August 2017 Newsletter Print

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    The Newsletter of The Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter CSI       August 2017 


    September 18, 2017

    Tour of Target Center


    Dinner at the University of St. Thomas

    Monday, September 18, 2017

    4:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    When the Target Center was constructed in the late 1980's, the arena was at the edge of downtown Minneapolis  The building's entrance along First Avenue was the front door and there was little development to the north of the site.  The building was constructed during an era when many arenas were simply enclosed interior environments.

    Since that time, the City of Minneapolis has grown dramatically. Target Field changed the whole character of the Warehouse District along with parking ramps and skyways connecting to downtown businesses and the North Loop is continuing to see major development.  As a result, Target Center is now closer to the heart of downtown, with light rail passengers, pedestrians. and bicyclist all moving by the building. The design approach recognizes this dramatic change in the downtown context, addressing both significant exterior and interior improvements while significantly improving the fan experience.  The new entrance at the corner of First Avenue and Sixth Street opens up the building along with new windows on the concourse and suite levels; the building now is simultaneously animated for patrons inside the building and enlivens this active entertainment district from the outside.  The design goal is to have excitement inside the building be evident on the outside.  The interior has been updated in all areas from new seating to new clubs to new dramatic scoreboard.

    Size: 831,533 Sq. Ft. + new skyway and loading dock

    Budget: $130,000,000

    Components: The Target Center Renovation includes a reskinning of the exterior envelope, relocating the main entry and the addition of a new skyway. All public and premium spaces are being renovated throughout the building.

    Click Here to Register!


    Dick Strassburg (TEGRA Group)
    Dick Strassburg is a Partner and Co-founder of the TEGRA Group, a real estate and project advisory firm based in Minneapolis. Dick has provided Owner Representation services for a long list of high-profile private and municipal projects throughout this region - all of which were completed on time and within budget. Among this list of success stories is Target Field, which boasted a zero-item punch list on opening day, a feat never before achieved in construction of any modern major league sports facility. Dick is a registered Architect with an architecture degree from North Dakota State University.

    Ross Naylor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (Alliance)
    Ross Naylor is an architect and Principal at Alliance, leading the management of the Target Center Renovation project. A 16-year veteran in the profession, Ross's work has focused on creating meaningful spaces for people to experience and engage with. Since joining Alliance in 2002, he has worked on several significant public projects in Minneapolis, including; The Guthrie Theater, Medtronic Horn at US Bank Stadium and the Target Center Renovation.

    Jon Hines (Mortenson Construction)
    Jon provides project leadership during the design and construction phases of the project. Jon oversee's the onsite team, while maintaining important interface with ownership and the design team to ensure project budget, scope and schedule goals are established and adhered to. Jon initiates and maintains a close working relationship with customers, design partners and subcontractors. Some notable projects in Minnesota include: Mayo Clinic Square, the Timberwolves / Lynx Practice Facility and the AC Hotel Minneapolis Downtown. Jon has a Civil Engineering degree from Iowa State University and a degree in Real Estate from the University of St. Thomas. 


    4:00 pm - 5:30 pm / Tour - Target Center (Meet in Skyway to Target Center)  Note: Tour is to be given by speakers.

    6:00 pm - 7:00 pmRegistration & Socializing - St. Thomas

    7:00 pm - 8:00 pmDinner and Presentation - St. Thomas 


    Chapter Members: Free

    Non-Chapter Members and Guests: $45.00


    1 HSW-SD credit applied for



    Save the Date!

    October 9, 2017

    Ryan Companies Millwright Office

    Andy Marolt, Lead Specifier, Ryan Companies; Ayman Arafa, Project Architect, Ryan Companies; Dan Harlander, Project Manager, Ryan Companies will provide an overview of the development of the Ryan Companies Millwright office, including the design-build specification process, project challenges, design goals, and the site selection process. 

    Where: Ryan Companies Millwright Office (533 S 3rd St, Ste 100, Minneapolis, 55415)

    More information to be forthcoming




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    President's Message


    President's Message
    From the President........


    It’s a new year! One that I am very excited about and honored to serve the membership for the next 12 months! The 2018 CSI year has a lot of fun, learning and celebration ahead for us.

    Celebration you say? As I am sure word is spreading, this year will mark our chapter’s 60th Anniversary!! The Board of Directors have begun the search for interested members at all levels who would like to actively help plan this milestone. We have a proud tradition of leading the institute in so many ways for the last 60 years, as well as our contribution locally to the architectural and construction communities. We owe it to our founding members, current members and emeritus membership to celebrate this with the energy and passion this milestone deserves. Please let a member of the board know if you want to get involved. Much more about the event will unfold this Fall!

