UniFormat 2010: How Will You Use It?

CSI and CSC have released UniFormat 2010. This new edition harmonizes with CSI’s other standards and formats, including MasterFormat’s 50 divisions and the new PPDFormat, which guides the development of preliminary project descriptions. The new version improves UniFormat's ability to consistently serve its purpose:
Because it breaks a facility into the systems that perform distinct functions – shell, foundation, interiors, etc. -- without naming the specific solutions used to achieve them, it provides a consistent method for tracking and estimating costs and evaluating options even before the design team has finished developing drawings and specifications.
What This Means for Manufacturers?

UniFormat classifies building products and systems, but in different groupings from MasterFormat. UniFormat groupings are more useful early in the design process and in situations where design flexibility is key, such as in design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD) It is already used in building information modeling (BIM) for classifying elements of the model.

If the updated standard, the rise of BIM and various forms of IPD, and the easily-integrated electronic documents all point to UniFormat's being used more often and more effectively, this means that manufacturers will need to understand and use it, too. In theory, if your product literature speaks UniFormat, your product is speaking the right language for the early part of the project design process, and the right language for design-build and IPD.

Consider, at a minimum, imbedding the UniFormat code for your products in your BIM objects. Place it on your product literature along with your MasterFormat number and title. Include it in your keywords for web-based literature. Include it in your next sales training. (If you have a multi-use product, like mortar or sealant, your reps may need to know several UniFormat codes where your product might be used.) Classify articles, technical bulletins, and other publications according to the UniFormat element they discuss, and you may start to find your systems rubbing elbows with systems to which it isn't normally compared. For instance, terra cotta, phenolic panels, and aluminum composite panels all occupy different Divisions of MasterFormat, but they are all part of exterior walls, UniFormat element B2010. Consider all of these ideas, and brainstorm your own: if UniFormat increases in usage among design professionals and contractors, you'll want to be ready to use it, too.

What Else has Changed?

Possibly more exciting than the update itself is the electronic formats in which UniFormat is now made available. The UniFormat 2010 edition includes the following documents:
  • A searchable pdf of the full UniFormat document, including added descriptive information for titles and an index.
  • A full listing of the UniFormat numbers and titles as an Excel spreadsheet for import into databases and other applications
  • A transition matrix between CSI/CSC UniFormat 2010 edition, CSI/CSC UniFormat 1998 edition, ASTM UNIFORMAT II, GSA UNIFORMAT, and NAVFAC UNIFORMAT.
These different formats help users integrate UniFormat into its software environments: BIM, estimation tools, and preliminary project descriptions, to name a few. CSI is smart to offer UniFormat in such flexible documents, which allow it to serve its purpose with more fluidity and accessibility than ever before.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the new version will cause an increase in the use of UniFormat. We'll be keeping our ear to the ground, though, and it may behoove manufacturers to do the same.