MasterFormat 2004 Edition

Greg Ceton

May 1, 2005

No matter what your job is, you know that changing market expectations and a shifting regulatory environment make today’s construction projects more complex than ever before. Design professionals today must produce construction documents of unprecedented breadth and depth; more owners want facilities that are "green," and meeting the demands of energy codes requires coordination of large amounts of often diverse information. MasterFormatTM 2004 Edition provides the means to meet these challenges.

For 40 years the 16-division MasterFormat has been commercial construction’s "Dewey Decimal System." It is a master list of numbers and titles for organizing specifications, contracting and procurement requirements, and other data. The resource standardizes communication about projects for everyone involved: engineers, architects, specifiers, contractors, suppliers and others. Standardized communication helps project teams meet schedules, budgets and owners’ requirements, and in the process helps to mitigate errors, omissions and change orders.

Expanding Beyond 16 Divisions

Since the early 1960s, MasterFormat organized project data into 16 divisions, with each division made up of section numbers and titles, the building blocks of any project manual. With its 2004 edition, MasterFormat saw the biggest rewrite in its history. It has broadened and deepened considerably. During the new edition’s development construction, practitioners and organizations, seeing facilities becoming more complicated at a faster and faster rate, made it clear that the 16-division structure had become inadequate. It couldn’t handle the volume and complexity of data for modern projects. Causing the overcrowding were many recent advances in building technologies, driven mostly by computerization of facility systems management. Construction materials also have advanced. And adding to the congestion were new priorities for buildings. For example, green building, rarely mentioned 40 years ago, is now a major concern. So is energy efficiency.

Not only had MasterFormat‘s 16-division structure become inadequate, but its five-digit system for numbering sections didn’t provide for enough data "slots" in many divisions. This shortcoming had forced earlier MasterFormat editions to make compromises in classifying information. For example, data slots for lightning protection, fire suppression, and detection and alarm were contained in Division 13 (Special Construction) instead of Division 15 (Mechanical) or Division 16 (Electrical) because Division 13 had room.

And for subjects, MasterFormat didn’t cover, or covered poorly, non-standard section numbers, and divisions were appearing in project manuals. Officially, they didn’t exist, but many "Division 17s" showed up across the industry, for everything from telecommunications to railway track work to signaling.

Such Band-Aid approaches resulted in misplaced or missing project information. That led to errors, omissions and rework. MasterFormat was becoming less useful as an information management standard.

MasterFormat Improvements

With its new edition MasterFormat has become broader and deeper. Based on unprecedented industry input throughout its development, MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s philosophy is to provide an organizational structure for project information that does a number of things. It encompasses all data generated for today’s projects and can handle ever-constant growth in the volume and complexity of project data. It provides more comprehensive and detailed data on projects’ mechanical and electrical areas. It maintains organizational consistency and minimizes change where the previous structure is still adequate. It follows recognized information classification principles.

The new edition also goes beyond construction to address the facility’s full life-cycle, including maintenance and operations. And it goes beyond buildings to address horizontal construction, such as roads, rail and utilities. Lastly, it covers process engineering construction, such as assembly lines and the manufacturing plants containing them.

The new edition’s philosophy is reflected in MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s new features, which include:


  • An increase to 50 divisions (00-49) from 16.

  • Divisions 03 to 14 are much the same as in MasterFormat 1995.

  • Divisions 01-49 are in five subgroups:

  • General Requirements Subgroup (Division 01)

  • Facility Construction Subgroup (Divisions 02-19)

  • Facility Services Subgroup (Divisions 20-29)

  • Site and Infrastructure Subgroup (Divisions 30-39)

  • Process Equipment Subgroup (Divisions 40-49)

  • Division numbers are reserved throughout for organizing data generated by future products, technologies and methods.

  • A new section-numbering system using six digits in pairs, instead of five digits, that expands more than a hundredfold the level 3 sections possible in each division.

General Requirements Subgroup (Division 01)

A new feature of MasterFormat 2004 Edition that is especially relevant for insulation specifiers is the General Requirements Subgroup (Division 01), which provides data slots for specifying a facility’s performance. For example, performance specifications can be written to have the facility conform to the energy efficiency codes of its state and/or locality. They also can say a building is to meet environmental sustainability standards, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System®.

MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s performance requirements sections in Division 01 are:

  • Facility Performance Requirements (01 81 00)

  • Facility Substructure Performance Requirements (01 82 00)

  • Facility Shell Performance Requirements (01 83 00)

  • Interiors Performance Requirements (01 84 00)

  • Conveying Equipment Performance Requirements (01 85 00)

  • Facility Services Performance Requirements (01 86 00)

  • Equipment and Furnishings Performance Requirements (01 87 00)

  • Other Facility Construction Performance Requirements (01 88 00)

  • Site Construction Performance Requirements (01 89 00)

In addition, Division 01 provides for incorporating a facility’s sustainability in the project closeout documents. In section 01 78 00 (Closeout Submittals) there is a level 3 section (01 78 53) titled Sustainable Design Closeout Documentation for specifying this information.

