Facing the Genesis: MasterFormat 2004

By Lewis Tagliaferre | Nov 15, 2005
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A leading architecture/engineering member of the CSI revision team (who requested anonymity) described the genesis of the change to MasterFormat 2004 this way: “Division 16 was used to describe means and methods of lighting and distribution of power in buildings. Then came the computer chip, security electronics, and 'Ma Bell' was no longer the only telephone company in town. We all woke up one morning and realized that the electrician no longer had the sole responsibility for all the hooking up and turning on of powered systems. We had all arrived kicking and screaming into a new age of 'high-tech' systems and specialties.

“Here we are in a whole new age of specialization and now we have to deal with such subjects as integrated automation, new methods of communication and electronic data transfer and storage plus a need for building security and monitoring systems in addition to conventional lighting and power distribution. Trade jurisdictions are affected as well,” he continued.

“Many new 'high-tech' systems require different and more specialized skills than those of the typical electrician. As the design of buildings has changed, so the methods by which specifications are written have had to change also. One division of information related to work results for energy based systems, and collateral distribution is no longer adequate to get the job done.”

The systems approach

Wiring for data and communications, safety and security, and control systems in modern buildings is often as significant as power distribution. All such construction has slowly evolved to take on a systems orientation. Some such systems can be obtained from a single source supplier, but usually the electrical contractor ends up as an integrator of diverse products from several suppliers.

The many options must be fully addressed during a facility's design and decisions communicated through the specifications. To alleviate such problems, MasterFormat 2004 (MF04) fosters far more comprehensive and detailed specifications for a facility's electronic wiring systems by greatly expanding the number of sections. Rather than squeeze all these topics into Division 16, Electrical, the 2004 edition separates them into four new divisions.

° Integrated Automation (Division 25)

° Electrical (Division 26)

° Communications (Division 27)

° Electronic Safety and Security (Division 28)

The communications example

Division 27 Communications subsections were explained by Greg Ceton, CSI technical project manager, (Consulting-Specifying Engineer, March 2005).

“They provide a wealth of organizational slots for specifications about data communications, including some aspects previous editions didn't cover at all or covered with far less detail,” he said.

The new communications division has the following six Level 2 sections:

° Data Communications (Section 27 20 00)

° Data Communications Network Equipment (27 21 00)

° Data Communications Hardware (27 22 00)

° Data Communications Peripheral Data Equipment (27 24 00)

° Data Communications Software (27 25 00)

° Data Communications Programming and Integration Services (27 26 00)

And under each Level 2 section, there are additional Level 3 subsections that provide for even more detailed specifications for increasingly complex communications technologies. For example, under Data Communications Network Equipment (27 21 00), Level 3 sections include:

° Data Communications Firewalls (27 21 13)

° Data Communications Routers, CSU/DSU, Multiplexers, Codecs and Modems (27 21 16)

° Data Communications Network Management (27 21 19)

° Data Communications Switches and Hubs (27 21 23)

° Data Communications Wireless Access Points (27 21 33)

By consolidating and deepening the structure for specifications in the communications division, MF04 can aid specifying engineers immeasurably in fully describing the range of wiring for data communications as well as power delivery.

Implications for estimating and project management

MF04 revisions were prompted in part by the sharp increase of information needed to accurately estimate and control complex construction projects. The resulting new edition includes an expanded structure, from 16 to 50 divisions, which are divided by groups and subgroups.

The Facilities Services (20 series) subgroup provides substantial potential for subcontractors in gaining new work, whether they choose to specialize or not. With the additional subgroups, contractors can present owners with project lifecycle costs, which would include the original project estimate and a facilities maintenance estimate for ongoing services needed after the building is completed.

Software considerations

Electrical contractors using computers for estimating and scheduling will need to consider which of their software applications currently work with MF04. If these systems are provided by separate vendors, they will need to be audited separately to explore the functions of each. Also, software vendors should be queried to disclose their plans for upgrading to the new MasterFormat 04 environment. It may well be too early for a complete transition plan, but if MF04 is not on their list of future updates, it probably should be.

