January 2018 Newsletter Print

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The Newsletter of The Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter CSI       January 2018 

February Program 

High Design Meets Fast Turnaround: Lessons Learned

on a Small Design-Build Project


Presentation and Lunch Program

Monday, February 12, 2018


11:00 am - 1:15 pm


2801 Snelling Ave
Roseville, MN 55113 




11:00 am - 11:30 am / Registration & Socializing
11:30 am - 12:45 pm / Program Presentation
12:45 pm - 1:00pm / Lunch & Chapter Business


Note Program Presentation will be prior to lunch due to speakers prior obligations.


This program is a case study of a high-profile public project called The Horn, in Minneapolis. The Horn was designed in response to a competition soliciting a “one-of-a-kind, eye-catching branded monument” and was then delivered turn-key within an exceptionally short timeframe, which included just three weeks for procurement and fabrication of the welded structure and 15 weeks for overall fabrication and construction. In addition to these challenges, the project was subject to periodic review by a large public commission and was required to be made publicly accessible at several points during construction.


Because of the project’s high-profile, design-focused beginnings, which stretched structural capacities to their limits, the project had to forge a balance between project’s demanding requirements for delivery and the need for ongoing technical and design innovations. The entire team worked together to overcome the sometimes-conflicting priorities of design and delivery, learning valuable lessons along the way. This panel discussion includes insight in the areas of communications and design / fabrication technologies. The success of the final project showcases the success of these collaborations.


Main presentation points include:


    1. Compare how a design-build delivery method rooted in design-based competition differs from more traditional design-build projects.
    2. Identify specific contractual strategies that balance prior (competition-based) design commitments with the need to accommodate schedule and budget.
    3. Identify ways in which project priorities varied between team members and evaluate communication and management strategies aimed at bridging differences.
    4. Differentiate between 3-D modeling technologies with regard to their capacity to cross from design to fabrication.



Nina Ebbighausen received her architectural degree from Syracuse University and has practiced in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and across the United States. She has been practicing at Alliiance, an architectural firm in Minneapolis where she is a Senior Associate, and teaching design at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, where she is an Adjunct Associate Professor, since the beginning of 1999. Nina was the Project Manager in charge of the Minneapolis Central Library, designed in collaboration with Cesar Pelli. Her work has engaged aspects of urban design and digital fabrication as well, including her award-winning designs for the Xcel Energy Hiawatha West and Midtown Substation Enclosures. Most recently, Nina was a designer of The Horn sculpture at the main entrance of the new Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis, and served as its Project Architect during construction. Nina received a MN Young Architects Award in 2004 for her dedication to public work and outstanding involvement and leadership in architectural education.

Mike P. McGrath serves as President for MG McGrath. Crediting his father as his mentor, Mike began his career with MG McGrath sweeping warehouse floors at a young age. He eventually grew with the family business as an Apprentice, a Journeyman, a Foreman, and then a Project Manager, before assuming his responsibilities as President of Operations and the company’s visionary. Mike received his degree from the University of Minnesota Business in Business Administration SMW1A- 5 year COMP course. As President of MG McGrath, Mike P. McGrath is responsible for all aspects of the business. With over 20 years of hands-on experience, he is a transformational leader. His deft understanding of architectural metal, glass and glazing, building envelope design, and high volume operations has helped grow and develop MG McGrath’s teams and technologies in order to be able to take on bigger and more architecturally complex projects than ever before. With projects in motion from New York to Los Angeles, and in-between, Mike works closely with architects, contractors and clients. He is armed with the company’s belief that, with great people, you will get amazing results.


CSI-MSP Member = $0
Non-Member = $45.00


1 HSW-SD Credit applied for 




March Program: Construction Documentation using UAS (drones), photography, scanning and video and its impact on the construction community. 


March 12, 2018

11:30AM - 1:00PM


Meeting will be held at The Pourhouse, Lumber Exchange, 10 South 5th St., Minneapolis, MN 55402



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President's Message


President's Message

From the President........

Happy New year to everyone!! The Fiscal Year is half over and I am so proud to be e member of this chapter. Each and every member, committee, and board member is dedicated to keeping our chapter relevant and primed for future growth!

Before we look forward, let’s look at our previous few months. We’ve had great programs and lots of attendance and participation. Recently we had the Holiday Dinner Party. The event was well attended and most of all, our Toys for Tots campaign was very successful bringing some joy to the hearts of kids less fortunate. I have never been prouder to be a part of this organization, than when I saw all of the toys. Great job Members!!

Another awesome, truly unbelievable thing happened at the Holiday Dinner Party. Can you believe the PCM and the wonderful gift they gave our chapter? The membership of that organization voted to give our chapter $8,988! I was blown away! The Board of Directors have already begun discussions on how to use it in a thoughtful and charitable way. On behalf of the entire chapter, THANK YOU PCM for your generous gift!!

