showed up at my desk one day popped down a six pack of really good beer and said, Cerise, I kind of need some Yeah, it's like, I know how much she likes this last minute stuff. I'm just gonna bribe her right up front. Right. And it worked. I got it for him. But you know,
special privileges for for times of need.
I can't tell you how many staff members have heard the words out of my mouth, this is going to cost you.
Well, maybe you can explain more about what kind of a typical day in your role is like to give people because this does the specifier role does seem to be rare in the industry. I don't know if there's a maybe you can even explain that better than than I can because that's just my perception. I I don't know if it's true,
it is becoming actually right now any trade specifiers the golden goose in this industry, it is becoming more and more rare, mainly because nobody can find a train specifier and there was a breakdown. Most most of the specifiers in firms are in that baby boomer AGE RAGE and are retiring and leaving the industry. But that generation was so huge, that they were very protective of their information because the competition among them was very fierce.
Because there was a lot of them vying for the same jobs or promotions or or whatever. And please, nobody fry me over the fire over this but they did not do a very good job of mentoring. The people coming up behind them or or training people. And let's face it, most spec writers. I'm a bit of an anomaly. But most spec writers are architects. Architects didn't go to school to become spec writers.
They went to school to just to design. And so when you find somebody, I think it's incumbent upon those of us that do this for a living, to drag them in kicking and screaming, if they if they show an interest and do everything you can to help them do that. So we are kind of rare. I get, I would say at least two calls a week from recruiters or firms. Hey, you're interested in moving because nobody can find what people are spending two or three years trying to find a spec writer who knows what they're doing.
And to be a spec writer, it's not as easy as taking some classes and taking a test and you know what you're doing. It's one thing to know how a spec goes together. And that that you can learn, and take take classes to learn, as far as the semantics of it, how to write a sentence in the spec, where does information belong? But when it comes to administering a project, with your specs, it's the Wild West. And it always has been because every project is unique. Yeah, you can't just slap the same spec over and over again, on project, you have to customize it to every single building.
And if you don't know how to do that, if it's public work, there's a whole different set of requirements and different project delivery methods have different requirements. So, you know, I think spec writers are just as much problem solvers. As a people have this vision. It's honestly, it's the old white guy in the corner, Cranky as hell, sitting there writing all this technical such Stover. Yeah, ya know? And, and that's not really that's not what we do. We've, we're fielding questions from staff. We're researching products.
We're researching codes, we're writing the spec, we're asking all these questions about this particular project, and what's unique about it? And you know, what kind of transitions it just, it's, it's never ending? Yeah. And so that's what you do all day. We're not just sitting there typing up specs,
right, right. There's so many layers to the onion as far as what you're doing. And one of the things that we like to focus on is, you know, the whole reason why we're talking about people networks, and you even spoke to this, when you helped us out with the video piece for the AIA S, which is the American Institute of Architects, students, and you spoke about, stop going it alone, right, build your start building your network and use product reps for as a resource, right.
And, again, you're kind of sitting in the middle of you understand how to speak these multiple languages, I'm just going to stick with these two for today, right, the architect side, and the product manufacturer side. And so you're constantly bridging the gap between those two. And, and your advice to the students was start building your network of product professionals early because they will take a lot of the weight off your shoulders, through the design process, because you can't know everything about everything all the time.
And as you just said, Each project is unique to an extent, of course, there will be things that you have used before and that you will use again. But there's always new challenges and opportunities. And you know, this one's a remodel versus a Greenfield. And you're going to open up a wall and find something. And all of that changes all of the stuff that happens behind the scenes, even down to the spec, right. So when it comes to you kind of bridging this gap between the design side and the the product side, what do you see as kind of the biggest issues in that gap right now that you feel like we have an opportunity to actually start to address?
Oh, that's such an easy question. Like, I'm like, where's he going with this? What's he going to ask me? And and it's a reason I'm as passionate as I am about teaching the CDT, the biggest issue that I see hands down is that people don't understand how other people work. How do you coordinate with your product rep or your consultants or your owner?
