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Construction Needs a Fix



  • “I have always done it this way.”
  • “I didn’t ask.”
  • “I didn’t know.”
  • “Nobody told me.”
  • “When did that change?”
  • “That will never work.”
  • “This is what I learned.”

Frankly, when the phrases above are uttered in my presence, they give me pause. Sometimes they give me fits. Sometimes my eyes bug out of my head in amazement. My response to these phrases is in direct proportion to the topic or issue at hand. In design and construction, we have many.

The fact is that our buildings are getting more complex every day. The process has more shades of grey than ever. The roles and responsibilities are muddy, there are more players in the project and there are more hands in the pie.

© / vm

More communication is needed in the architecture, engineering and construction fields.

This complexity necessitates a more positive, collaborative working environment with more communication than we have typically employed in architecture, engineering and construction in the past. In addition, we need to educate our professionals differently than has been typical historically. Gone are the days where an AEC professional slowly works their way through the phases of the project with years of experience in each area before moving to the next.

Because of the current, and very real, generational imbalance—our young professionals are walking into a job expected to learn in many areas at once. This learning curve is often navigated without an experienced mentor to guide them.

The project complexity, speed-of-light changes in technology and our generational issues are contributing to the already longstanding issues we have faced for years in construction. We face very real issues that we just can’t seem to fix.

I could spend hours writing about things in our industry that we can’t seem to fix. Here are some examples: Lack of knowledge of contract documents; concrete moisture and flooring issues; roofing issues; lack of understanding of the differences between design-build and delegated design; proper building envelope design; poor communication; and decision-making . . . the list could go on for miles.

But I am not here to complain. That is not my style. I am here to offer a positive step in the right direction and I am going to ask you to do the same.

Tunnel Vision

Our biggest challenge comes from working in a bubble. It comes from only seeing things from the perspective of our own discipline. It comes from lack of knowledge of how other disciplines work and where there is risk.

Each discipline has a different stake in the project and is often focused, fairly exclusively, on that stake. I offer that this kind of thinking actually hurts all involved more than it helps.

I am not here to offer any easy answers. There is no such thing. I am here to say we need to work differently. We need to get our hands dirty. We need to learn how everyone on the project team works.

We need to finally start talking to each other and working together!

Making Connections

I have said many times that I choose the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) as my association of choice for two main reasons.

  1. CSI is inclusive to all disciplines. Often when I am at a CSI event discussing a problem, I get the viewpoints of many members of the project team. That changes the way I approach a problem. This variety in membership and their input keeps me from having tunnel vision.
  2. The people are amazing, helpful and collaborative. When I attend CONSTRUCT (CSI's annual meeting and affiliated tradeshow), I get access to these professionals from all over the country. Not only have I made friends, I have learned much that is outside of my box. This has changed the way I work.

This kind of collaboration, information sharing and problem solving is what we need on a bigger scale.

We need a place where we can come together with an issue and share information across disciplines, geographical areas, organizations and experience levels to find positive and collaborative solutions. To share lessons learned, forward thinking ideas and possible ways to work together more effectively. To teach each other what we don’t know.

© / kasto80

Attending conferences is a good way to interact and discuss longstanding challenges facing the industry, but they aren’t long enough to exact change.

I am tired of hearing people complain. I am tired of the attitude that it is just “the way it is” when it comes to longstanding challenges we face in delivering a project.

One of the beautiful things about CONSTRUCT is that it brings many passionate members (and non-members) together for a few short days to share and collaborate.

Those few days are just not enough.

So, how do we continue that positive and empowering experience throughout the year? How do we continue to share and problem solve until we actually start to see change? How do we teach each other, from our real life experiences, to do a better job?

A Path Forward

I can’t answer those questions, but I can offer one suggested path: One possible way to step outside the box. An avenue for anyone in AEC, CSI member or not – Owners, Architects, Contractors, Engineers, Consultants, Subcontractors – anyone on the project team to come together.

LetsFixConstruction ( is the brainchild of Eric D. Lussier, current president of Vermont CSI. It is a grassroots effort to bring all members of the project team together, in one place, to share positive solutions and/or ideas to move our industry forward in a different format, a format of finding solutions together. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of passionate people with the drive to try something different to promote change.

LetsFixConstruction aims to address some of the most pressing issues we have dealt with for years from a different perspective, one of problem solving with everyone at the table.

Will it solve all of the world’s ills? Probably not, at least not right away.

Will it change the way you understand and approach daily difficulties in our industry? Absolutely!

Why? Because you will have the opportunity to understand that issue through others eyes. To see how what you do and how you do it affects the project as a whole.

#LetsFixConstruction will be a place where anyone in #AEC can contribute content, ideas and possible solutions. Our hope is that many will offer solutions on the same topic to allow us the opportunity to see that issue through a variety of lenses.

This is NOT a place to complain. This is a place to move forward, learn and grow together.

I hope you will join us, contribute your voice and work toward positive change.

You can follow the conversation on Twitter: #FixConstruction.

Editor’s Note: A version of this blog post first appeared on and has been republished on Durability + Design with permission.

About the Author

Cherise Lakeside

Cherise Lakeside is a specifier with Ankrom-Moisan Architects (Portland, OR). She has experience with many facets of the project team. She has worked for a general contractor, an MEP engineering firm and two architectural firms in her 30-year career. She has worked extensively in multiple areas of the industry including specifications, contract administration, marketing, business management, QA/QC and standards. In addition, she is actively involved in AEC Social Media, public speaking, writes a blog called “The Voices In My Head” and participates in She is the immediate past president of the Portland Chapter of CSI and chair of the Institute Curriculum Prep Committee.

You can follow her on Twitter: @CheriseLakeside.


Let's Fix Construction is written by a collective group of construction professionals involved in, an online impartial platform to provide forward-thinking solutions to many longstanding issues that have plagued construction. Organizers and contributors seek to better the industry by sharing knowledge, while creating open and positive communication and collaboration. Many of the posts have appeared first on and are republished on Durability + Design with permission. Author information is available at the bottom of each blog entry.



Tagged categories: Architects; Business management; Construction; Consultants; Contractors; Design; Designers; Developers; Engineers; Good Technical Practice; Specifiers; Commercial Construction; Conferences; Construction Specifications Institute; Facility Managers; Residential Construction; Retrofits; young professionals

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