    That’s only a sample of things to come. It’s time to look at the end of our last year for a moment. I want to express many thanks to Ryan Hallesy and the Golf Outing Committee. We had a terrific turnout, a great venue and spectacular weather, all ingredients for a fun day! Through our golfers generosity we raised $1,265.00 for the scholarship fund through yardstick sales. All of those proceeds go directly into the scholarship fund. Well done everyone!!!

    This year’s winners!!

    Dale Buker - Oldcastle

    Terry Minarik -Confluence

    Mike Konieczny - Landscape Forms

    Justin Rechtzigel - Stantec

    Congratulations!! (FYI, very difficult to repeat!)


    I want to thank in advance the following Committee Chairs for their leadership. Their volunteerism in the midst of a very busy world is greatly appreciated!

    Awards – Tohnya Adams

    Rick Nichols

    Expo – TBD

    Certification – Jerrilyn O’Brien

    Communications – Keith Pashina

    Emerging Professionals/Student –Hannah Fleischaker and Adrienne Rulseh

    Membership – Gary Patrick and Susan Lee

    Programs – Brien DuRouche and Larry Lorbiecki

    Golf – Ryan Hallesy

    (We are looking for EXPO leadership and committee members for all committees)

    These volunteers are the backbone of your chapter. When you encounter these individuals please remember to thank them for what they do!

    Board of Directors

    You also have a newly sworn in Board of Directors. We are here at your service, let us know what’s on your mind!

    George Ramsay, Immediate Past President

    Cynthia Long, President-Elect

    James Bergevin, Secretary

    Mark McPherson*, Treasurer

    Dave Rasmussen, Vice President

    Kasey Howard*, Vice President

    Sandy McWilliams*, Vice President

    Jeremy Nordby, Vice President

    Andy Garner, President

    *New to the BOD


    Corporate Sponsors

    We cannot commit to the programs we run, the events we plan, services we provide or the scholarships we award without the generous contributions of our Corporate Sponsors! Please extend a hand to the individuals that lead these companies and thank them for their contributions!


    Archcon Sherwin-Williams M.C. McGrath
    Inspec Pella Hufcor
    W.L. Hall CO. Kline-Johnson Rose-Fleischaker






    Your company not on that list? We still need your support! Please consider joining this elite group of companies as you evaluate your marketing dollars. The entire chapter will appreciate your involvement and recognize you for it!

    This Year’s Line-Up

    What can you look forward to this year? First of all, Program Co-Chairs Brien and Larry have a terrific line up for monthly meetings designed to respond to demands made through surveys as well as going out on a limb to bring thought provoking new concepts. Here’s the line-up:

    Sept 18    – Target Center Renovation Tour

                                Dinner/Presentation University of St. Thomas

    Oct 9    – Ryan Companies Presentation and Lunch

                                Lunch in Ryan Atrium

    Nov 14  – Minnesota Building Codes Presentation,

                                Lunch/Presentation at IMS

    Dec 12   – Holiday Dinner

                                At 317 in Rice Park

    Jan 8    – “Wood from the Hood” Tour

                                Dinner at TBD

    Feb 12  – Alliance/Medtronic

                                Lunch at Grumpy’s

    Mar 13   – Unmanned Aerial Systems, Architectural Photography

                                Lunch/Dinner/Presentation at TBD

    April 2018 – EXPO

    May 2018  – Awards

    May 2018  – 60th Anniversary Celebration!

    June 2018  – Golf, Bunker Hills

    Personally, I am very excited that this team has also chosen to participate in Toys for Tots!! Details will come out at our Kick Off meeting September 18th. Let’s raise a lot of money and collect toys for children in need so they can have the happiest of holidays!!

    We are looking into some other activities to make your CSI experience even more enjoyable and fulfilling. We will make those announcements as they develop!


    I have some people to thank!

    First of all, George Ramsay. Your example of leadership and your dedication to the chapter have set standards that I am hopeful to measure up to. I am thrilled you are the Immediate Past- Prez, as I am confident you will be generous with your time when I seek your council.

    Pam Jorgensen set a leadership example and mentored many of us sitting on the board right now. She knew the business of running a chapter. I’ll be seeking your council as well!

    Craig Hess was the man who started it all for me. Thank you for your leadership and incredible attention to the details. If there was a VP-Details, I would nominate you for the office permanently. Then we could all be assured we didn’t overlook anything! I’ll be in touch with you, too!

    My thanks George, Pam & Craig for all that you have done & do!