If you don't know each person's roles and responsibility, or you don't truly understand how they work, and really what they do all day. And I learned that lesson the hard way and going. That's why it's really valuable to get out of your box and do something like go work for an engineering firm for a while. Because you you get this you really do you get this epiphany of WoW, each member of the prod project team does different things.
And they're responsible for different things. And when you understand that you can have a conversation, you can ask the right questions. But if you're in architecture, and you don't know understand what let's talk about product tropes, if you don't understand the different levels of their the jobs that they have, and who you really need to call to get what you need. Maybe that's not the guy that walks into your
office. Yeah, right. Most likely it isn't. Yeah, right.
You know, but most manufacturers have a technical director kind of person or multiples of those that you can call when you need to get really down and dirty on something you need for your spec. Having relationships, some of my best friends are product reps, they really are.
You know, like, if I don't feel like I have somebody in my area, that's going to serve me and get me what I need without, although maybe fluff of a sales pitch, when that's not what I need in that moment. And that's a big failing on the product manufacturer side, to be perfectly honest, is not understanding how I work. What I really need what I can and cannot put in a spec, I get manufacturer specs all the times that all the time that has risk language throughout, I can't write a spec that way.
So I have to completely rewrite it, that takes me two to 10 times as long as because I can't cut and paste it into my specs. And you know how many people do that, it just cut and paste risk right into the specs. And so I've done, I've done a number of presentations with manufacturers and product reps on how to improve that relationship. And it's just, I love watching the light come on. Wow, that's really what's important to you. And I'm not faulting the product reps, I'll be perfectly honest, what I'd like to do is get all the CEOs in a row.
Because they're the ones you know, putting down to their, their staff, this is how we're gonna do things. And these are the documents you're going to use. And a lot of the product reps I work with, realize that what they're having to work with is deficient, but can't get somebody above them to hear them. That if you want to get in this door every single time. Here's what she really needs. And, you know, every chance I get I have, I feel bad for the product reps, because sometimes they get they get to be the object of my rant friendly rant but but I understand that they're doing what their company dictates they do. But they're, I understand they got to sell and make money.
I wanted, I want to go down that for a minute. There's so many things right here that we need to talk about on this and like this show can be, I think, a huge resource in this way, which is number one quality and expectations of what a spec is for a design professional, versus what exists out there. I know you have some strong opinions about the quality or the lack of quality of this, the kind of canned specs that exist out there that, as you just said, people are downloading and copying and pasting and copying and pasting that risk into their projects.
But then also, well, let's just start there. Let's just talk about what what you see generally out there. And we don't have to cover all the bases here. But but let's help the supply side, understand what needs to happen from a design professionals point of view. So that earlier engagement is, is is going to happen because they're getting what they need.
The best thing any manufacturer could do for me, is provide me with a properly written spec, it can be written around their product, but it needs to be written properly, I would say. And I'm not exaggerating, I would say 95% of the specs I get from manufacturers have to be rewritten 95 for some more than other summer, okay. But, you know, they spend probably millions of dollars, right? Doing lunch and learns.
Yep, it's great. So cut out 20 lunch and learns that year and go pay a train spec writer to write your your bass master for whatever your product is correctly. And, and like we can talk for days about this. And we won't, but I'll just give you a couple of examples that I see a lot perfect. Manufacturers love to put warranty requirements in part three of the spec in the execution requirements. Because somebody at some point, execution and installation, that's when you're turning on warranties.
So that's where we're going to put all this important information. warranty information belongs in part one in the administrative requirements portion of the spec. There's a reason for that. It's there because when the contractor goes to look at all of this stuff to bid the job, they expect to go to an apart one article to see whether you have a standard included with the product manufacturer's warranty or you've got some 50 year gold plated thing that's going to cost 100 grand because they need to know that for their bid, right.
That puts me at risk because the spearin doctrine In 1918, Supreme Court decision protects the contractor from errors and omissions in my documents that I'm responsible for. So if I get this thing last second, or we have in this is what's going on in a lot of firms, nobody can find a spec writer. So they're just having their architects writes, write specs, they've never learned anything about specs. So they're cutting and pasting that into their spec. It's buried in part three, the contractor misses it and the bid your owners about to get $100,000 Change Order. It's a simple little thing. But you see it all the time. The other one big one in manufacturers specs is dictating means and methods. We all know on the design side, we can tell them what we want. We can't tell them how to do it. And manufacturer specs are rife with very specific means and methods.
