Now is Time to Convert to MasterFormat 2004

CSI announced that it will stop support MasterFormat 95 at the end of this year, completing the transition period to the newer MasterFormat 2004 edition. If your building product sales literature still uses MF 95, now is time to make the change.

MasterFormat is an indexing system used to organize specifications, project manuals, construction cost information, and drawing notes. MasterFormat 2004 increased the number of divisions from 16 to 50, replaced five-digit section numbers with a six plus-digit system. The added divisions and sections expanded MasterFormat to accommodate a greater range of building products and construction practices plus future construction industry innovations.

Chusid Associates president Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS served on CSI’s MasterFormat Implementation Task Team and has written an article on using MF 04 in building product marketing (click here). He opines, “If your sales and technical literature still use the old numbers, it is a good indication that your collateral has not been updated in many years. Converting to MF 04 provides a good opportunity to take a fresh look at your marketing presentation to see what else needs to be updated.”

In addition, urges “manufacturers to train their sales, customer service, and technical staff so they understand the new system. Your distributors and customers may also need help making the transition. Instead of viewing this with frustration, it is a great opportunity to offer them services to update their business. Providing this type of service can help strengthen relationships with your customers.”

For more information on MasterFormat, visit In addition, Chusid Associates offers a free telephone consultation to help manufacturers locate new section numbers for their products; call 818-774-0003.


Buy American!

Federal stimulus funded jobs are requiring domestically-manufactured products.

On a office complex in Baltimore, MD, a popular imported threaded-rod hanger was thrown off the job and replaced with a domestic product. The new product performed as well, if not better, and was priced comparably, but the changeover caused delays and paperwork. Stories like this are encouraging an increasing number of federally-funded projects to start with, and use only, "Made In America" products.

LEED got people thinking about locally-sourced products; the economy is getting us to redefine our conception of local.


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Things I SHOULD HAVE Learned in Architecture School

Apparently, it is not necessary for architecture students to learn anything about building materials, technology, construction. That is a lesson one might be able to derive from 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick, MIT Press 2007. This little book devotes one page each to summarizing an important concept of architectural design. According to it foreword, it "aims to firm up the foundation of the architecture studio by providing rallying points upon which the design process may thrive." For example:

  • "Frame a view, don't mearly exhibit it." suggests how to get optimum visual impact from window placement.
  • "The two most important keys to effectively organizing a floor plan are managing solid-void relationships and resolving circulation." offers tips for creating floor plans. And,
  • "Design in perspective." points out the limitations of designing a building as a set of 2-dimensional surfaces.

But about the only thing the book says an architecture student needs to know about building materials is, "Gently suggest material qualities rather than draw them in a literal manner.", a recommendation about illustration technique.

While architecture schools need to teach design theory and to encourage artistic creativity, I believe most schools do their students a disservice by separating design from the materiality of construction.

I propose a partner volume to be titled, "101 Things I Should Have Learned in Architecture School." It would contain information such as:
  1. A paint finish is only as good as its primer and surface preparation.
  2. Dissimilar metals are prone to galvanic corrosion.
  3. Mold will grow anywhere there is a source of nutrition and moisture.
  4. Fasteners can fail via pull-out, pull-over, stripping, shear in the fastener, shear in one of the components being joined, or corrosion.
  5. In an earthquake, injuries, death, and damage to property can occur when elements within a building are not adequately secured.
  6. Concrete hardens due to a chemical reaction, not drying.
  7. Water is the great distroyer of buildings.
  8. Most product failures are the result of incompatibility of two or more materials that are used together.
  9. People working in a building are more likely to be dissatisfied with the acoustics of a space than with its visual appearance.
  10. Every design decision should be reviewed for its impact on building maintenance and operational requirements.
Since architecture schools often leave relegate concerns like these to the periphery of their curriculum, it creates a marketing opportunity for building product manufactures. You can cultivate life-long relationships with young architects by providing them with training and education.


Planted Roofs - A Growing Market

Toronto has passed laws requiring new roofs on larger buildings to be at least 50% covered with planted area. A recent visit to Chicago, the US cities with the most vegetated rooftops, revealed lots of building tops that are green (at least in summer). And chefs in upscale restaurants are planting rooftop gardens to compete on the freshness of their vegetables.

The planted roof is a trend worth watching. It will have obvious impact on the marketing of roofing membranes and planting media. It will also create new opportunities for site furnishings, decking and paving products, irrigation and drainage products, and thermal insulation. Manufacturers of wall cladding systems, rooftop mechanical equipment, skylights, and even structural materials will have to modify their offerings to remain viable. Add the surging growth of rooftop photovoltaic and wind-powered electrical generators, and the roofscape is clearly assuming a new horizon. Opportunities to retrofit existing roofs may exceed new construction.