    I want to acknowledge the people I work for, for supporting me and, in fact encouraging me to accept this responsibility with the time to do this job to the best of my abilities. Darren Blankenship, VP-Field Sales of Best Access Solutions/dormakaba and Michael Robinson, Regional Manager for Best/dormakaba and President of Life Safety Hardware Consultants. Thank you gentlemen for your support!

    On a personal note, if you said to me 6 or 7 years ago that I would be doing this, this being, serve as your Chapter Prez, I’da laughed at you (a friendly laugh). I’ve almost always described myself as a “social member”. You know, I’ll come to the meetings, sponsor something at the golf outing, exhibit at EXPO and go the Awards Banquet. (Sound Familiar?) Then I was invited/nominated (Craig Hess) to join the BOD….I said yes! Well the snowball hasn’t stopped yet and truth be told I have enjoyed every single minute of it! The time was right for me, when will it be the right time for you? Get involved, join a committee or accept a nomination, take it from an old “social member”, you will not regret it!!

    Let’s have a great year with the best program attendance and participation ever! Thanks!!



    Andy Garner, CSI, CDT

    Chapter President FY 2018


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    New Member Spotlight

    Larry Lorbiecki, CSI, Assoc. AIA

    Business Development/Pre-Construction Services


    Larry performs Business Development and Pre-Construction Services for clients of Electronic Communication System Integrators (ECSI), a subsidiary of Hunt Electric. He has been with the company for 3 years and focuses on serving the senior living, healthcare, and multi-family markets. ECSI designs, installs, and provides 24/7/365 emergency service fire alarm, security, audio/visual, nurse call, wander prevention, & network/structured cabling systems. ECSI provides these solutions for Minnesota and Western Wisconsin with offices located in the Bloomington, Duluth and Rochester. ECSI also utilizes National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) partnerships to execute projects across 46 states. Given ECSI’s reach geographically and across systems, Larry never has a dull day on the road. But above all Larry enjoys working with architects to learn about project concepts and then developing a technology design that fits the project’s vision.

    Larry was born and raised in Stillwater, MN. He graduated a Golden Gopher and lives in Eagan with his fiancé.

    His hobbies vary with the Minnesota seasons and include spending time at his cabin, skating on the pond, biking, snowboarding, and golfing.

    Larry's Contact Information:



    7900 Chicago Ave S

    Bloomington, MN, 55420


    Phone: 651-643-6642Website:



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    Chapter Membership Committee News


    Click HERE for the new Membership Enrollment Form

    Ask the Membership Commitee Chair:

    Gary Patrick at 763-546-3434 or

    Or contact the CSI-MSP Chapter Administrator

    Vicky Olson at 952-564-3044 or

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    Chapter Partnerships and Sponsorships




    Would you like your company to come to mind first when a CSI member needs the services your company provides? 

    Your company logo would be prominently displayed on all emails from the chapter (4 – 5 emails sent each month to 950 contacts each time), at all monthly programs (80 – 100 members), in the monthly Specifics (sent to 700+), on the pages of the CSI chapter website, at EVERY CSI event on each table and in the PowerPoint!

    Your company could have quarter page ads or a featured article in the monthly Specifics (sent to 700+), or the opportunity to feature your company with a table top display at a monthly meeting.

    If you answered yes, please send an email to and put “Need a Call” in the subject line and include your contact information.  You will be contacted by a CSI member.

    Would you like to lend your company’s support to CSI events like the Annual Golf Outing or the Annual Awards Banquet?

    If you answered yes, please send an email to and put “Sponsorship Call Needed” in the subject line and include your contact information.  You will be contacted by a CSI member.

    Did you previously have a business listing or business card ad in the Resource Directory section of the printed CSI Chapter Directory? 

    If you answered yes to the above, there are advertising options available for your company on the website and in the monthly Specifics.  Please send an email to and put “Advertising Call Needed” in the subject line and include your contact information. You will be contacted by a CSI member.

    Your Partnership with the MSP Chapter at any level is your company’s path to visibility with decision makers in the design and construction industry. Your support also enables the continuation of high-caliber programs and events and networking among all parts of the building team.  Your participation is valued by all CSI members.