Now, looking ahead for the rest of the year. Shortly, our trip to Wood From The Hood Tour & Dinner will be held. More to come on that in the next Prez Message. Next our February meeting is all about “High Design Meets Fast Turnaround”, something we all have to deal with way too often. This is a luncheon at Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in Roseville.

Then we have the March Program, the April EXPO (watch for registration) and round it out with the Award’s Banquet. Conclude with the Golf Outing in June and now I’m feeling warmer already!

Last but certainly not least, the 60th Anniversary Party is moving ahead with a lot of energy. Venue is almost finalized, but too early to announce. We are planning fun events and have our Keynote Speaker, former WCCO News Anchor Mr. Don Shelby. It’s going to be a fun and interesting evening, as Don has been very public regarding his concern for the environment, global warming and Green Building Initiatives. Stay tuned……

The 60th Committee always can use more help. Please step up if you can and you will not regret it. The date is also set for September 20, 2018 and will be our 2018-2019 kick-off meeting.

Here’s wishing everyone a joyous and prosperous 2018!!!!

Stay warm!

See you soon!!



Andy Garner, CSI, CDT

Chapter President FY 2018




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New Member Spotlight







The Spotlight this month finally shines on Vicky Olson, who has managed to dodge the spotlight until now! Most of us are familiar with her through her role as Chapter Administrator, having received many friendly CSI email announcements and reminders from her. She really does prefer life behind the scenes though, supporting the workflow of organizations. 

Vicky joined IntrinXec Management in September 2016 as an Account Executive. IntrinXec assists our Board to run and manage the CSI Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter and also assists our volunteer committees. Prior to joining IntrinXec, Vicky served as the Client Project Manager-Strategic Accounts at Best Vendors Management for 8 years. Prior to that, she was Membership Relations Coordinator for the Minnesota Rural Electric Association. 

Q: Hi Vicky. So, we first met last fall when you attended our committee meeting after you took over for Emily Stoeckmann at IntrinXec. What are some of the things do you do for CSI? For example, I imagine you are at the computer a lot, composing and sending out emails? 

Vicky: I manage two associations for Intrinsic, CSI being one of them. I then co-manage a few other associations with another Account Executive. I do all kinds of things. . . with each day being very different from the previous one. 

Q: Such as? 

Vicky: I put together board packets, attend board meetings, maintain the membership information in databases/spreadsheets, setup registration, handle logistics pertaining to programs and events. I handle accounts payable, accounts receivable and anything else that will make the association's life a little easier. 

Q: Who do you get to work with at CSI? Who's the most fun? Is it George, the Prez, Jerry our VP, or the big guys from the Institute? 

Vicky: I get to work closely with the entire board, which has been a highlight of my short time here so far! 

Q: What's your impression of construction specifiers? 

Vicky: A very warm group of people that are passionate about their association! 

Q: Husband? Kids? Family? Pets? 

Vicky: Yes - husband Keith, daughter Jessica, son Derek, son Drew, and 3 grandchildren! Also a 22 pound Maine Coon cat named Teagan. 

Q: Where do you live? 

Vicky: New Brighton, MN




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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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ALEXANDRIA, VA – January 2, 2018 – Avitru (formerly ARCOM), the developer of MasterSpec® a trusted and comprehensive master guide specification system, joins the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) Corporate Partner Program (CPP) as a Silver Sponsor.

The relationship will give Avitru the opportunity to engage with CSI members, furthering Avitru’s goal of making specifiers more productive and efficient by providing intuitive, cloud-based tools for betterdecision making and collaboration.

“We believe that collaboration is the future of the AECO industry,” explained Jim Contardi, Chief Executive Officer of Avitru. “As the design and construction of buildings becomes increasingly complex, we need to unleash the innovation that comes from working together. At Avitru, we seek to use our position as trusted specification experts to capture and leverage this wisdom to help our users make better decisions through cloud-based technology, and we are thrilled to communicate with this audience through CSI.”

This partnership brings together Avitru and CSI as both organizations focus their efforts on leveraging technology, and providing technology and content leadership within the architectural and engineering communities.

“Customized, powerful marketing opportunities is a key benefit to companies who want to establish substantial and consistent connection with CSI members,” said Mark N. Dorsey, CSI’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited that Avitru is a sponsor because they share our view that technology is the key to bridging the gap between design and construction to make building more efficient. CSI members benefit from these high-profile relationships as CPP participants connect members to resources, education, and tools they need to be successful. CSI could not do what it does without their support.”

