International Standards (Archived)

RT-049 Topic Summary
RT 049


International standards currently being created and implemented will have a major impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. construction industry. These could potentially have a negative effect on the ability for U.S. construction firms to compete globally, if the new standards are not monitored carefully or lack U.S. representation. Expanded participation by the U.S. construction industry within the international standards-setting community will:

  • Increase the efficiency of developing, adopting, and maintaining international standards
  • Provide strategies to remain competitive or increase competitiveness in the global construction arena
  • Provide a service to assist in the more efficient delivery of global construction projects
  • Reduce barriers that cause conflicts or misunderstandings on global projects

Instead of continuing to use many of the U.S. standards that have been used in the past, other countries are now adopting ISO standards. This puts pressure on the U.S. to be more involved with the development of ISO standards if they are to remain competitive in the global market. By working with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the U.S. representative to ISO, international standards can be monitored, proposed, and developed to strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. construction industry in global markets.

The U.S. cannot afford to lose ground in the global marketplace because the international trade agreements currently being used, or introduced, are opening the U.S. market to foreign products and services. If the U.S. construction industry does not become more involved, it may even lose traditional domestic markets to foreign competition. 

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Standards Development Organizations

Standards are an important aid in the process of homogenizing the world while incorporating its variations. The U.S. Government shares development of standards with over 180 private organizations involved in work pertaining to design and construction standards. This is in contrast to other countries where one centralized agency is responsible for preparing national standards. Organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), the British Standards Institution (BSI), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and DIN produce standards that are used in many parts of the world, but they are all national organizations. Many of the standards from these organizations are incorporated into international standards through the ISO. This worldwide competition is driving the development of international standards and increasing importance.

To remain globally competitive, the U.S. construction industry must thoroughly examine and improve its inadequate participation in the development of construction-related standards. Involvement in standard development is important because it influences the acceptance of U.S technology, products, and services in international markets. (RS49-1, p. 3)

Reference: (RS49-1)

2 : International Quality Standards

International standards are used to influence, or regulate, the types of goods and services that flow between nations. One of the main purposes of international standards is to harmonize the technical regulations of individual nations. The International Organization for Standards (ISO) is a specialized international agency created to “promote the development of standardization and to facilitate the international exchange of goods and services and to foster cooperation between intellectual, scientific, technological, and economic activities.”

Other countries are rapidly adopting ISO standards, putting pressure on the U.S. to become more involved. ISO 9000 series of Quality Standards are specific quality management standards which are either performance or product standards. Using the ISO 9000 series of standards in an organization is first and foremost a way of addressing regulation and competition concerns. Companies are willing to meet the challenge of the ISO 9000 registration so that they gain access to certain markets. (RS49-1, p. 8)

Reference: (RS49-1)

3 : Global Competitiveness and Involvement in International Standard Development

Opportunities to obtain competitive advantage in the area of standards include:

  • Being able to generate standards and get them to market faster
  • Having better access to the markets
  • Having lower life cycle costs
  • Greater influence on regulation
In order to address standards in a more comprehensive and global manner, a new concept has been developed that is called Strategic Standardization Management (SSM). SSM addresses all major standardization issues with a strategic enterprise driven and global approach.

ISO 9000 system aids in the involvement of global competitiveness because the system is not just a set of standards for a company, but rather a specific set of guidelines that reflects its commitment to qualify. It appears that the ISO 9000 quality standards will be part of the price of entry into doing business globally. Even the ISO is pursuing ISO 9000 registration. This may indicate that U.S. standards developers should also be considering ISO 9000 registration. The research also presents the advantages and disadvantages of international standards, such as, removal of technical barriers to trade (advantage) and external costs for audit and registration (disadvantage). (RS49-1, p. 26)

Reference: (RS49-1)

4 : Implementation Tool #1

RS49-1, ISO 9000

The research provides an overview of the steps for obtaining ISO 9000 registration:

  1. Quality documentation
  2. Assessment
  3. Approval
  4. Maintenance of Approval
  5. Triennial Reassessment
Reference: (RS49-1)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved quality, Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved market share

Research Publications

International Standards and U.S. Construction Industry Competitiveness - RS49-1

Publication Date: 06/1996 Type: Research Summary Pages: 54 Status: Archived Tool

International Standards: U.S. Construction Industry Competitiveness - RR49-11

Publication Date: 09/1995 Type: Research Report Pages: 263 Status: Archived Reference