By Jon C. Lattin, CSI, CCPR
As we have learned through our Construction Documents Technologist (CDT) studies, the four Cs of effective construction specifications involve being clear, concise, correct, and also complete. Last year at CONSTRUCT, there was an effort to identify a fifth C—one that would represent CSI. I remember seeing suggestions that included ‘community,’ ‘camaraderie,’ and ‘commitment.’ However, the one that stood out the most was ‘collaboration’—working together to achieve a common goal.
Over the last few years, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter has embraced this idea of collaboration. We teamed up with other local organizations to provide activities to our members we could not accomplish on our own. The first major collaborative effort involved partnering with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Eastern PA Chapter to successfully organize Canstruction Lehigh Valley. Now in its third year, this event has done a wonderful job of pulling in individuals throughout the local architectural/engineering/construction (AEC) community to design and build sculptures out of canned goods. Not only has this built valuable relationships between teams of designers, manufacturers, and contractors, but it has also resulted in more than 27,215 kg (60,000 lb) of food being donated to the local food bank.
Harnessing our successes with Canstruction, we embarked on a second collaborative project, this time with the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Eastern PA Chapter and the Lehigh Valley ACE Mentor Program. We sought to develop and run a construction camp for girls to introduce them to the exciting world of construction.
Let’s Build Construction Camp started as a vision to immerse 14- to 18-year-old girls in the AEC industry. It was designed to allow them to explore the construction trades, architecture, engineering, and building product manufacturing through practical experiences and field trips. Held at ABC’s Lehigh Valley training facility in June 2017, the camp was an overwhelming success. Twenty participants of varying experiences and capabilities learned key construction principles as they built and finished wall sections. Through this hands-on approach, they experienced carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, masonry, and painting work while being exposed to green building, the principles of cement and metal roof manufacturing, and building information modeling (BIM) design.
An unexpected outcome was the impact this camp had on the young women and our volunteers. Through collaboration in small groups, the camp provided those high school students with life-skills training they will use the rest of their lives. Problem solving, managing team dynamics, respecting others, listening to instruction, and executing tasks are all skills that naturally evolved during the course of the weeklong camp.
How were we able to pull this off? By reaching beyond the boundaries of our CSI organization to solicit help from the entire industry in our area, we formed a committee of more than 30 professionals, spanning all demographics and professions involved with the built environment. These hardworking volunteers were devoted to the camp’s success. From developing the curriculum, soliciting sponsors, and gathering applicants to designing T-shirts and signage, managing social media, arranging tours, executing the week, instructing and mentoring the girls, and making food runs, we depended on the entire Lehigh Valley AEC community to pull this off. The energy and excitement the girls brought to camp was contagious, inspiring everyone to work harder to ensure their success.
Two moments will forever be etched in my mind. The first occurred during the electrical instruction when the girls were wiring a receptacle, switch, and light. After a long day, they flipped the switch to turn on the light for the first time and were overcome by excitement. Seeing them smile from ear to ear as they flipped the switch and saw the results of their efforts was incredibly rewarding for everyone.
Another shining moment was the last day, when the teams painted their walls. The girls seized this opportunity to express themselves and showed their individual creativity and style as they added their own personal flair to their creations, resulting in five completely different wall sections.
Following the excitement of our first year’s success, plans are being developed for our second year of camp. Is this something you want to do in your area? Do you have other initiatives you want to explore? What are you waiting for? Seize the opportunity to forge collaborative relationships with other organizations in your area to make a positive impact on your community! If we can do it, so can you! To learn more about our camp, please visit www.letsbuildcamp.com.
Jon C. Lattin, CSI, CCPR, works with CTS as an independent manufacturer’s representative for Key Resin Company and Sauereisen. After receiving his degrees in mechanical engineering and industrial management engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he spent the last 10 years becoming fluent in concrete restoration and resinous coatings. Serving Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, Lattin divides his time between marketing and product education, material recommendations, specification writing, onsite inspections, and contractor training. He is the president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI and a co-chair for Let’s Build. Lattin can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.