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ARCH 2614/5614 Lecture notes

Jonathan Ochshorn

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Overview, systems, Masterformat, Uniformat

Trigger warning for building technology material

Review course outline, description, and policies. Describe architectural systems in general.


Basic division into structure, enclosure, mechanical/electrical services, and interior systems.

building systems diagram showing mech, structural, interior, and enclosure

This diagram shows the four primary building systems, all supported by the structure.

building layers per Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn, p.13

This diagram from Stewart brand's How Buildings Learn shows six layers, all of which change at different rates.

Difference between traditional and modern building strategies: modern systems tend to be more layered, optimized, pre-engineered.

Implications of division of architecture into "art" and "science."


Introduction: Need for organizational standards (see this ComputerWorld article for an example of a dysfuctional array of competing standards).
1963 -first attempt at organization based on building trades, construction methods.
1978 - integrated with project manual (bidding, contracts, conditions) plus 16 specification divisions.
1986 - adopted by Sweet's
1987 - adopted by R.S. Means (cost estimating)
1995 version has 5-digit format: 0 2 1 0 0 for example, where 0 2 is the "division" (e.g., site work) and the following 3 digits indicate either broad scope (e.g., 100 - site preparation), medium scope (e.g., 110 - site clearing), or narrow scope (e.g., 115 - selective clearing).

Critique of masterformat:

  1. problems adjusting to changing technology and cultural construction practices; systems may transcend "products" or "material" categories. E.g., EIFS 07240 contains insulation, mesh, fasteners, etc.
  2. ambiguity: should reinforcing steel be filed under metals (05) or concrete (03)? If concrete, with cast-in-place (03300) or with concrete reinforcing (03200)?
  3. problems with material versus functional organization: e.g., where does roof insulation go? With membrane roofing (07500) or with roof insulation (07220)?
  4. new technologies are invented, or become more important, requiring more explicit attention (e.g., electronic security systems, now with its own division number).
  5. in general, there is a confusion in finding a unified organizing strategy; instead it is based variously on the following:
    • construction sequence, e.g., concrete before masonry
    • construction trades, e.g., doors and windows (now "openings")
    • construction materials/products, e.g., masonry
    • construction systems, e.g., thermal and moisture protection

2004 version replaces 5-digit with 6-digit scheme.
Divisions now called "level one" titles. There are 3 such levels, each with 2 digits (plus possibility of using 1 or 2 additional levels).

Each level describes in greater detail the so-called "work result," defined as traditional construction practices that result from the application of skills to construction products or resources.

0 3   2 0   0 0   is now concrete reinforcing (versus 1995 version's 03 2 0 0). The various levels are as follows:

0 32 00 0
division or level onelevel twolevel 3

Level four may show up as follows, after a dot: 0 3   5 2    1 6 . 1 3 referring to lightweight cellular insulating concrete.

Note that the Masterformat "hierarchy" is a bit strange: for example, the path to 0 3   5 2   1 6 . 1 3 goes like this: 03 00 00 Concrete --> 03 50 00 Cast Decks and Underlayment --> 03 52 00 Lightweight Concrete Roof Insulation --> 03 52 16 Lightweight Insulating Concrete --> 03 52 16.13 Lightweight Cellular Insulating Concrete. It is important to realize that 03 52 00 is actually a subset of 03 50 00.

Another way to understand the formating of Masterformat is to place it in "outline" form, for example:

[02 00 00] Existing Conditions

[03 00 00] Concrete

[04 00 00]Masonry

[05 00 00]Metals

In the new (2004) Masterformat scheme, there are many more divisions (potentially 49 rather than the old 16), organized in the following hierarchy:


Alternative filing system based more consistently on general systems. Useful for preliminary specifications, cost estimates, etc.

8 broad categories subdivided into 20+ elements and systems, as follows (not all are listed*):

* Notes: There are various versions of Uniformat, with minor differences.
There are also "level 3" designations, where, for example, "G" Building sitework is level 1; G10 site preparation is level 2; and G1010 site clearing is level 3.


The ultimate classification system, intended to classify everything in the built environment.
International standard.
Conceived as 15 tables, each looking at the world from a different point of view. Various "legacy" documents have been included in, or as, these tables, so that building codes and Masterformat reappear, but within a larger framework. This is a compromise, to avoid duplication of existing classification schemes.

The tables are as follows:

Facilities, constructed entities, and spaces
Table 11function (construction entities) E.g., residences, hotels, etc.legacy: IBC, etc.
Table 12form (construction entities) E.g., bridges, high-rise buildings, etc. 
Table 13function (spaces) E.g., kitchens, offices, etc. 
Table 14form (spaces) E.g., courtyard, room, etc. 
Table 21elements, including designed elements E.g., exterior walls, etc.legacy: Uniformat
Table 22work results E.g., skills, trades, like cast-in-place concretelegacy: Masterformat
Table 23products   
Table 31phases (stages) E.g., conception, design, construction documents, etc.legacy: IBC, etc.
Table 32services E.g., designing, bidding, constructing 
Table 33disciplines E.g., architecture, mechanical engineering 
Table 34organizational roles E.g., owner, architect 
Table 35tools E.g., hammer, formwork, CAD software 
Common characteristics of other tables
Table 36information E.g., referenced standards, CAD files, periodicals 
Table 41materials (raw or refined) E.g., rocks, timber, glass 
Table 49properties (referring to a construction entity) E.g., color, width, fire resistance rating 

Note: Uniclass is British version of Omniclass.