Last edited 08 Feb 2021


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[edit] Introduction

The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is a membership organisation created in the United States. It was founded in 1948 by government specification writers seeking to standardise construction specifications in response to the building boom that occurred after the Second World War. In 1963, this resulted in a benchmark that was given the name MasterFormat in 1975. The current MasterFormat is a collaboration between the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC).

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[edit] What is MasterFormat?

MasterFormat, sometimes referred to as the Dewey Decimal system for the building lifecycle, serves as the universally recognised organisational framework for the non-residential construction industry in North America. It is considered the blueprint for designing, building and running facilities - regardless of the size of the facility or the situation in which it occurs.

MasterFormat provides the organisational framework for the written and graphical instructions for the complete construction of commercial buildings. It has been the most used format for specifications concerning non-residential building projects in the United States and Canada. It is the standard for arranging construction project manuals containing bidding requirements, contracting requirements and specifications. Architects, builders and contractors use it when drawing up plans, and facilities managers use it when operating buildings.

In addition to standardising the building process, MasterFormat can be used for other purposes, such as the preparation of bids or insurance policies. With its 2004 expansion, MasterFormat incorporated computer networks, telecommunications and facilities management categories. The expansion’s primary impact - particularly in a post 9/11 environment - was to integrate better communications and safety systems into buildings to include fire, security and electrical construction.

Since the release of the 2004 edition, the focus of MasterFormat has been to go beyond the design phase and to include the entire lifecycle of the building - from design to procurement to construction to technological integration and beyond. By having a uniform method of documentation, it should be easier for facility management professionals to access and understand information that has been provided in a common language for different elements of the building. Even if a contractor or service provider goes out of business, the documentation should remain consistent if it complies with MasterFormat.

[edit] MasterFormat revisions

In 1963, the data organised into the CSI Format for Construction Specifications (the precursor to MasterFormat) included 16 primary areas. The standard divided the data into groups. These groups were then categorised into subgroups which were then broken down into divisions.

Over the years, the standard has expanded, most significantly in 2004. Subsequent revisions of the MasterFormat have been released in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

[edit] The 2018 version

The 2018 version of MasterFormat includes information regarding maintenance and repair operations, recycling and other lifecycle activities based on the same format and numbering structure as those used for construction specifications.

As of July 2020, this is the current structure of MasterFormat (based on the 2018 revision; the most recent revision was published in late 2020).



MasterFormat is the basis for organising the ASTM standard for sustainability assessment of building products.

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