In 2004, an updated version of MasterFormat brought about monumental changes in organizing specifications. Gone was the 16-division system (17 if you include Division 00) and its five-digit section numbers. In its place was a vastly improved system of 50 divisions with six-digit section numbers.
The developers of MasterFormat in 1963 could not have anticipated even a fraction of the changes our industry would undergo over the next 41 years. Indeed, the old system had run out of section numbers for new subject matter.
It is worth noting although the big change to MasterFormat was in 2004, the document has continued to evolve, and thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, it is updated on a more regular basis to reflect the ever-changing needs of the industry. The most recent version is MasterFormat 2018, which is now available through CSC!
If you are wondering why the history lesson, the reason is simple. Despite the significant changes that have been made and the adoption of the new system by many users, there are still some in this business that are using the old MasterFormat system. Surprisingly, this includes many large firms and government agencies. Why?
To suggest MasterFormat is merely a “bunch of numbers to organize information” is not a valid excuse, no more so than the other often-cited reason for not switching—familiarity.
MasterFormat 2004 (and now MasterFormat 2018) improved the ability to quickly, accurately, and consistently find information, making it easier for everyone to find what they need, especially on the jobsite.
Consider this. How many architectural and engineering firms are still drawing by hand? The same argument for not using the latest version of MasterFormat could be made with regard to drawings (i.e. the design intent can just as easily be communicated by hand drawings as with computer-aided design [CAD] or building information modelling [BIM] drawings, so why change?). CAD offered increases in productivity over hand drafting and BIM seeks to improve communication of design intent to ensure more co-ordinated contract documents through the use of a common model.
These are pretty compelling arguments and they can just as simply be applied to why the time has come to switch to MasterFormat 2018.
One CSC pillar is the advancement of construction communication through a common language. MasterFormat 2018 is that language. I encourage all CSC members to reach out to their colleagues and ask, “What language are you speaking?”.