CSI Reenergizes MasterFormat

Last month, the executive committee of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) approved a concept for revising its MasterFormat, signaling a resolution to what has been deemed a complicated—and sometimes contentious—process...


Last month, the executive committee of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) approved a concept for revising its MasterFormat , signaling a resolution to what has been deemed a complicated-and sometimes contentious-process to bring the specification system in line with the modern construction industry.

On the recommendation of CSI's Expansion Task Team, the MasterFormat will be expanded from its traditional layout, which organizes building systems and components into 16 divisions. Some of the most significant changes concern mechanical and electrical systems.

'The task team was interested in making the MasterFormat more compatible with the entire building process, from original build to operation, maintenance and refabbing, and more inclusive to all building team members,' says Dennis Hall, AIA, FCSI, chairman of the Expansion Task Team.

Under the accepted plan, divisions 3 through 14 will largely remain unchanged, while Divisions 15 and 16-which addressed mechanical and electrical systems, respectively-will be eliminated, with their contents reorganized into divisions numbered in the 20s.

Division 15 (Mechanical) will be split into separate Plumbing (22) and HVAC (23) divisions, while Division 16 (Electrical) will be divided into Electrical (24) and Communications (25) divisions.

In addition, an entirely new division-Life Safety & Facility Protection (21)-will pull together components and systems that formerly resided in a number of separate categories.

This new setup not only gives M/E/P engineers their own distinct area of the MasterFormat , it also leaves room for future expansion of the structural and architectural divisions-3 through 14-up through the rest of the teens.

Hall concedes that CSI is making an effort to recognize the growing complexity, variety and importance of engineered systems in buildings, and many M/E engineers will consider this a form of progress for this specification system, which has not always been the most thorough or user-friendly document for building-system engineers.

Peter Zak, P.E., principal of Zak Engineering, Mequon, Wis., for example, states that even though the system has been a good idea in principle, there has also been room for improvement.

'The MasterFormat is good because it is all-encompassing and supposed to help integration,' he asserts. 'But from a mechanical engineering standpoint, it can often be vague or overly redundant.'

Consequently, CSI is welcoming suggestions from the engineering community regarding this new format, as the specific organization within these new divisions is still being fleshed out.

At the same time, there are potential complications that could arise from this new system. From the beginning of the revision process, many groups-most notably the National Electrical Contractors Association-expressed concern about separating electrical specifications into separate divisions.

Hall, however, asserts that this objection has primarily been related to trade jurisdiction. 'CSI has never defined trade jurisdiction, and we are not trying to. We understand that these different jurisdictions exist, but we are just trying to organize work results in a logical fashion,' he says.

Still, separating systems that often share the same space remains an uncertain prospect for some.

'If you start separating out [the electrical components], it could get redundant or cause conflict,' states Ken Lovorn, P.E., of Lovorn Engineers, Pittsburgh. 'Someone needs to think how they're going to take care of the commonalties.'

The new MasterFormat is scheduled to be completed by June 2002 and published by 2003.

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