Our History

The mission of CSI is to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.

The Beginning – Metro Detroit CSI

By Chesley Ayers, Chapter Historian

Below is a transcript written by Chapter Historian Chelsey Ayers in 1958 regarding the beginning of CSI and Metro Detroit CSI

The Construction Specification Institute started because a group of Government specification writers were dissatisfied with the way construction specifications were being prepared by the various Government agencies. As a result, in 1948 some sixty-five men interested in standardizing bidding procedures met in Washington. They organized and elected Mr. James Moore of the Hospital Construction Office in the Public Health Service to head the group as the first president.

A group of specification writers in New York City learned of the improvements in specifications brought about by the group in Washington and asked to join their organizations. Thus, in May 1951, New York became the first chapter, and the possibility of a national organization took form. In April of 1953, Chicago became the third chapter of the Construction Specification Institute (C.S.I.). As New York was given the honor of being the first chapter, Washington was named the second chapter of the organization in the same year.

Early in 1954, Mr. McGinnis, President of C.S.I. sent a letter to architectural organizations in several cities to determine if there was interest in forming additional chapters. The idea caught fire in California and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh charters were given in rapid succession to Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco. The Detroit Chapter was granted on November 19, 1955 and became the eighth chapter in the national organization followed by Boston and Cleveland.

The Specifier was first published in 1949. It was issued quarterly at first but as membership increased, it was published monthly. The writer was Chief of Specifications for the H. E. Beyster, Architects and Engineers in 1951 when Mr. Ray Perkins, Chief Architect, handed him an application for membership which he had received and did not intend to use. At the time, the writer had a fairly large acquaintance with various American Institute of Architects (AlA) members but did not know a single person that was a full-time specification writer. The main inducement in joining was to receive the Specifier and improve his specifications.

The first action to form a Detroit Chapter of the Construction Specification Institute was taken early in 1954 when President McGinnis wrote a letter to Mr. Talmage Hughes, Secretary of the Michigan Society of Architects. This letter resulted in an article by Alger W. Luckham being published in the November 1954 edition of the Weekly Bulletin. Mr. Barrows, AlA National Director from the Metropolitan New York Chapter and heading a committee for chapter organization of a national body, saw this letter and suggested in a letter dated November 22, 1954, that Mr. Luckham form a chapter in Detroit. Mr. Luckham considered the possibilities. On May 9, 1955, he answered Mr. Barrow’s letter requesting a list of C.S.I. members and on May 13th, he asked Talmage Hughes to publish a notice requesting those interested in C.S.I. to contact him. On May 16th, a letter was returned from the National Headquarters with a list of nine C.S.I. members. The nine members were Ayers, Carlin, Couch, Heenan, Kapp, Kraimer, Larkin, Luckham and Scripture.

On May 21, 1955, Mr. William Kapp was asked to get the members together. He agreed, and on June 30th Leslie Lowery, Alger Luckham arid Charles Scripture met with Mr. Kapp at lunch to organize a meeting of the specification writers in the area. This was followed by a meeting on July 15th in Mr. Kapp’.s office. Chesley Ayers, Frank Couch, William Kapp, Leslie Larkin, Leslie Lowery, Alger Luckham, Charles Scripture, and Henry Wilcke attended and plans were formalized for a meeting at the Kingsley Inn. The purpose of the meeting was to determine if there was sufficient interest among specification writers in the area to start a chapter of C.S.I.

At the meeting in Mr. Kapp’s office, someone said that he had invited Mr. Glenn Dailey to the meeting at Kingsley Inn. This introduced a problem because Mr. Dailey was not a specification writer; he was a representative of the U. S. Gypsum Company. Most of the members thought the meeting should have been limited to those engaged in the preparation of specifications; however, as Mr. Dailey was the only member from industry invited, it was decided to let the invitation stand.

