Marketing with MasterFormat

As building product manufactures develop products to meet new needs in the construction industry, they should understand how their products fit into the MasterFormat. When necessary, manufacturers should not hesitate to propose changes to the standard.

MasterFormat is the construction industry's standard for organizing construction-related information according to "work-results" based on construction practices. It is used to organize construction specifications, cost information, and building operations and maintenance information. Modifications can be proposed by users to keep the standard up to date and responsive to industry needs.

For example, I proposed the following changes that have been added to MasterFormat in the most recent update cycle:

09 78 19 Cementitious Interior Wall Paneling

09 78 23 Phenolic Interior Wall Paneling

13 19 19 Animal Washing Tubs

26 01 40.13 Operation and Maintenance of Lightning Protection Systems

32 18 23.63 Equestrian Surfacing

Additional information is at

MasterFormat Live!

Place is one of the fundamentals of "Four Ps" of marketing, along with Product, Price, and Promotion.

In building product marketing, one of the places affecting your market is i MasterFormat, the industry's standard for organizing construction information.

MasterFormat is updated annually by its sponsors, Construction Specifications Institute and Construction Specifications Canada, based upon input from the construction industry.

I made several suggestions that have been accepted in the most recent revision cycle:

08 43 00 Storefronts - The text explaining this section has been changed to read: "Section Includes: one or two-story openings infilled with glass and other materials for exterior and interior applications."

23 34 39 Air Destratification Fans - This new section was made necessary by growing use of this product category.

32 13 16.16 Roller-Compacted Concrete Paving has been reassigned to number 32 13 13.17 for improved consistency in the numbering system.

Score 10 for 10 with MasterFormat

Do you know which sections apply to your products?
MasterFormat -- the filing system for organizing construction specifications and other construction information -- is updated annually to refine the system and meet newly identified needs in the construction industry. MasterFormat was developed and is maintained by the Construction Specifications Institute.

During the past year, members of the Chusid Associates team proposed ten revisions. We have just learned that all ten proposals received positive responses from the MasterFormat maintenance task team. 

Most of the proposals were made on behalf of building product manufacturers introducing new systems or trying to expand acceptance of existing products.

The revisions to MasterFormat are:
00 31 19.23 - Existing Structural Information
New section number and title.

03 30 00 - Cast-in-Place Concrete
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “pigmented mix.”

03 35 19 - Colored Concrete Finishing
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “dry shake colorants and hardeners applied during concrete finishing operations.”

09 61 19 - Concrete Staining
New section number and title.

09 78 00 - Interior Wall Paneling
09 78 13 - Metal Interior Wall Paneling
New section numbers and titles.

12 93 23 - Trash and Litter Receptacles
New section number and title.

28 41 00 - Electronic Structural Monitoring Systems
New section number and title.

33 49 22 - Storm Drainage Water Detention Structures
33 49 24 - Storm Drainage Water Storage Structures
New section numbers and titles.
The revisions were proposed by Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS and Vivian Volz, AIA CSI CCS. The 100 percent acceptance of their recommendations testies to their understanding of MasterFormat and construction specifications.

For more information on marketing with MasterFormat, see previous posts on this blog.

CSI-Compliant Specification Program

Michael Chusid has been designated a CSI‐approved Specification Reviewer. In this capacity, Michael will be assigned to review building product guide specifications from manufacturers participating in the Construction Specifications Institute's new CSI Compliant Document Program for Guide Specifications (CDP).

According to CSI, the Compliant Document Program,
" a structured program for reviewing manufacturer guide specifications for conformance with the CSI formats and guidelines. The guide specification should conform to the intent expressed in the application guidelines provided in MasterFormat, SectionFormat and PageFormat. Other good specification practices as identified in the CSI Project Resource Manual or CSI Practice Guides (Project Delivery, Construction Specifications, and Contract Administration) should be used for a specification to receive approval for receipt of the CSI compliance designation."
Manufacturers that pass muster and pay the fees can emblazon the CDP logo on their guide specifications, websites, and other marketing materials. Specifiers will, no doubt, find reassurance  and in this mark, giving it marketing appeal. CSI says the Institute plans to publish a directory of participating manufacturers, creating additional exposure opportunities for a brand.

It is critical, however, to note the program's significant limitation:
"The CSI Compliant Document program is not an evaluation of the technical merits, correctness of the material submitted, or the appropriate use of the work result being specified in a project." (emphasis added)
Put another way, a CSI Compliant Document can look like roses, but smell like manure. With or without CDP review, a guide specification can comply with CSI formats, language-usage guidelines, and other principles, but still be wrong, wrong, wrong!

Use the Compliant Document Program to catch a specifier's eye, but keep them in your pocket by making sure your document is clear, concise, complete, and correct.

Chusid Associates offers a free, 10-Point SpecAudit(tm) to help you understand how to improve your guide specifications. Contact us to learn how you can take advantage of this offer.  Call +1 818 774 0003.

Is your product in MasterFormat?

A marketing maxim says sales depend on three things: 1. Location, 2. Location, and 3. Location.

In construction, the location of your product information is determined by MasterFormat. MasterFormat is the industry standard for organizing construction information according to the type of work being performed. It is used to organize construction specifications, cost data, schedules of values, and other project data. Building product manufacturers need to know the MasterFormat sections where their products should be specified.

