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2020 Class of Fellows Q&A with Elias S. Saltz

By CSI HQ posted 08-07-2020 11:06


Saltz_-_Headshot.jpg2020 Class of Fellows Q&A with Elias S. Saltz

The CSI College of Fellows has selected five new members to the 2020 class, including Elias S. Saltz, CSI, CCS, CDT®.


Elias was nominated through a rigorous application process, then elected by the Jury of Fellows for membership. Fellowship is one of the top two honors given by the Institute.

Elias will be inducted during the virtual Honors and Awards Ceremony taking place later this fall. Here, he shares what the honor means to him, and how being a member of CSI has informed his life and career.


What does being a member of the 2020 Class of Fellows honorees mean to you?

I’ve admired so many of the current Fellows for their past accomplishments and for the way that all of them stay engaged and continue contributing to CSI and the industry on a high level. I feel humbled to be deemed worthy to join their company.

Fellowship acknowledges contributions to the advancement of construction technology. Of all your contributions to CSI, which of them are most significant to you?

I’m a construction specifier, and over my career I have seen too many terrible specifications. I feel that my contributions to the improvement of construction specifications rank highest in significance; I’m particularly proud of my blog posts and articles in which I take on issues pertaining to topics faced by specification authors and their audience.

What was your first job in the construction industry?

In 1994, when I graduated from Miami University with my Master of Architecture, I got an entry-level job with Prisco Serena Sturm Architects in Northbrook, Illinois, where I spent my first year actually hand-drawing architectural details. The firm switched over to Microstation after that.

What has been your favorite aspect of making your career in this field?

I found fairly early on that my passion was more the problem-solving part of architecture than the big-picture design aspect. That led to me becoming more and more knowledgeable about technical design, product attributes, and preventing failures. It was a natural step from technical designer to specifying.  As the technical lead or specifier, I need to be constantly learning things, and that has been the most rewarding part.

How has being a member of CSI informed your life and career?

I first joined CSI when I became a specifier because I thought it would be a great way to network with and learn from professionals in my field. That was and is still true, but I also discovered CSI was a diverse community of people who came together with the similar goal of making design and construction better for everyone. Some of those members persuaded me to get more involved. Critically, once I was involved—volunteering, speaking and writing—I found that my contributions were being valued, amplified and taken seriously by the most respected members in the Institute (the Fellows). Through them and CSI, I found exciting professional work and high-profile volunteer opportunities, and lifelong friends.

Is there anyone you would like to recognize for supporting the work you do?

I’ve had some great mentors and folks who’ve inspired me to do more and do better. I especially would like to recognize David Stutzman, FCSI, CCS, CDT, AIA, SCIP, for all the teaching and for giving me the chance to be a Conspectus Cloud leader. I’ve also gotten tremendous inspiration for giving back to CSI and the industry from Cherise Lakeside, FCSI, CDT, J.W. Mollohan, FCSI, CCPR, CDT, LEED GA, and Louis Medcalf, FCSI, CCS, CDT. Finally, shouts out to my fellow leaders in the Chicago Chapter and the North Central Region, especially Andrea Baird, CSI, CCCA, CDT, Jeremy Olsen, CSI, CCS, CCCA, CDT, Peter Grotenhuis, CSI, CDT, Steve Gantner, CSI, CCS, CCCA, CDT, SCIP, Jarrod Mann, CSI, CDT, and Kermit Duncan, FCSI, CCCA, CDT.

What advice would you give to newer CSI members just entering this industry, or that you wish a colleague had given you?

The advice I actually got when I was newly hired was, “don't become an architect.”  I think the more correct advice is, “don't try to become a traditional architect.” Instead, folks entering the industry should think of architecture as a knowledge profession where the services and expertise provided are legitimately leveraged to correctly solving the clients’ problems and not feeding the architect’s own ego.

What do you think the most significant changes, or opportunities, will be in the construction industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

The most significant change coming in that timeframe will be replacing the contractual duty architects provide owners with a fiduciary duty. That will be like a hurricane ripping through the profession and will force architects to take specifications and technical knowledge far more seriously than they do currently.

Any additional thoughts on how being a member of the CSI Community has helped weather the current pandemic and how you and your colleagues continue to support each other?

Being active in CSI has meant having a nationwide network of folks with complementary knowledge and similar experiences. Participating with those folks in online discussions, frequent Zoom meetings, planning and educational sessions, and general camaraderie has been extremely comforting in the current environment.

1 comment



Elias, I love your specific thoughts about advice to not try to become a traditional architect. Great approach for when people ask for advice. I sometimes end up talking to parents of high school kids about this stuff, and use way too many words. Your concise “think of architecture as a knowledge profession where the services and expertise provided are legitimately leveraged to correctly solving the clients’ problems and not feeding the architect’s own ego” is a great approach.