Friday, December 24, 2010


The standard talking points arguing for us to get involved with some sort of selfless, public-spirited activity such as CSI or USGBC emphasize the good we can do for others by our service.

That’s true.  We can all make a positive difference in our communities, both the virtual and geographic types of community, by serving.  And we should do it if we can, because it’s the right thing to do.

I happen to be pushing CSI and USGBC specifically because I already belong to these two organizations.  But if CSI or USGBC aren’t your cup of tea, substitute AIA, ALA, ASHRAE, ASID, ASCE, AGC, DBIA, or any of the other worthy organizations that try to bring order and standards to the AEC business.  Just find a way to get involved that works for you.

In addition to altruism, an underappreciated and frequently maligned virtue by the way, there’s another really good reason to get involved:  You owe it to yourself.

Here’s part of why you owe it to yourself to get involved with CSI or USGBC:
  • Networking:  In this turbulent economy, you can never have too many contacts and friends.  CSI and USGBC members are plugged into the AEC business.  Come to a program, participate in the local organization, and you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn about the business.
  • Community:  This could be thought of as a subset of networking, but it’s much more than that.  Both organizations are part of the broader AEC community of thoughtful, smart, and, yes, opinionated people.  Plug yourself into the community and its ongoing dialog. You’ll feel validated and challenged.  You’ll gain as much as you contribute.
  • Entertainment:  If the choice is between spending your evenings watching TV and working on CSI or USGBC, the choice seems clear to me.  TV is mostly sensational, worthless, repetitive crap, driven by the need to get your attention and brainwash you into buying stuff.  Be honest with yourself.  Have you memorized the dialog in all of the AFLAC duck commercials?  Does the Empire Carpet jingle (“Five-eight-eight-two-three-hundred-Empire”) pop into your consciousness when you least expect it?  Another year or two of this stuff and your brain cells will start to atrophy.  Liberate yourself from TV’s visual waterboarding by getting involved with CSI or USGBC.  You’ll be glad you did.  And you won’t feel like your time’s been wasted at the end of the evening.
  • Education:  The two dominant trends in design and construction you will have to be knowledgeable about in the immediate future are BIM and green building.  Activity in CSI and USGBC is the best way to get, and keep, yourself up to speed.
    • BIM:  CSI’s national technical leadership is in the forefront in integrating specs and BIM.  Sign up for the CSI BIM Practice Group monthly webinars for just one way to get started with this.  In addition, Northern Illinois CSI’s chapter programs and lunchtime call-in Roundtables run the gamut from construction issues to professional practice considerations.  You’ll always learn something from a chapter program, even if it’s not focusing on your particular area of expertise.  See what CSI is all about at:
    • Green Building:  Many organizations are doing important work in green building, but USGBC has the most comprehensive approach.  Activity in USGBC is a great way to keep learning about all aspects of green building.  Incredibly, I continue to run across people who are skeptical about green building and USGBC’s LEED green building rating system.  My advice is:  Scoff at this trend at your peril.  To be blunt, if you don’t become LEED accredited or at least knowledgeable about LEED, you’re soon going to be a dinosaur, professionally speaking. Explore USGBC at:

Finally, I want to put in a shameless plug for you to volunteer for service in our very own Northern Illinois CSI Chapter.  For the next fiscal year starting in July 2011, several members of our chapter leadership are transitioning to other roles in the chapter.  We’re looking for volunteers to step into our old roles.

The role I’m most interested in filling happens to be newsletter editor.  I’ve been the editor of the Northern Illinois CSI Link for the last five years, and I’m moving on to another job in the chapter.  I have really enjoyed being the newsletter editor.  I got to meet and correspond with lots of interesting new people.  I learned (well, sort of learned) Microsoft Publisher.  I got to work with our chapter board, a friendly and open group of people with world-class skills.  The new editor should find her or his own path of course, but I’ve got all sorts of records and templates to pass on to a new editor to make it easy to step into the role.  And I’ll coach and mentor the new editor as much as she or he wants.

The editor job is a great opportunity for someone that wants to write, edit, and communicate, so consult your inner writer and then get in touch with one of the following to ask questions or to volunteer:

Chapter President Susan Johnson:
President-Elect Fred Burr:

No comments:

Post a Comment