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Civil Construction Planning: Coding Systems

Civil - Construction Planning And Scheduling - Coding Systems

Civil - Construction Planning And Scheduling

Coding Systems


One objective in many construction planning efforts is to define the plan within the constraints of a universal coding system for identifying activities. Each activity defined for a project would be identified by a pre-defined code specific to that activity. The use of a common nomenclature or identification system is basically motivated by the desire for better integration of organizational efforts and improved information flow. In particular, coding systems are adopted to provide a numbering system to replace verbal descriptions of items. These codes reduce the length or complexity of the information to be recorded. A common coding system within an organization also aids consistency in definitions and categories between projects and among the various parties involved in a project. Common coding systems also aid in the retrieval of historical records of cost, productivity and duration on particular activities. Finally, electronic data storage and retrieval operations are much more efficient with standard coding systems, as described in Our website.


In North America, the most widely used standard coding system for constructed facilities is the MASTERFORMAT system developed by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) of the United States and Construction Specifications of Canada.After development of separate systems, this combined system was originally introduced as the Uniform Construction Index (UCI) in 1972 and was subsequently adopted for use by numerous firms, information providers, professional societies and trade organizations. The term MASTERFORMAT was introduced with the 1978 revision of the UCI codes. MASTERFORMAT provides a standard identification code for nearly all the elements associated with building construction.


Master format involves a hierarchical coding system with multiple levels plus keyword text descriptions of each item. In the numerical coding system, the first two digits represent one of the sixteen divisions for work; a seventeenth division is used to code conditions of the contract for a constructor. In the latest version of the MASTERFORMAT, a third digit is added to indicate a subdivision within each division. Each division is further specified by a three digit extension indicating another level of subdivisions. In many cases, these subdivisions are further divided with an additional three digits to identify more specific work items or materials. For example, the code 16-950-960, "Electrical Equipment Testing" are defined as within Division 16 (Electrical) and Sub-Division 950 (Testing). The keywords "Electrical Equipment Testing" is a standard description of the activity


While MASTERFORMAT provides a very useful means of organizing and communicating information, it has some obvious limitations as a complete project coding system. First, more specific information such as location of work or responsible organization might be required for project cost control. Code extensions are then added in addition to the digits in the basic MASTERFORMAT codes. For example, a typical extended code might have the following elements:




The first four digits indicate the project for this activity; this code refers to an activity on project number 0534. The next five digits refer to the MASTERFORMAT secondary division; referring to Table 9-7, this activity would be 02220 "Excavating, Backfilling and Compacting." The next two digits refer to specific activities defined within this MASTERFORMAT code; the digits 21 in this example might refer to excavation of column footings. The next character refers to the block or general area on the site that the activity will take place; in this case, block A is indicated. The digits 00 could be replaced by a code to indicate the responsible organization for the activity. Finally, the characters cf34 refer to the particular design element number for which this excavation is intended; in this case, column footing number 34 is intended. Thus, this activity is to perform the excavation for column footing number 34 in block A on the site. Note that a number of additional activities would be associated with column footing 34, including formwork and concreting. Additional fields in the coding systems might also be added to indicate the responsible crew for this activity or to identify the specific location of the activity on the site (defined, for example, as x, y and z coordinates with respect to a base point).


As a second problem, the MASTERFORMAT system was originally designed for building construction activities, so it is difficult to include various construction activities for other types of facilities or activities associated with planning or design. Different coding systems have been provided by other organizations in particular sub-fields such as power plants or roadways. Nevertheless, MASTERFORMAT provides a useful starting point for organizing information in different construction domains.


In devising organizational codes for project activities, there is a continual tension between adopting systems that are convenient or expedient for one project or for one project manager and systems appropriate for an entire organization. As a general rule, the record keeping and communication advantages of standard systems are excellent arguments for their adoption. Even in small projects, however, ad hoc or haphazard coding systems can lead to problems as the system is revised and extended over time.



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