Keeping organized is essential to any successful construction project.

A MasterFormat for Environmental Construction

A coalition of volunteer environmental engineers provided input to update and make this document organizing tool more useful.

An updated standard for organizing construction documents, MasterFormat 2011 (MF11), includes hundreds of significant improvements for stakeholders in environmental engineering and construction, in the fields of water and wastewater treatment, water and air pollution, solid waste, and waste-to-energy.

Published by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) since the 1960s, MasterFormat has been used to organize such construction project documents as specifications and project manuals, cost estimates, product literature, and construction data and files. The reference provides a common framework for organizing such data using assigned document or section numbers for a well-defined grouping of work results, called "divisions."

Since 2004, the reference tool has been organized in 50 divisions using 6- and 8-digit document numbering. Before this time, the reference had only 16 divisions, using 5-digit document numbering, which was an outdated, although still well-known, format. CSI revised the framework to provide space for modern construction technology and to relieve overcrowding in many divisions, including those used for environmental work.

Prior to this expansion, MasterFormat had most environmental work in Division 11 ─ Equipment, and Division 13 ─ Special Construction, with some allocations for remediation work in Division 2 ─ Site Construction. These divisions omitted many aspects of environmental construction. With the 2010 edition (MF10), the organization for environmental construction was extensively revised and expanded by a team of environmental engineers and equipment manufacturers.

In 2006, as the large consulting engineering firms that would eventually comprise the coalition started to evaluate the 50-division format, they found that the organization was far from optimal.

While in many ways, the 16-division version was less than ideal, it had the advantage of being familiar to engineers, owners, manufacturers, contractors, and other stakeholders. Relative to water, wastewater, and other types of environmental construction, the 2004 edition omitted certain important work results related to water and wastewater equipment that had been included in the 1995 edition. The 2004 version also had less-than-ideal organization for various types of pollution control, solid waste and recycling, and water and wastewater equipment.

environmental construction

To make MasterFormat more useful to environmental industry, Malcolm Pirnie organized the Environmental Engineers Coalition, a volunteer group of 13 large consulting engineering firms with significant practice in environmental engineering, and three manufacturers representing the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association. The coalition’s members are Black & Veatch, Brown & Caldwell, Camp Dresser McKee, CH2M-Hill, Carollo Engineers, Freese & Nichols, Gannett Fleming, Greeley & Hansen, HDR, Malcolm Pirnie/ARCADIS, Metcalf & Eddy/AECOM, MWH Global, URS Corporation, Fairbanks Morse/Pentair, Flowserve, and Hach Company.

Each engineering firm was represented on the coalition by its manager of standard construction documents and provided additional input from the firms’ other environmental engineering experts. CSI came to recognize the coalition as representing a significant part of the environmental engineering industry and ultimately accepted from the coalition the greatest number of changes since the 2004 version was published.

The newest editions offer a comprehensive listing of alternatives, environmental equipment types, terminology, and groupings of similar types of work results. The organization of environmental work results is based on hundreds of years of experience and thousands of hours of research by numerous environmental professionals.

MF10 and MF11 each assign the majority of environmental construction into the following divisions:

02 ─ Existing Conditions includes organization for various types of site remediation.
33 ─ Utilities includes types of buried utilities and other utilities.
40 ─ Process Integration contains detailed organization of process piping systems and process instrumentation and controls.
43 ─ Process Air and Gas Handling, Purification, and Storage Equipment contains allocations for air and gas blowers, compressors, and other air and gas equipment; pumps; other liquid-handling equipment; and storage tanks and vessels.
44 ─ Pollution and Waste Control Equipment, which was completely reorganized, includes organizations and allocations for air, noise, and water pollution control equipment; solid waste handling and recycling equipment; and waste-to-energy facilities.
46 ─ Water and Wastewater Equipment, a new division, provides a comprehensive organizational listing for all types of water and wastewater treatment equipment used today.

In addition to these divisions, work results in many other divisions are commonly used on environmental projects.

As of the winter of 2011, the coalition completed its initial goals for Divisions 43, 44, and 46, which were published in MF10 and MF11, and is working on revisions to Division 43’s organization of process pumps, which will be published in the 2012 edition. The coalition is continuing work on revising Division 40 and will next work on Division 33, which will include adding combined sewer overflow controls.

Through the joint efforts of the Environmental Engineers Coalition and CSI, additional changes will be made over the next year or two that will further enhance MasterFormat and make it even more useful to the environmental industry.

A complete listing of MF11’s numbers and titles is available as a free download (pdf) at To purchase the full version ($169 for non-members), visit

About the Author

Kevin O'Beirne, P.E., CCS, CCCA, is an associate at Malcolm Pirnie, the Water Division of ARCADIS U.S., Inc., in Buffalo, N.Y., and one of the leaders of the Environmental Engineers Coalition. He can be contacted at