MCAA Urges CSI to Reconsider MasterFormat Changes

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America, Rockville, MD, is urging the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) to return to basic discussion of ways to adapt to change while preserving the overriding value of keeping the proven Division 15 and 16 formats intact. A letter from MCAA President Robert W. FitzGerald to CSI MasterFormat™ Expansion Task Team Chair Dennis J. Hall reads as follows: “The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) represents over 2,000 mechanical construction firms across the country. These firms build the full range of mechanical, HVAC, and plumbing installations for residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and heavy construction owners in the public and private sectors. MCAA firms perform new construction, service, and maintenance operations in all these markets. “MCAA commends CSI for its groundbreaking work in establishing MasterFormat, the industry standard building construction classification system, and building it into the accepted standard-form document in its field. “MCAA welcomes the opportunity to provide the following constructive comments on the proposed radical restructuring of MasterFormat. MCAA is eager to continue to work with CSI to achieve the goal of revising the document without abandoning the current Division 15 and 16 structures that have come to be relied on by the industry for a variety of important ancillary purposes. “In summary, we fear that the proposed changes to MasterFormat will in fact promote far greater fragmentation in project administration and delivery, leading to disputes and other negative outcomes, to the detriment of the owner, even while the overwhelming pattern of best practices trends in the public and private sectors are toward ever-greater project integration and delivery systems.” MCAA’s primary recommendation is that the current structure of MasterFormat (Divisions 15 and 16) should be preserved, precisely because the document is so widely relied on in its current form to minimize disputes and organize essential project administrative/delivery functions. The goals for the revision — technical developments since 1995 and the need to adapt further to rapidly changing technology — can be achieved just as well within the current structure, according to MCAA. Given the greater value of a gradual evolutionary approach, the risks of suddenly abandoning the current standard far outweigh any benefits in either the short- or long-term, MCAA says. Following are MCAA’s comments in support of these assertions. • The current structure is relied upon for many other important ancillary purposes that should be accommodated in the revision of the MasterFormat. To a substantial degree, MasterFormat’s success argues against radical change. The industry has come to rely on CSI’s flagship document for many purposes, in addition to standard specifications. For example, some of these other ancillary uses are accounting systems, including schedules of values, and charts of accounts; project scheduling, planning, recordkeeping and filing systems; bid depositories; product catalogues; building code and enforcement classification systems; and foundation-numbering index for project administration cost/budget accounting and recordkeeping software. • The current Divisions 15 and 16 can be expanded to accommodate changing technology with placeholders just as readily and with less risk than dispersing that scope of work to other disparate Divisions. By dispersing current Divisions 15 and 16 scope to other widely scattered Divisions, the proposed revisions hazard far greater harm than any benefits that might be derived from this revolutionary proposed way to adapt to changes. To the extent separate blank Division placeholders can be used to provide categorical flexibility in the future, that same device can be used within the current Divisions—thereby preserving the added valuable ancillary uses a stable MasterForma has encouraged. By dispersing Divisions 15 and 16, the revisions hazard greater fragmentation of scope of work, and substantially increase the risk of overlapping or missed work, compounding the risk of disputes, claims, delays and the other negative project consequences stemming from unallocated/misallocated scope of work. oorly coordinated projects are just that—and the breeding grounds for wasteful litigation. Moreover, the proposed fragmentation runs counter to best practices in the industry among sophisticated public and private owners relying on ever-greater integrated project delivery approaches to gain the full value of full-service mechanical contractors’ expertise—not forfeiting it in diffused and fragmented approaches. • The negative practical consequences stemming from abandonment of the established MasterFormat Divisions also far outweigh any perceived advantages from sudden change. Rampant confusion will surely result, as overlapping use of the old and new editions of MasterForma will merely compound the negative consequences from the change. At an even more practical level, CSI should seriously weigh the benefits of not maintaining the established Divisions 15 and 16 format against the tremendous cost (in the many millions of dollars no doubt) of software retooling for IT uses built around Divisions 15 and 16. Experience shows that careful, gradual change in standard-form industry documents is the best way to preserve their use and service to the industry. In conclusion, MCAA earnestly urges CSI to return to basic discussion of ways to adapt to change while preserving the overriding value of keeping the proven Division 15 and 16 formats intact.

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