History of Specifications
Prior to 1961, construction specifications often consisted of a single document describing all the materials and work required for a building. These specifications were usually arranged both chronologically and by craft or trade. For example, in the Handbook of Specifications, by T. L. Donaldson (1860), specifications were divided into the 2 general divisions, carcase and finishing, and the subdivisions shown in Table 1.
Founder and smith
Smith and bellhanger
As buildings became bigger and more complex, the specifications were broken down into categories such as masonry, carpentry, and mechanical work. Each of these was then divided into related sections. For example, see Table 2.
Steel columns and lintels
After World War II there was an explosion of new technologies and materials. Specifications were becoming very large books that varied in organization and structure according to the jurisdictional region.
Finally in 1948, the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) was formed to address these problems. In 1961 they released an initial draft of a guideline for organizing specifications; the Format and Arrangement of Specifications and Related Documents. Then in September of 1963 the CSI Format for Building Specifications was officially published.
1963: CSI Format for Building Specifications
This publication organized specifications into 16 divisions with various subjects within each division. Each subject within a division was considered an item of work and each subject was called a section. Three hundred and fourteen sections had been identified and were arranged alphabetically within each division.
1964: CSI Format for Building Specifications
This publication was updated to include 1010 sections within the same 16 divisions. The publication was now 28 pages in length, of which 5 pages were devoted to just the listing of divisions and sections.
1972: CSI Format incorporated into the Uniform Construction Index
The Uniform Construction Index (UCI) was developed to create a simple, logical, and flexible system for rapid classification and retrieval of technical data in the construction industry. This included specifications, data filing, cost analysis, and project information. The UCI used a 5 digit numbering system for divisions and sections. The first 2 digits identified the division and the remaining digits were used for the sections. Although the UCI did not continue with updates, the CSI Format did continue and began to include the other project related sections.
1972: CSI Format – Master List of Specifications Section Titles
Beyond just the name change for this update to the CSI publication was the use of the 5-digit numbering system. This latest edition included 1220 sections.
1975: MasterFormat™ – Master List of Numbers and Titles
The 1975 edition of the CSI Format contained 2120 section listings within the 16 divisions as well as a new division, Division 0, which included Bidding Requirements and Conditions of Contract. This last point was very controversial.
The 1983 edition entitled Division 0 as Document Numbers.
In 1988 MasterFormat was again updated and included sections before Division 0 that were called documents rather than sections. This was suppose to begin a 5—year cycle of update for this publication.
1995: MasterFormat™ - Master List of Numbers and Titles for the Construction Industry
The 1995 edition was published jointly by CSI and the Construction Specifications Canada (CSC).
The 2004 edition of MasterFormat™(MF04) increased the number of divisions from the original 16 first introduced in 1963, to 50. The expansion of the numbers and titles was to keep pace with a construction world that continues to add complexity and new work results. The 5-digit numbering system was carefully replaced with a 6-digit system to maintain as much consistency as possible. MF04 also allows user-defined numbers and titles.