    Chapter Partnerships

    Platinum Partnerships

    612-867-5173     651.704.0300 952-462-5359
     800.321.8194   763.546.3434    


    763.544.0365 763.592.8640    
    952-854-8723 612.349.9885    


    Gold Partnerships




    Silver Partnerships




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    College of Fellows Update

    The Jury of Fellows announced the names of the 2017 Class of Fellows! Congratulations to:

    • Edmund C. Buch, CSI, CCS
    • Brandilyn B. Fry, CSI, CDT
    • Frank E. Fuller, CSI
    • Thad Goodman, CSI, CDT
    • Timothy J. Gottwalt, CSI, CCPR
    • Marvin Kemp, CSI, CDT
    • Billy J. Mathis, CSI, CDT
    • J.W. Mollohan, CSI, CCPR
    • Daryl G. Robinson, RA, CSI, CCS
    • Anne Marie Roeper, CSI, CCPR


    Join us at the Investiture of Fellows the evening of 14 September at the CSI Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. The Investiture is part of the Honors & Awards Ceremony, which is open to all at no charge. Following the Honors & Awards Ceremony, meet the new Fellows in person at the Celebration of Fellows. There is a $50 charge for the Celebration. Preregistration is required for both events; register online at

    Sheldon Wolfe, FCSI College of Fellows History Chair

    CSI Events at CONSTRUCT 2017

    Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT 2017 & The CSI Annual Convention

    Cherise Lakeside, CSI, CDT, is a passionate advocate for young professionals in the construction industry. Her thoughts and contributions to the Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT are highlighted in the article, "The Future is Now," in the September 2017 issue of The Construction Specifier magazine. Cherise writes: "Millennials currently represent 25 percent of the entire U.S. population. Born between 1977 and 2000, they also represent 21 percent of the discretionary purchasing power in the country. They are the largest generation to enter the workplace. Even more notable, millennials will represent 75 percent of our workforce by 2025—only 7.5 years from now.

    This is important because our industry has never experienced a generational imbalance of this magnitude. It is also important because this group of professionals will be asked to step into advanced roles and responsibilities far earlier than ever before in the history of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC). Are we helping them prepare?

    Three years ago, I saw a need and an opportunity at CONSTRUCT. Why not set up a day at the show especially designed for young professionals? This day would be specifically created to help equip them with the tools to find the training, mentorship, and education they need for the accelerated advancement many of them will experience in the coming years.

    The overarching goal of Young Professionals Day is to set attendees up for professional success. Not only will they learn how to maximize their time and return on investment (ROI) at CONSTRUCT, but they will also learn how to set themselves apart from their competition. They will make valuable connections with experienced professionals that will carry far beyond the event."

    If you are a young professional or know someone who is—Young Professionals Day at CONSTRUCT 2017 and The CSI Annual Convention is September 13 at the Rhode Island Convention Center—plan now to attend!  Click here for more information or to register.

    CSI Region Caucuses

    Wednesday, September 13, 5:50 pm

    Rhode Island Convention Center

    Attend your region’s caucus to meet your region leaders, mingle with members from other chapters and discuss region business. Locations:                                            

    • CSI Northeast Region Caucus - 551A (5th Floor, East Rooms)
    • CSI Great Lakes Region Caucus -551B (5th Floor, East Rooms)
    • CSI Southeast Region Caucus - 552A (5th Floor, East Rooms) 
    • CSI North Central Region Caucus - 552B (5th Floor, East Rooms)
    • CSI Middle Atlantic Region Caucus - 557 (5th Floor, West Rooms)
    • CSI Gulf States Region Caucus - 554A (5th Floor, West Rooms)
    • CSI West Region Caucus - 554B (5th Floor, West Rooms)
    • CSI Northwest Region Caucus - 555A (5th Floor, West Rooms)
    • CSI South Central Region Caucus  - 555B (5th Floor, West Rooms)
    • CSI Southwest Region Caucus - 556AB (5th Floor, West Rooms)


    CSI Welcome Reception

    Wednesday, September 13, 6:30 pm

    Rhode Island Convention Center (Rotunda & East Pre-function Area)

    New this year - join us for a New England style clam bake at the CSI Welcome Reception. Not only will the food be amazing, but the entertainment, featuring dueling pianos, will have you singing, cheering and calling out for more!

    All proceeds from this event will benefit the Rhode Island School of Design and the CSI Foundation. Pre-registration is required and there is a fee to attend this event. Register now!

    CSI Honors & Awards Ceremony

    Thursday, September 14, 6 pm

    Rhode Island Convention Center (Ballroom ABC)

    Congratulate those who have made a difference in CSI and our industry. The evening’s ceremony will feature several Institute Awards including the Outstanding Chapter Commendations and Chapter Cup, the Board Chair Plaque, Distinguished Membership and investiture of CSI's new Fellows. Follow the event on Twitter #CSIHonors

    Celebration of Fellows

    Thursday, September 14, 7:30 pm

    Rhode Island Convention Center (Rotunda & East Pre-Function Area) 

    Celebrate CSI’s 2017 Class of Fellows! This cocktail event will be held immediately following the CSI Honors & Awards Ceremony. Cocktail/business attire is suggested.

