As Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum Inc. CEO Patrick MacLeamy urges the construction industry to change its processes—by standardizing more and collaborating differently—the Construction Specifications Institute is forcing change its own way with its vastly revamped 40-year-old MasterFormat classification system.

After nearly three years of retooling and no small bit of controversy, CSI has finished expanding and changing its system, which it previewed at its annual meeting, held April 21-23 in Chicago. CSI claims that 95% of the nonresidential construction industry uses the system in writing specs for bids and documents.

A year ago, the CSI MasterFormat expansion task team said it expected to release the new version by December. But an unexpectedly high number of recommendations on a fourth draft released in August delayed it.


“We have been reluctant to let it out of the bag until we are comfortable with it,” says Dennis Hall, managing principal of Hall Architects, Charlotte, N.C., and chair of the task team.

An electronic version of MasterFormat ’04 will be available on CSI’s Website in mid-June. Electronic availability prior to the print edition helps firms start the implementation process, says Greg Ceton, CSI manager of technical projects. The full MasterFormat ’04 and translation guide will go on sale this fall.

Hall’s team wanted to take the system from a 16-division to a radical 86-division system. It also had proposed a six-digit designation for individual items instead of a current five-digit matrix.

Faced with much industry opposition, the team last year announced that it would compromise “by not applying the more radical thinking to the current architectural divisions,” says Gary Beimers, a member of the CSI task team. The products and services will be grouped into a potential of 50 divisions, but CSI will keep...