Most electrical contractors are so busy making the payroll and payables each week, they don’t pay much attention to changes coming their way until they are hit in the wallet. A perfect example is last fall’s release of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) MasterFormat 2004 Edition (MF04) for construction project management. When I searched for information to prepare Part I of this series (ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, May 2005), no information could be found. However, when I searched the topic for this issue, I found every construction publication and every industry conference had it covered. At some point before the end of 2005, a general contractor is likely to pick up the “spec book” for bidding a project, turn to the table of contents and see unfamiliar numbers for divisions and sections. He won’t be able to find Division 15 or 16. What about data and telecom requirements in Division 17? Nope, not there either. Although you and other subtrades may not feel the impact by the time this article is printed, you probably will in a few months. A little preparation now could save you considerable stress later.

A quick review

MasterFormat was initially designed 40 years ago and has been revised at regular intervals in response to changes in the industry. Most people who regularly use MasterFormat do not understand its primary purpose: to organize the project manual.

MasterFormat is intended to be a classification of work results, but it is not intended to be an organization of trades, design disciplines or products. Nevertheless, it has an impact on all of these to a great extent.

It is the most widely used format for organizing project documents and is indexed by product catalog publishers and estimating software marketers. The most recent review task force, led by architect and spec consultant Dennis J. Hall, began in 2001. Hall is founder and managing principal of Hall Architects Inc., Charlotte, N.C.

It concluded that the existing Division 16 structure was not adequate to accommodate some types of nonbuilding construction, such as heavy civil, infrastructure, process, transportation, security and data/telecommunications work. The result was a major rewrite of the whole thing, shifting from the traditional five-digit numbering system to a six-digit, three-tier system.

You can download new section numbers and titles for MasterFormat 2004 from the CSI Web site at www.csinet.org/s_csi/docs/ 9400/9361.pdf. The complete printed document may be purchased for $159 from the CSI Bookstore (accessible through the CSI Web site). In addition to the printed version, purchasers will receive a CD-ROM that has a transition matrix relating MasterFormat 1988 and 1995 edition titles and numbers to their 2004 edition equivalents.

Additional files to assist users in making the transition to using MasterFormat 2004 are also included.

When you compare MF04 with the 1995 version, you may notice the following:

°Material in Divisions 15 and 16 has shifted to the Facilities Services Subgroup

°Plumbing and HVAC work are no longer specified in the same division

°Division 21 is Fire Suppression

°Division 22 is Plumbing

°Division 23 is Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning

°Division 24 is Electrical

°Division 27 is Communications

°Division 25 is Integrated Automation and Controls

°Division 28 is Electronic Safety and Security

°Division 48 is On-site Power Generation

“MasterFormat’s expanded 2004 edition reflects the fact that the wiring of today’s commercial and institutional buildings is about data and communications transmissions as much as it is about power delivery,” said Karl Borgstrom, CSI executive director.

“That reality must be fully addressed during the design phase of a construction project through the specifications. It will lead to more cost-efficient and smoother project delivery as well as facilitate future maintenance and accommodation of new technologies over the life of the project. [These are] all reasons why the building design and construction process will take a giant step forward when the industry transitions to this new edition.”

Who is affected?

Anyone who generates or uses a project manual will be affected: architects, engineers, owners, project managers, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and fabricators. Those publishing product literature, technical data and references for the construction industry will also be affected. You can already see some online services reorganizing their listings (see www.4specs.com).

The organization of the 2006 Sweet’s catalog set will be based on MF04, and Sweet’s Online should be converted before the end of this summer. The organization of R.S. Means estimating books will convert to MF04 in 2007.

Implementing the change

Owners will drive much of the change, requiring A/Es and contractors to comply with their required organization and formats. The U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, GSA and NASA will change over in 2005. CSI writers Donald F. Smith Jr. and J. Peter Jordan said that conversion to MF04 will affect contractors and subcontractors in the following areas:

°Cost estimating and bidding

°Project management and scheduling

°Project cost accounting

°Payment application procedures

Requirements in Division 1 typically require the organization of submittal schedules, schedule of values, submittals and applications for payment to be based on the table of contents in the project manual. This will all change.

