Division 1 - Making It Work

comments by Harold Rosen, FCSI, CDT,
reported by Tom Heineman, FCSI, CDT


t is essential that CSI take care to include its most experienced minds in maintaining direction and quality


At our Miami Chapter meeting on January 18, Harold Rosen FCSI, CCS treated us to a little early history of CSI before going into the nuts and bolts of MasterFormat's General Requirements. Harold went to his first CSI meeting in 1949 - a roundtable that convened monthly in Washington DC, made up mostly of Federal construction directors, with a few curious architects and engineers who were invited to listen in. No contractors or suppliers. This was before there were CSI chapters even.

The CSI idea caught fire during the 1950s. A newsletter was started that grew to become the Construction Specifier. New York came up with the idea of having "chapters" outside Washington. After this novel idea had been debated and approved there was steady growth, with chapters forming in DC, Chicago and Los Angeles during 1953. But until 1963, CSI had never produced a document. We were all talk. A lot of specifiers were damned if anybody was going to tell THEM how to organize their documents. So there was plenty of argument that went along with the analysis and the desire to find a better way.

Harold Rosen was known to specifiers nationwide (the majority of whom had not yet joined CSI) through his monthly column in Progressive Architecture. Leaders in CSI put him on one committee after another to help come up with consensus on needed aids to practice. His first - from roughly 1960 to 1963 - was the T-3 committee that settled on a 16 Division format. Within 7 years Harold had also participated in setting up Spec-Data and the 3-PART Section format. Before the early 70s there was no Technical Documents Committee - in fact, there was little committee structure below the CSI Executive Committee other than ad hoc task groups. What Harold fondly recalls from those years is the ability that CSI's leaders had to recognize the wisest, most experienced hands in specifying around the US and to charge them to come up with the seminal documents that we depend on today.

Rosen did not use the word, but he was saying the same thing that Aristotle observed, that leadership by the best (true aristocracy) can come up with quality unattainable by the democratic process. The problem now, as then, is "How do you recognize The Best?" Harold left us with no answer to that question, but he gave us an extended example of what goes wrong when the best thought is not systematically applied to national standards. The example he used was that of the classic documents that have been originated and that remain in the custody of CSI.

Harold Rosen gave us example after example of where the principles of Division 1 and its relation to the long train of construction contract documents built over the past century by AIA, NSPE, ASCE, ACEC and CSI have left the track. A lot of the cars that have veered or cracked up are CSI's. That's embarrassing. (Do you remember "Division 0"?)

He pointed out how CSI has carelessly set up headings in MasterFormat that invite breaking turf rules that govern North American professional society standard documents. He gave examples from Division 1 in which General Conditions or Supplementary Conditions turf can be invaded by a nave or overzealous writer:

  • "Allowances" which "includes allowance adjusting procedures"

  • "Alternates", which "includes submission and acceptance procedures for alternate bids"

  • "Contract modification procedures", which includes "procedures for . . . changes to the contract"

  • "Payment procedures", which "includes procedures for submitting . . . applications for payment"

He was mystified by the heading "Contracting Requirements". According to 1995 MasterFormat, these include Agreement, Bonds, General and Supplementary Conditions, Addenda and Modifications - but not Drawings or Specifications. Rosen does not see "Contracting Requirements" agreeing with CSI's own Manual of Practice, much less the AIA and the EDCDC (1) General Conditions.

Rosen recalled that as Skidmore Owings Merrill experimented with the new Division 1 concept during the 1960s they came up with 7 sections that generally covered the needs of a project:

  • Summary of Work (including allowances and alternates)

  • Alternates (a list of; not rules governing)

  • Project Meetings

  • Submittals (including schedules and photos)

  • Temporary Construction and Services

  • Materials and Equipment

  • Closeout (including cleanup)

Sections governing alterations, abbreviations, quality control, and special coordination could be added as needed. These Division 1 topics, running about two or three dozen pages in edited form, served SOM's needs on most projects - and very large ones at that - until Rosen retired from SOM in 1973.

Harold believes that the lean, mean Division 1 that was coming into common use in the early 70s was derailed by the appearance of a voluminous Division 1 text commissioned by CSRF around 1972. The CSI-sanctioned text was not only prolix, but it carelessly repeated, altered or conflicted with some provisions in the AIA and engineering society documents. It seemed to give leave to specification writers to make even further departures from the A/E society front-end documents. By letting Division 1 wander in the direction of standard conditions of the contract, it lured careless specifiers out of the safe zone of administrative detail and procedures and into legal and fiscal thickets - turf that belongs to the owner and its legal counsel. Perhaps this is in part why many large owners have taken Division 1 out of the hands of the A/Es and have imposed their own omnium gatherum legal/fiscal/administrative/procedural packages - from General Conditions to the closeout section - on their design consultants.

The current edition of CSI MasterFormat seems to sanction this invasion of AIA's precinct, as Harold has heard from conversations with AIA staff. Fortunately, some of the commercially available specification systems - Arcom/AIA MasterSpec being an example - have tried to confine general requirements to their own turf, although even these Division 1 texts have largely succumbed to the dread disease verbosis magnus.

How can CSI documents be kept on track, decade after decade, realizing that change is part of life? Rosen suggests that knowledge of the basic principles by which CSI and the professional society documents were put together be ever held before us. This includes knowing what changes have been made over the years and for what reasons. Some of this history and rationale is in books. A lot of it resides in the minds of persons who have had long experience in maintaining the basic documents that steer North American design and construction. It is essential that CSI take care to include its most experienced minds in maintaining direction and quality. Bright young minds eager to improve are necessary, but the counterpoise of wise practitioners who know the professions, the legal climate, the trends, and the traps - and who can show you their scars - is necessary too.

Division 1 turned out to be a powerful tool in the hands of specifiers. Look how Multiple Contract Summary has made CM packaging easy. Notice how special project procedures, some environmental rules, and commissioning of systems can be worked into the Division 1 framework. Rosen only reminds us to tie down our general requirements sections to tried-and-true principles, and to not unleash a loose cannon in our documents. He wants us to keep Division 1 lean to make it mean.

(1) Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee was set up to represent the National Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, and American Consulting Engineers Council in dealing with American Institute of Architects and CSI to maintain a degree of uniformity in the way front end documents are organized and in the range of topics within them.

From the reviewer: This abstract was composed without notes. It does not quote Rosen directly. Instead it tries to give the drift of his message, even though the reviewer's own words often take the place of ones he used. Direct all anger to Tom Heineman, Scribe. Send bouquets to Harold Rosen.

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