And is that because they're used to selling to contractors, and in there, that's just the mentality of it? Or is it? They're not educated in that to understand that
most of the product reps I talk to don't realize that when I tell them that so I think the education portion is part of it. And I think that it's kind of because I've also seen some of this mindset on the engineering side. I'm just going to put everything in there because we don't want a warranty claim later if they screw it up. Cya language is what I call it. Yeah. So I'm going to put it all in there. But guess what, I have to spend hours rewriting it. And most of these firms are just putting it in there and not rewriting it because they don't know any better. So those are just I mean, like I said, I could go on and on for days.
Now those are great, like starting points, right. And I think that that is exactly what the like you said, if it's 95%, this is what people actually just need to hear. Because if they take care of those two things that you just mentioned, they're off to a better place for sure. And, and then an architect looks at it or a specifier looks at it and says they seem to have their things together. Right. It's not obvious blaring stuff that's out of whack. And so there's a better chance at a relationship there. Right?
Let me let me tell you about one other one, because this one was good. And I can't tell you when, where, why, or who or any of that. But a client I have worked with in the past, was a manufacturer actually, and hired my firm to have me rewrite their master specs. And they sent me over one section and said, We just want you to clean this up. And I looked at this section, and the work in this section belonged in 12 different sections.
So I called them back up. And I said, How do I know if I'm using this product product, what to choose and what my options are, as opposed to this product and this product in this literally 12 different sections. And they actually ended up hiring my company to help me write their master specs, which is, is not what we do, but and they're beautiful now and they have a separate, properly written spec section for each of their product categories that makes sense with editor's notes that help the spec writer know how to choose things.
And everything is where it belongs. And we they added in a bunch of things that they should have been covering that they weren't, you know, any manufacturer can go out and hire an independent spec writer and have them do that with their documents and the money and time and stress they save over the long run and the the abject appreciation for me, in loving them for having a spec I can use right, with very little work is invaluable.
So you said that that that isn't a normal thing that your company does. But there was so much value there. Did your company even realize that they were sitting on yet another pot of gold with you? Sharise?
Well, I hope so they haven't fired me.
You do need to be able to replicate yourself.
Sounds like no but nobody needs any more than one of me why?
One Sharise has enough went you know, this idea of of serving the design side in the ways that they need, like you said understand how they work and what they need and when they need it. I think you're fielding a lot of these questions maybe even on the products, product reps behalf, right because different projects are going to be in different design phases.
They're going to be delivered in different ways. And these are the kinds of things that contextually matter when it comes to getting the right information at the right time from the product reps and that is rarely a lunch and learn right? A Lunch and Learn is spaghetti on the wall hoping something sticks. People are really there for the food not necessarily to learn about a new product. Sometimes they are but even if they are there to learn about a product It's not likely to be appropriate to their current project at the current phase, etc, right?
Some, they're filing it away, and someday they're going to hopefully, pull that thing back out of the black box of the designers mind and, and apply it when it comes to actually getting what you need when you need it when you are doing a spec, and I don't know, you know, there's lots of different phases to specs, but the information level evolves, as the project evolves and what you need. There's so much context there. And you said earlier that, that neither side really understands what the other side does, or maybe needs very well, can you just speak to that a little bit, because I have a feeling that people need to hear this. You
know, there is there's a process, there's different levels of specs, and I'll be perfectly honest, my first call isn't to a product rep. Especially early on in a job, my first step out of the gate is to their website. Nothing drives me more insane, by the way than making me register before I can get a technical document. You're not protecting anything from your competitors, they have it all already trust me.
Don't they see that as like a sales lead? Like they want to know who you are? Also? And yeah, I mean, and I, again, the architect coming at it from that perspective, just throw this in here real quick. I don't want to have to fill that out as an architect, either, because I could be under NDA number one. Number two, I don't even know if this is the right direction. And as you just earlier said, I probably am not even asking the right questions yet. Right? So it really needs to be high level overview, is this even a potential option for my project? And I don't want to give up my privacy to do that, as an architect.