    Pre-registration is required and there is a fee to attend this event. Learn more, or register now! Follow the event on Twitter #CSIHonors #FCSI

    CSI Young Professionals Mixer

    Thursday, September 14, 8:30 pm

    Trinity Brewhouse, Providence, RI

    Young Professionals are invited to a casual gathering of the future leaders in our industry. Join us for food, fun and networking in downtown Providence. Complimentary access to the mixer is included in all young professional registration packages. Follow the event on Twitter #CSIYPS

    CSI College of Fellows Annual Meeting & Breakfast

    Friday, September 15, 7am

    Rhode Island Convention Center (Ballroom DE)

    CSI Fellows are encouraged to attend this annual session to address the business issues of the College of Fellows.

    Pre-registration is required and open only to Fellows of the Institute and CSC. There is a fee to attend. Learn more, or register now!  Follow the event on Twitter #FCSI

    CSI Annual Business Meeting

    Friday, September 15, 4:30pm

    Rhode Island Convention Center (Room 555AB)

    CSI’s Annual Business Meeting focuses on the business of CSI. Attendees will hear an update on recent accomplishments, upcoming programs and future initiatives under consideration. CSI members must preregister in order to obtain the appropriate badge credentials. Members will also have the chance to address CSI’s leadership, ask questions and provide feedback during the member forum segment.

    Learn more, or register now!  Follow the event on Twitter #CONSTRUCT #AMMF

    CSI Night Out

    Friday, September 15, 7pm

    Skyline at Waterplace, Providence, RI

    Join CSI members and CONSTRUCT attendees for a networking event including: live music, delicious food, beautiful views, dessert stations and premium cocktails -- a night to remember!

    Pre-registration is required, there is a fee to attend (included in some registration packages). Learn more, or register now! Follow the event on Twitter #CNO


    Thank you to the 2017 CSI event sponsors!

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    Read the North Central Region Newsletter!

    see the link below

    North Central Region Newsletter


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    Dearest of Geniuses

    Dearest of Geniuses, A Life of Theodate Pope Riddle, describes life in high society America in the first half of the 20th Century through the personal and professional experiences of one of the first women architects in New York.  Born into a wealthy Ohio family in 1867, Theo Pope attended Miss Porter's School for Girls in Connecticut until 1887.  Her first interest in design or construction came about in 1890 during the renovation of a cottage where she lived in Farmington, CT.  In this period she confides in her mother that she'll never marry and would like a professional career, an unusual approach to life for women at that time, especially for a woman coming from a wealthy family like hers.

    In the 1890s women were just beginning to work in some professions, but not in architecture. At the time there were only two women in American architectural schools, one each at MIT and Cornell.  Theo began her study of architectural history at Princeton in 1894 on the encouragement of her wealthy industrialist father, Alfred.  Although she didn't graduate, (and it's not clear how much architectural education she had while at Princeton), her father arranged a job for her at the office of architects McKim Mead & White in 1896 where she worked on the design for the houses to be constructed on her family's 250 acre Connecticut estate.  These were done in the Colonial Revival Style popular at that time.  In 1906 Theo began work on a new prep school, Westover, that was to be run by her former teacher and intimate friend Mary Hillard.  The two-story project was financed by her father and completed in 1909 in the Georgian style with Gothic end buildings all built around a courtyard.  The design was praised by notable architect Cass Gilbert and by the Architectural League of New York City.

    Throughout her life Theo suffered from depression and sought the help of mystics and other "spiritualists". In 1915 she funded psychical research at Harvard but this lasted only a couple years before Harvard questioned its validity and stopped it.  Nevertheless, Theo continued her involvement with spiritual and psychical activity throughout her life.  This led to a long term relationship with her psychiatrist, Dr. Beatrice Hinkle.  The relationship was more than a professional one and continued after her marriage.

    In October of 1913 Theo opens her architectural office and hired draftsmen. Her practice focused on the design of personal residences for wealthy families.   In 1918, she began design work on her most important project, a school for boys on 3,000 acres in Avon, Connecticut.  This project was funded by Theo herself.  Design work on the boys school was interrupted by her marriage at age 49 to wealthy businessman and diplomat John Riddle and the commission that followed, (through family connections), for the design and renovation of Teddy Roosevelt's childhood home in New York City.  When completed, it was considered to be a successful reconstruction of the original Roosevelt brownstone house and elevated Theo's status as an architect in New York.

    Theo's design work on the boys school, now called the Avon Old Farms School, resumed in 1922. The design was influenced by the English Arts and Crafts Movement to the degree that Theo paid to bring English craftsmen from the Cotswolds to Avon to work on the project.  It was constructed using indigenous rock, slate roof tiles and oak trim, "inspired by the Cotswolds but not imitating it."  Her design for the school was praised by New York architects and was published in the AIA magazine, "Architecture."  Cass Gilbert spoke favorably about Theo's design and she was admitted to the AIA in 1927.  This was her second attempt after failing to win admission in 1919.  She eventually received her New York architect's license and, in 1932, was the first female architect to be licensed in Connecticut.

