Last edited 17 Feb 2021


Classification, an introduction describes classification as, ‘what things are called, and how those names are arranged and structured’, or ‘the act or process of dividing things into groups according to their type.’

In the construction industry, classification is used in:

SfB stands for Samarbetskommitten for Byggnadsfragor, the initials of a Danish committee that developed a common arrangement for three key construction industry books: a price book, a specification and a product book or set of data sheets. The system was adopted internationally by CIB (Conseil Internationale du Batiment) and recommended to members institutes. The RIBA took a licence to establish an Agency for SfB in the UK and recommended its use with UDC in 1961 for architects libraries.

In 1968 the RIBA published a revised version called CI/SfB (Construction Index SfB) which dropped the use of UDC and added two new tables to SfB tables 1, 2 and 3. Table 0 was roughly based on UDC and Table 4 on the CIB Master List of Properties, with additions. There was a further revision in 1976.

This system has been used in the UK and possibly elsewhere for technical and trade literature in the construction sector, more recently being used to define layers in computer aided design (CAD) construction drawings. It also formed the basis of the BS 1192-5 Construction drawing practice. Guide for structuring and exchange of CAD data.

In recent years it has been gradually superseded by Uniclass, which has a much wider coverage and is able to encompass new building types and concepts involving energy and environmental issues. However, many architectural libraries are still organised according to the CI/SfB system.

The method of displaying CI/SfB classifications is to use four boxes (or bays) with specific codes that appear in a particular box. References are based on five tables which then fit into the four boxes.

Most construction products do not enter data in all the boxes, and often ignore Tables 0 and 4.

Most products use (3-), which applies to ‘Secondary elements, completion of structure’. Detail can be provided to this, for example:

Composite window and door openings and parts to fill them (31.3)

Window openings only as above (31.4)

With Table 3 - Construction form, the products are classed as components, with the code being X, followed by a code for the material used (such as metal - ‘h’), and a sub-code for the particular type of material (such as aluminium - ‘4’).

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You write:

"CI/SfB is the Construction Index/ Samarbetskommitten for Byggnadsfragor, a Scandinavian classification system for libraries set up in 1959 and intended for the construction industry."

This is not quite correct.

CI/SfB is a British system. It is however based on SfB, the initials for Samarbetskommitten for Byggnadsfragor, the 'Organising committee for the building industry' in Denmark, which designed a Common Arrangement for three building industry books - a book of prices, a book of specification clauses and a book of products.

The system was taken up and internationalised by CIB (Conseil Internationale du Batiment) which set up an SfB Working Group, and the RIBA was licensed to provide the SfB Agency for the UK - to provide codes for building products to manufacturers and promote the system.amongst building designers.

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