The Value of CSI CDT Certification – Keeping your Construction Documents from becoming a crime scene investigation.

Errors or inefficiencies in construction documents, as you know, can be murder on a project’s schedule and budget.  The construction community’s authority on communication and construction documentation, CSI, has a program to improve the quality of construction documents.

For all you CSI TV show fans, I’m actually talking to you about a different CSI. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) administers the Certified Document Technologist (CDT) certification. CDT certification gives industry professionals comprehensive knowledge of the writing and management of construction documents.

I became a proponent of CDT certification over a decade ago. That was when we were in an economic boom with lots of work, a large backlog of projects, and limited staff. Remember those days? We barely had enough time to perform the work; how were we going to find the time to teach staff the construction document skills they needed? Add to this the numerous delivery methods and document formats used by our clients, and the task became more complex.

During this busy time, we considered having senior staff instruct, but that was discounted because it reduced the time they had to spend on projects and clients. While we have always continuously mentored staff, our preferred solution was to encourage staff to obtain CDT certification. The training provides a uniform level of education, a general understanding of contract documents, and it creates a strong foundation on which to build.  Although we work in a number of disciplines with specific formats, such as DOT, FAA, and CSI, the principles taught for CDT certification apply to them all.

The Evidence

Today, of our 42 engineers and Engineers–In-Training, 19 have CDT certifications, two are in the process of obtaining certification, six are planning to obtain the certification (after taking the PE or SE examinations), and the remainder are being strongly encouraged to obtain certification.

Vicky Fleer, CDT, CCS, our senior technical writer and editor (our engineers write the technical specifications; Vicky reviews and edits to CSI standards), enjoys the increased staff understanding of the documents. Some of the benefits we have noted include fewer addenda regarding specifications and greater coordination between the drawings and the specifications and between team members concerning elements of the contract documents.  And, it is much easier to convince staff of the value of the knowledge gained through the certification process by referring them to those who have the certification. I hear “clear, correct, complete, concise, and correct” discussions about specifications and contract documents among staff who also comment on the value of CDT certification (“I’m sure glad I took that test.”).  Last but not least, the CEO has remarked on the continuous improvement in our construction documents.

What’s Next?

We are encouraging staff to obtain the Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA) certification (we currently have three people certified) while we continue to sponsor CDT credentials. I expect to see a similar increase in the quality of our work.  It is our ongoing objective to keep our construction documents from becoming a CSI crime scene with the help of CDT and CCCA certification!