Following the planting of the roof top, look for flourishing vertical gardens as we learn a whole new meaning of "green building".


Durability and Obsolecence

Three observations from the past week illustrate the challenge of marketing a building product's durability:

1. At Construct 2009, an educational session titled, "Evaluating Sustainable Products for Durability" stressed that product durability should be considered as part of a building's sustainability. This is well and good, but the consensus among attendees is that there is no good source for information on durability or the long-term performance or maintainability of products. More, very few of the design professionals attending ever ask for instructions from their clients about the expected longevity of a building.

2. I was part of the architectural team that designed the Terminal A building at San Jose, CA Airport. Like our colleagues at Construct 2009, the design team didn't discuss the expected longevityy of the building. If pressed, I might have opined that we should build for 50 to 75 year service life. In reality, the building is being gutted just two decades after construction as part of a substantial renovation. Despite our best planning, none of could have anticipated the explosive growth of Silicon Valley and the changing air traffic in the region, nor could we have anticipated the explosive demolition of the World Trade Center that so dramatically changed land-side operations of airports. How should one specify products for a building that might became functionally obsolete well before it wears out?

3. I recently saw what I consider to be perhaps the first really well-designed and affordably-priced LED desktop light fixture. However, the light emitting diodes -- the "lamps" in the jargon of lighting -- are set directly into a structural element of the fixture. Trying to be ecologically-mindful and to think through the total life-cycle use of the product before buying one, I asked the sales representative, "How can I re-lamp this when the LEDs burn it." His reply was, "The LEDs have an estimated service life of 40,000 hours. This means the fixture will last for 10 to 15 years of use. By then, it is a safe bet we will have even better, more efficient LEDs or other light sources. When that happens, just recycle this one for its metals and get yourself a new fixture." Upon examination, I could see that his fixture could be easily disassembled for recycling, and contained a minimum of non-recyclable components.

I will write more about the evolving calculus of product durability. Check back in the future and select the "Durablity" label for additional viewpoints on this topic.


Tradeshows Merging with Digital World

Tradeshows are finding ways to add digital dimensions to the quintessential up-close and personal marketing event. Two examples:

AIA Virtual Convention: While unable to travel to San Francisco this year, I was still able to sit in on educational programs, ask questions to keynote presenters, chat with attendees in a lounge, and even interface with building product manufacturers who had an "online booth".

Construct 2009
Sent attendees links to the booths visited at their show last week. This provides exhibitors a chance to make one more impression on show attendees, and is useful to participants who, like me, remember that great new product by... what was their name?

More, both shows encouraged active blogging and twittering from their conventions. This created a buzz that helped me connect with other attendees and learn about new developments that I might otherwise have missed.

Both of these examples are still in a rudimentary stage and could be improved. Wouldn't it be great, for example, if when an attendee swiped their ID at a booth, the attendee could enter a reminder to him or her self on the spot - such as. "Contact this manufacturer ASAP for project currently on the boards." But rough as they are, they suggest ways that, if done correctly, tradeshows can increase overall participation and add value to both the exhibitor and the speaker. Stay tuned.


Is ISO 14000 Certification Useful?

I have not seen marketing value in becoming ISO 14000 certified. If you are a building product manufacturer that has had good results from the program, please comment to share your experience.

ISO Logo
ISO says the program, "is a management tool enabling an organization of any size or type to:

  • "identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services, and to
  • "improve its environmental performance continually, and to
  • "implement a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets, to achieving these and to demonstrating that they have been achieved."
The system may actually be a good management tool that provide focus for internal review of systems and policies. But I have not seen the North American construction industry writing it into its purchase specifications, and I know almost no designer or builder for whom ISO certification is a significant factor in product selection.

A few building product manufacturers have done the paperwork to get certified. Generally, they are divisions of huge, global concerns that have bought into the ISO regimen because it is required for their aerospace, pharma, or other divisions.

More, the ISO program seems like a gin for churning out paperwork and racking up inspection agency fees -- without demanding meaningful improvement. Let's say your policy for dealing with toxic waste produced in your factory is to bury the stuff in your back yard. Your plan to improve your environmental practices might be to bury it more deeply in your yard. As long as you plan for documenting your burial practices, you can still get ISO certified.

If I am wrong about this, let me know


Successful Email Campaigns

A fast and wide-reaching way to reach your customers, email marketing continues to grow each year. A well-done email blast can be very beneficial:

  • Scalable - it costs as much to email 10 people as 10,000
  • Fast - your message arrives within minutes of pressing "Send"
  • Viral - write a good email and people send it to their friends, increasing your reach and adding a word-of-mouth component
  • Simple - using a good program or online service makes it simple to design and send your email
  • Low-Cost - beyond the initial software investment, there is little added cost beyond your time
As more and more companies move to take advantage of the technology, there are several common pitfalls that have emerged that can destroy an email's effectiveness.

