Outgoing CSI Board Chair Marvin Kemp Reflects on CSI’s Expansion and Growth

By Peter Kray posted 08-01-2022 06:50 PM

Marvin Kemp AIA, FCSI, CDT®, concluded his term as Board Chair of The Construction Specifications Institute on July 1, 2022. Here, CSI Chief Executive Officer Mark Dorsey sits down with Marvin to discuss his many accomplishments and why he has worked so tirelessly for the benefit of CSI.

Marvin, thank you for sharing so many years in generous support of this association. Your service has been remarkable, as both chair of the board the last two years and as a member of the board since 2016.

There are so many ways in which CSI has benefited from your leadership, especially throughout the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. As you look back and reflect, what are a few personal highlights of where CSI was when you became chair-elect and how you helped prepare the association for what comes next?

Serving as CSI board chair has been one of the honors of my life. As I reflect on this experience, particularly the past four years, I recall several things that are personally rewarding.

The growth of our online communities has proven to be a fantastic way for members to engage with each other—particularly during the pandemic, where you could pose a question into the community and a dozen professionals who had encountered that situation would respond. And the Learning Library has provided a way for professionals who aren’t CSI members to engage with us at their preferred time and place of need.

The creation of Crosswalk® to help our business partners fully integrate our standards into their products has proven to be a great way to ensure that MasterFormat®, UniFormat®, OmniClass® and our other standards and formats remain the industry gold standard. 

Launching our first national conference last fall in Nashville was a great opportunity to reunite and move CSI forward. I cannot wait for Denver this fall.

All of these strategic initiatives were envisioned by the board and executed by our great staff and others. In my time on the board, we moved from being highly focused on the day-to-day operation of CSI to becoming adept at holding tough strategic conversations to inform where CSI should be headed to best serve our industry.

One of the pillars of CSI is to be a robust, diverse, and inclusive community of professionals. And CSI has been a champion for our industry’s health and success. Why has this been so important during your leadership?

CSI has always strived to be a diverse community. Historically, what has set CSI apart is we welcome anyone in our industry as an equal. We’ve enjoyed fellowship and learning from owners, builders, designers, facility managers, and building product manufacturers. 

But professional diversity is not good enough. And it’s not where our industry is now. We continue to see more women and people of color—both in our firm’s hiring processes and throughout the industry. And that’s fantastic. Our firm, for example, has sought out the best and the brightest candidates from a group of schools that we hire from routinely. Our firm’s success is built on that diversity and our continued success hinges on that diversity. CSI is no different, as we need to be there to meet the changes in population that are the source of professionals and members in the years to come.

CSI is rightfully acknowledged for its leadership in the standardization of construction documents. But during your time, with the introduction of new resources such as Crosswalk®, what has it meant to you to uphold the quality and importance of education and certification for the industry's benefit?

CSI was founded on the notion of creating a standard way of organizing specifications. It was that simple. We’ve done that with MasterFormat®, but we’ve also expanded our reach into how information is organized so it’s easy for construction professionals to consume and understand.

We’ve also expanded our involvement beyond just specifications. We assist with standard contracts and other legal documents because that’s what our industry needs. And as the only association that welcomes anyone from the construction industry into our community, we are uniquely qualified to provide that service to our industry.


We continue to discuss how we can provide more resources to meet the needs of our colleagues and industry partners, which is why we completely reworked all our certifications. We made CDT® a certification rather than just a certificate. We’ve revamped our Practice Guides, which are highly successful and should be a reference on the desk of every construction professional. Those items are only a few examples of what is critically important to the success of CSI and its contributions to the industry.

It’s a significant list of accomplishments under your watch and with the support of the Board. Getting back to the sense of community we share, what impressed you the most about how our industry responded to COVID in the lockdown and how they continue to support each other?

What I find really inspiring is how CSI embraced its online communities to support how our work habits were changing and to make sure we were all okay. We knew the pandemic was coming as early as January 2020. I’m incredibly proud of how CSI and industry companies made sure our digital systems were robust enough to allow for remote work, and to be among the first to say, “Can we do this? Are we robust enough? If not, what investments need to be made?”

We also learned new and innovative ways to stay connected, collaborate, and continue to mentor each other. Also inspiring was that some states deemed construction an essential industry, allowing us to continue to work. I'm very proud of how our building partners embraced the changes they needed to make to keep their workers safe and our industry doing what we do best, which is building buildings.


It was amazing how we all came together. Now I’d like to ask you what you believe are key opportunities you see for CSI.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our certifications. I earned the CDT® after I became a licensed architect, and the knowledge that gave me really filled in that gap that exists between what’s taught in our schools and what we really need to be successful to do our jobs as construction professionals.

As our industry changes, more and more projects use delivery methods other than the traditional design-bid-build. We’re seeing more CM at Risk (Construction Manager At- Risk) and more negotiated contracts. Without the CDT® I wouldn't be able to advise my clients and project teams or understand the risks associated with each of those different delivery methods.

All our certifications are proof that construction professionals have the knowledge to do their work, represent their firm, and serve their clients and our industry. They are the gold standard of certifications in our industry. 

What are the memories you’ll cherish most from your service on the board?

There are a lot. I think about those early board meetings where, as a collective, we re-envisioned how CSI should be governed. That was a very rewarding process, but even more rewarding when our leadership and our membership agreed when we said, “This is what we need to do, and this is why we need to do it.” Our membership stepped up and they’ve been right there with us ever since.

I'll also cherish the people I’ve gotten to know, such as William Sundquist, chair-elect, and Cam Featherstonhaugh, who is now board chair and is going to do a great job. Also, Ellen Crews, who came before me, and Ron Geren. All the folks on the board are highly qualified people dedicated to CSI.

Those conversations are always going to be memorable to me. The time I spent time on awards committees, at the chapter, region, and national level, is also close to my heart. As was the opportunity to stand on stage in Nashville and confer fellowship on some colleagues… to confer distinguished membership on my friend, Casey Robb, then to honor Louis Medcalf posthumously as a Distinguished Member. 

Still, what stands out most are those interactions with people and how we came together as a board and worked together to do what's best for CSI and our industry.

Marvin, thank you again for your service, your collegiality, and being that heart and soul that’s critical to an organization like ours.

Thank you, Mark. It has been an honor. Give me six months and then I'll be back doing something else on behalf of our members at CSI.