On July 19th, 1955, the first organizational meeting was held at Kingsley Inn, Bloomfield Hills. Twenty-seven people attended this meeting. Mr. Kapp acted as temporary Chairman, and introduced the guest speaker, Mr. Suren Pilafian of the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Pilafian gave an informative talk on what AlA was doing to improve specifications. The one statement remembered by the writer was, that specification writers represent the smallest group in both numbers and cost of any group in the architectural field. In view of the fact that those dealing with design, working drawings and field supervision had no organization other than within the AlA, he felt that specification writers had illusions as to their importance. In spite of the speakers rather pessimistic prediction of its success, the group unanimously agreed to join the C.S.I. and the following committee was appointed to organize a chapter:

  • William E. Kapp – Chairman
  • Leslie Lowery
  • Chesley Ayers
  • Alger Luckham
  • Orpheus Bellucci
  • August St. George
  • Frank Couch
  • Charles Scripture
  • Glenn Dailey
  • Neal Smith
  • Leslie Larkin
  • Henry Wilcke

On September 2, 1955, Mr. Kapp wrote Mr. Luckham regarding a follow-up meeting of the organization committee. This meeting was held on October 11, 1955. Mr. Kapp chaired this meeting and, August St. George was the temporary Secretary. At the meeting, Luckham and St. George were asked to make contact with the National Organization regarding a charter; Couch, Larkin and Scripture were asked to prepare a Constitution and By-Laws. Dailey, Bellucci and Wilcke were asked to arrange a dinner meeting at the Rackham Building.

One of the subjects discussed at this board meeting was the limitations of membership. On October 8, 1955, Glenn Dailey had asked to become a member and to assist in organizing sales representatives who worked with specification writers. The writer was unequivocally opposed to opening the membership. He remembers saying “We spend our working hours listening to salesmen hawk their wares, and we shouldn’t be required to listen to them during our free time. I like Mr. Dailey personally, but if we accept all the salesmen who wish to join the group, the sales representatives will soon outnumber the specification writers and take over the organization. Soon specification writers will refuse to come to meetings leaving the sales group to talk to each other.”

Others in opposition pointed out that other chapters had non-specification writers as associate members. They added, that, as sales representatives make visits to the various architectural organizations throughout the metropolitan area, they would be a big help in promoting C.S.I. among other specification writers and help to obtain new members. As there was considerable disagreement, a compromise was hammered out that was accepted by all. The compromise provided that: members other than those engaged in preparing specifications would be known as associate members.

Mr. Dailey would be accepted as an associate member and encouraged to organize others; however, no associate member could hold office and the number of associate members would be limited to one-quarter (1/4) the number of regular members. Much credit must be given to the early associate members. Their willingness to do the real work in organizing the group and their conduct during meetings soon alleviated the fears of all and after the first few meetings, the one-quarter limitation on membership was changed to one-half (1/2) without objection from even those who strongly opposed their membership.

The dinner meeting was held on October 19, 1955 where a Board of Directors was formed and officers elected. Leslie Larkin was elected President and August St. George was elected Secretary—Treasurer. On November 1, 1955, the Board of Directors met and sent an application to the National Board, with the By-Laws of our organization. On December 5th, the letter arrived from the parent organization recognizing the Detroit Chapter as of November 19th.

The December 6th meeting was the first meeting with a guest speaker. It was held at the Veterans’ Building and Mr. Tom Sirrine spoke on “Concrete Masonry Specifications.” The next meeting was held January 10th,1956, in which Mr. Lynton Hart spoke on “Piles and How to Specify Them.” At the February 7th meeting, Larry Dunn spoke on the subject, “Aluminum”.

On February 15th, a Board of Directors meeting was held. Mr. Dailey and Mr. Ayers were requested to contact the Engineering Society of Detroit in an effort to become Affiliate Members and hold meetings in their buildings. At this time, the Treasurer was directed to open a banking account. On March 19th, a Board Meeting was held in which letterheads, requirements for membership, and the E.S.D. affiliation were discussed.

On March 16th, a meeting was held at the Veterans’ Building where Mr. John Ockum of the Otis Elevator Company showed a movie and gave a talk on “Elevator Doors”. On April 3rd, Mr. Willard of U. S. Steel gave a talk on “High Tension Steel Belting”.

As a national meeting was scheduled on June 9, 1956, the Board of Directors met on April 19th and appointed Alger Luckham to represent the Detroit Chapter at that meeting.

On May 1, 1956, Mr. Faulwetter spoke on “Ceramic Tile and Its Application”. At this meeting, the receiving of the Charter was announced.

