From Left to Right: Maarten van Hezik, Felix Trefzer, Henry Karlsson, Tony Janes, Michael King

The International Construction Information Society (ICIS) was founded in 1994 by 11 organisations representing Europe and North America. The impetus for its creation was Maarten van Hezik from STABU, whose idea was that specification and cost organisations around the world should share and learn from each other. An initial gathering was conducted in 1989 in The Hague, at the invitation of STABU to European organisations that Mr. Van Hezik knew had developed national master specifications and cost data for their countries. The objective of this initial meeting was to become acquainted with those in Europe that were interested in exchanging information and ideas related to the business of national master specifications.

The first meeting being a success, Tony Janes of the National Building Specifications (NBS) in the United Kingdom invited the same group, plus representatives from the United States. Michael King, then working at the Professional Systems Division of the American Institute of Architects, attended this meeting in Durham, England. At this meeting it was agreed to work together to prepare a document that later became known as ICIS Report #1, A Description and Comparison of National Specification Systems. The group agreed to skip a year and to meet again in 1992 in Stockholm, Sweden.

In Stockholm, Henry Karlsson, Director of the Swedish Building Center, hosted the meeting, with representatives from the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) in the United States, Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) in Canada, and NATSPEC in Australia joining the group, expanding its reach well beyond Europe. In Stockholm, the group agreed to more formally organise the group’s existence. At this meeting, Felix Trefzer, on behalf of CRB, invited the group to meet next in Thun, Switzerland.

In 1993 in Thun, the group voted to form a steering committee made up of representatives of STABU from the Netherlands (Maarten van Hezik), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and CSI from the U.S. (Michael King represented both organisations), NBS of the UK (Tony Janes ), CRB of Switzerland (Felix Trefzer), and the Swedish Building Centre of Sweden (Henry Karlsson). This steering committee was directed to constitute itself by electing a chair and recording secretary, and was given general guidance on the nature of what the statutes should contain. The committee elected Michael King as its Chair and Maarten van Hezik as its recording secretary. Wayne Watson, on behalf of CSC, invited the group to gather next in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

In 1994 in Banff, the group held its Constitutional Session, voted to adopt the new draft statues, registered the name of the organisation as the International Construction Information Society (ICIS), and then elected officers and a board of directors. The elected officers were the same as the members of the steering committee: Michael King was elected as the President, Maarten van Hezik as Secretary, Felix Trefzer as Treasurer, and Tony Janes and Henry Karlsson as Vice Presidents. The five officers constituted the Board of Directors.

In 1995, AIA outsourced MasterSpec to ARCOM, who hired King. This changed the representation in the U.S. from the AIA to ARCOM, and the CSI representative became Jerome Alciatore, a Past President of CSI.

At its foundation, ICIS established a network of construction information companies and organisations for exchange of information and collective pursuit of common goals relating to national master specifications and construction cost data.

Among the various technical initiatives and activities, ICIS meetings rotated from country to country, to venues hosted by each member organisation around the world. The format of the meetings included time for each company or organisation to share with the others the products and services they provided, and to ask questions about how others solved the common issues of our industry.

ICIS members also enjoyed guided tours of important venues of the host organisation’s country and experienced many social events which enriched the delegates with the hospitality, customs, and culture of the country in which the host organisation provided its services.

While the services provided by each member were basically the same, each organisation’s services were provided in the context of its respective country, each governed by its own national standards, codes, and customs. With no threat of competition among the delegates of ICIS, sharing information was open, collegial, and comprehensive; this was ranked by members as the most significant benefit of membership with ICIS.

Early ICIS Activities

  • Published A Description and Comparison of National Specification Systems, a report providing comparative information about the products and services of each of the ICIS member organisations.
  • Published State, Trends, and Perspectives of National Specification Systems in European Construction, a report exploring the social, economic, and cultural reasons for differences between national specification systems in Europe.
  • Published Environmentally Responsible Specifying – an International Surveya report examining the situation in the countries of ICIS members, considering the role of specification in promoting sustainable building design and construction.
  • Cooperated with the International Standards Organization (ISO) on classifications for the construction industry. Based on a developing international standard, ICIS members are continuing to cooperate by investigating and developing classification tables. The objective is to develop tables to the level of detail appropriate for international harmony to facilitate national implementation.
  • Cooperated with other national and international authorities such as the Committee for European Normalization (CEN), the European Product Information Cooperative (EPIC), and ISO STEP, in the development of harmonised international information models.

Several ICIS members were also the creators of the buildingSMART Data Dictionary, originally known as the International Framework of Dictionaries.