Construction Specifications, Certifications & the In-House Spec Writer

An experienced, well-rounded architect knows that good architecture goes beyond design itself. Successful buildings – those that serve their occupants well and are constructed of high-quality materials able to stand the test of time – incorporate the specialized expertise of a specifications writer. An often overlooked and increasingly outsourced position, the spec writer is an invaluable member of the in-house design team. In this post, Associate Principal Alexander Lungershausen, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, LEED BD+C, explains the role of the construction specifications writer, the benefits of having in-house expertise, and yes, what all the letters after his name actually mean.

 

How/why did you become involved in CSI Portland?

As an architect, I’ve always had an inherent interest in the technical aspects of the profession and how they influence design. I was originally educated in Germany, where the technical side of this industry is as highly regarded and taught as the artistic side. In 2001, a colleague in the office where I was working invited everyone to attend technical presentations put on by CSI Portland. I began to attend these presentations regularly, and eventually became the specifications writer at that firm. I also became more and more involved with CSI, becoming a committee leader and then a board member. While drawings tell you where elements are in a building’s design, specifications tell you what  those elements are. Specifications control the quality and the workmanship in the execution of a project.  A building that is assembled well performs well, which leads to return commissions.

In-house specifications writer at Hennebery Eddy Architects examining architectural drawings at a desk.

 

What led to you pursue certification as a CCS and CCCA?

Initially I became a Certified Document Technologist (CDT). That certification demonstrates an understanding of the documents and the relationships between all the parties who are involved in the construction of a project. Passing the CDT exam is a prerequisite for CSI’s advanced certifications.

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Interning at Hennebery Eddy Architects: Spotlight on Peter Harrison

Design intern Peter Harrison joined Hennebery Eddy Architects this summer from Utah State University, where he is earning a Bachelors of Interior Design. Passionate about sustainable design, he plans to relocate to Portland, Ore., after graduation. Below, he shares his path to studying interior design and highlights from his internship.

I’ve grown up with a strong passion for design and sustainability, which led me to explore the field of architecture and design. During high school, I took an internship course where I shadowed architects, marketers, landscape architects, and interior designers at MHTN Architects in Salt Lake City, Utah. This experience confirmed my desire to pursue a design degree and attend the highly acclaimed interior design program at Utah State University.

At Utah State, I have gained a wide variety of skills, both design and technical. My coursework has included commercial and residential design, materials, Revit and AutoCAD, architectural systems and code knowledge, sustainable design, as well as a strong emphasis on the fundamental principles and elements of design. I expanded my understanding of sustainable design by participating in the Utah State student chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. One of the requirements for my program is that I gain professional field experience by completing an internship between my junior and senior year. Since I care deeply about sustainable design, I applied for internships in Portland, Oregon, a natural choice for this market sector. I knew I wanted to be at a mid-sized commercial architectural firm where I could see myself working after graduating.

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Sleeping Pod Initiative

No one can deny that Hennebery Eddy design staff member John Maternoski is involved in Portland’s architecture community. A 2014 graduate of the University of Oregon, John has worked with Habitat for Humanity, the AIA, and the Construction Specifications Institute. In Portland alone, he is on the board of directors of the Center for Architecture, he co-chairs the AIA Portland Emerging Professionals Committee, is a member of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon and Design Museum Portland, and volunteers with other organizations around the city. In fact, he’s so involved that he started the Portland Design Events website to help the community keep track of it all. “I’ve volunteered a lot for the architecture profession,” says John, “but I hadn’t spent as much time using my architecture skills for those outside the industry.”

This fall, the City of Portland Mayor’s Office, the Center for Public Interest Design (CIPD) at Portland State University, the Village Coalition (a group of advocates, activists, and houseless individuals committed to combatting homelessness), City Repair, Communitecture, and Open Architecture Collaborative formed the Partners on Dwelling (POD) initiative and invited the design community to design and build small, beautiful and safe dwellings. The completed pods would be displayed in downtown Portland and then used this winter at Hazelnut Grove, a houseless village in North Portland. John joined his friends Julia Mollner and Nada Maani to form a team, giving them all an opportunity to put their skills to use with an immediate, tangible outcome.

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Amsterdam: The Architectural Eccentricities of a Beautiful City

By Monica Mader, Associate AIA

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Canal Houses, a typical Amsterdam photo op

Amsterdam has an innate ability to whisk away any heart fond of architecture. As young, aspiring architects, my significant other and I found ourselves lost in a labyrinth of canals, cooing over modern gems, and reeling at construction dates from bygone eras. The prestigious lineup, featuring work from Renzo Piano, Stephen Holl, MVRDV and 3XN, intermixed into the historic city fabric was the perfect potion for a surreal experience. Attempting to demystify the charm Amsterdam placed upon us, I inevitably did my architecture research to pinpoint those attributes.

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Geoffrey Bawa and the Architecture of Sri Lanka

By Will Ives, Associate AIA

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Like most who work in the practice of architecture, I see travel as an opportunity to expand and enrich my perspective on design. Books, magazines, and blogs all have their place, but nothing is quite like setting out into the world to discover new sources of inspiration. Unlike Europe or frequently visited Asian countries, Sri Lanka has few widely known landmarks – modern or otherwise – which allowed me to explore with no preconceived images in my mind. From an architectural perspective, my recent trip to Sri Lanka was as unique a travel experience as I’ve ever had.

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