|Standards: Dense Prose|
Industry standards are essential to the construction industry. Yet they are often confusing, out of date, and contradictory. Produced by consensus organizations, they are subject to political pressures that can favor or exclude proprietary products and innovative solutions. Moreover, designers, builders, and building material suppliers are challenged to stay current with revisions to standards.
This complexity can work to your marketing advantage.
building product manufacturers should be active in standards
affecting their work. These consensus-driven
committees need your insight into best industry practices, the needs
of your clients, and the pragmatic limitations of current technology.
Further, you can keep your clients up-to-date
and informed of changes to standards. This will make your firm the "go-to" resource for current and reliable information. For example, changed standards provide a great opportunity for publicity; contact the editors of trade journals and offer to provide an article about the revisions.
Your marketing and technical literature should be up-to-date,
and that your sales representatives and customer service personnel are
. Then use your product literature, e-mail blasts, guide
specifications, and continuing education programs to inform your
Your point-of-purchase and packaging provide other opportunities
Imagine a customer that has a choice between two products; one has a
sticker proclaiming: "Complies with the New 2011 Industry Standards," and the other is silent on the matter. Which has the greatest appeal?
A CASE STUDY
I recently updated a guide specification for a client that produces pigments for integrally-colored concrete. In the decade since I wrote the original guide spec, most of the standards it references had been revised. The updated standards cost over $100, an expense few construction firms are willing to pay, especially when a firm has to stay abreast of revisions in dozens or even hundreds of product categories. An even greater cost is the time required for a professional to review the steady stream of updated documents. This provides an opportunity for my client to be of service to their customers.
For example, American Concrete Institute document ACI 303.1 - Specifications for Architectural Concrete
has not been revised since 1997, but it references another document that has been revised, ACI 117. The 2006 version of ACI 117 changes how construction tolerances are specified. Had my client reissued a guide specification with the obsolete tolerances, it would have been a disservice to their customers, a potential source of embarrassment, and perhaps even a legal complication.
Another document, ACI 301 - Specifications for Structural Concrete,
also contains requirements for "architectural concrete." ACI does not offer guidance for coordinating specifications where loadbearing (structural) concrete must also meet rigorous appearance requirements (architectural). Having identified this conflict, my client can now help their clients by offering guide specification language that reconciles the conflicting documents.
Requirements for concrete pigments are defined in ASTM C979. Yet ACI 303.1 adds requirements that are not
in the ASTM standard. The added requirements are not representative of industry practices and can actually be a detriment to successful concrete work. One suspects the committee was influenced of the one manufacturer that benefits from the added requirements; my client did not have a representative at the table. My client's revised guide specification explains the rationale for sticking to the ASTM requirements, and tries to paint their competitor into a corner.
I now serve on an ACI committee that is updating some of the outdated standards. While I am there to represent my client's interests, I must always work towards the goal of advancing the entire industry.