    The balance of the book covers Theo's life from 1927 until her death in 1946. It describes the progress of the school and the difficulties keeping it open in the 1930s with competition from other private schools in the area.  During the Great Depression even wealthy families had a hard time justifying tuition costs.  As a result, Theo had to continue her financial support for the school.  During this period Theo and her husband John continued to make frequent trips to Europe, a practice that began when she was a child.  It seems as though Theo didn't let her architectural work get in the way of her desire to see the world as a way to cope with her depression and to get away from the pressures of work.  Theo Pope's lifestyle by today's standards would be nothing out of the ordinary, but considering that she grew up 100 years ago, it was certainly not mainstream.

    The book is mostly about Theo rather than her architecture. Not surprising when you consider that the author's previous books were on Robert Frost and other American writers.  Nevertheless, it does provide glimpses of architectural practices in the early 20th Century. Dearest of Geniuses, by Sandra Katz, was published by Tide-mark Press, Ltd. in 2003.  It has 296 pages and includes many photos of the people in Theo's life.

    Ed Buch, CSI, CCS, AIA, LEED AP

    Los Angeles, CA

    June 17, 2017


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    In Praise of Plain English

    In Praise of Plain English

    By Bill Schmalz, CSI, CCCA, FAIA

    Los Angeles chapter of Construction Specifications Institute

    If you’re like me, you’ve been in a lot of hotel elevator lobbies, but I bet you’ve never seen a lobby sign like the one above. And for good reason: If there were to be a fire, people would panic, so they need to understand the sign’s message in a moment’s glance. They can’t afford to waste an extra second thinking about what the sign is trying to say. Of course, the sign you have seen (if you’re in North America, that is) says something like, “IN CASE OF FIRE DO NOT USE ELEVATORS. USE STAIRS.” Ten words, nine of them with one syllable [1]. Nothing makes comprehension easier than short words and simple sentences.

    Even if most of our writing doesn’t have the same life-or-death urgency as emergency egress signs, it can still benefit from using mostly short words. Fortunately for those of us who write in English, the language abounds in short words, with more than 8,000 one-syllable words and goodness knows how many two-syllable words [2]. Most long English words have shorter equivalents that, in many cases, are as good as or better than the long ones. Just a few examples: use/utilize, first/initial, try/endeavor, later/subsequent, approach/methodology, limit/parameter, end/terminate, now/currently, and enough/sufficient.

    But, some might say, won’t long words make me sound smarter? Don’t I want to challenge my readers and help them build their vocabularies? In a word, no. Bryan Garner, in his book Modern American Usage, says it best: “Build your vocabulary to make yourself a better reader; choose simple words whenever possible to make yourself a better writer.” It’s your job as a writer to get your message across to your readers in the simplest manner possible. Let the other writers build their readers’ vocabularies. (Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting you never use long words. What I’m saying is to use long words only when a shorter one is not as good.)

    Writers for literally millennia have known this. In the first century BCE, the Roman Cicero said, “When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. … Plainness of style seems easy to imitate at first thought, but when attempted, nothing is more difficult." Two thousand years later, George Orwell, in his essay “Politics and the English Language,” said, “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

    As people become more educated, their ability to comprehend complex technical writing increases. But just because folks with PhDs can understand difficult academic papers doesn’t mean they enjoy reading them. The vocabulary most people (including those with PhDs) are comfortable using, and therefore reading, is what they learned by the time they left high school. Writers who want their writing to be read should aim for that vocabulary level. But how on earth are we to know what a high school reading level is? Don’t panic. Help is on the way.

    In 1952, an American businessman, Robert Gunning, developed the Gunning Fog Index as a way to estimate the reading level of any piece of writing. He based it on two factors: the average number of words per sentence and the average number of syllables per word [3]. After what I imagine was a fair amount of tinkering, he developed the following formula: GFI = 0.4 ((words/sentences) + 100 (complex words/total words)). This gave numerical answers that are roughly equivalent to American education levels (for example, a Gunning Fog Index of 12 approximates a high school senior level).

    Sometime after this, plain-English advocate Rudolph Flesch developed a system of his own, called the Flesch Reading Ease Test. Flesch also based his formula on words per sentence and syllables per word. His formula was more complicated [4] and, unlike Gunning’s, generated numerical scores from 0 to 100 that require a table to show grade-level equivalencies [5].