Here are some estimating software evaluations recommended by Gary Simpson, director of Estimating Product Management, Sage Timberline Office, (Estimating Today, March 2005). Questions to ask might include the following:

° Will current software be able to handle the new codes, which may include up to 14 characters, including digits, hard spaces and decimals?

° Is there a simple method of converting an estimating database template to the new code format?

° Does the software sort new codes and result in a desired outcome?

° Can old projects on the 1995 MasterFormat be easily compared to new projects that will be using MF04?

If the estimating software permits fewer than 14 characters, some modifications will be needed to accommodate the new codes.

For example, if four levels are included, then spaces between groupings can be dropped. In addition, if the group phase and phase level include only two levels of detail, then some summarization will be needed. For instance, Level 1 and 2, and Level 3 and 4 may be combined in order to include all the requisite detail.

In converting estimating database templates to the new phase format, some programs may offer a database editor. In Timberline software (Estimating Today, March 2005), for instance, “a user would open the database with database editor, click the Phase icon, and create the new phase structure by inserting a blank row and entering each new phase.

“By clicking the item icon, both old and new phase structures appear in the item navigator pane and items appear in the item detail pane. Old phase items can simply be copied by drag-and-drop to the correct new phase in the item navigator. The database editor takes care of all the data integrity issues, such as correctly changing items in assemblies and models. Once the transition is complete, old phase items can be deleted. In addition, a sort sequence can be assigned to database items, which in turn allows viewing of the items in the new phase sequence in all item lists.”

Project management challenges

As architects and designers make the transition to MF04, contractors will face further challenges when they begin receiving plans and specifications in both the old and new MasterFormat editions. In this case, Simpson said, “extended software features that enable the use of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) codes, which match the MF04, will be a valuable feature.

“For example, four WBS codes can be assigned to the new format at each of the four levels. By this means, specifications that arrive in the old format can be easily sequenced using these WBS codes to view the estimate in the new format. As an added benefit, this same method can be employed to view historical estimates that were created in the old format, when making historical cost comparisons to similar projects that use the new format.”

Manufacturer product numbers are not likely to change, but the guide specifications that they issue to influence designers and provide shop drawings will need to conform to the new MF04 system.

An example, offered by Don Torrant, director of marketing communications, is the guide-spec numbering scheme already restructured by the Wiremold Co.

“The much wider variety in numbering, and details enable more depth in estimating and the consolidation of diverse parts into a much wider variety of system options,” he said.

Business challenges

Although CSI disclaimers emphatically state that MF04 is not intended to specify trade practices or subcontracting options among general contractors, it is clear that the new system provides for separating work that was previously clustered in Division 16 into four new specialty contract areas.

Stan Shook, estimating columnist for Electrical Contractor, warned, “Contractors who wish to provide all the systems as a prime supplier will need to observe due diligence when bidding to assure that all elements of the job which fall under their jurisdiction are reviewed and included in the bid.

“General conditions and coordination of overlapping specs in several divisions could be more difficult to assign. Also, products that cross over several systems may be overlooked and estimates duplicated incorrectly,” Shook said.

Finally, contractors may find the new system pointing them into different business directions than the currently established boundaries of the industry.

In the new age of specialization, the electrical contracting industry must deal with integrated automation, communication and electronic data transfer and storage, plus security and monitoring systems, in addition to conventional lighting and power distribution, or be left behind.

There certainly are major changes ahead, but CSI predicts that very soon, everyone is going to like the new system, and many will wonder why it wasn't done sooner. EC

TAGLIAFERRE is proprietor of C-E-C Group. He may be reached at 703.321.9268 or [email protected].


About The Author

Lewis Tagliaferre is proprietor of C-E-C Group. He may be reached at 703.321.9268 or [email protected].





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