Discussing the changing role of the specifier with Keith Robinson: CSI Member Spotlight

Tell us about your daily routine.

First priority: problem solving. I come into the office in the morning, look at my e-mails, and filter out the messages identifying issues with projects. This is followed by a GOYA maneuver: get off your a– and engage this person in conversation to discuss solutions and overcome roadblocks.

Next, I check my workload schedules. I delegate tasks to others on my team and challenge them with new concepts to develop their skills. Once everyone is engaged, I chip away at the work I need to get done, making sure to make time to address critical concerns through the day.

I communicate with my extended community (CSI and CSC), check-in with the news from various publications and subscriptions, create content for our company’s internal best practices specification blog, and check the pulse of the world through lunch and spare moments of time.

To unwind, I talk to friends, spend time down at the rowing club—even during long, dark Canadian winters— and spend time in nature to offload and destress before heading home and spending time with my wife.

“The world is changing. Specifiers need to adapt to these changes or specifiers or we will cease to have meaning.”

What are you passionate about outside of the industry?

I love rowing. I coach people, participate in racing—I pretty much live and breathe rowing (when I catch my breath). I also help out with corporate rowing challenges to raise money for our local children’s hospital. Our rowing club’s event has raised more than $1.5 million in the last 12 years or so and the popularity of the sport in Edmonton has grown as a consequence.

What’s the coolest project you’ve ever worked on, or are working on now? How might that relate to knowledge you gained via CSI?

By far, the coolest project was a seminary—a place where Catholic priests undergo their formation. It was a very special project. The archbishop made the concept of construction palpable to my ideals of sustainability during our company’s interviews with him regarding the durability of materials and how they influence the performance requirements for specified materials.

The design principal asked, “What is the expected lifespan for this project?”

The archbishop responded, “I’m not sure what you mean by that question. What choices do I have?”

We replied, “Typical expectations for institutional buildings would be a predicted life cycle before major renovations of between 50 and 99 years, and greater than 100 years for permanent- or post-disaster buildings.”

He kind of laughed and stated, with a wink, “I’m not sure you noticed, but the church has been around for quite a while—and we plan on being here for a good while yet.”

This is the first and only project I have worked on that was intentionally constructed with a life cycle of more than 500 years. The materials used were permanent; the chapel was constructed from a single three-day pour of pure white concrete. Detailers were very conscious of accessibility to envelope components that need repair during that extended lifespan.

The specification required close coordination with manufacturers and suppliers and took more than a year to write. The project manual included innovative approaches to design-assist and engagement by the subtrades so that their contributions were recognized and included in a positive way in relation to the design expectations.

The project confirmed for me a collaborative and cooperative work environment can be successful in delivering great project.

What’s the one question you would have liked me to ask you?

“What are your personal plans for the future?”

To find out how you can get involved with CSI and network within the community, visit www.csiresources.org.

Keith Robinson can be reached via e-mail at krobinson@dialogdesign.ca.

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One comment on “Discussing the changing role of the specifier with Keith Robinson: CSI Member Spotlight”

  1. Great article Keith. I’ve had many discussions with Keith over the decades and he is one of my ‘go to’ colleagues when I have a specification issue to resolve. His honesty and dedication to help the industry is well known. I here he is communing with nature in the Amazon for a well deserved break! All the best Keith and see you at the CSC Conference in Edmonton, Canada, at the end of May.

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