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Christopher Borcsok
New member
Username: ckb

Post Number: 1
Registered: 06-2013
Posted on Thursday, June 06, 2013 - 12:20 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


So this is my first post, but i'll use it to start a little discussion and help contribute something, and hopefully I'll get some help and feedback.

My job is working for an M&E firm (based in Canada), and since I'm the guy who learned as a matter of necessity for a project a few years back where an Owner/Client had some rigid, archaic, and backwards standard for the specs that we were forced to follow, I've learned a better way to write specs to successfully accommodate the archaic standard, and am actually trying to compile a set of instructions for my co-workers, and the architects I deal with to help them out (and in the end make my life easier).

Sometimes I'm working as the Prime Consultant, and sometimes I'm a sub. I'm actually at the point now where I can customize an entire project spec to an architect's "standard" in a matter of minutes. Our priority is the content, and yet the presentation is a very important part, that if not addressed correctly can make us look bad. The client may not understand the technical information contained in a spec, but they know what looks good.

First off, one link I'll post that I found, but always have trouble finding again when I need it: http://www.northstarcsi.com/GUIBytes/gui0205-specprocessor01.htm. Ironically for me, I found it only after I had invented most of this myself.
Sheldon Wolfe, I see you're a long standing member here: please update (or create a new version of) your page for Word 2010 and the ribbon!

I'm hoping some of what I write will get some constructive feedback to allow improvement.


For styles, I just happen to use Heading 1 to Heading 9, as they are built in to Word anyway (contrast with Sheldon's instructions).

My numbering is set via the multilevel list function in Word 2010.

One question I have: PageFormat only really describes Parts plus 6 levels (Part, Article, Paragraph and 4 Subparagraphs). Does pageformat allow us to go further than the 4 subparagraphs? Yes, I actually have seen manufacturer's guide specs do it on occasion, and MS Word can do it.

Some of the more interesting paragraph styles I use:

"Heading 1.1" - I use this one for Part 1 - General only. I define the style as "Based on: Heading 1", "Before: 0 pt".

"Heading x.Last" (typical for Heading 3 to Heading 9 - This one I use for the next to last paragraph in a document, i.e. the one immediately preceding "End of Section". Defined as "Based on: Heading x", "Paragraph Line and Page Breaks: Keep with Next". This prevents the "End of Section" from being orphaned on a new page. Unfortunately, there is no "Keep with Previous" function in Word.

Similarly, as a default, I have set my "Heading 1 (Parts), and Heading 2 (Articles) as "Keep with Next" to similarly avoid this stuff getting orphaned at the bottom of a page with the paragraphs on the next page.


I use three *.dot files for each project. I call one "xxxx Specification Template - Editing", "xxxx Specification Template - Final", and "xxxx Specification Template". The main difference has to do with any paragraph styles where the "all caps" checkbox is supposed to be set (like on Parts, Articles, End of Section, etc). I will set all my spec sections to link to the latter dot template file, which during the spec editing process is a copy of the '-editing' file.. If we are sending a spec out (for review, coordination, or issuing for tender), I delete that dot file, make a copy of the 'final' one, renaming as the non-suffixed one. The logic here is that I don't want my co-workers (or myself) using caps lock to write all caps parts and articles when these are to be capitalized, as sometimes I want to re-use a spec in another project where the parts or articles are not capitalized (ie. Part 1 - General compared with PART 1 - GENERAL). I'll quickly throw in mention of the command "Shift+F3", which becomes your new best friend in Word if you are confronted with a word or paragraph written in all caps that needs to be lowercase, title case, etc.


When I am writing specs, I try to follow a standard of each section as a separate word file, where file name is "xx xx xx - section name.doc", where "xx xx xx" is the section number in MF04. I also use some of the easily accessible field codes, namely "Subject" and "Title" for Section number and Section title, respectively. If I need to copy/paste a header or footer (or most recently I've done it via a custom macro), I merely need to update the fields to catch the individual document specific header/footer for that spec section.


I've been playing with the info on the linked page above to add a field code at the end of all my Sections in the same paragraph as the "End of Section" so as to force each section to end on an even numbered page (even leaf). It does not appear that PageFormat addresses this, and the "End of Section" should make it clear, I've seen it on some specs online. Does anyone do this or think it a good idea?

I write my specs as individual word files, convert each word file to PDF, and then assemble the compete PDF spec file using pdfsam: http://www.pdfsam.org/. I have one client that demands a single word file for the entire spec document, a problem I'm halfway through solving.


I know there was a thread on this topic on the board, but as the Sub-Consultant, I pretty much have to match whatever the architect uses and/or tells me what to use. How can I encourage an architect to convert to the MF04 standard when they are either unaware, or deliberately sticking to MF95? My office master specs are all written in MF04, but I'm currently stuck with a set of legacy specs for certain architects.