What happens, however, if your product doesn't fit into an existing MasterFormat section? This can occur whenever a new type of product is brought to market, or when new demands on buildings requires the creation of new building solutions.

Fortunately, there the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and its partners in MasterFormat have created a means for proposing revisions. Revisions can be proposed online at, and the MasterFormat Maintenance Task Team meets each summer to consider revisions.

Here are some examples of recent revisions:

Section 03 35 33 - Polished Concrete Finishing: Polished concrete has gained popularity in the decade since the technique was developed. We proposed this section on behalf of Lythic Solutions, a firm that provides materials for polishing. 

Section 03 48 63 - Precast Pre-Framed Concrete Panels: MasterFormat had a section for precast concrete panels, and a place for metal stud-framed panels, but no place for panels with a precast face and metal stud framing. We proposed this section on behalf of Ecolite Concrete, one of several firms pioneering this new technology. 

Section 09 24 00 - Cement Plaster: This section used to be called, "Portland Cement Plaster. However, our client, CTS Cement Manufacturing Corp, made a product that is used the same way, but contains a different type of cement. The solution was to drop "Portland" from the section name.

Having an assigned section in MasterFormat gives your product category increased credibility, signaling that it has become an established product option. And having a section name and number makes it easier for specifiers and contractors to search for and find products in that category. And it is part of your brand's positioning.

Taking the initiative to propose a change demonstrates your firm's leadership in the industry. It also gives you bragging rights, and a reason to issue a press release.

Of course, not all proposed revisions are accepted. For example, my suggestion for a new section for "Fly Ash Brick" was rejected. The committee felt this new product could be specified under the existing section for "Clay Unit Masonry." I suspect this decision will be revisited in a few years after Fly Ash Brick becomes more accepted in the marketplace.

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.

MasterFormat Updates

MasterFormat is the construction industry standard for organizing information about building activities. It is used to compile project manuals, cost databases, and information about building products.

Six years after MasterFormat 2004 was issued, there are still segments of the building industry clinging to outdated versions of MasterFormat.  This became clear last night when I made a presentation about MasterFormat to the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE). I told them that now is the time to move ahead. The updated version of MasterFormat has reached critical mass in the construction industry. Continuing to use an older version gives the appearance that a firm is behind the times and not keeping up with best industry practices.

CSI has instituted a program for adding or revising section numbers and titles on an ongoing basis. There have been so many incremental changes in the past six ears that an updated version of MasterFormat -- The Book has been recently issued. Most of the book's content is also available at

In 2004, as a member of the MasterFormat Implementation Task Team, I created a slide show explaining how to use MasterFormat. I have now update the Powerpoint presentation to reflect recent changes. I will be pleased to share the slide show with anyone wanting to use it for training purposes. (The presentation is optimized for use with plumbing designers, but can be readily modified for other construction industry segments.) Contact

Many of the updates since 2004 are due to the development of new building products and construction techniques that did not fit into existing MasterFormat sections.  For example, Chusid Associates initiated the following new sections on behalf of our clients:

      03 35 33 Polished Concrete Finishing

      03 48 63 Precast Pre-Framed Concrete Panels

We were also able to get the sections titled "Portland Cement Plaster" renamed to "Cement Plaster", a change that was important to a client that makes a hydraulic cement plaster that does not contain portland cement.

I have also written an article on how to use MasterFormat in building product marketing, and will be glad to send it to anyone who wants a copy. Email

MasterFormat Updates

If you've asked (or wished) for a revision to MasterFormat to more accurately classify your product, your wishes may have just been answered. CSI has published the 2010 update to MasterFormat on its web site, and the updates are already incorporated into New or revised numbers and titles include:
  • 03 15 13 Waterstops
  • 03 35 43 Polished Concrete Finishing
  • 05 05 23 Metal Fastenings
  • 32 39 13 Manufactured Metal Bollards 
... and many more. 

If you're still wishing after this year's update, remember that updates are ongoing and will be issued annually. Chusid Associates helped several clients request changes that appeared in this update, and we'd be happy to do the same for you. New products may take several tries, but this year's results are encouraging, with many new systems and materials receiving the recognition of their own numbers and titles.

MasterFormat 2004 Cheer

MasterFormat 2004 is now the clearly established standard for organizing construction work results. Michael Chusid, president of Chusid Associates, served on the MasterFormat Implementation Task Team that helped popularize the system. He composed and sang the following song at educational events across the country to help break down resistance to the new standard:
(To tune of Mickey Mouse Club Song)

Hey! Designers and contractors
It's as useful as can be;
MasterFormat (CSI!)
MasterFormat (CSC!)
For everything you want to specify! (Fi! Fi! Fi!)
You can do more
With Two Thousand and Four,
So why not give it a try?
M-A-S (S stands for Specifications!)
T-E-R (Are you ready or not?)
(Shout) MasterFormat!
Michael's article about using MasterFormat in building product sales and marketing can be found at

Masterformat Meets iPhone

CSI is offering an iPhone app to convert MasterFormat 95 section numbers to Masterformat 2004. This is not only handy but timely, since CSI has announced it will discontinue support for MasterFormat 95 on December 31, 2009.

They are also offering a MasterFormat 2004 Search app. See their website for more details, or go directly to the
iTunes app store.

If you have not already converted your product literature to MasterFormat 2004, call Chusid Associates for help converting.