The Collaborative Drive of CSI Grand Rapids

Apr 14, 2022 | Community, News

The Collaborative Drive of CSI Grand Rapids has led to better programming, events, and trainings for their members.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A question asked of many in life. Some may be still asking the question. Some may be on a path toward their answer, and some may already be there. Outside of the proverbial sailboat and sunset-type retirement, almost all stages of ‘what you want to be’ requires growth. Growth in relationships, growth in self-development, growth in understanding and growth in KNOWLEDGE. Common to all, one could argue, is the need to be relevant beyond the screen, one’s home, or one’s own self. This is not to say that people are incapable of finding happiness through their own volition, rather that most people need others to grow. Others in the form of experiential wisdom, mentorship, trends, advances, friendships, motivation, laughter, failure, success, knowledge, and more. People need people, and to know one another, you need a community of folks that are committed to you and what you want to be. That connection is why professional organizations, when done well, are such a value-add to anyone, regardless of career stage, looking for growth.

Over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of what many call the fourth industrial revolution, a byproduct of the rapid advancement inherent the digital age. In the midst of this revolution sits a construction industry that operates today very similarly to 50 years ago. While we have certainly seen product advancements and the incorporation of digital technologies, one can certainly make the argument that great change could be in store for the construction industry and how it operates.

Touching on these concepts, industry CEOs at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos were polled on what they felt were the most pressing needs for our industry moving forward. 74% placed emphasis on new talent and improving the skills of our current workforce. 65% felt that integration and collaboration along the industry value-chain is most needed. While 61% felt the greatest needs lie with adopting advanced technologies at scale. (World Economic Forum Report: The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about to hit the construction industry. Here’s how it can thrive (June 13, 2018)).

Regardless of how anyone sees it, we should all be able to recognize the importance of collaboration amongst construction industry professionals alike. Contractors, manufacturers/reps, architects/engineers/designers, and others must be more connected than ever should major change be coming. In fact, take the revolution out of it. A few years back, ABC Young Professionals gathered a group of West Michigan’s top foreman and superintendents for a Q&A session. When asked what the greatest need is on any given project to ensure success, the panel’s answers were consensus: greater collaboration across all project roles on the front-end.

The negative impact from lack of collaboration is evident in the numbers when looking specifically at an area within the construction industry that needs improvement and certainly signals demand for participation within its professional networks. Perhaps one of the greatest hardships in the world of construction is rework. While rework ultimately gets tossed into the general ‘losses’ column of a company’s books, a closer look reveals that it accounts for roughly $280 billion globally — $31 billion in the US alone. It is said that 52% of rework is the byproduct of poor project data and communication. (FMI and Plangrid). This problem will not be resolved by any one group within the construction industry; rather, it requires the collective effort of passionate professionals who share common goals.

As the premier professional organization serving as the bedrock for ethics and integrity tied to every product and practice used in the built environment, The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) has been the gold-standard platform since its inception in 1948. At CSI Grand Rapids, we have been on a mission to deliver a social-educational construct that creates value for our industry, our communities, and especially to our membership, which is comprised of architects (35%), contractors (20%), manufacturing representatives (35%), and facility managers and educators (5%).

In 2019, we polled our membership on what they wanted most in return from their membership in our chapter, and they responded with: Networking, Education, and Fun. Looking at these results as a collective board, much discussion took place on how we could best provide value to our members wants while maintaining a commitment to the ideal of continuous development of the procedures and rules governing project delivery processes. Many initiatives resulted, but great focus was placed on programming and communication.

On the programming side of things, we looked toward CSI-GR communities for engagement with (i) construction masterpieces, (ii) cutting edge manufacturing of products, (iii) leading experts of industry, and (iv) our people.

As a chapter, we have been touring some of the most advanced project builds in the world allowing our members to see some of today’s modern marvels, such as The Grand Rapids Research Center, a bio-research facility that is working on solving health challenges tied to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, women’s health, and cancer, Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, one of the nation’s premier horticultural and artistic experiences, and Switch Grand Rapids – The Pyramid, a world renowned data center design housing technology solution ecosystems.

We have toured multiple manufacturing facilities learning about the detail and coordination behind the creation and procurement of Bouma Pre-fab’s prefabricated wall panels, Kerkstra’s cast-in-place concrete products, and Pre-Bucks engineered framing systems, to name a few.

We have placed great emphasis on our member relations. With so much talent present in our chapter, we have looked to highlight our people in a variety of ways. Roles, services, and offerings have been showcased through our 21 for 21 event where participants present 21 slides to the audience with each slide advancing every 21 seconds. CEU credits are earned as we listen to presentations on leading industry topics; perhaps the greatest part of this format is the perspectives witnessed through discussions that ensue from the many different industry roles in the audience.

Inherent with it all, we have fun. We congregate for exceptional food, drink, and conversation with every event. We mix things up for our members with events such as the CSI Jeopardy game night and a Whitecaps baseball game for families. We also continue to host our annual James ‘Hojo’ Hojnacki Scholarship Golf Outing, which is named after our longest standing member of 44 years. The event raises monies for the ACE Mentorship program of West Michigan, which is an afterschool program designed to attract students pursuing careers in the architecture, construction, and engineering industry.

With so many great programming items in place, our chapter looked to simplify and improve our communication practices to our members and to our community. All of our initiatives had paired with them a goal to increase both membership and event numbers. Through great energy across many communication channels, the CSI Grand Rapids chapter has always tried to be a good communicator through event notifications, new-member welcomes, anniversary acknowledgments, and more. That said, our leadership recognized that to engage at the level required to get (and keep) people involved, we needed a unified platform through which we could manage all our communications and data.

With the present board ready to take on tomorrow’s needs, we consolidated our website data operations, programming, and communications onto a single platform association management software called, Star Chapter. Our new website is up and running and our management software allows us to archive documents, post and secure signups for all events, manage sponsorships, process payments, collaborate on newsletters, and, perhaps most importantly, manage our communications on one platform to ensure all members are informed and up to date on all the happenings of our chapter.

There is no organization that opens itself up to the integration and collaboration of the construction value-chain better than the Construction Specifications Institute, and, as an extension of CSI, the Grand Rapids Chapter is working hard to grow and expand as a professional organization by providing our members the greatest return on their investment possible. Regardless of what you want in life, we strive to maintain a community whose purpose is to positively impact those servicing our industry by providing growth, allow advancing purpose, and helping our members find fulfillment in their work. These personal membership benefits are exceeded only by those that we—as a whole—provide to the industry.

Ben Buter

Ben Buter

Verso Agency

Ben Buter has been in the construction industry for over 21 years, starting as a field laborer and progressively growing his knowledge and skillset through the roles of general tradesman, project manager, estimator, and territory manager. During this time, he had the privilege of being part of many high-profile projects within the markets of: Healthcare, Senior Living, Higher Education, K-12, hospitality, Multi-family, and Commercial office. Ben currently owns and operates Verso Agency, an independent sales firm providing representative solutions to manufacturers, and buying solutions to businesses and contractors.

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