Construction Specifications Institute

The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is an organization that maintains and advances the standardization of construction language as pertains to building specifications. CSI provides structured guidelines for specification writing in their Project Resource Manual, (formerly called the Manual of Practice (MOP)).

CSI authored MasterFormat, which is an indexing system for organizing construction data, particularly construction specifications. For many years MasterFormat consisted of 16 Divisions of construction, such as Masonry, Electrical, Finishes, or Mechanical. In November 2004, MasterFormat was expanded to 50 Divisions, reflecting the growing complexity of the construction industry, as well as the need to incorporate facility life cycle and maintenance information into the building knowledge base. In this way, MasterFormat will eventually help facilitate Building Information Modeling (BIM) to contain project specifications. However, current technology is unable to handle specifications to the degree drawing information is able to be referenced, displayed, quantified and other benefits of BIM. For example integrated systems, industry standards and methods that may not be shown in the drawings (because they are typically explained in the specifications) do not fit neatly within current BIM libraries.

The MasterFormat standard serves as the organizational structure for construction industry publications such as the Sweets catalog with a wide range of building products, and MasterSpec, a popular specification software. MasterFormat helps architects, engineers, owners, contractors, and manufacturers classify how various products are typically used. Nearly all CSI approved sections also include performance and safety requirements generated by agencies such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and numerous other federal and professional organizations.

In November 2009, CSI launched GreenFormat, an online database organizing sustainable product attributes. Manufacturers in the construction industry can list product information based on 5 categories in an online comprehensive questionnaire. Designers, specifiers, and building constructors can find product information which is organized by MasterFormat divisions and titles.

CSI's Uniform Drawing System comprises the largest part of the National CAD Standard (NCS), together with the American Institute of Architects (AIA)'s CAD Layer Guidelines, and Tri-services Plotting Guidelines. Administered by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), the NCS coordinates these CAD-related publications to allow consistent and streamlined communication among owners and design/construction teams.

In November 2010, CSI acquired Building Systems Design (BSD) to help advance software tools for specifications development and communication of building information across the building team. BSD is a software firm that is a leading developer of commercial master specifications and construction cost estimating software. BSD is involved in the development and maintenance of several of CSI format documents including MasterFormat®, UniFormat, and OmniClass™, all of which relate to specifications and cost estimating.

Founded in 1983, BSD maintains and supports advanced specification writing, cost estimating and BIM interoperability products used by thousands of architects, engineers and design professionals nationwide.

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