The conversion for an MF95 to MF04 for Div 0/00 to Div 14 is pretty easy (notwithstanding Div 2), but for anything in 21-28 backwards to 15-16 is a dog's breakfast.


Hopefully I'll spur some discussion.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 648
Registered: 01-2003

Posted on Thursday, June 06, 2013 - 09:49 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


First, I'd suggest moving this discussion to another area, such as "specifications discussions" or "computers, the internet and networking", because it's not really a MasterFormat issue. If you look in the archives in those two areas, you will find comments about similar spec writing issues. Perhaps Colin can move your comment and mine, and any others that show up.

When I started reading your comments, the first thing that came to mind was my "SpecProcessor!" series; I chuckled when I saw that you had already seen it. I have considered doing an updated version many times, but haven't found the time to dig into it. Maybe I'll do that if I run out of things to write about. :-)

I also use the default Heading levels for the same reason, but chose to use more obvious style names for the article, and I also use the multilevel list function. Great minds...

My opinion is that you usually don't need more than four levels of addressing, i.e., Part, article, paragraph, and sub-paragraph, though I occasionally find use for a fifth. If there are five or more levels, it suggests some reorganization is in order, or possibly that another section is needed. This is more important in a two-column format, as deeper levels become too narrow for reading.

I have the impression that you use the current default leading, which adds leading after a paragraph. I'm not sure why they did that; leading before makes more sense and works much better with auto numbering, as it obviates the need to treat one paragraph differently from others of the same address level.

Your use of "keep with next" is correct (though I know one specifier who sees concern about widows and orphans as unnecessary). A mistake I sometimes see is universal use of "keep with next", which defeats the purpose of that function.

Please send examples showing how you use multiple templates; I don't quite understand.

Document properties are often overlooked. I often get specs from consultants who used an existing section to create a new one but left the original properties intact. Apparently, they don't know they're there.

At one time, I was concerned about sections ending on an odd page, but now I don't care. Printers are quite capable of making sections start on odd-numbered pages, and if the document is viewed on a monitor, it doesn't matter.

Speaking of the move to viewing on a monitor has led me to stop using odd and even headers and footers. They made sense for printed material, but are annoying and of little value when using a computer.

Aha! Your last comments the tie to MasterFormat. It's a mystery to me that, with all the other changes they must follow, some offices refuse to move on to the current MasterFormat. I am fortunate to work in an area that made the transition some time ago, with relatively few holdouts, so I am surprised when I learn that some areas apparently still use older versions. It's interesting that one of the first firms to change to MF04 in my area was an M/E firm; it was a lot more work for them than for architects.

I think that, for many specifiers, these issues are no longer relevant, due to the widespread use of SpecLink and MasterFormat, both of which take care of addressing and page format. Even so, I enjoyed reading your comments (especially the plug for my articles!). I got into computers in the punch card era, so I had to learn how to make the computer do what I wanted it to do, and I still enjoy messing around under the hood, much as an old carpenter still enjoys the tools as much as the end results.
Paul Gerber
Senior Member
Username: paulgerber

Post Number: 158
Registered: 04-2010

Posted on Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - 05:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


If you work in Canada, have you considered joining and becoming active in Construction Specifications Canada (CSC), which is the Canadian sister organization to CSI? MasterFormat, SectionFormat/PageFormat and UniFormat are all joint publications of CSI & CSC.

If you are not a member and would like more information you can contact me at paul.gerber@rogers.com. As I am the Chapter Director for Grand Valley (Kitchener-Waterloo, ON area) I can put you in touch directly with local CSC members for Chapter information.
Ride it like you stole it!!!
David E Lorenzini
Senior Member
Username: deloren

Post Number: 143
Registered: 04-2000

Posted on Tuesday, July 02, 2013 - 08:50 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Your comments were interesting. It's great that you are concerned about the appearance of the content. PageFormat calls that Readability, and it is important.

However, you did ask a question that has been passed over. My suggestion to "How can I encourage an architect to convert to the MF04 standard when they are either unaware, or deliberately sticking to MF95?" is to Just Do It. Face the fact that MasterFormat 95 is unsupported and you have done everything else to be a responsible specifier. Since it appears you already use MasterFormat 04 for some clients, just start issuing it to every client. You know it costs you time to keep two masters, so raise your fees to the MF 95 clients. Or, just tell them to go elsewhere, since they don't seem to want a quality project manual in the first place. You can spend the time you save by incorporating more macros and making your process more efficient, perhaps completing more projects in a given time period.