Virus Check: This comes first. Scrub your computer, scrub your email, and keep your anti-virus software up to date. You only get one shot at this; send a virus to 6,000 prospective customers and your email newsletter is done.

Unsubscribe Option:
One of the most important pieces to include in every email blast you send. In addition to being illegal, few things sap customer goodwill faster (for example). Even among opt-in subscribers, having the ability to unsubscribe is very important to net citizens.

SPAM Filters: We all get spam, the modern evolution of junk mail and telemarketers. Spam filters are sometimes overenthusiastic about blocking emails to large numbers of undisclosed recipients. There are online tools that examine your emails and warn you if it is likely to get filtered, as well as easy steps to take in writing. Most importantly, encourage recipients to add you to their "safe senders" list.

Too Much HTML: HTML emails are great; they're pretty, they're fun, and they send readers back to your website with a click. But only if the HTML loads correctly. My email is set up to only show pictures if I tell it to; otherwise all I see are boxes telling me where pictures should be. If your entire message is in those pictures you've lost me. Use HTML and graphics as the icing - or the architectural details if you prefer - but use plain text for the main structure.

Window Size: A related issue to HTML. When designing your email remember that not everyone uses the same size email window - or browser, or monitor - that you do. What happens if it's too wide? Too narrow? Is it still readable? Check a wide variety of sizes.

Message Size:
This is just a courtesy issue. I already get hundreds of MB of email a day; your 5 MB missive, no matter how pretty it may be, becomes part of the problem. Keep emails small, light, and easy to download. CSI's NewsBrief routinely weighs in under 90 KB, and the largest newsletter I get is only 120 KB. Or at least, the largest one I continue to get.

Finally, be sure to send a test message before sending the full blast. Send it to yourself, the rest of the office, and a few 'net friends; have everyone read it carefully and click every link before it goes out.

Good luck, and happy emailing!


No, You're Not Weird

You're just smarter than your customer.

In a recent post Jill gave an example of a brochure graphic that did not convey the message it was intended to convey. A commenter gave a response that is important enough I want to address it in a new post instead of the comments thread:

Anonymous said...

Guess I'm weird, then, because I read the heading, saw "Flashing" and immediately saw the actual *flashing* (the shadow line helped) and knew what they were trying to sell.

No, you're not weird; you're knowledgeable about the topic. You've dealt, I'm assuming, with bricks and mortar and flashing enough in the past to tell them apart and know what you're seeing.

Problem is, your customer has not.

Repeat customers know - hopefully - what they are seeing, but new customers, completely unfamiliar with the issues, are looking at this and seeing bricks. If your target audience is graphically-oriented, as most Americans are, you've missed an opportunity.

This is why it's important to get an outsider's perspective on all sales literature and marketing collateral. If someone new to the field cannot determine what you are trying to sell, all your brochure does is waste paper.


Getting the Point Across

Can you tell what this brochure is selling?

We asked this question to several people and the common conclusion was that the company sold brick or mortar.

WRONG! This company sells flashing. While the title of this brochure says "flashing," most specifiers respond to graphics before they read and process text.

If you know that a "flashing" is a membrane that directs water away from a masonry cavity, then you might notice the lip of a through-wall flashing protruding from the second to the bottom mortar joint. The flashing is color-matched to the mortar. While making the flashing hard to see is a sellable feature in construction, it is a non-selling proposition as handled on the cover of this 8-page brochure. Rather than selling the concept that their flashing blends into the wall, prospects looking for flashing products might not even open the brochure.

Suggestion: This could have been rectified by adding an arrow calling out the flashing, and a headline along the lines of "Beautiful bricks deserve beautiful flashings." This simple device directs the viewer's attention and creates a positioning statement that could motivate viewers to take an further look at the catalog.


Paid vs Social Media

A major issue in planning your company's online marketing is whether to use paid media or social media. Most of the time the answer is a blend of the two, with the final proportions determined by the company's current needs.

Paid Media:

Paid media includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, banner ads, and sponsorships, to name a few. These vehicles are good for meeting immediate needs. Social media campaigns can take a comparatively long time to produce results, so projects that require quick turn around - such as boosting sales, testing new messages, and estimating consumer demand - benefit from paid media.

ROI: Paid media also creates a clear path for establishing return on investment (ROI). It is difficult to relate social media expenditures to eventual sales, but with paid programs you can determine exactly the cost per impression, conversion rates, and final cost per sale, making it much easier to evaluate the effectiveness of specific ads.

