Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Standards Developing Organizations (SDO)

In the U.S., non-governmental organizations (NGO's) publish most of the reference documents used by specifiers to establish quality requirements in construction documents. These are usually referred to as voluntary standards because they do not have the force of law unless specifically adopted into law by a particular authority having jurisdiction. Otherwise, they are binding only upon agreement by the parties to the contract. The are those that publish standards referenced in BSD SpecLink-E. Many publish more quality standards that are not referenced and some also publish design-oriented documents that are usually not specified in construction documents.

NGO's that publish standards are of several types, although most are focussed on a particular discipline or product group. Professional societies like ASME, ASHRAE, and IEEE have wide membership from both the design side and the manufacturing side and do much more than simply publish standards. Trade associations, like AAMA, SJI, and AMCA, have membership restricted to manufacturers in the product category and often include a marketing/promotion function. Standards developing organizations, like ASTM and NFPA, are focussed on developing standards and often cover a lot of different product categories and disciplines.

The documents of most NGO's are copyrighted and are for sale. Many NGO's make a considerable amount of their annual budget through document sales. There are notable exceptions to this, though, especially since the advent of the Internet. Many trade associations, especially those with small budgets, now simply post their standards on their websites, free for the download.