I don't I mean, I'm a spec writer. So how I do is deal with hundreds of products. So if I register on every manufacturers website, I'm buried in emails and things and and so I need, I need the technical information I need, I'll be perfectly honest, the ledger will learn somebody come out and say, Look at my new doodad. I don't need those. Don't need them, just send it to me. Email it to me. Or if it's something I need a physical sample, send it to me.
What I love for manufacturers, is when they send it because they know their product better than anybody I don't know a whole lot about their product. No. They know it intimately come out to my firm invite, don't just ask for the senior people. Because guess what, they're not doing any of this work, right? invite everybody in the firm, come and teach me something, right?
Teach me about whether barriers or sealants or flooring or concrete or whatever the heck it is. Teach me something, invite all the young people in my firm. So I don't have to ask answer so many questions, you know, because they're all learning and everybody's growing, coming in, teach us something, those are the lunch and learns, I'll let in the door all day every day. I don't, I don't need the sales pitch, I can go look on your website and read about it. Or you can send me something saying, Hey, we got this new product, go to this link and check it out. I need you to come in and help me so that when I'm doing my specs, I'm never going to be an expert on their product.
Yeah, so I need to understand it well enough to at least be dangerous enough to go, that doesn't look right. And then call up the rep and get some help. And you know, get closer to really doing the full blown spec for a project. If I'm having difficulties, I'll usually email a rep or call them and say, Can I send this over you look at it and see if I totally screwed it up. And there's huge value there. Huge, huge value provided my rep is actually a technical rep and not just a sales rep. You know, sometimes the person coming into your office doesn't know any, I can't tell you how many, how many product reps have gotten the you need to take the CDT lecture from me.
Because if you want to speak my language, you need to know how I work you need to know how a project goes down the pipe and you need to know the things you can and can't do and documents. And plenty of them have because I tell them you're in UFC duty after your name. You're in my door faster than the guy standing next to you. That's competitor that doesn't come because I know some baseline level of I can just get down to business. Yeah. Instead of having to explain why I need something and have a mini class before I can even get the information I need. Or get it in the way I need it.
I'm wondering how you do recognize quality and a spec beyond maybe certain pieces of information being in the right place. But can you translate that back to the design professional side so that they can understand the value of a good specification?
I'm not sure I know how to answer that question. And
I feel like the design professional side doesn't understand the value of a good spec. And maybe I'm speaking naively here, but I, it's a generalization that I think, hold some water across the board, it holds
a lot of water. Okay? Actually, number one, about the only place you typically see spec writers and is in architecture firms. And any design firm, regardless of discipline should have, if they if they have to provide specs, I don't care if they're structural, or MEP, or civil, or whoever should know all the basic in I guess, specs from consultants, they don't look anything like the rest of my document, you know, or they repeat language I have in my specs, because they don't know they're not supposed to do that.
So really, I think to achieve the quality that we need to in our specs, everybody in this industry, if I was going to the world, it's one of my favorite sayings. If I was going to the world, nobody would be allowed to work in this industry in any capacity without having that base knowledge. That base perhaps project delivery. And I'm not trying to sell the CBT is just the only thing I've ever found that kind of covers all of that, at enough of a level that you're dangerous enough to ask the right questions. If there's a book, it's called the contractors guide to change orders, it's about 278 pages on how to find the design professionals mistakes.
And if you were to open this book and read a few paragraphs, you would be terrified at how much detail they go into in this book on how to follow a rabbit hole based on one word, wow, that they know you're not supposed to say in your documents, or one thing they see on the drawings, because cornerstone of spec writing is say it once and say it in the right place. Right. So if you do that, and you put the right information on your drawings and specs, your contractor cannot build that building without reading both.
You know, so there's information you put on drawings, and that doesn't go in the specs, and there's information you put in specs, and that doesn't go in the drawings. Because everybody says, Well, now you got to put it in the drawing, the contractor won't read the specs. If you do if you do your job, right, they don't have any choice. They have to read the spec because none of that information is on the drawing where it's not supposed to be. Yeah. So you know, the the I think the quality is really having a basic understanding of what you're doing before you try to do it. Yeah.