The CPP offers three levels of engagement - Platinum, Gold and Silver. Each level of the program includes participation in a Master Specifiers Retreat (MSR), CSI-sponsored events at CONSTRUCT, opportunities to present webinars, and access to CSI members through CSI’s social media marketing programs.

For more information on joining CSI’s Corporate Partner Program or other sponsor opportunities, please visit or contact Maureen Eyles at

About Avitru LLC

From conception to construction, AVITRU empowers architects, engineers, contractors and owners to make better, faster decisions. As the developer of MasterSpec®, a trusted and comprehensive master guide specification system, Avitru has leveraged its position in the market to launch a cloud-based platform that enables the collaborative exchange of expert knowledge to design, build, and operate a better built environment. With some of the most highly regarded experts in the industry, the Avitru team is committed to construct a world where better building leads to better lives. Previously known as ARCOM LLC, Avitru LLC is a portfolio company of Alpine Investors and a strategic partner of the American Institute of Architects. Follow the company @avitrusoftware and learn more at

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The 2018 Region Conference will be in Duluth, Minnesota,  April 12, 2018 through April 14, 2018, visit the website for further information!


Read the North Central Region Newsletter!

see the link below

North Central Region Newsletter


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Specific Thoughts


Wayward websites

There's often a lag between the time something new comes along and the time it is fully incorporated into our lives or work. When websites first came online, in the mid-'90s, they had obvious potential but companies weren't sure what to do with them. As I recall, many of them focused on the history of the company, stocks and market activity, and various other things useless to most visitors. The content was what the company owner thought was interesting; it was not what the prospective customers needed. 

At the time, there wasn't much in the way of instruction for web designers and there were few rules about how to make a website work or what it should be. An architecture firm in my area had a beautiful website, graced by one the firm's most impressive projects. The problem was, it took forever to load. I analyzed the code and the files, and discovered they were using a huge image file. They apparently didn't know that there usually is no discernible difference between an image file of a few kilobytes and the same image in a two-megabyte file.
Eventually, website designers grew familiar with HTML and the way web pages should be formatted, companies learned what users wanted, and users learned how to search websites to find what they wanted. Even though most websites weren't perfect and many had serious problems, websites became much better and continued to evolve. 

And then, along came mobile devices. At first there were few problems, but in typical fashion, the more people used their smartphones, the more they expected from them, and the more they became like miniature computers, able to do most of what their larger cousins were able to do. Unfortunately, their size - the very thing that made them so useful and contributed to their rapid growth - limited the amount of information they displayed. Monitors had been growing in size for many years, and software was written to take advantage of the available space. Despite the obvious limitations of a small screen, users demanded that websites be fully functional on a smart phone, and website designers did what they could to make everything available to this new market. 

All that makes sense, but instead of making everything work, computer and software designers merely moved the problem from one machine to another. The first image in this article is a screen capture from my iPhone. It's close to actual size, so you can imagine that it isn't easy to work with. The picture can be resized, though, making it easy to access the various options. The same image on my desk monitor fills the screen from top to bottom. All of the twenty-one links to other information are large enough to read, and all are visible at the same time.

I've been using multiple monitors for a few years, and I've found that I have not yet reached the point where I have enough of them. I used two (the notebook monitor plus one external monitor) for a few years, and acquired a third this summer. It's so much easier to work when several documents or programs can be displayed at once, rather than having to continually pull one on top of the others!

The result of these changing technologies is that I finally have about as much monitor area as I want, but because of the drive toward miniaturization, that space is poorly used by today's software. Here's a picture of my monitors: 
Both are 24-inch monitors, with a viewing area 20-1/2 inches wide by 16 inches tall. That's 164 square inches, or 1.14 square feet per monitor. Total: 2.28 square feet. My iPhone has a screen that is 2-1/2 inches wide by 4 inches tall, total area 10 square inches, or 0.07 square feet. 

Now look at the websites on my monitors. Notice the inefficient use of more than two square feet to show two nearly full-screen images and a handful of words. That may work on my iPhone, assuming I wanted to try to use it to read large quantities of information, but it makes no sense on a standard monitor. 

You might be inclined to dismiss this problem, knowing that it's easy to scroll down or choose a menu option. That would be fine, but the same format typically is used throughout the website. So, instead of being able to read a reasonable amount of text on that big monitor, the user is forced to scroll through huge graphics and choose options presented in oversized icons. Here are two more examples that show how something designed for a tiny screen makes no sense on a monitor. 

I can easily display two Word files on a single screen with a font size even I can read without my glasses, a total of about 1,000 words. With websites like those illustrated here, I might see as only much as 100 words plus a few icons on the entire screen!

