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Colin Gilboy
Senior Member
Username: colin

Post Number: 12
Registered: 09-2005
Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 - 03:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph W. Liebing, RA, CSI
Cincinnati, OH

It was five after eleven when the phone rang. "Mom", came the teenage voice, "Julie's aunt just got here with the food and her birthday cake. She had a flat getting here. I know I got an 11:30 limit, but can I stay a little longer, to eat and see Julie's presents?"

How do answer that? Does it deserve the "gift of flexibility"?

The facts show, 1] a deadline has been set for certain action; 2] that limit is observed, and permission is asked to a change in it;, 3] it is obvious that circumstances have occurred that prompted the request for a change; 4] there is responsible action and respect involved.

OK, enough for domestic situations, but how does this translate into business operations?

In many situations limits are set, regulations listed, or programs created that provide certain parameters for the users involved. Doesn't this same thing hold true for those programs that are developed for a common good?

Being created by well-intentioned, respectable, and highly expert humans, any such program still can fall short of "perfection". In construction we all know that even the courts have recognized that "perfection' in documents or projects is not required, unless made part of a contract. So we all operate in the "best we can do" mode of operations. But we should also recognize that other situations circumstances may well cause others to re-think any program.

Flexibility is required! This is not something to be forestalled, pooh-poohed or frowned upon. Rather, many programs for action, professional and otherwise, are really matrices or guides that should allow others to use them, within the context of what those people are engaged in. No program founded on strong professional fundamentals, and newly exposed technology can be ignored, but at the same time these should not be "one size fits all".

If the base information or tasks are sound, then the use of them should be encouraged and aided by the person or organization that set up the program in the first place. For it is that initial expertise that has the strongest understanding of the reasons for the program, and how it direction was aimed and resolved. In that, even if a single solution was proposed and enacted, there are many other possibilities that can be utilized at least portions of the program.

Those portions that are used must, of course, fit the circumstances in which they must function. So here there can, and should be a lock-step, mutual aid wherein user and originator understand each other, respect each other, and work together to the users best end. The originator, of course, will set the program functions conceived in the vast majority of cases, but certainly should not turn away from mutations of the program that still retain much of the program but in slightly different aspects.

One prime example of this is the building code situation, both under the three-model-code system and still under the International system. The code groups provided sound, well-founded instruction, primarily at the fundamental level, in support of their family of code documents. And of course, they widely avowed the use of the" pure" unaltered codes. But reality and local law provided that the codes, in many cases, had to be modified to meet the added requirements of the jurisdiction-- hence the variety of code documents.

Many complained of this scenario, and with some good reason. Certainly practice over a wide region was impaired by slightly different control of the same work. BUT it was not eh code's fault, nor that of the writing agency-- it was the local law that caused the differences. And it needs to be said, the revised codes function very much as anticipated and intended by the writing organizations.

To the point. MasterFormat 2004 is the result of a massive, expert, excruciating effort by a well respected and most intelligent Task Force. The program, direction and documents are admirable sound, far sighted and conceived. BUT what about flexibility?

It is suggested that variation in content-be it numbering or titling of Sections, use of different Division titles, or use of reserved Division-is not detrimental to the basic program! It is a mark of the gift of flexibility! CSI should, it is suggested, encourage flexibility-and assist it. CSI does not need to "require the preaching of a single or corporate line or direction"-its program is marvelous, so why not recognize that in the thousands of professional offices and practices, there are variations in circumstances that necessitate changes in the basic MasterFormat 2004 program.

God bless them-- everyone!
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: bob_johnson

Post Number: 61
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 - 06:42 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

For Perspective on My Comments: As most of you know I was a member of the MasterFormat task team and the technical editor of the document which of course provides a different viewpoint on the subject. My experience in being a participant with the updating also goes back to the 1978 edition so I have lived with it a long time.

First, this is not an adopted mandatory standard. Compliance with its recommendations are totally voluntary. Many references have been made in the past to the non-existance of the "MasterFormat police." Anyone can use or not use; follow or sort of follow, MasterFormat as they please.

Flexibility: How much flexibility is there in MasterFormat? Pretty flexible I think. The recommended restrictions in the document are: (1) Don't use a different title with a desgnated number and don't use a different number with exisitng title; (2) Don't create new groups or subgroups; (3) Don't create new divisons or titles within new or reserved divisions; and (5) Don't use Level 5 numbers outside of your firm. Users are free to create any other desired titles and numbers at Levels 2-5 within the above restrictions. I think it pretty hard to make the case that MasterFormat is restrictinve and not very flexible.

The question becomes, because compliance with MasterFormat is voluntary, and I can do what I want, how strictly shall I follow its recommendations?

Before answering that question I would suggest pondering a couple of questions:
(1) How valuable is it to have a standard of this type for everyone to follow? What value do I receive in finding information classified in the same way in almost all my activities?
(2) If I give myself the freedom to be in conflict with the recommendations, how much freedom am I willing to give to other users? I think my reasons to be different are valid but will I think another user's reasons are valid? What gives me the right to make that decision unless I give everyone else the right to make their decisions as they see fit? How can I expect other members of the project teams I work with to comply with MasterFormat if I don't? I think it is pretty difficult to say to a consultant to change their documents to conform to MasterFormat when your work doesn't even if you think your variance is minor and logicial in comparison to a gross variance by the other team member.

