Sunday, February 19, 2012


A question from one of my students about how products and work results are categorized in CSI’s MASTERFORMAT got me to thinking about one particular number/title that seems to me to be an anomaly.

MASTERFORMAT has a great keyword index, and is indispensible in my efforts to organize and package construction information. And what I do all day, every working day as a spec writer, is package construction information for my firm’s projects.

What the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress System do for librarians, CSI MASTERFORMAT does for spec writers.

(Before you read the next few paragraphs, I need to apologize to all those public-spirited volunteers who participate in the consensus processes that generate and update CSI’s MASTERFORMAT.  I really appreciate what you do. I really do. I use MASTERFORMAT every day of my professional life.  I was just too busy - doing what I can’t remember right now - to participate in the last review of MASTERFORMAT. I don’t mean to criticize your work. I promise I’ll make time to comment on the next update of MASTERFORMAT.)

So here’s the anomaly I’m thinking about:  Unframed mirrors.  

MASTERFORMAT puts unframed mirrors in Section 08 83 00 - MIRRORS, subordinate to Section 08 80 00 - GLAZING. This is in Division 08 - OPENINGS.  So the question that occurs to people, me included, is:  In what sense is an unframed mirror an opening? Unframed mirrors are only fixtures for reflecting images. They’re for grooming or decor purposes, and don’t open in any sense. Nothing passes through a mirror, not people, not air, not even light. I know, I know. We’re supposed to be talking about work results, not products, and in a sense glazed mirrors are glazing because most of them are made of glass, and maybe installed by the glazing trade.  But they’re still not openings.

Framed mirrors - at least the ones in bathrooms and toilet rooms - don’t open either, except for mirror-door residential medicine cabinets which are definitely in Division 10.

It seems logical to at least consider putting unframed mirrors in Division 09 - FINISHES. Some mirrors are used as wall finish, decor if you will.  You can see such applications of mirrors in restaurants and sometimes in retail situations.

Maybe the authors of MASTERFORMAT put unframed mirrors in Division 08  - OPENINGS because of a wistful hope that  mirrors will one day work as openings to another world, like the mirror in Lewis Carroll’s ThroughThe Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There?

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