Other irritating features of many sites are the pop-up and drop-down screens that often conceal much of the information that was present. Some of these suddenly appear or disappear as the cursor is moved, while others hang on until the cursor is moved to another place. 

The crazy thing is that many of these probably are award-winning websites. They can be beautiful, and the bells and whistles can be interesting, but instead of helping the user, they present more obstacles to finding useful information. In a way, they're like magazine architecture. Lots of wow factor, with function as an afterthought. 

There are ways that websites can detect what device you're using and modify the website content to fit. In fact, the Clarus and Deko websites use this technology. If you visit those sites, you'll see that the arrangement and size of the things you see will change as you shrink or expand the browser window. Unfortunately, the font size appears to be fixed, and while some images will change size, there seems to be a lower limit, and the sizes of many icons are fixed. So, despite the flexibility, the information density is high only on mobile devices, and what is seen on a large monitor is mostly empty space. 

For an interesting discussion of current website layout, see

What has your experience been? Do you find yourself doing a lot more scrolling and searching now? How often do you look for product information with a smartphone instead of a computer? Do you write or read specifications on a smartphone?

© 2018, Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

Reposted with permission from Sheldon Wolfe's blog, Constructive Thoughts,  Wayward Websites




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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information


by Edward R. Tufte


Perhaps it's an unlikely subject for those of us in the design and construction industry, but The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is nevertheless a useful and beautifully designed and printed book on the subject of graphs and charts that each of us encounter every day.  For certain, the subject wasn't attractive to publishers when the author approached with his manuscript so he ended up publishing the book himself.  What a mistake that was for those who refused him!  When it was published in 1983 the book received outstanding reviews, (the Boston Globe described it as a "visual Strunk and White"), and since then it has sold enough copies to make the author a wealthy man and led Tufte to write and publish two additional books on similar topics.  His cottage industry has attracted not only statistical people and academics, but also graphic designers, artists, and at least one architect.


Statistics, of one sort or another have been around almost since people starting counting. Statistical graphics, the use of abstract drawings to represent numbers, didn't begin to appear until the 2nd half of the 18th Century.  In 1786 the English economist William Playfair was the first to published a graph.  It displayed the value of English exports and imports, (plotted on the "Y" axis), against time, (on the "X" axis).  In so doing his time-series plot did what all good data graphics should do.  It made a large set of numbers easily understandable at a glance and at the same time it drew the observer into the graph for a more detailed examination of the numbers behind the data.  Also in 1786, Playfair created and published the first  bar chart.  Although useful, he thought this was an inferior graphic when compared to the time-series chart since it could only display information at one period in time.


By the middle of the 19th Century statistical graphics flourished in Europe. In 1869 Charles Minard created a masterpiece, a combined time-series and space-time graphic showing the demise of Napoleon's army in 1812 during its march from Poland to Moscow and back. (A copy is included at the end of this article.)  This multi-variate graphic uses a map as its base to show the route of the march, the casualties experienced by the army along the way, (indicated by the diminishing width of the line on the route), the calendar time depicted on the "X" axis along with the winter temperatures they encountered, shown on the "Y" axis.  Another beautiful data-map, also designed by Minard, displayed both the magnitude and the destination of French wine exports for the year 1864 using the width of the line to show the volume of wine in the direction of its destination.  In 1885 the Frenchman, E.J. Marey, devised a graphical time table for a line on the French railway showing each station on the line on the "Y" axis and the arrival and departure times along the "X" axis.  The slope of the lines between the stations was an indication of the relative speed of the train.  In each of these graphics the data were presented with clarity, precision, simplicity, and requiring very little text to explain a large amount of data.


When considering a presentation of data, the first decision for the designer to make is whether or not a graphic is necessary. In cases where the data set is small it is better understood and more efficiently presented in a simple numerical table.  When there is a large amount of data, a graphic is preferable.  Tufte uses several example graphics to illustrate his "keep it simple" approach to design.  For graphics to illustrate large data sets, he emphasizes the importance of design "efficiency", the ratio of ink used for data as opposed to ink used for non-data embellishments, "chartjunk", as he calls it.  The closer this ratio is to 1.0, the more efficient the design, and therefore the clearer the graphic will be.  No amount of decoration can save a graphic if the data set presented is thin, and worse, the non-data ink is likely to confuse the viewer.


He also presents graphs published in several national newspapers where the data are distorted in subtle ways and, as a result, the graphic is subject to misinterpretation. Changing the scale within a graph is one way this can be done.  Using perspective to create a more "dynamic" graph can also lead to distortion and misunderstanding the data.  Likewise, presenting only a portion of the data can lead the viewer to an incomplete, or incorrect, conclusion.  This is especially an issue when, for example, year to year governmental spending is shown without adjusting the figures for inflation or when the figures are not shown on a per-capita basis.