And most of the year, right, the design side and the architecture side, who's the hub of the wheel and the project, everything goes through them are sorely lacking, or they have knowledge. But it's incorrect knowledge that somebody that was their senior person, at some point in their career taught them and they've taken that as the Golden Rule standard, right? Yeah, I get people in my class had been in this business for 30 years and and teaching them things they're doing wrong. You know, really, just that one piece would completely change the game in our industry.
That's incredible. And it does. I mean, it sounds right to me, too, because one of the things that you and I have worked on before in the past was implementing a system of integration between specifications and project teams throughout the design process to eliminate a lot of these gaps that exist only on the on the design side, on the demand side, right?
These are things that, like we see over and over and over again, because because of the lack of understanding about the importance of a good spec, but also how it gets to be good, right there. It is a process it takes work. And you as if you are a sole specifier in a large firm, and you're touching 100 projects, or 200 projects a year.
Like you're going in all these different directions, you can't keep it all straight. So these systems are so important, but the team has to care. I think that's really what what I'm honing in on is the team has to care and what I what I loved about working with you on that and kind of building this system which which a friend of ours actually implemented right was giving opportunities for people to engage and own the spec throughout the design process much more than just throw it in at the end right because we do see a lot of teams doing that a lot of the time.
Well and that's that's one thing that's been really beautiful about it. The little side benefit that I I didn't really think about it the time I started coming up with this process. Get everybody on the same page and looking at the same thing was the opportunity at all also gave me to bring the level of understanding up for everybody I've worked with on every project as a part of working on the project, because that's one of the reasons people don't get the training they need in this business is because time is money.
So I'm constantly in every project, training somebody, or in or dropping a note and alerting them in the spec, because we work in blue beam that, hey, we can't say this, I'm changing it to this. And so I use it as a continual constant training opportunity. Not this is not just for younger staff, this is every single person who worked with everybody in that project.
And in that set sees that. So all of a sudden, people are asking questions they never asked before, or spotting things and asking how to do that, because they remember me telling them on the last project, you know, not to do something. And so you can actually there are ways you can be more efficient and bring your the level of quality in everything you do up at the same time, that you're working on your project. So you don't have to find big chunks of time that you know, kill your overhead budget and trying to train people on the side.
Right. I want to finish off with a couple more things. But the first one is, I want to give some nuggets to the supply side here. Okay. It's hard to get into firms right now. It's hard to show off their innovative, the innovations that they've done, it's hard to show off the the stuff that's been around forever, that nobody knows about. There's there's a whole spectrum of information that can and should be conveyed, right?
And even if the timing isn't right, there's still lessons to be learned. And they can be filed away for later they can go on the firm's intranet, and it can be a resource for more than just a couple people. But as a specifier, as somebody who is engaging with product reps all the time. How do they get into firms? How do they become?
How do they build relationships with with people like you, people who are like the project managers, or the project architects on projects, when, number one, it's hard to get in the door right now because of remote work? And they can't give anybody lunch anymore? And like those, these were huge drivers before, right pastries and, and sandwiches, unfortunately, but but really, how do how can they serve the demand side in ways that are useful and effective to start building those relationships that we really feel like are needed in this industry?
Well, we almost have to set COVID aside, because I'll be perfectly honest, I haven't been working with my product reps anywhere near as much as they normally do in this environment. But hopefully, we're headed towards coming out of this. Outside of that. Right now, it's hope and pray, and email me and hope we can work something out. But it's just it's challenge. It's been challenging.
And but that is starting to lift. But you just said two key words a second ago and asking me that question that would make me go running towards him. And that's lessons learned. Maybe I've been specifying your products for a long time, maybe you've got some new version of it or whatever. But one of the things we do really poorly in architecture is once they go out and do construction, do you know how often the things that go wrong on the job? Sometimes due to my documents get back to me?
Very rarely. In and, you know, it's not because I don't know what I'm doing? Yeah, yep. But you know, what if if a product rep called me up and said, I want to I want to do a presentation about I'm going to show you some pictures of when somebody did this or somebody did that this is what happened with our product. And and show me, you know, because you're reading through documents and you see something that you know, somebody asked you to put in there and you're like, wait a minute, I saw that presentation, this thing's gonna fall apart. If you do that. Architects Engineers love lessons learned. Nobody really loves a sales pitch and now they can't even bribe them with lunch.
