For several solution providers, one way to encourage adoption of technology solutions in the construction industry is to come together to create a set of common standards. Enter COSA (Construction Open Software Alliance), www.constructionosa.org.

COSA’s goal is to create and promote a standardized data format that enables the sharing of information between and among software applications in the construction industry. According to Phillip Ogilby, president, To-Scale Software, www.toscaleplans.com, Cincinnati, Ohio, the credit for the alliance should go primarily to James Benham, founder and president, JB Knowledge Technologies, www.jbknowledge.com, Bryan, Texas, and Benny Baltrotsky, vice president, eSUB, www.esubinc.com, San Diego, Calif., who came up with the idea.

Ogilby says the idea for the alliance began to grow as a group of like-minded software-company owners came together to work toward COSA’s common goal. “The objective is not only to put forth a standard for a common data structure,” he says, “but also to promote it, encouraging other construction software companies to participate.”

Benham of JB Knowledge Technologies, which offers SmartBidNet, believes integration is a key component to technology adoption in the industry. “We realized that if we’re going to pursue adoption of this in the industry that we had to create a consortium of software companies that were willing to commit to using the agcXML standard and any other draft standards that we come up with for our APIs (application programming interfaces),” Benham says.

Ultimately, COSA’s No. 1 goal is to allow the end user to select the software that works best for them. “We’re taking a best-of-breed approach,” says Benham. “(And) it’s not just to integrate software inside of one company … it’s also so that GCs (general contractors) and subs, architects, and others can exchange data in a common format.”

Rex Klein, president and CEO, Barryhund Administrators, www.barryhund.com, West Sacramento, Calif., which offers OnlinePlanService.com, says the construction industry is a vast world where complex endeavors are accomplished only when firms work together.

“When technology is applied in construction, the impetus is very often from someone familiar with a specific role or process,” Klein says. “There are many great software solutions that daily increase the productivity of the industry; however, the vast majority were designed in a very myopic manner. Very little, if any thought was given to interoperability.”

As customers became more accepting of technology and began investing in products, Klein says it has become clear the major hurdle to increasing productivity is the software itself. “The construction-software market consists of many islands with no standard of communication between them. It was this state of affairs that caused us to join the Construction Open Software Alliance,” he adds.

COSA currently has five members, and more members are being actively recruited. The collaboration effort has parallels in other industries, but is an important and unprecedented step forward in construction. If the alliance is successful, it could help boost adoption of technology solutions in an industry that is not only willing, but eager to address the challenges of today’s marketplace.

“When looking at the benefits of software in construction we have only begun to scratch the surface,” says Barryhund’s Klein. “ … Not only will users and the companies that serve them benefit from COSA, but new software and services will emerge helping create a more efficient and prosperous industry. The key point of COSA is that it is inclusive of any software company willing to follow the standard. With COSA, construction industry software will more closely resemble the construction process itself.”