The final chapter presents techniques to achieve aesthetically pleasing data graphic designs. Example graphics are used to show how proportion and scale, line weight and lettering can be used along with words and numbers to make complex data accessible to the viewer.


In two additional books, published in 1990 and 1997, Tufte continued his presentation of graphic design theory and its applications to different subjects and in various printed formats. The books are Envisioning Information , Narratives of Space and Time and Visual Explanations, Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative.  Both of these books are richly illustrated, beautifully designed and printed, and expand on the ideas introduced in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.


The author, Edward Tufte, is a professor at Yale University where he teaches statistics, political economy, and graphic design.  The book has 196 illustration filled pages and was published in 1983 by his publishing company, The Graphics Press.




Los Angeles, Dec. 20, 2017

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The Seven Not-So-Deadly Sins of Punctuation

Bill Schmalz, FAIA, CSI

Ever notice how many things come in sevens? We have the seven continents [1], seven seas, seven days of the week, Snow White’s seven dwarves, seven colors of a rainbow [2], George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” [3], The Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, The Seven Year Itch, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And speaking of movie sevens, we can’t forget Se7en, with its grisly depiction of the seven famous deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride [4]. So today we’re going to talk about seven other sins, just as vile and lethal as Se7en’s seven: The Seven Deadly Sins of Punctuation!

Hmm …

Okay, maybe that’s getting a little carried away. After all, I doubt that bad punctuation has ever killed anyone [5]. Instead, let’s call these the “seven not-so-deadly sins of punctuation.” And what makes these punctuation sins so bad? It’s not just that every authority on English writing agrees that they’re mistakes, but also because when we commit them, either through carelessness or ignorance, we risk sending a message to our readers that we’re either careless or ignorant, and neither message is good. We want all of our writing, even our lowly punctuation, to give our readers a good impression of us.

#1: Redundant Colons and Verbs

Not-So-Deadly Sin: The seven deadly sins are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

When we use a colon (:) to introduce a list (as in the sentence above), the colon replaces a verb, such as are, is, has, or includes. Having a colon and a verb in such sentences is redundant. The sentence works just fine (and correctly) as The seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. Or, alternatively, The seven classic deadly sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. [6]

It’s not only verbs that colons replace. For example, in this sentence—Top contractors agree: the difference is clear—the colon is replacing the word that, so it would also be wrong to write this: Top contractors agree that: the difference is clear.

#2: Semicolons Introducing Lists

Not-So-Deadly Sin: The seven deadly sins; lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

In certain situations, colons and semicolons (;) are almost interchangeable, but not when introducing lists. Using a semicolon to introduce a list, as in the sentence above, is always wrong. If we desperately want to use a semicolon, we can rephrase the sentence: There are seven deadly sins; they are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. But this, while not wrong, is wordy and wants to be edited into something shorter.

#3: Four-or-More-Dot Ellipses

Not-So-Deadly Sin: But this ........ wants to be edited into something shorter.

When we remove words from a direct quote, we insert an ellipsis (…) to show where we’ve removed the words. In our example above, we’ve removed “, while not wrong, is wordy and” from the sentence. But an ellipsis, by definition, consists of three closely spaced dots, with a standard space at either end, and not, as in the example, eight dots. The sentence should be written as But this … wants to be edited into something shorter.

Ellipses are also used to hesitantly end a sentence (I put that submittal somewhere …). Again, just three dots. [7]

#4: Unseparated Appositives

Not-So-Deadly Sin: Meiling Chan, the project designer is the featured speaker about project delivery.

Sometimes when we talk about a person, a place, or a thing, we add a little extra information that’s useful, but not necessary. That extra bit is called an appositive [8]. In the sentence above, “the project designer” is an appositive referring to Meiling Chan. It’s useful information, since it gives Ms. Chan more credibility as a speaker, but it’s not essential. Without it, the sentence is still conveying the same core information (Meiling Chan is the featured speaker). To alert our readers that the appositive is another way of describing her, it must be separated by commas at both ends from the rest of the sentence:

Meiling Chan, the project designer, is the featured speaker about project delivery.

The same is true if the person’s name is followed by an alphabet soup of memberships and certifications, whether just one (Meiling Chan, AIA, is the featured speaker) or many (Meiling Chan, AIA, AAAE, CSI, LEED AP, DBIA, ACHA, is the featured speaker).

#5: Apostrophes for Plurals

Not-So-Deadly Sin: RFI’s, ASI’s, and CCD’s are often used during construction.  

