MasterFormat 2004 : A Major Step Forward for Construction Project Delivery

Project delivery takes a major step forward with the recent release of MasterFormat 2004 Edition. This new version of commercial construction's organizational standard for project information is designed to reduce construction changes and delays caused by incomplete, misplaced or missing data. How? By undergoing the biggest expansion in the product's 40-year history to foster more comprehensive...

By Karl Borgstrom, Ph.D., Executive Director, Construction Specifications Institute, Alexandria, Va. January 1, 2005

Project delivery takes a major step forward with the recent release of MasterFormat 2004 Edition . This new version of commercial construction’s organizational standard for project information is designed to reduce construction changes and delays caused by incomplete, misplaced or missing data. How? By undergoing the biggest expansion in the product’s 40-year history to foster more comprehensive and detailed specifications and address all phases of the project life cycle—critically important steps to building owners and facility managers.

Used in the U.S. and Canada for more than 70% of commercial and institutional projects, MasterFormat is a master list of numbers and titles for organizing specifications, contracting and procurement requirements, as well as other data. As the industry’s “Dewey Decimal System,” MasterFormat standardizes communication of information critical to engineers, architects, specifiers, contractors and suppliers in meeting owners’ requirements, schedules and budgets.

Industry: MasterFormat had to expand

MasterFormat organizes project data into divisions and each division into sections. Since the early 1960s, MasterFormat has had 16 divisions. But while MasterFormat 2004 Edition was being developed, construction practitioners and organizations made it clear that the 16-division structure couldn’t accommodate the rapidly increasing volume and complexity of project data. Causing the overcrowding were unprecedented advances in building products and technologies introduced during the past several decades. New priorities for buildings also added to the problem. For example, security and life safety—especially post-9/11—impact projects as never before. Green building, rarely mentioned 40 years ago, is now a major concern, along with integrated systems for operating and maintaining facilities.

Because the 16-division structure no longer provided enough formatting “slots” in some divisions for modern project information, earlier MasterFormat editions made compromises in classifying information. For example, things like cathodic protection, lightning protection, fire suppression, detection and alarm, and solar and wind energy equipment were put in Division 13 (Special Construction) instead of Division 15 (Mechanical) or Division 16 (Electrical) simply because Division 13 had room. And to address areas not covered or covered inadequately, non-standard section numbers and divisions began to appear. For example, even though they don’t officially exist, many “Division 17s” were created across the industry, for everything from telecommunications to railway track work to mining.

Such Band-Aid approaches have resulted in misplaced or missing information, leading to errors, omissions and repeated work that cost time and money, and what had been intended as an information management standard was no longer useful for that purpose.

How MasterFormat was improved

Based on unprecedented industry input throughout its development, the philosophy of MasterFormat 2004 Edition is to provide an organizational structure that:

Systematically encompasses all data generated throughout a project’s life cycle.

Assimilates growth, in both volume and complexity, of project information.

Provides more space and detail for mechanical and electrical disciplines.

Addresses horizontal construction as well as vertical.

Covers process engineering, largely ignored in previous editions.

Maintains organizational consistency.

Follows recognized information classification principles.

That philosophy is reflected in MasterFormat 2004 Edition’s new features, which include:

An increase from 16 divisions to 50 divisions (00—49).

Divisions 03 to 14 remain much the same as in MasterFormat 1995 .

Divisions 01—49 are in five subgroups:

General Requirements Subgroup (Division 01)

Facility Construction Subgroup (Divisions 02—19)

Facility Services Subgroup (Divisions 20—29)

Site and Infrastructure Subgroup (Divisions 30—39)

Process Equipment Subgroup (Divisions 40—49)

Some division numbers reserved for project information generated by future products, technologies and methods.

A new six-digit section numbering system expands more than tenfold the possible sections in each division.

The 1995 MasterFormat Division 15’s (Mechanical) replacement by new divisions providing expanded coverage for:

Fire Suppression (Division 21)

Plumbing (Division 22)

Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (Division 23)

Coverage in the old Division 16 (Electrical) is expanded through the creation of new divisions:

Integrated Automation (Division 25)

Electrical (Division 26)

Communications (Division 27)

Electronic Safety and Security (Division 28)

The Site and Infrastructure Subgroup (Divisions 31—35) expands MasterFormat to cover site and heavy civil projects, including transportation, utility and marine construction.

The Process Equipment Subgroup (Divisions 40—48) expands MasterFormat to address manufacturing, water and wastewater treatment, power generation and other types of process engineering projects.

How MasterFormat 2004 benefits engineers

Addressing some of the most rapidly developing and complex aspects of facilities, the Facility Services Subgroup (Divisions 20—29) concerns many things mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as communications, life-safety and automation (CLA) engineers, specify. For example, it can help engineers better manage the growing diversity of cable and wiring that buildings need not only for power delivery, but data and communications systems as well. The subgroup also makes it easier to incorporate emerging mechanical and electrical products, technologies and systems into specifications.

Take Division 25 (Integrated Automation), for example. It’s designed to aid development of comprehensive specifications for fast-advancing “smart building” technologies. The 1995 MasterFormat spread such topics across three divisions. Division 25 can aid the design of linked HVAC, lighting, power, elevator and security systems that use data from one operation to influence another. For example, if an employee swiped his or her key card to enter a facility during off-hours, a building automation system could adjust the lighting and temperature just for her work area while the security system was informed of her whereabouts.

Better specifications for automation systems will streamline their construction and operation. And, more robust specifications fostered by this subgroup can aid maintenance and accommodation of new data/communications technologies over a project’s life. These factors can contribute to achieving the design and operating objectives of owners—keys to repeat business for engineers.

CSI and others aiding the transition

MasterFormat users have several options and tools available with the document for transitioning to the new edition.

Invaluable to converting from a previous edition are:

The Transition Matrix—an Excel file on the CD included with the publication that shows the new edition’s equivalents to the 1995 and 1988 editions’ numbers and titles.

The Keyword Index—lists terms and which section numbers are best.

MasterFormat 2004 Edition education programs

Starting in early 2005, CSI will provide education at A/E/C firms, corporations, government agencies and other organizations. Sessions will address differences between the 1995 and 2004 editions, best practices and implementation strategies. Education will also be held at the 49th Annual CSI Show & Convention in Chicago, April 19—24, 2005.

The MasterFormat Accredited Instructor Program is scheduled to launch in early 2005. It prepares people from various segments of the industry to teach fellow practitioners about the new resource.

Master Guide spec systems converting

By year’s end several master guide specification systems will have revised their products to conform to MasterFormat 2004 Edition . They include:

ARCOM’s MasterSpec

Building Systems Design’s BSD SpecLink

CSRF SpecText

Digicon Information, Inc.

Canada’s National Master Guide Specifications

What’s next?

And it doesn’t stop there. The former system of publishing new editions every five to seven years is out. Instead, CSI is developing a procedure for assigning new section and division numbers on a continuing basis to meet the evolving needs of the industry.