SectionFormat and PageFormat 2008

Fifty-three members of CSI's Specifying Practice Group met August 5 to discuss the updates for two of CSI's formatting documents: SectionFormat and PageFormat. The meeting included wonderful discussion and interaction among the members while reviewing the specific updates. The power outage at CSI headquarters, ended Erica Cox's ability to show poll questions and to field questions from the group, but did not deter the others from completing the meeting.

The latest revisions to SectionFormat and Page Format were published in 2008. This was the first update to the documents in 10 years. The new documents are now being used by the commercial master specifications providers such as ARCOM's MasterSpec and CSRF's SPECTEXT. So the industry will begin to see a shift to these new formats as new project specifications are started using the current commercial master specs.

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Join your colleagues to discuss current issues affecting everyone who must read or write construction specifications. Join the group to receive automatic meeting notices and login instructions. The group meets the first Thursday of each month from 3:00 - 4:00 PM eastern time.

Group members agreed that they expect Project Manuals to be issued with consistent formatting.  They also agreed that industry accepted good practice is the main reason for the expectation. SectionFormat and PageFormat provide the structure for consistent formatting. PageFormat includes information about how to present text on a printed or electronic page so it is easily readable and so important information can be found quickly. SectionFormat sets the order and hierarchy of the text within the specification section. The basic section structure is an outline with CSI's famous 3 parts: Part 1 - General, Part 2 - Products, and Part 3 - Execution and article titles forming the first two outline levels.

PageFormat allows for alternating headers and footers to accommodate duplex printing. This will keep the more important information at the unbound edge of the paper and the less important information at the bound edge. PageFormat gives examples of what is considered more and less important. The only mandatory information is the section title, section number, and page number.

Headers and footers can include either project information or spec section information, but should not include both. Project information includes the project number, title, location. Section information includes section title, number, and page number.

Group members were divided about their preferences for using alternating headers and footers on printed and electronic specifications and the medium for published specs. With all the opinions, perhaps this could be a debate in itself during a future meeting.

PageFormat introduced a new concept, allowing tables and graphics to be inserted into the specifications. Both concepts clearly acknowledge that specs are not produced with an IBM Selectric Typewriter anymore. The group seemed to believe that graphic images in the specs will be limited. Tables can be placed in Part 2 or at the end of Part 3. Using word processing tables rather than tabbed text will help maintain formatting especially when files are shared among several users on different computers.

Underlining text should be avoided according to PageFormat. Underlining includes URL identification.  These statements drew considerable discussion from the group. Underlining may interfere with using track changes to show revisions to specifications. The Microsoft Word's default is to show new text as blue and underlined.

And here is where CSI Headquarters lost power. So member comments were abruptly ended, just when the discussion was getting good.

SectionFormat was expanded from a partially filled single page to nearly two full pages of suggested specification article titles. As you can imagine, new titles were added, some were moved from one Part to another, and some were reorganized within the same Part. Part 1 - General was reorganized to follow Division 01 - General Requirements. And new primary and secondary article titles were included to match the same tiles used in Division 01.

An option was provided to specify submittals as a single article or as Action Submittals and Informational Submittals. Feedback after the meeting from group members indicated they liked the idea of splitting the submittals article into Action and Informational. The list will help the reviewers to know what is expected of them. And hopefully prevents informational submittals from being marked "Approved" and being returned to the contractor.

Part 2 updates also included some new primary article titles. A new concept was introduced for specifying systems and assemblies. Most of the Part 2 article titles can be gathered under a single article to describe complete systems and assemblies. Or these same article titles can be used independently to specify multiple products or materials. How this Part 2 concept will be implemented, remains to be seen. Specifying systems and assemblies in a single article may create a deep outline structure within a section, a condition that PageFormat indicates should be avoided.

Primary article titles were added to Part 3 to capture Division 01 titles for Startup, Closeout, and Maintenance. The article for Schedules was replaced by Attachments.  Now schedules, tables, illustrations, forms and other items appended to the spec section can be listed in the attachments article. Then the attachments can take on the format best suited to present the information they contain rather than be constrained by the restrictions of SectionFormat and PageFormat.

To help ensure consistent formatting in a project manual, a sample was shown that included a table with formatting instructions within a specification section. The text of the section illustrates the instructions to help consultants understand what is expected. Anyone wishing the formatting instructions can email me directly to request a copy.

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