What is the CSI MasterFormat and What’s its Purpose?

MasterFormat is the standard of CSI for construction professionals and businesses. In simple terms, it is a coding system, which helps professional construction companies to organize documents, designs, and contract specifications.

MasterFormat has specific titles and associated numbers, which in combination makes an indexing system used globally for construction. The MasterFormat is created and updated by CSI and CSC.

Construction professionals and companies use this format in various building operations and systems – in general – in all types of construction projects in a wide range of industries including residential, commercial, and public infrastructure like schools and hospitals.

History of MasterFormat

In the 1960s, the construction industry felt the need for a uniform system, which would help in organizing specifications. In this regard, the CSI introduced the 17th division format, which focused on the organization of different subject sections.

A few years later, in 1978, CSI in collaboration with CSC produced the first version of MasterFormat, which was acknowledged and approved by the U.S and Canadian federal agencies, local and state governments.

MasterFormat at that time was intended for the classification of in-depth construction information into a standard sequence or order by methods and materials. Construction companies started using this format to organize their project documentation, manuals, as well as for analysis of detailed cost estimations.

This format by CSI is the specifications-writing standard for designing commercial buildings and projects in the U.S and Canada. MasterFormat lists numbers and titles, which could be used for data organization about the requirements, products, and activities of construction. Prior to 2004, the MasterFormat by CSI was used for grouping information into “Divisions” and “Section Numbers” using a 5-digit numbering system.

The MasterFormat Divisions

The original MasterFormat series was based on a 16-Division 5-digit format. For instance, Division 01 showed the requirements of the contract in general – which contained contracts, supplemental conditions, submittals, and documentation on temporary facilities. Some examples are “01020 for Allowances” and “01410 for Material Testing.”

Likewise, Division 02 was about site construction, which focused on landscaping, utilities, earthwork, site concrete, and erosion control. For example, “02110 for site clearing” and “02923 for landscape grading.”

Division 03 was about concrete and this division contained information about the concrete formation, finishing, and placement. Some example is “03100 for concrete formwork” and “03200 for concrete reinforcement.”

Moreover, Division 04 was all about masonry related work, which includes masonry units, mortar, as well as reinforcing – an example would be “04120 for Face Brick” and “04100 for concrete masonry.”

Furthermore, Division 05 focused on metalwork during a construction project. It highlighted structural steel. For example, “05100 for structural steel” and “05500 for misc. steel.” There were 16 divisions in total.

Benefits of using MasterFormat

When it comes to the advantages of MasterFormat, first and foremost, it is all about improved communication and interaction between different project teams. For example, MasterFormat – primarily – is used for communication between the design and construction teams.

Not only does it allow all members of the team to organize specific sections of construction documentation using the universal coding system, but it also facilitates communication and coordination between project owners, contractors, architects, and suppliers. The entire purpose is to save time on the organization of documents.

So much so, MasterFormat is also very useful in complex operations of the construction industry – for instance, in the healthcare industry, the MasterFormat can help the administration to effectively organize critical information and coordination among designers, builders, projects managers, and facility owners.

Moreover, today, many industries including the construction industry is widely using “Building Information Modeling (BIM),” which can use MasterFormat to improve data interoperability and improve adoption of BIM. The MasterFormat is thus a sophisticated system, which you can use for the organization of different project documents including:

  • Project Manuals
  • Design Specifications
  • Drawing or Keynotes
  • Management and Maintenance of facility
  • Product literature and data filing
  • Communication and Integration of projects
  • Detailed estimation of costs and project accounting
  • Building Information Modeling (BIM)

MasterFormat is a standard filing system used for written project information, it likewise provides a list of titles and numbers for the construction requirements as well as other associated activities of industrial and commercial building projects.

For example, if it is an elementary school in New York or a hospital in Los Angles. The interesting thing is that MasterFormat helps almost all disciplines involved in designing, constructing and operations of buildings.

Today, there are over 40 divisions in the MasterFormat – including electrical, safety, and integrated building systems that help in the organization of construction information. For instance, Division 23 focuses on HVAC systems and requirements as well as Division 28 and 33 covers electronic safety and utilities respectively.

MasterFormat also helps architects and contractors who work on renovations to easily collect the data they may require in the future. It is also very important for professionals who want to use building information modeling. MasterFormat is continuously adopted by more and more modeling software systems.

Lastly, the integration of BIM with MasterFormat has allowed professionals to achieve greater efficiency especially in healthcare commercial building construction projects.