One thing we say about the sales pitches that architects don't buy anything.
They don't. They don't but they do choose things and it's it's almost the same thing. They may not be writing the check but you know, they're choosing it. Sometimes that gets changed during construction with the contractor because they have some preference but lessons learned. Getting getting my hands dirty will make me run towards them.
I love it when I actually get to do some kind of presentation They're not just a talking head in front of the room. But I did one where we had to this building tape and we had to tape up all these corners. And it was fun. They made it fun. And it was interesting interaction. Yeah, and it sticks in your head. Of course, they sold some of the building tape and tape to my coworker shoes together just for fun. That was That stuff is strong.
Oh, my God, he had it coming at once again, I want to learn. Yeah, I don't have any projects. They're asking us to do projects and half the time we used to, sometimes less, it's just getting worse and worse, the amount of the less amount of time that we're being demanded to put these documents out. It's really difficult. We're writing.
Like, for me, I've got nine offices, 350 people. And I'm writing specs for all those offices, that time I have to spend with product reps is not very big. Yeah. And so I want the most value as possible when I can find that time to spend with them. And those are the kinds of things that are going to attract me and I'm probably most spec writers we've been doing this a long time.
Yeah. Meaningful injections of information, though. Exactly. Yeah.
Yeah. Or offer to I had I had a manufacturer recently called me up. And he said, Hey, would you mind sending me over your master specs? And letting me review them for you see if I see any holes, and and I said, Sure, I'll send you PDFs, because I want to see where all your comments are. And obviously made suggestions to add his product.
And we already had it in some places, but not in others made some suggestions that I could choose or not choose, but also spotted a number of other things that were wrong with my specs that weren't particular to their particular product. But just in general, you don't want this haircut and here's why. Huge Yeah. And explained it to me.
That was so valuable. Yeah. So valuable because I have so I mean, I've got all these masters, I have to maintain as well. And there's so little time and or things that happen during construction don't get back to you. So you don't even know you have a mistake in your masters. That was probably one of and they looked at like 14 or 18 sections for me. Yeah. I want you to buy them. I want to buy them lunch. By the time we were done.
It's like, Let me buy you lunch. I bet the time and effort that saved me that's a really valuable activity to make you my favorite person on the planet forevermore. And that in telling me when it shouldn't use your product, right? If I call you up in telling me you, you know, call me next time Sharif, but on this project. You don't want to use this. This is not everybody time. It does. Yep, absolutely. That's and then you trust them forever as well. Yeah.
Well, I'm gonna jump to the end here. So we can wrap up if you were handed a megaphone and could blast out one message for the building industry to hear what would you say? sharees lakeside? Do I really only get one? Yep, you got to keep it short and sweet. Oh, I've got to go ahead. I'm open actually,
oh, no, I'm crafty. I can combine these into what my advice if if I could blast it out to the world is to get out of your box and out of your silo and learn how everybody that you work with works, and how the project is supposed to come down the pipe. You know, if you just do and stared details all day long. And then somebody asked for your input in it in a spec, you should know what a spec is. And what's supposed to that just the basics.
I'm not saying you have to go become a spec writer, it takes two years to do that well. But just get out of your own head. It's not all about you. And that's that should be your motto in life. It's not all about you. This is a team sport. And it's that's never going to change. This is a team sport. So you have to learn how to play on the team. And until you do that, you're you're making mistakes day in and day out that you don't even know you're making. And you may never learn. I'm not gonna I'm not kidding.
People 30 years in that had been doing something a particular way for 30 years. And then they're looking at me going I didn't know we weren't supposed to do that.
I feel like this goes back to Design School for for a lot of people on the on the demand side because we are trained to go it alone. We are trained to operate our own business and we are licensed in that way as well. All the tests revolve around you being a sole proprietor, because it's kind of worst case scenario. Right? Right.
But that mentality gets that rut is deep, and it is hard for people to come up and have use their peripheral vision You're right and broaden their perspective to really understand those kinds of things, because it's just ingrained in it. That is, it's a huge piece of advice. I wholly Totally agree.