Message Evaluation: This process allows you to experiment to find the most effective message for each audience. Google's AdWords is a good tool for evaluating which keywords send the most traffic to your site. Ads can be refined and distributed quickly to stay abreast of the latest trends, ensuring your message is always fresh and up-to-date.

Social Media:

Social media includes forums, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and similar networks. They are good for creating relationships with your customers; social media marketing campaigns can take longer to show results, but once they are up and running new information can spread very quickly.

Community Building: Does a forum exist for your product category? If not, start one. Is there a notable blog discussing issues important to your company? If not, write one. Social media is great at creating a sense of belonging and involvement, especially when users get helpful information from the community.

Reputation Management: Social media's greatest benefit is as a listening device. Instant updates keep you informed what people are saying about your company, your products, and your industry.

Trends: What are architects looking for but not finding? What problems are contractors facing?

Relationship building is one of the most powerful tools in building product sales. In the final analysis, the reason to develop your online presence is because the A/E/C community is increasingly working online. They turn to Google and Wikipedia instead of product binders. Meet them where they are.


Beating Concrete Creep

From Concrete Construction magazine: MIT Slows Concrete Creep to a Crawl

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) online Early Edition the week of June 15, researchers say that concrete creep (the technical term for the time-dependent deformation that occurs in concrete when it is subjected to load) is caused by the rearrangement of particles at the nano-scale.

Two thoughts. First, I suspect the author gets a little overexcited about the potential of this discovery, but that does not diminish the impact of gaining such insight. Increasing the durability of concrete is a major environmental, economic, and architectural benefit.

Second, look at the end of the article:
"This work was funded in part by the Lafarge Group, a French building materials producer."
Good example of the marketing value of sponsoring research.


Supertall Buildings Growth

The construction of supertall buildings has tripled in the past decade. While the trend is likely to slow down in the cooler economy, buildings over 300 m (984 ft.) are clearly a growth market.

An article in Structure suggests areas for product innovation, including:

Greater Sustainability: Look for opportunities for more efficient structures, services, and envelopes; incorporation of energy and food production into the buildings, and reduced embodied energy and CO2 emissions.

Multi-Functional Usage: No longer just for office, hotel, and residential towers, "could the supertall of the future house vertical farms, schools and places of education, and even sporting functions to create true vertical cities?" This will create the need to adopt many technologies to the specific demands of building in the sky.


Disaster Resiliance: A New Trend in Construction Market?

I detect a groundswell of activity addressing ways to mitigate disasters through better design, construction, and building operation. While the symptoms are embryonic, they may yet emerge as a major movement that impacts building product marketing.

The genesis of the movement appears to be in three issues:
1. Growing cost of recovery from major disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, and terrorist attacks.
2. Concern over the impact of climate change. And,
3. A maturing of the "green building movement" so it now sees that disaster survivability is also an environmental concerns.

Here are just a few recent data points suggesting a nascent movement:

Initially, a marketeer can respond by taking a look at existing product offerings and determining if they can be repositioned. For example, we recently discovered that one of our clients had a project that complied with FEMA requirements for flood-resistant construction. We were able to include this finding in new sales literature, and it help open up new markets for the product.

Disaster-resistance may change the economic justification to favor products that may have higher initial costs but offer getter survivability. This calculus is already well established in the design of blast-resistant facades for government buildings and other likely "targets."

Ultimately, regulatory responses will dictate the terms of what and how we build.

As with any new trend, we do not know how or even whether these isolated factors will coalesce into a market maker. Stay tuned so that further shifts do not catch you unprepared and create a disaster in your marketing programs.


Welcoming our Newest Associate

We are excited to welcome our newest associate, Vivian Volz RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP!

Her expertise in architecture and the product selection process will be an asset to building product manufacturers looking for insight into how to bring innovative technologies to market.

Welcome, Vivian!


The RIGHT Way to Speak to Customers

New research confirms that, "humans prefer to be addressed in our right ear and are more likely to perform a task when we receive the request in our right ear rather than our left." (Science Daily, June 24, 2009).

With this in mind, try to sit on the right side of a prospect or someone else you are trying to influence. Of course, be aware of indications (such as a hearing aid) that might suggest an individual's specific preference.


Tradeshow Lanyards

What are the strongest graphic impressions in this image from a recent tradeshow?

After noticing the model's smile, you probably saw "Arcat" emblazoned on the lanyard around her neck. Arcat, a building product catalog, bought the rights to have their lanyards distributed with attendees' registration packages. It exposed their brand hundreds of times a day to each show attendee. That attention may have been beneficial to Arcat, but it could have distracted from your sales efforts if you wore one at the show.

