Transition Guide

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With the publication of the 2004 edition, the MasterFormat numbers and titles were revised to allow them to more adequately cover construction industry subject matter and to allow seamless addition of new subjects. The titles that make up MasterFormat were also revised, reflecting the new edition’s renewed focus on work results. As a part of this process, the numbering system was wholly revised, meaning that all section numbers and many section titles have changed from the 1995 edition.

The five-digit numbers used in the 1995 edition were expanded to allow room for more subjects at each level of classification. The old numbers were limited at levels 2 through 4 to only nine subdivisions. Because of this limited number of available spaces at each level, many Divisions of MasterFormat simply ran out of room to properly address topics. This lack of room often resulted in inconsistent classification, such as the inclusion of Cathodic Protection, Lightning Protection, Fire Suppression, Detection and Alarm, and Solar and Wind Energy Equipment in Division 13, rather than more appropriate Divisions such as 15 or 16, simply because there was no room.

These limitations were solved by making MasterFormat numbers six digits in length, and arranging the digits into three sets of paired numbers, one pair per level. These pairs of numbers allow for many more subdivisions at each level. Meanwhile, the main six-digit number still represents three levels of subordination, as the numbers in previous editions of MasterFormat have done.

How do I make the transition?

For users of previous editions of MasterFormat, making the transition to the MasterFormat 2004 edition can seem a daunting task, but like most challenges, it becomes easier when you break it down into smaller steps.

The first thing to do is time your transition properly. There will be a workload cost associated with updating specifications and other documents and information that may be organized using MasterFormat, so identify all of the affected resources and estimate the time needed to make the transition before scheduling anything. Though it’s important to coordinate all of your resources to avoid disconnects, if the immediate cost of transition is your chief concern, remember that some information resources like specifications can be updated in stages on an as-needed or as-time-allows basis.

After estimating how long it will take to make the transition and the resources needed to do so, create a timeline for the transition and decide on a completion date. This date is when all construction information generated will be organized according to the new version of MasterFormat. As part of choosing this date, communicate your plans to individuals inside your organization and those you do business with. Be certain this completion date meshes with any new project schedules. Projects that are currently underway will most likely require the continued use of the older MasterFormat version, meaning that you will likely have to maintain parallel systems for a while. Communicate the impact your completion date will have for coworkers, consultants, and clients early and often. Remember to make this communication a conversation and not a monolog; two-way communication invariably improves your transition process and your business relationships.

Once you have completed the transition, the final step is to do an evaluation and review any existing problems with your construction documents or business processes that may have been uncovered by the review. That way, your update will help you gain an even greater degree of control over the quality of your project information.