That's a failing, it really is a failing, I'm, I'm speaking in two weeks to the AIA, Oregon small firm, architects, group, and so statewide. And then, so I'm speaking in two weeks to give them a specs one on one, here's the basics you need to know. And then a week after that, I'm coming back for a roundtable discussion to talk about maybe some things they could explore to actually have a master and quit putting specs on their drawings, drives me insane every time I hear that sheet.
Yeah, you know, but there's there is there is a hunger for that knowledge. But nobody is telling people where they can get it, or that it's even out there or even that they need it. Sometimes years and before they realize they need it. They're not giving it in, this shouldn't be happening in school. It shouldn't be you accidentally run into somebody like me along the way that tells you where you can get it, because I'm going to tell you because I tell everybody. But you know, that's not happening. And it's a failing. On the design side. It's a huge failing for the architects and engineers.
It's amazing how many people are involved on a project, like you said, it's a team sport, but it's a bigger team than you've ever seen. It's, it's enormous and, and there are people who are out there who are willing to help and be a part of the team at no cost to you to be able to help this whole scenario along and really bridge these gaps that we're talking about. So those those people do exist, they're out there.
Oh, I know. I work with them all the time. And and those those, we call them trusted advisors, and CSI. Those are my go to people. And the first people I'll call it I'll call the guy in I'm in Oregon. I'll call the guy in New York, that I trust and know that I can get the job done with if that's what I need to do.
Well choose. Thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation today. This you are the glue you and your queen for today.
Oh, yay. Oh, my crowns not on my desk right now. You do?
I do it usually on my desk. Well, thank you for having me.
Yeah, anytime. And I would love it if you could tell everybody where they can follow along with with you. We mentioned in the intro, but I want you to say it again, also mentioned your CBT course and your new podcast.
Okay, so the CDT course if you're interested, I teach it twice a year for it's a 10 week course two hours a day and they do it after work. So people don't have to interfere, interfere with their work day. I'm teaching it right now for the spring session. And I'll start teaching it again in August or September for the fall session. And you can go to the Portland CSI website to find more information about that
don't have to be local for that correct? Nope.
Nope, you don't have to be I do it all virtually. So you can I have 52 people in this class right now. And I have 28. I looked at the stats 33 women 17 Men 28 states plus Puerto Rico, and Canada. Yeah, and it's, it will be doesn't cost a whole time, it'd be the most valuable money you ever I have yet to have. I've taught hundreds now Viet to have one person tell me that they didn't find what they learned in that 10 weeks to be some of the most valuable information they've learned in their career.
Wow. Regardless of their level of experience. And it's not, it's not because it's me teaching it. It's great information. I like to think I'm kind of entertaining as a teacher. But there are other chapters in the country that teach it as well. So it doesn't have to be with mine. But just getting the knowledge. And if you don't want to get certified, you can still take the class and get the knowledge. You don't have to be taking the exam to take the class. Just get the knowledge. And then I have a new podcast.
It's actually not my podcast. I'm the host, I'm just a talent. As you said earlier, it's our cat, our cat.com forward slash podcast. And it's called detailed. And basically the concept is that I'm going to be talking to different people in the industry about different projects. And sometimes I'm going to go off the rails a little bit and not talking about projects. And pull back the curtain and ask the questions that were never allowed to ask under the contract umbrella in a project. And, you know, talk about the lessons learned and what went right and what went wrong or what's something that unique, the one that came out today.
It's really, you know, just as a teaser, they were redoing this. They were completely rebuilding this building. During the time that we were having a lot of political unrest in Portland and had rioting and vandalism. And so when they built it because that part of town tends to get more of that kind of activity when things when there are protests, they found this window film that you could put on Windows, that you can actually throw a brick if that window and it will not break. And so we I think they even identify it in the show notes.
But it was just really interesting. It's interesting hearing about how people solve their problems, and different challenges they faced, you know, outside of the project environment where people can speak frankly.
Well, if people need more Cerise in their life podcast, there's your Twitter at Sharise lakeside, and thank you so much, once again for spending time with us today. Thank you,
I really enjoy being
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