Although few members of the industry argue with the need for MasterFormat revision and expansion, the process has been contentious. Late in February, the task team released a third draft that proposed scrapping the existing 16-division structure in favor of an 86-division format. The proposal failed to win industry support. "We tried some other things, but they did not meet with acceptance from the industry," says Dennis Hall, managing principal of Hall Architects, Charlotte, N.C., and chair of CSI's expansion task team.

OVERHAUL CSI task force, led by Hall (left), aims to expand construction specs.

MasterFormat, created to organize construction information for buildings, has been periodically updated but the 16-division structure was never altered. The current revamp effort aims to better organize construction products and services, provide room for expansion and include new types of construction such as heavy civil and process engineering.

Some sources had predicted that even if the third draft was adopted, not all would follow the new format. "We will have two different systems and it will be impossible to coordinate anything," says Martin Bloomenthal, principal of Hillier, Princeton, N.J. He organized a protest petition that was signed by more than 1,500 industry representatives.

Other critics argued that even industry-wide adoption would hamper sharing of data among architects, engineers, product manufacturers and owners. "Increasing the number of groupings and divisions will lead to complex and unwieldy data integration issues that will increase the cost of doing business throughout the industry," says Paul Doherty, managing director of the Digit Group, a Germantown, Tenn., technology consultant to property owners. He favors "vertical" expansion within the current 16-division framework.

In response to the criticism, the task team decided to move forward with a compromise solution at CSI's annual meeting, held April 9-12 in Chicago. The team will maintain many of the "legacy" divisions but use a six-digit designation system instead of the current five-digit system. The current divisions 0 through 14 would remain. However, the mechanical and electrical divisions, currently numbers 15 and 16, would be given more space and would be moved to divisions 20 thorough 29. The heading for this new "series 20" would be "facility services." Series 30 and 40 would also be added under the headings "infrastructure" and "process construction."

The compromise will "put the architectural community back in its comfort zone and still allow for expansion," says Gary Beimers, director of content management for McGraw-Hill Construction/Sweets, and a member of the CSI task force. McGraw-Hill Construction is also the parent of ENR. CSI's team expects to officially release the compromise version for comment in August and aims to publish a final document by year-end.

he Construction Specifications Institute has backed off from the most controversial aspects of a proposal to overhaul its MasterFormat system. For two years, CSI has been wrestling with how to revamp the 40-year-old system for specifying U.S. nonresidential construction to accommodate the explosion of new materials and technologies.