    In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Navy hired Flesch, teamed with Robert Kincaid, to develop an alternative system, the Flesch-Kincaid (F-K) Readability Test. Its formula [6] is also complex, but like Gunning’s, its answers correspond to American school grade levels.

    Despite the level of precision seemingly built into these formulas, they don’t represent exact science. Some three-or-more-syllable words, such as syllable and vocabulary, aren’t hard to comprehend (and have no good short equivalents), while some one-syllable words, such as quirt, will send most readers to their dictionaries [7]. However, the formulas can help you roughly gauge your writing’s reading level.

    Of course, these formulas aren’t simple to use, but you don’t have to use them. Websites are available for each system, allowing you to plug in chunks of text to check their readability levels. However, you have an even easier option: The Flesch and F-K tests are built into most word processing software, including Microsoft Word. To set it up in MS Word, go to File/Options/Proofing and click the box for “Show readability statistics.” Then, while in your document, click Review/Spelling & Grammar. After running through the spelling and grammar checks, a box with readability statistics will appear, telling you such things as average number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, characters per word, and percentage of passive sentences [8]. At the bottom are the Flesch Reading Ease score and the F-K Readability grade level.

    What numbers should you aim for? Good upper limits are 20 words per sentence and 20% passive sentences. The Flesch Reading Ease score should be no less than 50 (Flesch himself preferred 60 to 70), while the F-K grade should be between 9 and 12 [9].

    Bear in mind, aiming at a high school reading level is not the same as “dumbing down” your writing. Remember, you have only two goals as a writer: to make your readers want to read what you’ve written, and to make it easy for them to understand what you’re saying. You may well be writing about highly complex topics, but the writing itself should be engaging and easily understood [10].

    To show how this works, let’s use a short piece of writing most of us know: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. As far as I know, no one accuses Lincoln of talking down to his audience, or dumbing down his message, so let’s see what the statistics say:

          Words per sentence: 26.8 (a bit on the high side)

          Passive sentences: 20% (at the upper limit)

          Flesch Reading Ease: 64 (roughly at high school freshman level)

          F-K Grade Level: 10.9 (high school junior level)

    Other than using sentences longer than generally recommended, Lincoln was right on target in aiming for a general audience. And look at the vocabulary he used: Among its 268 words [11], only seven have four or more syllables (dedicated (four times), proposition, altogether, and consecrated), while 196, or 73%, have only one syllable, and 52, or 19%, have two syllables. Lincoln could have written a highfalutin speech filled with fancy words and complex sentences, but he wanted his audience (and later his readers) to easily understand what he came to say. And that may well be why the Gettysburg Address has outlived most other American speeches. 

    Writing in plain English is not easy. Achieving it requires practice in writing and diligence in editing, but your readers will appreciate your efforts. And in case you’re wondering, here are the readability statistics for this article (not counting footnotes):

          Words per sentence: 18.9

          Passive sentences: 3%

          Flesch Reading Ease: 55.7

          F-K Grade Level: 10.0



    [1] If you’re in London, then the sign might consist entirely of one-syllable words.

    [2] How do I know there are more than 8,000 one-syllable English words? Because one of my more lunatic hobbies is collecting them. I am now at 8,307. As Dave Barry has said, “There’s a very fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness.’”

    [3] Until 1982, the formula used clauses instead of sentences. I know, useless information; that’s why it’s in a footnote.

    [4] 206.835 – 1.015 (total words/total sentences) – 84.6 (total syllables/total words). Clearly, a great deal of tinkering was involved here.

    [5] Flesch’s Reading Ease Table:

         90–100: Very easy to read (5th grade)

         80–90: Easy to read (6th grade)

         70–80: Fairly easy to read (7th grade)

         60–70: Plain English (8th and 9th grades)

         50–60: Fairly difficult to read (11th and 12th grades)

         30–50: Difficult to read (college level)

         0–30: Very difficult to read (graduate level)

    [6] 0.39 (total words/total sentences) + 11.8 (total syllables/total words) – 15.59.

    [7] Let me save you the trouble. A quirt is a riding whip consisting of a short wood or leather handle attached to a rawhide lash. Someday, when you’re solving a crossword puzzle, you’ll thank me.

    [8] The most recent version of MS Word seems to have removed the feature that told us the percentage of passive sentences. I wrote this article using an older version, which I’m now reluctant to upgrade.

    [9] You don’t need to check the Flesch and F-K scores for everything you write. I suggest periodically estimating what the Flesch and F-K scores are for what you’ve written, and then checking to see how close you came. After a while, you’ll learn to get a good feeling for your writing’s reading ease.