On May 8, 1956, a board meeting was called because the Engineering Society had rejected the application for affiliate membership on the grounds that C.S.I. was not an engineering or architectural organization. Mr. Dailey and Mr. Ayers were directed to resubmit the application. As a result, a list of members was prepared showing the Registered Architects, the Registered Engineers and graduate architects and engineers. The following year when it was shown that professionals controlled the membership and leadership, ESD finally decided to accept the application.

The final meeting of the first year of the Society was held on June 19, 1956. At this meeting Mr. Leslie Lowery reported for the Membership Committee that there were twenty—one active members and six associate members. Mr. Luckham reported on the meeting with the national group and President Larkin thanked those in the various committees prior to the election of officers.

  • Frank Couch – President
  • August St. George – Vice President
  • 0. Robert Bellucci – Secretary-Treasurer
  • Joseph Fuhrer – Director
  • Charles Scripture – Director
  • Leslie Lowery – Director
  • Chesley Ayers- Director

So this was the start, the year of organization. The second year was the year of growth and the start of The DeCSlpher by Dave Mueller. Perhaps we can write about it at another time

Few of our younger members today realize the problems of the pre-C.S.I. specification writers. They had very little contact with contractors and subcontractors on a professional basis. Most specification writers regarded contractors as con artists and most contractors felt specification writers, naive and simple souls completely ignorant of building construction. There was very little uniformity in specifications, even among writers working in the same organization. In fact, there were considerable differences between specification writers as to the general arrangement of a specification. I was one of those who believed a specification should be arranged so that each subcontractor could bid on one or more sections in the specifications. There were others who believed that a specification was divided into sections soley for the convenience of the Architect and the subcontractor should not be considered.

When Frank Couch, the C.S.I. president appointed me as program manager, my first consideration was to get contractors and subcontractors to tell the specification writers how specifications could be improved. The response was paramount. Every contractor and subcontractor in the area had only dreamed of a chance to vent his anger regarding specifications to a few writers and C.S.I. was giving them a chance to speak to the entire group.

It was the intent in arranging the meetings to have two speakers from separate companies. Usually a supplier and an installer. In most cases, we invited the most knowledgeable person in the most prominent companies to be speakers. The fact that you don’t recognize the names of the following speakers, only proves that companies, like people, disappear in time.

The first speakers I contacted were Mr. John Armstrong, President of Darin & Armstrong and Mr. James Savage, Vice President, O.W. Burke Company. They were both anxious to speak, and on 11 September 1956 they presented an excellent talk on “Improved and More Uniform Specifications.” This talk brought to the attention of the specification writers the difficulty contractors were having with trying to make satisfactory estimates. Mr. Savage mentioned the differences in three sets of specifications issued by the same office on the subject of clean—up. Mr. Luckham made a ten page summary of this presentation that I have in my files.

The subject for the October meeting was Excavating and Backfilling. The speakers were Mr. Quinn – Chief Estimator for the Charles J. Rogers Company and Otis Love -Chief Engineer for Sudgen and Sivier. The November meeting was on paint. The speakers were Mr. Zimmer – Chief Chemist for Pratt & Lambert and Mr. Austin -President of Austin Painters. Mr. Zimmer gave a technical talk on the paint chemistry that was probably above the heads of most members.

Mr. D. H. Zechman of the R. W. Meadows Company represented the Manufacturers on the meeting on Waterproofing in December. Mr. Wray Baily of the Bailey – Zummo Waterproofing Company represented the waterproofing contractors.

The January meeting dealt with Mechanical and Electrical Specifications and Mr. Moloy of Donald Miller and Mr. Harlan, Harlan Electric Company were speakers.

The February meeting was an outstanding meeting on Hardware. At this time many specification writers specified the hardware as a part of the Hollow Metal Door Section; others in the partition section and still others specified hardware in a separate section. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the advantages of each method. Mr. Anderage of Detroit Sterling Hardware Company was selected to represent the hardware dealers. Mr. C. Bennett – Chief Engineer of the Mills Company came from Cleveland and brought with him Mr. Bronson, their research engineer, to represent the Partition Manufacturers; Mr. Chester Moores, Sales Manager for the Sargent Company came from New Haven, Connecticut to represent the hardware manufacturers and Mr. Beebe of Fenestra spoke for the steel door manufactures. The March meeting was a closed meeting for specification writers only.

In April, some members interested in dramatics, produced a stage play based upon the Macknight Flintic Stone Company v. City of New York case regarding performance specifications. A good time was held by all.

