Advancing forward with CSI’s master specifiers retreat

Susan Konohia
Imagine a hotel ballroom crowded with high-level manufacturer representatives, full of anticipation as they wait to connect with expert specifiers who hold the key to product placement decisions. Imagine the robust conversations amid displays of cutting-edge building materials, along with the opportunity to sit in on some provocative education sessions. While images of a trade show may come to mind, this event is something that is uniquely different—this is CSI’s Master Specifiers Retreat.

For the fifth straight year, the association has held this prestigious gathering. Over two-and-a-half days, building product manufacturers and specifiers come together for one-on-one knowledge exchanges, relationship-building activities, and stimulating educational sessions in an intimate, and relaxed environment.

In January, more than 100 top building professionals traveled to scenic Ft. Myers, Florida, to discuss real projects and the issues challenging them. Both specifiers and manufacturers reflected that one-on-one scheduled sessions provided them feedback and answers to practical problems they could immediately apply back home.

“As I’ve told many people, this is the best meet and exchange format I have experienced in the industry,” explained previous attendee George Middleton, CSI. “I have been at this a few years.”

One reason for this is the quality of attendees, but another is the types of subject matter explored. Often, the retreat can offer new perspectives on various common design/construction challenges. For example, this year’s education sessions emphasized how the gaming industry has a direct impact on project delivery and communication in the built environment. These sessions explored how virtual design and construction (VD+C) is used to mitigate construction risks.

Doug Williams, the associate and digital practice manager for Perkins+Will, delivered a riveting keynote address titled, “Innovative Ideas in Problem Solving for BIM-Centric Design Workflows.” He challenged the audience to start thinking about VD+C as a better way to mitigate risk, collaborate more effectively, and improve design confidence among building teams. Williams also gave attendees a preview of how adopting gaming technology could potentially revolutionize project delivery.

Another standout speaker was Danielle Dy Buncio, founder and president of VIATechnik. She delivered a futuristic demonstration on using gaming technology to optimize project outcomes. Dy Buncio suggested VD+C
can decrease risk and improve project coordination, because “the first time you experience disaster should not be in the real world with real lives and real dollars.” She also introduced participants to ground-breaking technology that transports building professionals into virtual reality through HoloLens and Oculus head gear. Such high-level conceptual thinking paired well with all the more-typical person-to-person interactions happening throughout the weekend.

The 2017 Master Specifiers Retreat will take place in sunny Tucson, Arizona, from January 26 to 28. CSI will open registration for building product manufacturers in early spring. During this time, specifiers and product selection decision-makers are encouraged to complete a form indicating their interest to be considered for next year’s event. For pricing and registration options, contact this author at or (703) 706-4744.

Susan Konohia is director of business development for CSI. She has more than 20 years of sales experience with a decade in the commercial construction and utility industry. Konohia leads CSI’s Corporate Partner Program and directs the sales efforts for many association events and programs. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in communications. Konohia can be contacted via e-mail at

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