If you are working a show, do not wear lanyards unless they display your brand. As shown in this image, lanyards distract from your message. Half the time your name badge will not be properly displayed. And the readability of your badge is reduced by suspending it well below eye level.

This is the preferred location for your name badge - pinned high on the chest or lapel where someone can read it with only minimal disruption to your eye-to-eye contact with a prospect. I prefer the right side of the chest so that it is closer to the person you are addressing when you extend your right hand to shake.

Many thanks to Kari Moosmann for posing at the recent Construct 2009 trade show. Kari is a first class construction writer and was, until recently, an editor for Hanley Wood. She is available for assignments.


New iPhone Software Benefits Building Product Industry

New iPhone 3.0 Software is finally here!

Going to Construct 2009 or another trade show? You can now record a speaker's presentation with Voice Memos, create meetings and subscribe to other people's calendars. You can also take notes and sync them with your Mac or PC while using a horizontal keyboard!

Forget your schedule at home? The Safari browser is now much faster so you won't waste precious minutes between presentations.

Forget your internet air card or don't want to pay for public internet? Use the internet tethering through your bluetooth to get connected (or maybe you're reading this through a tethered connection)!

Let us know other ways technology is making your building product life easier!


Augmented Reality Advertising

According to a recent New York Times article, magazine publishers have found a way to bend the rules which prevent ad space from being on magazine covers-- by using web cams.

Magazines such as Popular Science are now printing covers that, when placed in front of web cams, transform still images to moving images, a technology called augmented reality.

Is this crossing a line or a great innovation for advertising?


Marketing with "Starchitects"

Architects are trained to copy. While architecture schools talk about creativity, students, by and large, only have license to be creative within the stylistic vocabulary approved by the academy. The same remains true in professional practice - only a very few "starchitects" have the clout to open up a developer's purse to create a new look. Then, through publication, other architects can follow the lead.

Building product marketeers who understand this dynamic can often take advantage of it to stimulate demand for their products. The following case studies cite a few dramatic examples.

Case Study #1 - Reflective Glass and Philip Johnson
Johnson towered over American corporate architecture during the second half of the 20th Century. When PPG Industries hired him to design their headquarters in Pittsburgh (completed 1984), Johnson created a stunning, all-glass facade using his client's new reflective glass (photo above). PPG advertised the project heavily, making sure the project was associated with Johnson's name. Not only did the large project inspire other architects to use reflective glass curtainwalls, it made it "safe" for them to do so since it gave them someone they could "creatively copy." From PPG's standpoint, the fee they paid their starchitect paid dividends by stimulating demand for their product.

Case Study #2 - Sheet Metal Facades and Frank Gehry
Gehry's rippling sheet metal facades are the defining architectural form of the past decade. Inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and his other signature projects, architects around the world have "creatively copied" the master by using sheet metal for architectural expressions that transcend the material's former reputation as a utilitarian cladding.

I trace the start of this trend to an exhibition on "Sheet Metal Craftsmanship" in 1988 at the National Building Museum. The exhibit was sponsored by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA), an industry trade promotion council. (Photo from a 3D Viewmaster slide show of project.)

Gehry was a logical choice for the project as he was already known for innovative use of exposed metal; most famously his own residence in Santa Monica, CA that had a facade composed of corrugated steel and chain link fencing creating unusual geometric volumes. But I contend that this exhibition changed his understanding of how to work with sheet metal and lead directly to his more recent structures draped in shimmering, custom-crafted stainless steel and titanium.

I recently had a chance to ask Gehry about the exhibition. He explained that SMACNA had little money for a fee. (This alone may not have deterred him from accepting the fee, as many architects do pro bono work that will give them increased visibility or position them for larger projects.) Gehry says he accepted the project on condition, telling the sheet metal workers that "you and I have to be brothers from now on. Family. I'll give you this design, but you'll have to stand by me wherever I go, helping me do the things I want to do with metal. And they have. at Bilbao, at Disney [concert hall in Los Angeles], the sheet metal industry has stood with me and made it possible to do the things I have."

I remember visiting the exhibition. Inside the vast central hall of Museum he installed monumental scale sheet metal structures. In addition to housing educational displays about the history, materials, and techniques of metal mongery, the structures themselves shouted - "take a fresh look at sheet metal." They contained all the curves, all the careful attention to detailing, and the explorations of metal finishes and "materiality" that are now part of Gehry's oeuvre. The exhibition was his laboratory where, with the support of his "brothers," he could push the envelope of metal design.

The sheet metal workers could have employed a more conventional exhibition designer. But they carefully chose a starchitect. Gehry's participaton not only drew more people and publicity to the exhibit, it planted seedlings that have continued to sprout for the industry.