Mr. Eugene McMillian of the McMillian Floor Company and Mr. Nardoni of the Nardoni Cement Floor Company made the May meeting outstanding by explaining methods of obtaining long-wearing concrete floors. At the meeting, Mr. Nardoni apologized for his poor English and introduced his chief assistant, Mr. Piggott who made the presentation.

The June meeting was for the election of officers and a review of the season. The following officers were elected for the 1957-58 season:

  • Henry Wilcke – President
  • Chesley Ayers – Vice-President
  • 0. Robert Bellucci – Secretary-Treasurer
  • Ann Kliner – Director
  • Frank Morgan – Director
  • Joseph Fuhrer – Director

The membership increased during this from 21 to 52 active members and from 6 to 69 associate members as listed in Membership Roster of 19 November 1957. If the writer remembers correctly, the rules at this time required a ratio of one active to one associate. The names of some associates listed were waiting formal acceptance pending new active members.

Looking back after twenty years, the writer believes the 1957-58 year was the most progressive season in the history of the Detroit Chapter.

The most remarkable event during this period was the appearance of The DeCSlpher. One of the first directives issued by the new president was appointing Mr. David Mueller as Chairman of the Publications Committee in July of 1957. Mr. Mueller, with the assistance of Mr. Robert Saxton and Mr. Charles Burrows, started work immediately. There was a lot to be done.

They decided to publish a monthly paper that would be self supporting. The name they selected was The DeCSlpher, the “De” from Detroit and the “CSI” from the Construction Specification Institute. The purpose was to be to publish the events of the Chapter to its members and also to translate the aims, functions, and activities of the Chapter to the architects and engineers at large in the State of Michigan. The purpose was not to replace or duplicate any existing publication, but to present new fields of endeavor to the architectural and engineering professions.

Obtaining ads to support the paper was a necessity, and before the first publication was made, they had sold one hundred percent (100%) of the space available and received payment of ninety-five percent (95%). The ads brought in eighteen hundred dollars ($1,800) in addition to the fifty dollars ($50) that was requested from the Chapter treasury to start the work.

Amazing as it may seem, the first edition of The DeCSlpher appeared in August of 1957. This edition was published on 8—1/2 X 11 glossy white paper with justified type and made a very impressive appearance. It was sent to all registered architects in the state to publicize the work of the Institute. The Detroit Chapter is indebted to Dave Mueller for his fine work.

The first meeting was held on September 3, 1957. Mr. Clair W. Ditchy, architect; Mr. Lyndon Welch, structural engineer; and Mr. William Edward Kapp were the speakers at this meeting, which was held at the Engineering Society of Detroit.

The second meeting was held on October 1, upon which the group were guests of the R. C. Mahon Company. The third meeting on November 7 dealt with the subject of curtain walls, in which the guest speaker was Mr. Burton H. Holmes, technical editor of Progressive Architecture.

The Tuesday, December 3 meeting was one devoted to electrical problems, in which the guest speaker was Mr. Murray Quinn, a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society and active in the Building Research Institute. The January 7 meeting dealt with heating, ventilating, and air conditioning of school buildings; and Mr. Charles Trainbauer, manager of the Herman Nelson Division of the American Air Filter Company, was the speaker.

It should be remembered that at this time there was no agreement between specification writers on the division of trades in a specification. Some old timers believed that concrete, brickwork, stone work, gypsum, and basement waterproofing should appear in a ‘single section entitled “Masonry”. The younger writers believed they should appear in separate sections. At the beginning of the year, the Vice President assigned the technical committee, headed by Mr. Raymond Perkins, the job of developing a division of trades that could be accepted by all. Mr. Perkins and his assistant, Mr. McQuade, presented their report to the Board of Directors at the January meeting of the Board. They proposed the number of specification sections be limited to the sixteen they listed and that the number they assigned to each section should be the same in all specifications. If a trade was not used, the section number should be omitted from the specification. The advantages, they explained, were that it would ease the writer’s job as he could reuse old specifications throughout the country with minor changes in the scope and no change in the section numbering. This was vigorously opposed by the Vice President. He insisted that the writer’s job was to assist the contractor in obtaining the lowest possible price for the owner, and the scope in each section of a specification should be so written that all subcontractors in an area could bid on one or more sections complete without exceeding the normal limitations of their trade practices. No action was taken on the report. The issue was resolved at the national level.

