MasterFormat 04 to Split Plumbing and HVAC Divisions

Feb. 1, 2004
Special to CONTRACTOR ALEXANDRIA, VA. The Construction Specifications Institute in January completed major content development for the 2004 edition of MasterFormat, the specifications-writing standard for most nonresidential building design and construction projects in North America. The MasterFormat 04 outline can be downloaded from Work has begun with industry stakeholders


ALEXANDRIA, VA. — The Construction Specifications Institute in January completed major content development for the 2004 edition of MasterFormat, the specifications-writing standard for most nonresidential building design and construction projects in North America.

The MasterFormat 04 outline can be downloaded from Work has begun with industry stakeholders on transitioning to the new edition, due out late this year.

The most significant change in MasterFormat for the mechanical construction industry is the separation of HVAC and plumbing specifications. Previously they were together in Division 15. The two disciplines are now under the Facilities Services Subgroup as Division 22 - Plumbing and Division 23 - Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning. Fire sprinklers are in Division 21 - Fire Suppression.

Whether you think the separation is good or bad depends upon whether you are a mechanical contractor or a sheet metal contractor.

“While I think this is a mistake that will end up causing more confusion in the contracting of work, I don’t see much impact in the long run,” said Mike Gossman of Midwest Mechanical Contractors in Leawood, Kan., and incoming president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America.

“We have members that are plumbing only, HVAC only, service only or some combination of the three,” Gossman said. “They will bid the type of work that they do regardless of what section of the specifications they are contained in, just as they do today. We continue to feel that owners and general contractors are served best when mechanical contractors take total responsibility for the mechanical work on a project, and we regret that CSI bowed to the opinion of those who disagree with this view.”

The sheet metal contractors, who termed the change “SMACNA-supported,” don’t regret that CSI bowed at all.

“In October 2002, CSI released a draft that proposed two new divisions: Division 34 for Plumbing and Division 35 for HVAC. SMACNA fully supported this separation of the wet side from the dry side,” said Mark C. Watson of Climate Engineers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and president of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association.

“Under heavy lobbying by the MCAA of Canada and MCAA, a third draft was issued in February [2003], which completely eliminated the SMACNA-supported separation of Plumbing and HVAC, and placed all HVAC work under a new Mechanical Division,” Watson said.

“At its last meeting, on Nov. 15, the CSI task force approved a motion to break the scope of the Mechanical Division into separate Plumbing and HVAC Divisions — in effect, returning to its earlier SMACNA-supported draft. We have spoken to the chairman of the task force who emphatically states that the current revision is the final revision.”

MCAA President Tom Williams of McKenney’s Inc. in Atlanta said the development is not positive for the industry.

“I worked with [MCAA Executive Director of Government, Labor and Industry Relations] John McNerny and with the MCAA of Canada to resist the breaking up of that division into a plumbing division,” Williams said, “and not because I don’t want plumbing to be contracted separately because it can be contracted separately and that’s fine. But there’s nothing in the movement that adds to any clarity in the specifications themselves. One of the things that CSI has been trying to do is to get a clearer set of communications, a clearer set of guidelines for the industry and I don’t think that this accomplishes that. Obviously there are others that do.

“Instead, it breaks up the responsibilities into ever-smaller pieces and that tends to lead to adversarial relationships and conflict, which is not in the best interests of either the owner or the construction manager of the general contractor for that matter.”

Despite the disagreement within the mechanical industry, CSI said it is pleased with its effort.

“This is a tremendous milestone for the industry,” CSI Executive Director Karl Borgstrom said. “After more than 212 years of work we’ve completed the structure and content of a resource that will advance project delivery for decades to come. It has been gratifying to see the industry’s enthusiasm build for MasterFormat 04.”

MasterFormat is a master list of titles and section numbers for organizing data about construction requirements, products and activities. By standardizing such information, MasterFormat facilitates communication among architects, specifiers, contractors and suppliers about construction projects. This helps them meet building owners’ requirements, timelines and budgets.

CSI revises MasterFormat every five to seven years to keep it current. This revision is the most significant in the product’s 40-year history, CSI said. It reflects the rapidly growing volume and complexity of information generated for nonresidential building projects, resulting from dramatic advances in construction technology.

The 2004 edition addresses existing topics more fully, adds new topics and extends MasterFormat’s coverage beyond nonresidential buildings to include heavy civil engineering and process engineering construction.

To cover new subjects and provide room for future expansion, MasterFormat’s 16-division structure has expanded. New divisions address such rapidly advancing technologies as computer and telecommunications networks, integrated building automation systems, and electronic safety and security.

MasterFormat 04’s new six-digit numbering system for the sections within divisions replaces the previous edition’s five-digit numbers. That makes it possible for a division to have more than 9,800 “level three” sections, a more than hundredfold increase in space.

The 2004 edition is the first to cover engineering-related construction, such as infrastructure, transportation, process equipment and power generation.

The new edition is designed to allow for adding new information in future updates without having to revamp the overall structure. Eighteen of the 49 division numbers in MasterFormat 04 are reserved for such expansion.

CSI already has begun working with the building design and construction industry on the transition to MasterFormat 04. In October 2003, CSI convened an initial working meeting in Washington of high-level representatives from a variety of construction organizations. Attendees provided input on how to best go about educating people on the new edition and raising the industry’s awareness of it.

Participating organizations included the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, ARCOM Master Systems, Associated Builders and Contractors, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, Construction Specifications Canada, the McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group, the National Institute of Building Sciences, Reed Construction Data and Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice.

CSI is using the meeting’s input to develop a campaign incorporating communications, inter-organizational cooperation, education and training to help MasterFormat users switch to the new edition.

Among the resources CSI will provide in conjunction with MasterFormat 04 will be electronic and paper versions of transition materials to aid MasterFormat 95 users in comparing and converting section and division titles and numbers.

MasterFormat 04’s content is based primarily on the building design and construction industry’s input. Throughout the new edition’s development, the MasterFormat Expansion Task Team sought feedback through workshops, meetings and Internet message boards. More than 500 A/E/C organizations were asked for information. Each draft of the new edition was posted on CSI’s Web site for comment.

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