Selling To Architects: A Visual Approach

Architects think visually. In addition to technical data about your product, they need to see how it looks. The two major ways of presenting your products are still and moving images. First, I need to dispel two prevailing myths.

Myth No. 1: “The new software allows me (or my nephew, or my secretary) to do everything ourselves; we don’t need professionals anymore.” This myth goes back to the time when Microsoft Word had acquired some layout capabilities, and the market immediately became flooded with terrible-looking, hard to read and highly inefficient fliers, ads and brochures. The second act of this drama was emergence of software allowing creating web page without any knowledge of HTML, such as FrontPage, GoLive or Dreamweaver. The result was a proliferation of bloated, slow loading, search engine unfriendly and ultimately very ugly web pages.

This era is coming to an end. The overcrowded and highly competitive Internet space has forced many advertisers to admit their own incompetence and to rely on professional designers and programmers.

Myth No. 2: “The new hardware allows me to shoot photos and videos at very high resolution. I don’t need photographers and videographers anymore.” What’s wrong with this myth? Two things.

  • High resolution is probably only 10% of the success of any photo and video production. Other factors include lighting, color balance, depth of field, geometrical distortions, noise reduction, compositional balance, etc.
  • More importantly, your still or moving images must be able to tell a story, and not just any story, they should convey your consistent marketing message. Professionals may be better equipped to do it.

Practical recommendations.

There are many cases when you may need to take pictures or video yourself. Make sure you use the right equipment.

  • Still cameras. As I mentioned above, resolution is only a small part of the story. It’s great if your camera can give 10 or more megapixels, this way your image theoretically can be used for a magazine cover. But equally important is the size and quality of the lens and the size and quality of the chip and image processor. To avoid geometrical distortions, use the highest quality lens. Unfortunately, the better the lens, the bigger and heavier it usually gets. Find a reasonable compromise. If you can spend around $3,000, get Canon EOS 5D Mark II. In addition to stunning still images, you will be able to shoot full HD 1920x1080 videos. For smaller budget, you may consider Canon EOS Rebel T1i, which also will let you shoot HD videos. If size, weight and price are important, consider Canon PowerShot SD990 IS. Other manufacturers (Nikon, Olympus and Pentax, for example) make similar products.
  • Video cameras. Even though some still cameras give you the video option, you may want to consider having a dedicated video camera, especially if you shoot a lot of video. Any universality usually results in lower efficiency. If you have a budget of $4,000 and need to shoot for both American and European markets, you may consider Sony HVR-Z1U, a semi-professional camcorder capable of shooting in both NTSC and PAL as well as in various HD formats. It also allows using external professional microphones. Remember, the quality of sound is what immediately betrays amateur recording, more than the image quality. There are many compact inexpensive HD camcorders on the market. Just make sure they have an external microphone jack.

Still image format and resolution.

If someone tells you they need an image with 300dpi, it means absolutely nothing unless they also give you the image size. A 4” x 5” image at 300dpi is virtually identical to a 16.7” x 20.8” image at 72dpi. What counts is the number of pixels, and in this example, the number of pixels is the same, 1200 x 1500. It is true, for high-quality printing, the images need to be 300dpi, which means that they need to have 300 pixels per inch. So, for an 8.5” x 11” page, the images must have (8.5 x 300) x (11 x 300) pixels, i.e. 2550 x 3300 pixels. The actual file size will depend on the color space. For Grayscale images it will make the file 8.03MB, for RGB, 24.1MB, for CMYK, 32.1MB.

RGB images are used for video and web. CMYK images are used for offset printing. In addition to color space, images can be saved in various formats: TIFF, EPS, PNG, GIF, JPG, etc.

Warning: JPG (or JPEG) format uses compression that degrades the image quality. It is OK to use JPG for the web (usually no lower than at 60% JPG quality). It is totally unacceptable to use JPG format for any high-quality printing. Always try to use TIF (or TIFF). There are rare cases when you need to send an image via email, and the TIF file is just too large. In that case, use free file uploading sites (such as, for example) or, if all else fails, use JPG but with at least 60% quality or higher.

Video formats.

Always keep your original raw video files untouched (either on tape or on disk), you may need them for another project one day. If you do video editing yourself, you probably know all the basic video formats. The important distinction to keep in mind is the difference between interlaced and progressive scanning, usually indicated by the letters “i” and “p” (as in 60i or 50p). Interlaced scanning was invented in the beginning of the TV era, when broadcasting equipment could not transmit all 480 horizontal lines at the same time, so the picture was broken into odd and even lines, and these was transmitted one after another. The TV receiver was designed to interlace odd and even lines to create a complete picture. This awkward system is still in place in standard definition TV even though there is no practical need for it other than many years of investment in equipment. The computer screen uses progressive scanning, which means that lines are not broken into even and odd and are transmitted in regular order.

