The success of every construction project depends on excellent communication. Without it, contractors will not be able to ensure that contract requirements are met, and it will be more difficult to keep the project on task, on time and on budget.

One simple way to assist with team communication is to ensure that all documents adhere to the same standard format. Imagine how difficult it would be to open a CAD document and find that the various assigned layers are organized differently. While the information may be there, it would be nearly impossible to comprehend. In comparison, when anyone on a project team looks at properly formatted drawings—whether it is the architect, engineer, project manager or building owner—they can swiftly and seamlessly comprehend what needs to be done. Similar to properly formatted CAD layering for drawings, standard formats like MasterFormat come into play for specifications. 

Continuously updated since 1963, MasterFormat helps contractors ensure consistency of documents and activities throughout all phases of a building project. In April 2014 CSI (formerly known as the Construction Specifications Institute) and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) released the newest update to MasterFormat, incorporating hundreds of changes to the 2012 version.

Significant Revisions
One of the most significant revisions for contractors is the addition of a selective demolition section to most divisions. This enhancement provides guidance for project managers and contractors needing to incorporate demolition into their projects, as well as gives construction professionals the ability to include details about deconstruction processes that are more focused on sustainability and that retain as much of the old buildings as possible.

Another important change is the improvement and expansion of Division 00 “Procurement and Contracting Requirements” to better align with standard forms of agreement, including the addition of subcontract agreements in Section 00 52 00. Because today’s construction contracts are more complex than ever, MasterFormat has expanded the listing of available section numbers and titles to accommodate more types of contracting forms, reflecting the industry’s varied contract delivery methods.

Changes made to Divisions 40 and 43 are also especially significant because some were eight years in the making. Advised by the Environmental Engineers Coalition, a group comprised of representatives from 10 large consulting engineering firms, CSI reorganized the classification for process piping systems in Division 40, expanded process instrumentation and control, and renamed the division from “Process Integration” to “Process Interconnections.” In Division 43, “Process Gas and Liquid Handling, Purification and Storage Equipment,” the MasterFormat Maintenance Task Team changed the way process liquid pumps were arranged, applying the internationally known pump classification systems of the Hydraulic Institute and American Petroleum Institute to develop the new structure.

Other key revisions include:
  • adding conservation treatment titles to Divisions 02 through 09 (Existing Conditions, Concrete, Masonry, Metals, Thermal and Moisture Protection, Openings, Finishes, and Wood, Plastics, and Composites);
  • aligning Divisions 31 through 35 (Site and Infrastructure Subgroup) with Federal Aviation Administration requirements; and
  • moving “Manufactured Planters” and “Site Seating and Tables” to Division 32 to better align with other site-based work.
New Revisions Will Come Every Two Years
Because construction and design professionals rely on MasterFormat for every phase of a building project, it’s important that this master list of numbers and titles accurately reflects industry changes. CSI and CSC ensure MasterFormat’s relevancy by releasing a new version every two years. Moreover, the MasterFormat revision process incorporates feedback from users in all industry sectors so that the updates to each version continue to suit the needs of all users. This organic revision process, implemented in 2006, reflects the constant advances in technology and the continually growing volume of information in the building industry. MasterFormat’s user-driven format also allows the guide to meet the needs of highly specialized professionals in the industry.

Specification standard formats are a vital resource for all construction professionals. For contractors in particular, MasterFormat helps organize the materials, accessories and equipment needed during a project, and enhances communication, site administration, project management and costing processes. It also dovetails with other construction-related software and programs, including BIM and other interoperability standards. 

In the end, it all comes down to the timely and correct completion of a project. MasterFormat helps contractors ensure that their building projects remain organized, including arranging project manuals, detailing cost estimates and relating drawing notations to specifications. Giving contractors easy access to essential project information helps reduce costly changes and delays.

For more information on the 2014 MasterFormat update, visit www.masterformat.com or www.csinet.org/masterformat. To submit suggestions or user-defined numbers and titles for consideration in the 2016 version of MasterFormat, create a profile on CSI’s website.


David Metzger has served on the CSI and CSC MasterFormat Maintenance Task Team since 2009 and is the former vice president of Heller & Metzger PC, a specifications consulting firm in Washington D.C. For more information, email metzgercd@comcast.net.