Imperfect Consensus in Green Building Standards

Business rivals find common ground through ANSI, ISO, and other frameworks—but the process isn't perfect.

December 30, 2013

If you’ve ever screwed an LED replacement bulb into the same fixture that used to hold an incandescent, you can thank Thomas Edison, who invented not only the incandescent bulb but also the “Edison screw.” It quickly became an international standard in the early 20th century.

Standards can make our lives easier, but even something as simple as light-bulb threads can lead to patent and licensing wars, along with industry in-fighting over minuscule technical specs. To set some ground rules, organizations turn to nonprofit groups like ISO and ANSI, which are supposed to help competing industry players achieve consensus on details that help make the marketplace work more efficiently—by limiting the different types of screw bases for lamps, for example.