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MasterFormat: Specification Justification

As we approach the end of 2008, we're also about to pass the four-year anniversary of MasterFormat 2004 (MF04), the Construction Specifications Institute's organizational standard for construction requirements.

How do we as AV consultants deal with all this? In general, I think we're grateful to have a place to hang our hats. After that, we tend to be pretty rebellious. We typically keep all our specifications in Division 27 40 00-Audio-Video Communications and Division 27 50 00-Distributed Communications and Monitoring Systems. This includes things such as operations and maintenance of communications systems, common work results, schedules, commissioning of communications, and structured cabling—each a distinct piece under the Division 27-Communications umbrella. We're not comfortable parsing these into other headings where another contractor might end up involved. After all, we're dealing with integrators, not differentiators, and building owners expect a single point of contact.

What we would really like to see is a separate division for AV systems, to include things like sound systems, noise masking systems, emergency paging, CATV and IPTV systems, and quite a few others that I don't have room to list. MF04 provides a flexible standard through which to recommend changes and push for revisions, which is one beauty of the revised format.

We as an industry must take advantage of that flexibility and push for the necessary changes. But it will require an integrated effort by AV consultants, contractors, integrators, and manufacturers to bring about such changes. In the end, though, entropy should be reduced and the goal of providing a better documented and coordinated set of specifications will become a reality.

Thom Mullins is a senior consultant with BRC Acoustics & Technology Consulting in Seattle. He can be reached at

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