Today at Greenbuild, in Los Angeles, the AIA announced that ARCOM, a Salt Lake City-based company that produces digital specification tools for the AEC industries, will be bought by San Francisco private equity firm Alpine Investors. ARCOM licenses, publishes, and distributes MasterSpec, a specification system used by about 10,000 architectural and engineering firms, totaling to over 50,000 users, in the United States that was developed by the AIA.

With this switch to ownership and the support from Alpine, MasterSpec will improve upon its functionality, user experience, and platforms. The first focus is the content, which is provided by ARCOM, and includes referenced specifications regarding building materials that were used, and where to use them in new applications. To make it more user-friendly, developers will be improving the interface, and enhancing the tools already in the system in addition to adding more. The final improvement is making the software available through "cloud technology," or mobile devices, and making it so it can integrate with Autodesk's AutoCAD.

"We've seen digital transformations take over in other industries, such as retail, so ARCOM has taken the same thinking and applied it to the AEC Industry to improve the spec as an element of content that describes the building," says Jim Contardi, who has just been named the new CEO of ARCOM while simultaneouly acting as a CEO-in-residence at Alpine, succeeding Christopher G. Bushnell, AIA, who will retire at the end of the year after holding the position for 10 years. The improvements will also encourage collaboration between building owners, architects, contractors, and product manufacturers.

According to Kathy Compton, senior vice president of brand engagement at the AIA, this switch to ownership will elevate Masterspec. "The AIA has underutilized and undervalued the potential of what Masterspec has, and this affords [ARCOM] the ability to look at it in a new way."

According to John Crosby, managing director at the AIA, ARCOM conducted a survey earlier this year that "users think that specification is akin to eating broccoli," he says. However, the firm's view is that it should be a much more strategic process, and believes that this "lost art" can be restored by architects becoming more involved in the process rethinking how they can utilize it.