I guess it comes down to an evaluation of the value of voluntary standards. None of us are in total agreement with all of the content of the standards that we voluntarily comply with. None of the MasterFormat task team members are in total agreement with the document that resulted either - there had to be compromises. We prepare specifications in accordance with MasterFormat and SectionFormat because of how it helps the industry as a whole. How closely we follow this organizational tools even though we would prefer to do some things differently, is a reflection of how we view ourselves in the total industry.

I am not claiming to be perfectly pure in following these standards in everything I do, but I do think pretty carefully before I knowingly violate them. I guess that is partly because I have been in this business long enough to have seen the choas and confusion before they became industy-wide accepted standards. I would prefer not to go backward.

Anyway, just some ideas to think about late on Friday afternoon. Have a good weekend!
Randall T. Bailey, PE, CSI, CCS, LEED
Username: baileyr

Post Number: 3
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Monday, October 31, 2005 - 07:59 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Thank you for sharing your comments. They were insightful, thought-provoking, and beneficial. They articulated wonderfully a reasonable and practical position on the usage of MF04.
Chris Grimm, RLA, CDT, MAI, CSI
Senior Member
Username: tsugaguy

Post Number: 17
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 08:43 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Robert, I disagree with you on one point. I am the MasterFormat Police!!!

Kidding aside, the standard is very flexible even within the recommended constraints. And it will prove to be of far more value to everyone who comes into contact with the system if other users have consistently applied it, or as Robert says, have thought very carefully when they felt the need to vary from it.

Thanks Ralph / Colin for your insights. Very true it is not a perfect world and changes may occassionally be necessary beyond what the METT could foresee or come to a good compromise on.

A lot of flexibility is offered in allowing new numbers and titles as needed. However, we need to avoid changes to established numbers and titles as much as possible. Why reinvent the wheel? Having just completed my first conversion project, I found that I did not need to modify any established numbers and titles. It seems to me it should be a very rare occurrence when someone really has to change them. I only had to create a few new section numbers and titles that were slightly more detailed than the available established ones.

One way to encourage flexibility and assist it -- I suggest we get moving on the idea of a web-based, perpetually updated MasterFormat so suggested changes can be reviewed by and incorporated in a timely manner to be available for others to benefit from.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 169
Registered: 01-2003
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 09:49 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

One of the goals of MF04 is industry-wide consistency in section numbers and titles. If users follow the basic rules of MF04 - do not change assigned numbers or titles, and use assigned section names when available - we will make progress. Examples of section names that violate this rule:
081400 - Flush Wood Doors
084100 - Aluminum Entrances
084110 - Aluminum-Framed Entrances and Storefronts
084110 - Aluminum Entrances and Storefronts
084113 - Aluminum Entrances and Storefronts

Each of these examples changes one part of an assigned number/title pair, or uses a different form of an assigned name for the same work results. They may be more convenient, but such use of non-compliant numbers and titles is not the product of creativity, nor is it a result of the needs of local conditions.

MasterFormat is flexible in that it allows creation of new numbers and titles for things that are not assigned, but that flexibility does not extend to changing assigned combinations of section number, section title, and work results.
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: bob_johnson

Post Number: 62
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 11:31 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Chris are you a local, regional, or national police department? Have gun will travel?

Changes, expansions, and improvments to MasterFormat will always be necessary in the future.

It is my understanding the CSI is still moving ahead to implement the on-going updating program. I don't know of a specific time schedule but I think they are pretty close to starting it.
Chris Grimm, RLA, CDT, MAI, CSI
Senior Member
Username: tsugaguy

Post Number: 18
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 11:38 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My true authority is limited to one cubicle in downtown Indy. My only weapon is to stir up a hot debate. And I love to travel but I don't get out enough.

I found more info on the thread http://discus.4specs.com/discus/messages/1097/1637.html?1119719572 "MasterFormat subscription service". It is supposed to happen next March and the 1st update later next year. That was the status a while ago.
Kenneth C. Crocco
Senior Member
Username: kcrocco

Post Number: 35
Registered: 04-2003
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 11:22 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

First, I have to say I am highly impressed with MF04. I am using it as much as possible, but not for a project yet. (Not always my decision.) We planned with our clients to begin Jan 1 06 for transition. I plan to follow the rules; I like them.

The more I dig into it I see the solid nature of this solution. I have never been one to worry about the working out of the details in subsequent issues. I like the quote, "Build your house slowly."

I have a list of sections that I hope to create numbers for and use in future sections. I am curious what others think of these. I hope they are within the rules.

044253 Exterior Granite Cladding
044256 Exterior Limestone Cladding
044259 Exterior Marble Cladding

081418 Molded Flush Wood Doors
081435 Molded Stile and Rail Wood Doors

084112 Aluminum Framed Entrances
084212 Aluminum Entrances

Thank you for your thoughts.
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: bob_johnson

Post Number: 64
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 12:19 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My only different suggestion would be to put Aluminum Framed Entrances or Aluminum Entrances in the 08 42 XX area. The 2004 edition provides separate categories for Entrances and Storefronts, Entrances, and Storefronts while the 95 edition only had Entrances and Storefronts.

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