    [10] Or, as Matthew Frederick says in his book 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, “If you can’t explain your topic in terms your grandmother would understand, you don’t really know it.”

    [11] I’ve made one change to the “standard” text to bring it to modern standards: In three places, Lincoln wrote “can not” instead of the modern one-word “cannot.” Oddly enough, no one is quite sure exactly what Lincoln said at Gettysburg; contemporary newspaper transcriptions differed, and Lincoln had several slightly different handwritten versions. The standard version is the last one Lincoln wrote (well after the dedication ceremony) and the only one he signed.

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    Liz O'Sullivan's Blog

     Comments From A Spec Writer

    Liz O'Sullivan's Blog

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    Educational Opportunities




    CONSTRUCT Education Sessions – What’s in it for you?


    Are you going to CONSTRUCT 2017 & The CSI Annual Convention?  If you aren’t it’s not too late to register.  If you are, there are some amazing education sessions planned.  No matter your role on the project team, with more than 40 education sessions to choose from, there are bound to be more than a few you’ll want to check out.   This year several members of the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council offered their thoughts for ‘can’t miss sessions.’ The list below contains only a fraction of the sessions offered. Click here to see the full schedule of sessions.










    Master Specifiers Retreat

    February 1-4, 2018 Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, Florida

    The CSI Master Specifiers Retreat is a hosted-buyer, three-day event for specifiers and architects who make product recommendations to meet with top product reps to learn and network. CSI’s Master Specifier Retreat (MSR) is an exclusive, by invitation-only event. Qualifying specifiers and architects, who are selected, attend free of charge. Learn more about this event.   Specifiers and product selection influencers who are selected for this event will attend free of charge.

    If you are interested in being considered, please complete the application by October 1, 2018.


    CSI on-Demand Webinars are education sessions that provide convenient, quality learning at an affordable price – you will be able to see materials, hear an instructor and earn continuing education credit. Courses qualify for Professional Development Hours (PDHs) and AIA Continuing Education Hours (CEHs). 

    CSI's Education Learning Levels

    Each session, webinar, or similar event offered through CSI's programming meets a specific level of education:

    Fundamental (100 Level): “Learn & Grasp”
    Attendees require little to no previous knowledge of the topic area. Participants will learn fundamental facts, terms, and basic principles and understand their meaning. These sessions inform using the “what, why, and how” approach.

    Intermediate (200 Level): “Apply & Organize”
    Attendees require basic knowledge and understanding of the topic area. Participants will be able to integrate knowledge into the context of practice by organizing, comparing, interpreting, and relating main ideas. These sessions are identified by key words including “execute, perform, and apply.”

    Advanced (300 Level): “Develop & Evaluate”
    Attendees require a working knowledge and considerable experience in the topic area. Participants will be able to analyze problems and evaluate new situations by combining acquired knowledge and techniques to generate solutions. These sessions are identified by key words including “develop, evaluate, and implement.”

    The cost per webinar is $55 for CSI members, or $75 for non-members -- join CSI now and save when you register for an on-demand webinar! 

    See the webinars available on demand!


    In addition to CSI Webinars, CSI has additional educational opportunities for members of the construction industry.

    For more information go to:

    The Construction Specifications Institute is a Registered Provider of American Institute of Architects Continuing Education System and United States Green Building Council Education Provider Network


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    Chapter Leadership



    Andy Garner, CSI, CDT 

     Immediate Past President

    George Ramsay, CSI, CCS, CCCA


    Cynthia Long, CSI, CDT 

     Vice President

    Kasey Howard, CSI

     Vice President

    Dave Rasmussen, CSI

     Vice President

    Jeremy Nordby, CSI

     Vice President

    Sandy McWilliams, CSI, LEED AP


    James Bergevin, CSI


    Mark McPherson, CSI, CDT


    Awards Committee

    Tohnya Adams, CSI-EP, Co-Chair

    Rick Nichols, CSI, Co-Chair

    Certification Committee

    Jerrilyn O'Brien, CSI, CDT, EIT, Co-Chair

     Communications Committee

    Keith Pashina, PE, CSI, Chair 


    To be determined

     Membership Committee

    Gary C. Patrick, CSI, AIA, RRC, Co-Chair

    Susan Lee, CSI, Co-Chair

    Programs Committee

    Brien DuRouche, CSI, Co-Chair

    Larry Lorbiecki, CSI-EP, AIA, Co-Chair

    Emerging Professionals/Student Affairs

    Hannah Fleischaker, CSI, Co-Chair

    Adrienne Rulseh, CSI, Co-Chair

    Annual Golf Outing

    Ryan Hallesy, CSI, Chair

    Chapter Administrator

     Vicky Olson, CSI, IntrinXec

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