MCAA Writes CSI, Opposes Specs Changes

Special to CONTRACTOR ROCKVILLE, MD. MCAA President Robert W. FitzGerald is urging the Construction Specifications Institute to not abandon Division 15 as part of its proposed revision of its MasterFormat. We fear that the proposed changes to MasterFormat will in fact promote far greater fragmentation in project administration and delivery, leading to disputes and other negative outcomes, to the detriment

Special to CONTRACTOR

ROCKVILLE, MD. — MCAA President Robert W. FitzGerald is urging the Construction Specifications Institute to not abandon Division 15 as part of its proposed revision of its MasterFormat.

“We fear that the proposed changes to MasterFormat will in fact promote far greater fragmentation in project administration and delivery, leading to disputes and other negative outcomes, to the detriment of the owner, even while the overwhelming pattern of best practices trends in the public and private sectors are toward ever-greater project integration and delivery systems,” FitzGerald said.

He noted that the Mechanical Contractors Association of America is eager to work with CSI on revising the MasterFormat, but without abandoning Division 15.

CSI has proposed significant changes to its MasterFormat for construction specifications in order to update it for 21st century uses, said CSI’s MasterFormat task team chairman, architect Dennis Hall of Charlotte, N.C. (April, pg. 5).

Under CSI’s proposed revisions, mechanical Division 15 and electrical Division 16 will be eliminated, and their content will be divided among a proposed group of new divisions containing expanded content for mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

Under the proposal, Divisions 15-19 would be left open for future expansion. A number of mechanical contracting disciplines would be moved into the 20 Series. Division 21 would be created as a new life-safety and facility protection division that would include fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire stopping. Plumbing would move into Division 22.

Mechanical would be called HVAC and go into Division 23. Standard electrical contracting would be in Division 24 and telecommunications would get its own slot, Division 25.

Process engineering, including process piping, would be placed in the 40 series. Division 41 would include water and wastewater treatment equipment and systems, including filtering, oxidation systems, digesters, and fluid treatment instrumentation and controls. Division 43 would cover process piping, valves, pumps, heaters, boilers, filters, and so on, for any type of fluids or gases.

“The current structure of MasterFormat (Divisions 15 and 16) should be preserved, precisely because the document is so widely relied on in its current form to minimize disputes and organize essential project administrative/ delivery functions,”

FitzGerald wrote in a letter to Hall. “The goals for the revision – technical developments since 1995 and the need to adapt further to rapidly changing technology – can be achieved just as well within the current structure. Given the greater value of a gradual evolutionary approach, the risks of suddenly abandoning the current standard far outweigh any benefits in either the short- or long-term.”

FitzGerald asserted that the current structure is relied upon for other important ancillary purposes that should be accommodated in the revision of the MasterFormat and that MasterFormat’s own success argues against radical changes.

In addition to standard specifications, FitzGerald listed among the ancillary uses:

Accounting systems, including the schedules of values, and charts of accounts;

Project scheduling, planning, record keeping and filing systems;

Bid depositories;

Product catalogues;

Building code and enforcement classification systems; and

Foundation-numbering index for project administration cost/budget accounting and record keeping software.

The current Divisions 15 and 16 can be expanded to accommodate changing technology with placeholders just as readily and with less risk than dispersing that scope of work to other disparate divisions, FitzGerald said. By dispersing current Divisions 15 and 16 scope to other widely scattered divisions, the proposed revisions hazard far greater harm than any benefits that might be derived.

If separate blank Division placeholders are necessary to provide flexibility in categories for future additions and changes, he argued, the same goal can be accomplished with-in the current divisions, thereby preserving the valuable ancillary uses a stable MasterFormat has encouraged.

“By dispersing Divisions 15 and 16, the revisions hazard greater fragmentation of scope of work, and substantially increase the risk of overlapping or missed work, compounding the risk of disputes, claims, delays and the other negative project consequences stemming from unallocated/misallocated scope of work,” FitzGerald wrote in his letter. “Poorly coordinated projects are just that – and the breeding grounds for wasteful litigation.

“Moreover, the proposed fragmentation runs counter to best practices in the industry among sophisticated public and private owners relying on ever-greater integrated project delivery approaches to gain the full value of full-service mechanical contractors’ expertise – not forfeiting it in diffused and fragmented approaches.”

The negative consequences outweigh the advantages derived from abandoning the current divisions, FitzGerald said. Users will be confused as old and new versions of the MasterFormat overlap.

On an even more practical level, CSI should consider that users would have to spend millions of dollars for retooling of software built around the current structure of divisions.

“Experience shows that careful, gradual change in standard-form industry documents is the best way to preserve their use and service to the industry,” he concluded.

CSI is inviting comments on the proposed revisions. A draft of the proposal is available on CSI’s Web site, www.csinet.org.