The Mechanical Contractors Association of America disagrees with the Construction Specifications Institute's proposed change to the MasterFormat(tm) specifications system; specifically, the elimination of Division 15 and 16 formats.

In a letter to CSI, MCAA President Robert W. Fitzgerald said, "We fear that the proposed changes to MasterFormat will in fact promote far greater fragmentation in project administration and delivery, leading to disputes and other negative outcomes, to the detriment of the owner."

MCAA believes the two divisions should be preserved because the document is widely relied upon to minimize disputes and organize essential project administrative and delivery functions.

MasterFormat is a formatting standard for specifications and provides the organizational framework of the written instructions for construction of commercial buildings.

"We are not alone among construction organizations that disagree with the changes," said John McNerny, MCAA executive director of government and labor relations. "The national electrical contractor organization has cautioned CSI, and the Associated General Contractors may be discussing ways to moderate the current proposal."

MCAA members favor the status quo, he said.

"The document is much more influential than you might think," McNerny told PM. "It influences purchasing and contracting patterns, and encourages patterns against best practices."

But CSI is not "forcing anything down anyone's throat," explained Dennis J. Hall, chair of the MasterFormat Expansion Task Team. "We understand MCAA's concerns. But this is not a trade jurisdiction issue, it is a design jurisdiction issue."

CSI was trying to find available space for new divisions, and Divisions 15 and 16 were getting crowded. CSI decided it made sense from a design standpoint to look at the disciplines and see what made sense.

"Now there will be a mechanical area, a plumbing area, a fire protection area," he said. "It just seemed more logical."

He emphasized the fact that CSI and MasterFormat are not dictating how work is divided up; as long as the requirements are met, it's up to the general contractor to decide which subcontractors do what.

"We are trying to be proactive," he said. "We have three Web sites that have discussion forums, and we are holding three symposiums -- August in Alexandria, Va.; October in Canada and January in San Francisco -- to get feedback from users."

CSI staff and task team members have also made a number of presentations at national conventions.

And the response is roughly 38 percent positive, 30 percent negative and the rest who don't care, Hall said.

"Some people walk in with these preconceived notions that its stupid and they don't want to change," he noted. "But once they realize what it is and what it will accomplish, they have a better attitude."

Hall encourages anyone who has a specific problem with the proposals to join one of the Internet discussion forums or attend one of the symposiums to learn more about what is being changed and why.

The first draft is out now, while a second draft is due in September, a third draft in March 2003, and a final draft expected June 2003.