Apostrophes have two primary uses: to show possession or relationship (e.g., Hugo’s RFI response was confusing, but he said the RFI’s wording was confusing.) or for contractions (e.g., I can’t answer the RFI until it’s been sensibly rewritten.). It shouldn’t be used to show plurals except for individual letters (e.g., I got two A’s, two B’s, and three C’s on my report card.). This exception avoids confusion; without an apostrophe, the plurals of A (or a), I (or i), and U (or u) would look like the words As, as, Is, is, Us, and us. But apostrophes shouldn’t be used for any other plurals, so the example above should be RFIs, ASIs, and CCDs are often used during construction. Also, plurals of numerals and years don’t need apostrophes (e.g., The 2010s have, so far, been a weird decade.

Intermission: A Few Words about American and British Punctuation

Since separating politically 234 years ago [9], the United States and the United Kingdom have also been drifting apart physically (by around 30 feet) as well as linguistically. Most of us are familiar with the different spellings (e.g., color vs. colour) and vocabularies (e.g., elevator vs. lift), but punctuation also has gone in different directions. As a result, we have American English (AE) and British English (BE) versions for the last two not-so-deadly sins. [10]

#6: Double and Single Quotation Marks    

Not-So-Deadly Sin (AE):Henry asked, ‘Which scheme did the client prefer?’

Not-So-Deadly Sin (BE):Henry asked, “Which scheme did the client prefer?”

In AE, double quotation marks are standard, while in BE, single quotation marks are standard. Thus, the sentences above should be (in AE) “Which scheme did the client prefer?” and (in BE) ‘Which scheme did the client prefer?’ In other words, they are the opposite of each other, quotation-mark-wise.

For writers of AE, here’s something else to remember: Double quotation marks are standard no matter how short the quoted text. Double quotation marks are correctly used in this sentence: Did the client prefer Scheme “A” or Scheme “B”?

When quoted text is nested within quoted text, AE uses single quotation marks for the nested text, while BE uses double quotation marks:

(AE) Henry asked, “Did the client prefer Scheme ‘A’ or Scheme ‘B’?”

(BE) Henry asked, ‘Did the client prefer Scheme “A” or Scheme “B”?’

#7: Commas, Periods, and Quotation Marks

Not-So-Deadly Sin (AE): Julio told us that the client liked Scheme “A”, but preferred Scheme “B”.

Not-So-Deadly Sin (BE): Julio told us that the client liked Scheme ‘A,’ but preferred Scheme ‘B.’

AE and BE position commas and periods differently relative to closing quotation marks. We’ll start with AE, because the rule is simple: With very few exceptions, always place commas and periods inside (i.e., to the left of) a closing quotation mark. Since the exceptions are rarely encountered [11], if you always follow this rule, you will almost always be right.

Julio told us that the client liked Scheme “A,” but preferred Scheme “B.”

This even applies if you have multiple quotation marks piled up at the end of a sentence:

Julio said, “The client liked Scheme ‘A,’ but preferred Scheme ‘B.’”

I know this doesn’t make sense, since neither the comma nor the period have anything to do with the quoted text, but we who write in AE should be thankful, because we don’t have to think about where to put the commas and periods; they always go inside the closing quotation marks. The BE way, on the other hand, is also called the logical system because it does make sense. It’s also harder to explain and takes more thought.

Using BE, the commas and periods usually fall outside (i.e., to the right) of closing quotation marks:

           Julio told us that the client liked Scheme ‘A’, but preferred Scheme ‘B’.

However, if a sentence-ending period is part of the quoted text, then it falls to the left of the quotation mark. In the next example, the comma is outside the “A” quotation marks, while the period, which belongs with Julio’s statement, falls outside the “B” quotation marks but inside the sentence-ending quotation mark:

Julio said, ‘The client liked Scheme “A”, but preferred Scheme “B”.’

To complicate things, sometimes Americans do it sort of the British way [12]. Wikipedia, for example, uses the American system of prioritizing double quotation marks, but the British system for placing commas and periods relative to quotation marks. And even British publications vary in how they apply the BE standard [13]. All this is only about periods and commas; colons and semicolons belong outside the quotation marks on both sides of the Atlantic.

Go, and Sin No More

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that all punctuation is governed by strict, unbending rules. Quite the opposite is true: A lot of punctuation is determined by style decisions that can vary among publishers, editors, and writers. But each of these seven not-so-deadly punctuation sins is universally recognized by writing authorities as a mistake. And while none of them may be literally fatal, they can still hurt us. For documents, such as resumes and proposals, that can affect our careers or our businesses, these kinds of mistakes can make the difference between getting the job and being tossed in the reject pile. And for contracts or specifications, the consequences can be worse: An incorrect punctuation mark can result in a costly ambiguity. On the other hand, in casual emails and text messages to friends, these sins are easily overlooked. So, as with all our writing, we have to consider who is likely to read it. However, if there is any chance that our punctuation will matter, then we want to avoid these sins.

