Issue: 4/02

The Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) Executive Committee has approved a concept for revising and expanding the organization's flagship document, the 16-division MasterFormat specifications system, based on a recommendation from CSI's MasterFormat Expansion Task Team. MasterFormat, last revised in 1995, is the nation's most widely used formatting standard for specifications concerning nonresidential building projects.

MasterFormat, which functions as a "Dewey Decimal System" for the commercial construction industry, provides the organizational framework of the written instructions for construction of commercial buildings.

"The current revision, part of CSI's regular review and revision of its flagship product, is especially significant because of all the changes that have taken place in the construction marketplace since the last revision in 1995," said Dennis Hall, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, chair of CSI's MasterFormat Expansion Task Team. "When completed, the new MasterFormat will improve the process of creating and sustaining the built environment across a much wider spectrum of the industry.

"At the same time, current users of MasterFormat need not be concerned about major changes, because those who use MasterFormat will be able to continue using it in much the same way as they do now," Hall added.

Under the concept approved by the Executive Committee:

  • Divisions 3-14 will remain largely intact.

  • Divisions 15 (Mechanical) and 16 (Electrical) will be eliminated, and their content will be divided among a proposed group of new divisions containing expanded content for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

  • Two new divisions, covering Communications and Life Safety and Facility Protection, will be created. The Communications division will address many topics in the proposed "17th division" advocated by some stakeholders, although not necessarily using the exact structure or language submitted. Life Safety and Facility Protection will address some additional topics related to low-voltage systems, as well as some subject matter already covered in other locations in the current edition of MasterFormat.

  • Divisions 15 through 20, and other divisions throughout the proposed expansion, will be left blank as placeholders for new divisions dedicated to topics that may arise in the future.

In developing its proposed revisions, the Task Team sought input from more than 500 AEC industry organizations. In addition to a desire for a "17th division," many parties expressed interest in expanding the types of projects covered by MasterFormat divisions so as to aid in the organization of specifications for roads, bridges, utilities and other heavy civil engineering projects, as well as industrial construction projects.

The MasterFormat Expansion Task Team's plans call for publishing the revised MasterFormat in late 2003, although many factors could change the publication date.

In the interim, Hall said, CSI plans to reach out to key construction industry organizations that have a stake in the publication to begin the process of educating them about the proposed changes and getting their feedback. The Task Team also plans to solicit additional information from the CSI membership, as well as nonmember specifiers and architects who are current and experienced MasterFormat users, and to hold two symposia (dates and places to be determined) for extensive face-to-face discussion between CSI and affected parties.

"We're going to work hard to make the revised MasterFormat something that both current and prospective users will be comfortable with," Hall said.