Besides the issue of efficiency and responsibility to your profession, think about the time when your specs are used in court to demonstrate that your specifications are almost 10 years out of date, and that translates into incompetence. It may not be true, but a jury may well be swayed against you.
David Lorenzini, FCSI, CCS
Architectural Resources Co.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1513
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, July 03, 2013 - 03:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We once convinced a client to go forward with MasterFormant '04 by quoting them a price to go backwards to '95. Once it came to paying to stick with '95, suddenly their concerns about '04 seemed to go away.
Christopher Borcsok
Username: ckb

Post Number: 3
Registered: 06-2013
Posted on Thursday, August 08, 2013 - 11:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Paul: Check your email.

David: great comment. Unfortunately I've actually had an architect say to "not use that NMS (National Master Specification) stuff", and also tried with minimal success trying to explain to a coworker that the NMS is a subset of MF2004, and not vice versa. I'm amazed that many people I deal with don't even know this is a "industry standard".

John: If only I was able to be picky in selection of clients. I'm mid-level, so projects are assigned to me, I don't have the option to tell a client what to do (especially when fees are very tight on some of these projects).

Most recently I've got an architect that actually uses MF04, but is adamant that the M&E sections will be a completely separate volume from the architectural stuff, and won't provide me a Division 01, which frankly needs to be written by both the Architect and the Engineers.

In fact, I'm thinking that the only way to keep sane moving forward is to write everything based on MF04, and back-convert section numbers to MF95 as needed, and leave the section names per MF04. I doubt the client would even notice.
Paul Gerber
Senior Member
Username: paulgerber

Post Number: 164
Registered: 04-2010

Posted on Friday, August 09, 2013 - 10:09 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Chris: I got your e-mail and will try to respond over the weekend. LOTS going on in my life personally right now (sister-in-law in ICU) and professionally (changing jobs in a couple of weeks) so the little free time I have is typically being used to decompress and sleep.

One thing our American colleagues and friends (and many Canadians in the industry) don't completely understand is that since the NMS is produced by the Canadian federal government it is far from an out-of-the-box usefull tool. It is somewhat good at following SectionFormat/PageFormat, listing applicable Reference Standards (although I really wish they would just let 20+ year old CGSB standards die a quick and painless death) and the more "mundane" and procedural aspects of specifications; they are devoid of any usefull Product information. If you are basing your office master on NMS you need to be prepared to put A LOT of work into Part 2 for each Section. I also find that the Mechanical and Electrical Sections do not follow MF04 numbering and/or naming, in addition to adding unnecessary Sections (do we really need a separate Section for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters - Class A when they are after all just another Moulded Case Circuit Breaker? The typical answer I get is YES because that's how the NMS does it, at which point my eyes glaze over and I do not have the energy to throw the MOP at their heads). Although MasterSpec or BSD are not perfect by comments I read here and elsewhere, they seem to have less effort involved in incorportating them into everyday life.

With respect to MF95 vs MF04, with some owners there is strong resistance to change due to the fact that their financial systems are all based on MF95 Section numbers and names and they simply don't want to have change their systems.

I actually wrote a diatribe on MF95 vs MF04 for our chapter newsletter for what it's worth. You can find it here if you would like to read it... http://grandvalley.csc-dcc.ca/img/content/CSCGrandValley/Specifier/2013-07%20CSC%20Grand%20Valley%20Specifier.pdf
Ride it like you stole it!!!
Christopher Borcsok
Senior Member
Username: ckb

Post Number: 13
Registered: 06-2013
Posted on Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 11:40 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Molded or Moulded Case Circuit Breaker...?

Funny link that actually refers to CSC: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=99886

On another topic, what is everyone's experience of using .docx instead of the older .doc format (Word 2007 and 2010 moreso).
Lynn Javoroski FCSI CCS LEEDŽ AP SCIP Affiliate
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 1729
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2013 - 03:08 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Our footer macro doesn't like .docx - sometimes I have to save the document to a .doc format to place the image in the footer. I don't know why nor do I want to. I'll just continue to do what I have to do to make things look good.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 695
Registered: 01-2003

Posted on Thursday, December 05, 2013 - 12:18 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Really not much difference using .docx. The files are smaller, and graphics work better (except, apparently, for footers!). The interface is the big change, don't think about the file format.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1545
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Friday, December 06, 2013 - 02:42 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Huge difference in the file format (not affecting daily use, normally). A .docx file is actually a zipped file with several files in it. Test this out by changing the .docx to .zip on a Word file, then open it using zip utility. This file structure is an open standard, and allows more to be done to them outside of Word. Also, they are reportedly easier to recover if the file becomes corrupted because usually only one of the files within the document will be affected.

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