In Defense of MasterFormat 2004

As Don Short pointed out in his blog post today , the most obvious upside of MasterFormat 2004 is that it makes writing specifications easier. 

In the 16 years since 1995, we in the construction industry have been introduced to many new technologies and materials.  We have outgrown MasterFormat 1995.  MasterFormat 1995 does not give architects, specifiers, and building product manufacturers enough direction about where to put the information we need to communicate to the contractor team.  MasterFormat 2004, along with its updates issued in 2010 and 2011, provides us with the framework to let us know exactly where to put our information.1    

MasterFormat 2004’s more fully developed framework, which the more compact MasterFormat 1995 did not provide, produces more consistency in construction documents across multiple construction projects, no matter who the architect and specifier are.   

Clear, concise, correct, and complete is the goal for construction communications.  MasterFormat 2004 can guide design professionals to that goal better than MasterFormat 1995 can.  When the design team’s documents are clear, concise, correct and complete, everyone, from the owner to the estimator to the constructor, benefits.  To use Don’s phrasing, “ease of writing” leads to “ease of use.” 



1.  In different projects which used MasterFormat 1995, I’ve seen the same information in different divisions – not just different sections, actually different divisions.  One example: water repellent products intended to be applied to exterior masonry assemblies.  When using MasterFormat 2004, we know where to locate the specification information for these products.  MasterFormat 2004 guides us to “07 19 00 Water Repellents” which is further broken down into different types of products.  On MasterFormat 1995 projects, I’ve seen these products specified in Division 4 (under “Masonry Assemblies”), in Division 9 (under “Paints and Coatings”) and, just as in MasterFormat 2004, in Division 7 (under “Dampproofing and Waterproofing”).  Inconsistencies from project to project lead to problems in construction.  MasterFormat 2004 is a solution to these problems.

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