The Construction Specifications Institute’s MasterFormat 2004 was a huge deal for our industry. It majorly impacted how we do business today. It also enabled us to do a better job of tracking the economic impact of our industry related to new construction starts and renovations. I’m very pleased to report that we represent 5.7% of the total construction spend, defined by the amount tracked in Divisions 27 and 28.
It seems like just yesterday when I was appointed task team chairman for the Construction Specifications Institute MasterFormat expansion project. As it turned out, the new Division 20s (facilities services) fell within my committee, which was a big responsibility for someone with limited knowledge outside the technology realm. Our committee spent hundreds of hours debating which materials and services went where.
Following dozens of meetings, peer input, and countless hours of discussion, a vote decided to expand MasterFormat numbering methods used to organize project manuals (spec books). It was also determined that communications systems and electronic security/life safety systems would be moved to newly formed Divisions 27 and 28. It was a huge win for the entire electronic systems industry, and all NSCA members.
More than 10 years later, we have (for the most part) adapted to the new MasterFormat numbering convention and the three-part specification. As beneficial as the new divisions have been, the correct use of a three-part specification has been the most important element introduced.
We also laid to rest the subjective phrase: “and the system shall be installed in a neat, workman-like manner.” By implementing a method of describing “work results” separately from the materials specified, we can now give better direction and definition to the expectation of how systems should work and what they are intended to do. This opened the door for NSCA to provide implementation and commissioning benchmarks and best practices.
Every week, we still receive questions about MasterFormat:
- Where does the conduit for Divisions 27 and 28 go?
- Can this be specified in Division 26?
- Where do we specify general information like site conditions or payment schedules?
- What does a project lifecycle have to do with construction?
All good questions, and things we have to know before submitting a proposal. MasterFormat has done a brilliant job in providing placeholders.
NSCA provides members with sample three-part specifications. Ironically, I sent one last week to a member who is just now catching on to the concept. Like everyone else who made the conversion, he loved it.
If you need help with this, or know someone in the design community who is unsure of “where to put things,” don’t hesitate to reach out to us for advice. The document does a fantastic job of organizing general site conditions, defining building materials, specifying work results, and clarifying the scope of work for section. It’s been one of the best things we’ve ever achieved for technology solutions providers. –Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director