The February meeting was chaired by Jack Cooper, president of the Cooper Supply Company. The subject was “Concrete Specifications”. Mr. Stanton Walker of the American Society for Testing Materials was the principal speaker. As this meeting was attended by several of the field superintendents from Detroit’s leading contractors, concrete suppliers and concrete testing personnel, it was a lively meeting and everyone learned a lot.

On the 22nd of the month, the First Annual Dinner Dance was held at the Dearborn Inn. It was an
outstanding event with Freddie Daye’s Orchestra, a good dinner, and many prizes. Franklin H. Morgan headed the entertainment committee. A copy of the program and membership roster, which was prepared by Victor Gillespie, is in the files. It is a printed booklet with justified type and a heavy green paper cover truly worthy of the Institute. The names of fifty—four (54) active and seventy-one (71) associate members appear in the roster.

The March meeting was a most unusual affair in which playwright and director Leslie Lowery presented a play entitled “Their Day in Court” •or “The Remarkable Case of the Dry Gulch Waterproofing Company Versus the City of Flatbrush.” The play was a comic reproduction of the famous “MacKnight Flintic Stone Company v. Mayor, Aldermen and’ Commonalty of the City of New York” case which was decided in 1899.

Judge, the Hon. Sylvester Stone

  • Mr. Otto Von Bernthal of Giffels and Rossetti – Court Clerk
  • Mr. Kneeland Welch of Concrete Steel Corp. – Mr. Blatt, Attorney for the Defense
  • Mr. John McCormick of Truscon Laboratories – Mr. Chesterfield, Attorney for the Plaintiff
  • Mr. Jim Hughes Office of William E. Kapp, Architect – Mr. John J. McGuffey of the Dry Gulch Waterproofing Company, Plaintiff
  • Mr. Chesley Ayers of Acme Roofing and Sheet Metal Co.- Mr. J. Wellington Gouge, City Engineer for the City of Flatbrush, Defendant
  • Mr. Peter L. W. Beal of the R. C. Mahon Co.

Everyone got a big laugh out of this production that illustrated the advantages of a descriptive specification. The death of Mr. Wilcke as President shocked the entire membership. He died very suddenly of a heart attack, and his funeral was attended by many members; many others did not know that he had died. In accordance with the laws of the Chapter, the Board of Directors are required to replace the President, as the Vice President serves only until the Board elects a new man. A Board meeting was held at the Engineering Society of Detroit shortly after Mr. Wilcke’s death. It was a stormy meeting, and the writer is stating the facts from memory, as there is no written memo of the meeting in the files. The meeting was called to order by the writer, and immediately his authority was challenged by one of the Board members. He said the Vice President had no authority to conduct the meeting or serve as Vice President because the Charter required all officers to be professional members.

To explain the above, the year 1957-58 was a year of depression; and Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, who at one time had seven specification writers, were now down to two. C. A. Graether had retired, and Phillip Carlin, Anne Kleiner, Lawrence Kennedy and the writer had been laid off. The writer, who had previously financed others in buying the Acme Roofing Company in order to expedite a patent on a foamed concrete, bought out an existing business. As the writer was no longer employed as a specification writer, the Board member maintained the writer was no longer an active member. The writer pointed out that he had been terminated not by choice and was still active in specifications as he was teaching a course in specification writing at the Detroit Institute of Technology and that he would be willing to go back to Smith, Hinchman and Grylls when an opening occurred.

The question then arose as to whether an unemployed specification writer could maintain an active status. Anne Kleiner, a Board member, indicated that she was also unemployed, and if this rule took effect, she too would not be able to sit on the Board. One of the members stated that he would check with the National Society; however, a vote was required to decide if the writer would be able to maintain his position. He left the room while the discussion of the proposal was before the Board, and was later informed that the Board of Directors had voted in his favor, thus establishing a precedent that once an active member, he would so remain. The writer continued as President for the remainder of the term.

An election was held at the close of the year in which the following officers were elected:

  • Mr. Leslie M. Lowery – President
  • Mr. 0. R. Bellucci – Vice President
  • Mr. David W. Mueller – Secretary-Treasurer
  • Mr. Donald G. Scripture – Recording Secretary