Many contractors and subcontractors will continue to use their existing databases and software and reformat the output to comply with the requirements of the architect/engineer (A/E) or owner. But, as more project manuals and technical and cost data are organized to conform to MF04, it will become easier to justify converting.

A panel of CSI experts and industry participants made comments and fielded questions during the opening general session of the 2005 CSI convention in April.

When Lane Beougher began talking to people about the next edition of MasterFormat three years ago, many architects were unimpressed. According to Beougher, architects would only implement the system when forced to. That time has come.

“Owners are getting together, and we know we are speaking with a loud voice,” said Charles G. Hardy, deputy director of the Office of Property Development for the General Services Administration (GSA) Great Lakes Region.

Hardy said the GSA would begin requiring all new projects to use MasterFormat 2004 Edition this fall.

“We want continuity of language,” Hardy said. “We’re going to ask for more information upfront. We’re looking for the tools that will allow us to do the business we do. MasterFormat 2004 makes sense.”

Mike Chambers, principal of MCA Specifications in Daly City, Calif., is chair of the MasterFormat Implementation Task Team as it makes the transition to MasterFormat 2004 Edition. He acknowledged that the change to MF04 would be tough for some and encouraged CSI members to become “change agents.”

He reminded the audience that although the standard has been expanded to 50 divisions and a six-digit numbering system, its principles have not changed.

“Specifiers are educators and mentors,” Chambers said. “We’re knowledge managers. We have to educate people. We have to give them the tools to make changes.”

“Architects, specifiers, contractors and manufacturers will find a way to make the changes if owners and facility managers demand it,” said Leon LaJeuness, president of Custom Contracting of Lake Zurich, Ill. “We’re used to adapting. We’ll get through it all. And at the end of the day, it’s worth it.”

Dennis Hall, who moderated the panel, said, “Owners and facility managers are pressing for MasterFormat 2004 because it will help them better control their projects by organizing the vast quantities of information that go into today’s buildings. Big organizations such as Disney and General Motors will begin requiring MasterFormat 2004 Edition at some point in the next year. Now is the time that A/E firms [and contractors] need to prepare for it.”

He urged CSI’s chapters to get involved and to work with other trade organizations in their communities to make the transition to the new edition easier.

“We cannot do this just as CSI chapters,” Hall said. “We have to bring together the AIA, AGC, subcontractors, owners and suppliers.”

“We have been working within our committee to get the word out on MasterFormat 04. We have had two meetings to present it to the architects and consultants so far and a meeting to make the presentation to the contractors,” said Isaac Tevet, CSI chapter, Portland, Ore. “So far we have come up with two groups of reactions. 1. What have you done? This is going to take time to learn. It will take a year to make the transition. 2. No problem. Our group is working on education within the local community and setting a time line where the architects will be coming out using MF04.

“We also hope that the local contractors are ready for the new numbers by then. We feel that by January 2006, we should be ready and the transition will be a smooth one.”

This sounds like an invitation for NECA chapters to approach local area chapters of CSI for help in learning all about the MasterFormat 2004 Edition and how it will have an impact on their business. The people who are the most comfortable with change are those designing the change and, after them, those who are aware that change is going to happen and are prepared for it.

Do some homework. Download the list of division and section numbers on the CSI Web site. Scan over the document. As I noted in the first part of this series, NECA chapters can schedule a one-day educational seminar through the Management Education Institute. You can find details on the Web site at www.neca-mei.org or call 301.657.3110. Make sure your estimating and project people are informed.

As your competitors scratch their heads over their first encounter with MasterFormat 2004 Edition, you can confidently say to the A/E, the GC and the owner, “Yes, we knew about this, and here’s what we have been doing about it.” EC

TAGLIAFERRE is proprietor of C-E-C Group. He may be reached at 703.321.9268 or lewtag@aol.com.