Follow the author on Twitter @bill_schmwil.


[1] Even as a kid, I thought geography books’ insistence on calling Europe and Asia separate continents rather arbitrary. Is there is a size limit on continents, I wondered, and Eurasia is just too big?

[2] It was Isaac Newton who codified red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet as a rainbow’s seven colors, but he may have decided on seven more because of the number’s importance to ancient Greek philosophers than because he saw seven distinct colors. As another Isaac—Asimov—has said, “It has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color.” In fact, the bands of colors we seem to see in a rainbow are the result of our minds trying to make sense of a continuous gradation of color.

[3] And now we can add the seven words the Centers for Disease Control have been prohibited from saying or writing: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based.

[4] This specific list of seven sins is not found in the Bible. It wasn’t until 590 CE that Pope Gregory I took a bunch of earlier sin lists (which included, in addition to the big seven, despair, dejection, and boasting) and created the modern list.

[5] Or maybe it has:

[6] Things get trickier when introducing a list of bulleted items. Is the following example right or wrong?

The seven deadly sins are

  • lust,

  • gluttony,

  • greed,

  • sloth,

  • wrath,

  • envy, and

Because this list is written as a sentence, with the bulleted items listed vertically instead of horizontally, it could be punctuated as if it were a sentence (i.e., no colon), as recommended by the authoritative Chicago Manual of Style. But so many writers, even in professionally edited books, use the colon after the verb that it’s now a matter of choice. To avoid controversy, you can rephrase the introductory statement (punctuating the list as a sentence is optional):

The seven deadly sins are as follows:

  • lust 

  • gluttony

  • greed

  • sloth

  • wrath

  • envy

  • pride

[7] Making ellipses using Microsoft Word is easy. Just type three periods, and it will make a linked three-dot ellipsis for you.

[8] There’s no quiz, so you don’t need to remember appositive. If you understand the concept, you don’t need the word.

[9] The 13 colonies may have considered themselves independent in 1776, but it wasn’t until the 1783 Treaty of Paris that the United Kingdom recognized the United States as an independent nation.

[10] Canadian English generally follows AE’s punctuation conventions, while Australian and New Zealander English generally follow BE’s conventions.

[11] One exception we may occasionally encounter: When giving someone editing instructions for contracts, what falls inside quotation marks should be exactly what is to be revised. For example, if I want to revise the previous sentence, I might write, Instead of “contracts”, write “agreements”. If I put the comma and period inside the quotation marks (Instead of “contracts,” write “agreements.”), my instruction, followed exactly, would result in this incorrect sentence: When giving someone editing instructions for agreements. what falls inside quotation marks should be exactly what is to be revised.

[12] You might be thinking that the British have always punctuated as they do now, and it was the rebellious Americans who abandoned the mother country’s ways, but it’s not so simple. In fact, the difference in punctuation can be blamed on (or credited to, depending on how you see things) one man. Once upon a time, until the late 1800s, British and Americans were punctuating as Americans do now, using double quotation marks and putting commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. Then, in 1893, Horace Hart, Oxford University’s printer, published his Rules for Compositors and Readers at the University Press Oxford, which included—for the university’s publications—what are now the British punctuation standards. The book was quickly and tremendously influential—in the United Kingdom. Americans, on the other hand, collectively said, “Never mind. We’ll just keep doing things the way we always have,” leaving us with two punctuation systems. Which is better? Each has something going for it. The British way of starting with single quotation marks takes up slightly less space, while the placement of commas and periods makes sense. The American way of using double quotation marks keeps readers from confusing closing quotation marks with apostrophes (Did Lisa say, ‘The girls’ restroom is painted the same color as the boys’’?), and while the placement of commas and periods may be illogical, it tightens up the text. Plus you don’t have to think about where to put them.

[13] Sometimes, even the British are confused by the British way of punctuating. See this article from the British newspaper The Guardian:

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Continuing Education: Confusion at the Bottom Line

Michael D. Chambers FCSI FAIA CCS

Continuing education for design professionals is arguably the most effective and powerful marketing opportunity available to construction product manufacturers in North America.  However, there appears to be some confusion as to what continuing education is supposed to accomplish.  In my opinion and experience, continuing education can bring three things to the bottom line.  First is brand recognition, second is getting specified, and third is holding specifications against non-competitive substitutions. 

There is a bizarre notion that manufacturers provide continuing education out of the goodness of their hearts for the benefit of design professionals. Or worse, manufacturers think that continuing education is a perfect tool to sell product to design professionals.  Is there any wonder why local AIA components and a growing number of large design firms no longer allow manufacturers to present programs?

