June 2005 Newsletter

How 4specs Uses MasterFormat 2004

4specs was the first construction directory to use MasterFormat 2004 (MF2004) online, starting shortly after the final list of titles was available in May 2004. At that time we added the MF2004 numbers to each section, set up MF2004 division pages and an alternate home page. During the past year I have been working to divide sections further and have gained some insight into to how to best use MF2004 to classify products.

To understand how 4specs is using MF2004, you must consider the following:

MF2004 provides a standardized framework for organizing specification sections and work results.

4specs provides access to manufacturer's products used in specification sections to provide the desired work results.

While some product groups are easily classified by specification section, sometimes this is not the best way to classify products.

4specs uses MF 2004 as the basis of our product classification and makes the following modifications to better fit our product classification requirements:

1. MasterFormat is not intended as a classification system for products. 4specs has about 950 product categories which are not always best defined by the specification sections of MF2004. MF2004 has included thousands of sections and 4specs will not always directly line up with the MF2004 numbers. Our goal is to get the product pages on 4specs near the MF2004 specification section numbers the specifier is going to use.

2. MF2004 has provided 3 different graphical ways to group the section numbers: xx xx xx, xxxxxx, and xx xxxx. 4specs has adopted the xx xxxx style of numbering as our preference.

3. 4specs emphasizes the hierarchical classification nature of MasterFormat, showing the hierarchy as indented. Thus section 11 2234 would be displayed this way:

4. 4specs retains the same Division (level 1) and Broadscope Sections (level 2 - represented by 11 22xx) used in MF2004 with only a few exceptions. While the term Broadscope is no longer used by CSI, it is a fitting description to help understand the MF2004 system

a. MF 2004 Division 2 is for existing work. Here there are few if any products specified and most of the division is about work and not products. Lead and asbestos encapsulating coatings are classified here in MF2004 and we moved them to the 09 9600 area for high-performance coatings as the best alternate spot.

b. MF2004 places maintenance and repair in xx 01 xx. 4specs moves these to the end of the division to xx 99xx. Why put repair materials ahead of the materials most likely to be specified? For example: 03 9900 - Maintenance of Concrete

In several categories where repair and maintenance is directly related to a Broadscope section, we use the xx x9xx section for repair and replacement products or services. For example: 08 5900 - Window Restoration and Replacement.

c. 4specs primarily includes products used in commercial projects. In some sections, 4specs separates residential-style products from the more commercial-style products. We use the 80-series of numbers to denote the residential-style products. For example: 08 5380 - Residential Vinyl Windows

We recognize that many residential-style products are used in hotel/motel guest rooms and include those products in the residential style category. I use the following criteria when classifying:

5. 4specs will primarily use 10's and multiples for level 3 (or Narrowscope) sections and not follow the 13, 16, and 19 used by CSI in the published MF2004 book. This provides 4specs with better flexibility in assigning levels 3. In addition 4specs can assign level 4 (or Finescope) numbers with the 6th digit with suitable hierarchy, in adding specialized product sections and in grouping competitive manufacturers into non-standard sections. This systems permits 4specs to have an additional level within the 6 digits and not have to resort to eight digits with a period separator as is done by MF2004.

6. 4specs classifies products and groups like products together to help the specifier find alternate methods and materials. In 03 3000 - Poured in place Concrete, we recognize that concrete has ingredients and have moved all the ingredients to separate sections to aid in product selection. We expect that the concrete ingredients will be written in a 03 3000 specification section while listed in the 03 05xx area on 4specs.

As we go through and reclassify all the companies listed in 4specs, we are using the following plan.

a. Identify manufacturers of products that are either direct competitors or are substitutions for each other and set up separate categories for each of them, whether there is a MF2004 defined section or not.

b. In several areas, there is a wide range of alternates that could be used - wood, concrete, plastics, etc. We will add cross references to each page to quickly identiy and access the alternate materials. As an example - 4specs has a special section 06 4005 - Architectural Columns, which includes wood, concrete, fiberglass, vinyl and other materials in one section. I plan to add a similar section for architectural features in the future to group the concrete, plastic and wood features together as alternatives.

c. We add a "See Also" note to sections where products could be listed in alternate sections or even alternate divisions. Some sections may have multiple numbers listed to denote where else they could be specified or found.

Sweets, ARCAT and FirstSource have not yet published how they will handle the change to the MF2004 numbers. In some cases, their numbers may have 8 digits and will track the exact number and title in the MF2004 book. I plan to stay away from the 8 digit numbers and to number our sections to have room to divide sections as necessary.

As you start to renumber your sections in your specification and literature, I make the following recommendations.

1. Initially stay with the Broadscope numbers, although CSI is not using this term any more. These sections are typically numbered xx xx 00. For example, I would start with 08 4200 - Entrances. Depending on the section, you might also want to classify your products by a Narrowscope number, such as 08 4229 - Automatic Entrances. I suggest you delay using the Finescope numbers such as 08 4229.13 - Folding Automatic Entrances until we see how specifiers and other publications actually use the eight digit numbers.

2. Place both division numbers on your binders. The Division number is how most architects group their binders, and the Division number is not changing for most architectural products. This is primarily important for engineering and landscape products.

3. Use 2 MF2004 numbers on newly-printed literature. Use the Broadscope and Narrowscope numbers such as 08 4200 and 08 4229 or possibly the Finescope number 08 4229.13. Over time we will see how the numbers are being used by the specifiers and other publishers and adjust the numbers on the next print run.

To make things even more confusing, there is another system being proposed for the classification of products - OCCS - Overall Construction Classification System. At best, this is several years away from being completed and I suspect will never have broad acceptance in the design industry.

One of the problems in being front is the arrows in the back for being wrong, and so my approach may change over time. Email or call me if you have any questions.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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[Updated somewhat 8/30/2009]