Facility Services Subgroup (Divisions 20-29)

The 1995 MasterFormat‘s Division 15 (Mechanical) is replaced by MasterFormat 2004 Edition divisions with expanded coverage for Fire Suppression (Division 21), Plumbing (Division 22) and Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (Division 23).

The content contained in the old Division 16 (Electrical) is expanded by creating new divisions concerning both power delivery and data and communications transmission: Integrated Automation (Division 25), Electrical (Division 26), Communications (Division 27) and Electronic Safety and Security (Division 28).

Site and Infrastructure Subgroup (Divisions 31-35)

This subgroup expands MasterFormat to cover site and heavy civil projects. They include transportation, utility and marine construction.

Process Equipment Subgroup (Divisions 40-48)

This subgroup expands MasterFormat to address manufacturing, water and wastewater treatment, power generation and other types of process engineering projects.

Benefiting Those Who Specify Insulation Products

Compared to MasterFormat 1995, the structure of Division 07 (Thermal and Moisture Protection) in MasterFormat 2004 Edition is similar but with more detail. Those who know the old Division 7 should adapt easily to the new edition. And by providing for more comprehensive and detailed specifications, the division’s added information slots can help specifications writers manage the growing diversity of insulation products and applications.

Let’s compare MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s Thermal Insulation section (07 21 00) with MasterFormat 1995‘s equivalent, the Building Insulation section (07210). That section has no additional data slots. But in the 2004 edition there are several slots, at both level 3 and level 4, getting specific on various insulation types:

  • Thermal Insulation (07 21 00)

  • Board Insulation (07 21 13)

  • Foam Board Insulation (07 21 13.13)

  • Fibrous Board Insulation (07 21 13.16)

  • Mineral Board Insulation (07 21 13.19)

  • Blanket Insulation (07 21 16)

  • Foamed-in-Place Insulation (07 21 19)

  • Loose-Fill Insulation (07 21 23)

  • Blown Insulation (07 21 26)

  • Sprayed Insulation (07 21 29)

It’s one example of how MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s added scope and detail can reduce the odds of misplaced or missing information creating project delivery problems.

In addition to providing for more detail, MasterFormat 2004 Edition has moved data slots for certain other types of insulation for more meaningful organization. For example, plumbing insulation is in the new Plumbing division (section 22 07 00). HVAC insulation is in the new HVAC division (section 23 07 00). Fire suppression systems insulation is in the new Fire Suppression division (section 21 07 00). And insulation for process piping and equipment is in the new Process Integration division (section 40 42 00).

More detail. Better locations, easily identified. Those are tools for doing a better, more intelligent job of specifying insulation. It adds up to enhanced communication among the diverse players who deliver increasingly complex buildings. And better communication helps the project team meet owners’ ever-challenging expectations (and code requirements) on schedule and within budget.

CSI and Others Aid in the Transition to the New Edition

Interest in MasterFormat 2004 Edition is accelerating and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is aiding the construction industry’s transition. Owners are attracted to the new edition because its expanded scope provides for project performance specifications. General Motors, Walt Disney Imagineering Labs, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System and the Canadian government are among those requiring future projects to follow the new edition. A growing number of architectural, engineering and construction firms also are converting.

MasterFormat users have several tools available with the new edition for transitioning from a previous version. The Transition Matrix is an Excel® file on the CD included with the publication. It shows the new edition’s equivalents to the 1995 and 1988 editions’ section numbers and titles. The Keyword Index lists terms and recommends section numbers for them.

Education Options

In 2005, CSI plans to provide education at architectural, engineering and construction firms, corporations, government agencies and other organizations. Sessions will address differences between the 1995 and 2004 editions, best practices and implementation strategies. Local CSI chapters also are conducting MasterFormat 2004 Edition education.

The number of MasterFormat instructors trained and accredited by CSI will continue to grow as more seminars to train them are held this year. For updates on MasterFormat 2004 Edition education offerings and a list of CSI-accredited instructors, go to

Master Guide Spec Systems Converting

By the end of 2005, several providers of master guide specifications systems plan to have revised their products to conform to MasterFormat 2004 Edition. They include:

  • ARCOM’s MasterSpec®

  • CSRF SpecText®

  • Digicon Information Inc.

  • Canada’s National Master Guide Specifications

  • Building Systems Design’s BSD SpecLink®. It has been revised already. A global switch rearranges specs per the 2004 or 1995 editions.

What’s Next?

MasterFormat 2004 Edition‘s new organizational structure for project information is intended to serve the next 40 years the way previous editions have for the past 40 because of its built-in flexibility and expandability. New topics concerning construction projects can be assimilated readily and systematically as materials, methods and technologies advance. And CSI is developing a process so that as changes come about, section and division numbers will be added continuously. It will replace the practice of simply publishing a new edition every several years. The industry is evolving too fast for that.

For more information about MasterFormat 2004 Edition or to buy a copy, go to or call CSI at 800-689-2900.