Mergers continue to propagate in the industry, but this week’s union is not of two practices, but rather the acquisition of software developer Building Systems Design (BSD) by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The nonprofit professional organization will maintain Atlanta-based BSD as “a separate, for-profit enterprise,” according to a press release.

The CSI has long been the industry leader in establishing the ubiquitous standards for construction specifications, including MasterFormat, SectionFormat, UniFormat, and OmniClass. BSD publishes SpecLink-E and the new LinkMan-E, which connects SpecLink with Autodesk’s Revit. “CSI needs to be involved in the creation of standards that enable greater efficiency in information transfer, data interoperability and improved construction documentation,” CSI executive director and CEO Walter Marlowe says. “CSI also must provide better access for our members to software that utilizes those standards.”

BSD president and chief operating officer Robert Paul Dean says, “This will create more business for us and generate increased membership for CSI.” In the short term, through a limited offer, it will be less expensive for someone to join CSI and purchase BSD products than to buy the software alone.

It remains to be seen what effect the CSI-BSD partnership will have on the competition. MasterSpec and its associated SpecWare software are developed and published by ARCOM (Architectural Computer Services) for the AIA. The relationship between the AIA and MasterSpec is somewhat analogous to the new relationship between CSI and BSD—“but with a significant difference,” BSD’s Dean notes. “The AIA owns MasterSpec—but outsources the management of the product to ARCOM.” ARCOM is BSD’s largest competitor. “We’re a cornerstone partner of the AIA,” Dean says—which creates a similarly odd relationship between a major industry nonprofit professional organization and a competitor to one if its revenue-producing products.

California-based specifications specialist Andrew Wilson of AWC West raises an interesting question. He sees the new link between the CSI and BSD committing the organization that has traditionally created the most commonly used specifying standards to a single protocol: data-based specifying. “They could lose their objectivity,” Wilson says.