Regardless of how the video was shot, exporting it for TV or DVD requires interlaced scanning. Exporting for web requires progressive scanning.

Where do we go from here?

In this brief article, we just touched the tip of the iceberg. Both photo and video production is both art and science. My final advice: if you need to impress architects with the way your product affects the environment and contributes to the interior or exterior space, hire a professional. It pays in the long run.

Vladimir Paperny, PhD


How Organizations Can Use Twitter

Post from Matt Rhodes at SMT.

In both cases, perhaps the best advice is just to try using Twitter and to see what happens. As a rapidly growing site, Twitter is changing on a daily basis. New people are joining and using it for new reasons. As such it’s a great environment for brands to experiment and to see what works for them.
Very well put.


Manufacturers' Reps

A network of regional independent manufacturers' agents (reps) is often the most logical basis for building business. A nework of reps:

  • Has established clientele and know the local specifiers and buyers.
  • Is readily developed and can accelerate market penetration.
  • Are paid only on sale, limiting up-front costs.
  • Within their territory, they work the entire marketplace to move product though multiple levels of decision makers - including specifiers, applicators, contractors, local distributors, and owners.
  • Reps become your agent, with an interest in training, trouble-shooting, and business development within their territory.
The typical building product prospect does not know you, does not know your company, does not know your product, and does not know the material. But the prospect DOES know the local rep, sees the rep at CSI, AIA, ACI, and other industry events. Sees the rep calling on the office or job site to support the rep's other products. Can call the local rep without wondering what time zone he or she is in. Can get the rep into a meeting on short notice, when required. The typical architect or contractor may not return your phone call or email, but will accept phone calls from local reps - reps who are vital sources of support to their effort.

Reps are not incompatible with having a national distributor:

  • Uncover new opportunities.
  • Sales calls on local specifiers and buyers.
  • Training and support.
  • Your eyes, ears, and mouth in territory.
  • Set up and service local distributors.
  • Typically do not warehouse material.
  • May or may not take orders.
  • Respond to local inquiries redirected from Corporate or Distributor.
  • Notify distributor when projects are specified or a contractor is ready to buy.
Reps are paid a commission on all sales shipped into their territory; commissions are about 10% but vary according to the amount of effort anticipated in promoting a line. Occasionally a commission will be split if the specifier is in one territory and the ship-to address is in another territory.

  • Take orders, makes "sales".
  • Call existing accounts to prompt reorders.
  • Can also do prospecting sales calls.
  • Holds paper and makes collections.
  • Deliver goods.
  • Notifies rep when customer needs support.


First, join the Manufacturer Agents National Association and get their list or advertise to their database of architectural products reps. MANA also offers consulting support to manufacturers, sample agreement forms, etc. Cost is $500/year and is well worth it, especially while getting started.

Next, a day of working the phones through your existing networks will identify the most highly respected reps in leading territories. Begin by looking for reps already dealing with your product category.

Your job morphs into supporting and encouraging your reps, leveraging your talents and time. Eventually, you may want a national sales manager to manage reps. While the brand is getting established, it is also useful to give reps a small monthly budget for promotion to make sure they devote time to your line; one experienced rep suggested this could be as low as $500 a month for six months, to be used for lunch programs, local advertising, promotional materials, etc.


iPhone Apps for Construction

Benjamin Moore on your iPhone

Painting your home is often one of the least expensive ways to make a noticeable--even dramatic--change to an interior. And if you'd like to match a paint color you see in a picture, Benjamin Moore's new iPhone app is ready to come to your aid. Load the picture into an iPhone or iPod touch, click match and scroll through an assortment of related paint colors, including light and dark shades.
Excellent demonstration of the potential of mobile phone computing. Sure, you could use paint chips, but why bother?

What apps could you create for your customer's phone? BuildIntel has some interesting ideas; what are yours?


Marketing the Green Challenge

Prototypes of Calstar Products fly ash brickThe construction products industry has, for the past few years, been consumed by the struggle to either be green or appear green. It's caused me to reflect on the different marketing struggles faced by old products trying to green themselves vs. new ones that are built green from the bottom up.

An example of a green-from-day-one marketing challenge is CalStar Products, Inc., a Northern California-based company founded to create more sustainable cementitious products. ( They are in the final development stages of a non-clay, non-fired brick. It is made dominantly of fly ash, a recycled smokestack byproduct.

