Pro AV Logo Originally published as a Consultant's Connection
column in Pro AV Magazine
  June 2002

Expect Growing Pains with Adoption
of Division 25

Despite the potential pitfalls in its implementation after its release next year, Division 25 will be a milestone in the maturity and recognition of the importance of AV.... But maturity doesn't come without growing pains, and we will see and feel some of these as we learn to manage this ongoing convergence not just of technologies, but of technologies and buildings.

By Tim Cape, CTS-D

Those of us who write AV specifications for a living should take great interest in the current revisions in the traditional specifications format we have used for the past 20 years or so. These major revisions in the way architects, engineers and consultants structure their specifications may have a significant effect on how AV consultants write specifications and how AV and IT systems are contracted.

Theoretically, architects and their design teams will start to use the format as soon as it's released next year, but it may take a while before we see widespread use among our clients. Given the magnitude of the changes, a slow start may be a good thing. We'll have some adjustments to make.

A New Spec Structure

The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) in conjunction with Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) produces the MasterFormat standard which is used by most US and Canadian architects and engineers in developing their specifications. Division 25, titled Communications, has been included in next year's MasterFormat revision to address IT, AV and other miscellaneous low voltage systems, such as health care communications, paging and masking.

This takes these systems out of the current electrical Division 16, which will be deleted much to the delight of many low voltage contractors, and puts them in a Division of specifications sections all their own. One effect this should have is that architects and engineers will be prompted by the MasterFormat outline (if not by building owners) to get help early on in the building design process because there's an entire division dedicated to AV and IT. This should result in better infrastructure for technology systems, better environments for AV systems, easier installation, cost savings and ultimately better systems for our clients. This should also make it more likely that the technology systems integrators won't be subcontracted under the electrical contractor.

Probably more integrators than consultants are brought in late on a project since writing specifications and working with architects on design teams is what consultants do every day, even participating in the interviews with the architects when they are trying to get the job. It's more common that the integrators get a call from an owner or a general contractor when the third floor slab of a new building is being poured. This is where integrators end up “remodeling new buildings” because the technology was not included in the building design.

One for All and All for One?

Architects are used to having multiple consultants within a specification section during design, but despite the fact that the divisions in a specifications package aren't intended to determine which subcontractor does what installation, many projects are contracted this way in the construction phase. This frequently puts low voltage systems integrators (primarily IT and communications, but also some AV contractors) under an electrical subcontract.

This arrangement results in additional costs to the owner through unnecessary markups and creates barriers to the required interaction between the integrator and the AV or IT system users. Division 25 helps fight this by providing a clear distinction between electrical power systems and integrated technology systems, making it more likely that these systems will be contracted separately from other electrical systems.

This separation of contracts is a good thing, but the same single-contractor syndrome that Division 25 is trying to displace from Division 16 may creep into Division 25 itself. Division 25 has eight subgroupings of sections, one for AV, one for intercom and miscellaneous low voltage systems, and five for data/telecom cabling and electronics. This mere statistic may cause some uninformed architects, project managers and contractors to assume that since, by the numbers, it's “just” technology and it's mostly IT, why not have one (IT) contractor deal with all of it? Who wants a bunch of contracts to coordinate? It's all in one division of the specs isn't it?

This potential for contract confusion is one of the manifestations of the convergence issues I wrote about last month. AV and IT firms may be asked to do it all under one contract, for better or for worse, and it could be either. Given the breadth of Division 25, our clients may be better served by multiple specialists. If the scope of Division 25 is indeed within the capabilities and focus of a single AV or IT firm, then by all means this is the preferred solution. But if the scope is beyond any one firm, then everyone involved must be knowledgeable enough to evaluate how the right team should be contracted.

No Pain, No Gain

Despite the potential pitfalls in its implementation after its release next year, Division 25 will be a milestone in the maturity and recognition of the importance of AV, IT and other low voltage technologies in the building design and construction industry, and a good one. The current Division 25 revision illustrates that thanks to the substantial efforts of organizations like CSI, BICSI, NSCA and the ICIA. But maturity doesn't come without growing pains, and we will see and feel some of these as we learn to manage this ongoing convergence not just of technologies, but of technologies and buildings. Our clients will be feeling it too. The painkiller, of course, is education all around.

You can find more information and view the current MasterFormat revision documents on CSI's website at http://www.csinet.org.

 

 

 
email us © 2014 Technitect, LLC All Rights Reserved