Unless manufacturers can begin to bring excellent programs to the design professionals, the opportunity inherent in continuing education is going to be lost.

Brand Recognition

One of the most powerful and least understood aspects of continuing education is brand recognition. The biggest issue I see here is that manufacturers do not understand how to brand with education. Successful branding is never about logos or products; it is about high quality education that speaks directly to the audience and provides solutions to design and construction issues.  It is never about product, never, never, never. 

A high quality program designed for adult learners, presented by qualified, knowledgeable product representatives is the best possible branding opportunity. At the level of design professionals, people brand manufacturers far more effectively than product advertising and the like.  Product representatives must be knowledgeable not only about their products but about the industry and most importantly about the competition.  

In this same regard, presentation skills are even more critical than product knowledge. A poor presentation will trash a brand faster than anything.  Product representatives must be good presenters and have the ability to make effective presentations.

An excellent education program presented by a professional product representative can have an incredible impact on the bottom line by providing usable information and identifying the “go to” resource for the design professionals.

Getting Specified

One of the things that I can not understand about 95% of the continuing education programs I have endured is that no one ever talks about specifications. In the final result, where do products get listed? In the specifications!  If a manufacturer wants to be specified competitively they must educate the design professionals about how (generically) products are specified, identify critical competitive issues, and demonstrate how an appropriate specification should be written.

All the product information, literature, and samples in the world are useless unless the design professionals understand how to integrate them into their documents. Design integration is handled by details.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have encountered design and installation details in a continuing education program. 

Product integration is handled in the specifications. While having a guide specification is a good thing, most design professionals still do not know how to adequately or appropriately use a guide specification to modify or revise their documents.  Specification issues and examples must be a part of every continuing education program.

Getting specified is the acknowledged bottom line with design professionals. Therefore a successful continuing education program must educate design professional in how to appropriately and competitively specify and detail products and assemblies for their projects.  Getting specified is the bottom line, period.

Eliminating Substitutions

In my experience, the number one reason for “successful” substitutions is lack of education on the design professional’s part. Design professionals must deal with hundreds of products and assemblies on each project and when the contractor comes along with a “less expensive but better” product it can be next to impossible for the design professional to rebut.  Poor substitution approvals almost always are made because of lack of education and knowledge on the part of the design professionals.

If you want to eliminate or at least minimize substitutions make certain that critical industry and competitive issues are covered in the continuing education programs. This does not mean that you trash the competition or talk specifically about products.  This means that you educate the design professionals about critical industry issues that affect your products and explain the types of competitive issues and problems that may occur.

Preventing non-competitive substitutions is critical to everyone’s bottom line. Educated and knowledgeable design professionals working with industry professional product representatives can eliminate the majority of poor substitutions by being knowledgeable about issues and being confident enough in the information to stand up to the contractor.

Bottom Line

Educate design professionals how to solve problems in an industry acceptable and standard way that is recognized and used by the majority of the competition. Educate design professionals how to specify products appropriately.  It has to be drawn and specified correctly or you have completely wasted your educational efforts.

Harness the branding power of education and you will get specified, sideline substitutions, and have great competitive advantage.

* * * * *

Michael D. Chambers FAIA FCSI CCS is Associate Vice President, Senior Project Specifier, and QA Manager for HGA Architects and Engineers’ 4 California offices and principal of MCA Specifications.

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Educational Opportunities



April 26-27, 2018 | Chicago, IL

Sharpen your skills in construction risk identification, assessment, mitigation, and monitoring by joining your peers at the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) Academy on April 26 and 27 in Chicago. Learn from subject matter experts and share your experiences through highly interactive online and in-person sessions. This one-and-a-half-day conference features two tracks of focused educational content - Project Conception and Project Execution.


  • Expand your working knowledge of every step in construction risk management
  • Understand the fundamentals of construction risk and how it affects different project phases
  • Develop real-world strategies for addressing risk management in your projects, from risk identification and assessment to methods of mitigation and monitoring existing risks



  • Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals
  • Individuals who are new to risk management
  • Individuals who are implementing a risk management plan
  • Individuals who wish to be familiarized with the general terminology and best practices



Registration is open to industry professionals, with discounts for CSI Members. Early registration will open on January 9, 2018. Space is limited.

                        Early (1/9-2/15)      Regular (2/16-4/18)       

Member             $695                        $795

Non-member     $970                        $1,070

As part of the registration fee, participants will receive forms, templates, and risk management plan materials developed specifically for the Academy and up to 12 professional development hours (PDHs) towards CSI certification renewal.

The CSI Academy is produced in conjunction with the CSI Chicago Chapter. We hope to see you there!

Click here for more information and to register CSI Academy


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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