This innovative product was developed to address the high energy consumption and concomitant CO2 emission associated with making fired clay brick (the most common form of brick). The process for firing clay into brick involves up to three days in a kiln at about 1000 degrees F. During most of the past 100 years, that's resulted in about 1.3 lbs of CO2 being sent up the smokestack and into our air for every common 4.1-lb. clay brick produced. Coal-fired kilns can cough up additional smokestack pollution problems if they're not properly scrubbed.

CalStar's fly ash brick isn't kilned, and the energy consumption of its prototypes is coming in at about 15%-20% of a fired clay brick. They hope to get it down to 10% when they have fully ramped up commercial production. They've done testing to demonstrate that their brick meet the same ASTM structural standards that clay brick have to meet. So their marketing story is about a product that can be substituted for clay brick while making a big reduction in CO2 related to global climate change.

CalStar's biggest challenge is, in fact, that their product is innovative. It hasn't been built with before. Not only must CalStar introduce its new solution to the marketplace, it must also overcome the industry-wide reluctance to be the first to try anything new, a type of caution for which design professionals and construction contractors are notorious. Construction-related liabilities can be enormous, so a decision-maker considering a really innovative product has to be wondering whether human progress is worth the risk of his personal livelihood. CalStar needs to simultaneously tell their sustainability story and overcome the well-entrenched fear of change.

CalStar is tackling this challenge with a combination of science and good public relations. They are testing and refining their product rigorously, both to meet industry-wide brick standards that will make it a equivalent and approvable substitute, and also to ascertain that the product is safe, responsibly made, and reliable. At the same time, they are working with construction PR professionals to educate the industry in depth about the issues, tell their story and build confidence in their product, and make the case for brick masonry that is more friendly to the planet.

The clay brick industry ( has the opposite marketing challenge. They are the dominant player, and their product is a very well established, economical, reliable building material. But the sustainability profile of brick is becoming more and more of an issue for them.

The clay brick industry's challenges are a) fighting a rearguard action against competitive masonry products like concrete brick and new green bricks such as CalStar's, and b) making their own product either be greener or appear greener.

On the greening front, the clay brick industry has made a mighty effort to reduce their energy consumption and pollution. They claim a per-brick-reduction in embodied energy of about 1/3. Unfortunately, this still leaves a lot of CO2 between them and their nearest competition, concrete brick. Moreover, they may be reaching the lower limit of energy consumption possible within the nature of clay.

The clay brick industry has responded to this challenge with a deft public relations campaign. They have, first of all, tried to brand fire clay brick as the only true brick, excluding concrete, adobe, and others. They use language very effectively in this effort, referring to concrete bricks as cricks (see article on, for example) or referring to competitive products in quotes, as in: fly ash "brick".

They are making the most of the green properties they do possess, such as durability, thermal mass effect, insulation value, etc. Based on these properties, they have gone on the offensive, claiming to be the greenest building material available.

Personally, I'm not sure I buy every one of their claims, and I wonder how much of it is really just greenwashing. (That question comes up lately in regard to many products.) But professionally, I have to admire their strategy and their execution. They are using marketing methods effectively to make the most of their situation and extend the life of their product.

For more on brick and sustainability, please see our article from the May issue of The Construction Specifier.


Building Better with iPhone Applications

Green iPhone Building Apps
from BuildIntel by Building Experts Team

We recently read about the new Benjamin Moore iPhone application on Charles & Hudson and it got us thinking. So we created a list of suggested iPhone applications that are cool, practical, and would help your job. We’re pretty sure that they all would work too. All of these are building related, of course. The names are subject to change, so please use your imagination for now.

  • Is it green yet? Calculates your LEED score for you during construction. (there is currently a training application for your exam)
  • Gopher. Calculate the amount of materials you need by the size of the project. Some examples include siding, decking, flooring, roofing, etc.
  • Hero Hotline. Find a subcontractor in the area and locate them through GPS.
  • In the Zone. Find everything about the area including fees, codes, ordinances, regulations, etc.
  • Carbon Counter. How big is your footprint? Chart your activities and receive a score.
  • Find a Product. Find a Distributor near your project by product availability.
  • Materials Pricing. Pretty self explanatory.
  • I Need Green. Locate green product stores, recycled building products sellers, architectural salvage yards and more.
  • Job site Trainer. A library of how-to construction articles and videos.

They already have a CAD program and the tape measure, so we crossed that off our list. And we know that there are similar applications, but they’re more general, not industry-specific.


Michael Chusid has been a consultant to over 100 successful organizations in the building products industry. He serves an international clientele from offices in Los Angeles, California.
- Marketing Strategy, Start-Up, Repositioning
- Product Development, Testing, Approvals
- Advertising, Public Relations, Online Media
- Promotion, Continuing Education, Trade Shows
- Sales & Technical Literature, Guide Specifications

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