CSI Institute History

The Construction Specifications Institute was founded in 1948. In 1947, a group of architects and engineers employed by the federal government, together with a few architects from the private sector, met “for the purpose of discussing and organizing the Specifications Institute”. The sense of the meeting was that an organization devoted primarily to improvement of construction specifications was sorely needed in both the public and the private sector. A few dedicated people set to work to define the objectives of the proposed organization and to draft by-laws. Lengthy discussions were held as to whether the name should include “Association” or “Institute”. The latter won out because the group decided the emphasis of effort should be in education and learning. On March 8, 1948 “The Construction Specifications Institute” was incorporated in the State of Maryland.

The objectives of the Institute were stated as follows:

  • To provide a forum for exchange of information among architect, engineers and others in the construction industry with a particular objective of improving the quality, clarity, and technical validity of construction specifications.
  • To develop a greater appreciation of the value of the construction specification as a contractual document.

Two years later, a group of members in New York City applied to the Institute for charter as a chapter. Much discussion followed as there was no provision in the organization as originally developed for chapters. By May, 1951, the procedures had been developed, and the Institute Board granted a charter to the Metropolitan New York City Chapter. Charters for the Metropolitan D.C. chapter and the Chicago Chapter soon followed. The Los Angeles Chapter, chartered August 10, 1953, was the fourth chapter in the Institute. It was incorporated on March 9, 1962.

The Institute’s headquarters are located in Alexandria, Virginia. It is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of elected officers and one director from each of its 10 regions and two directors-at-large elected by the members. The activities of the Institute headquarters are conducted by a full time staff.


  • Foster innovation and creative thinking
  • Honor and embrace our diversity
  • Encourage personal and professional growth
  • Make knowledge-based decisions
  • Strive for cooperative solutions
  • Promote stewardship of the environment
  • Promote and recognize individual and team excellence
  • Celebrate camaraderie
  • Keep promises, and trust others will do the same
  • Value the needs of those we serve.

CSI has more than 16,000 members in more than 143 chapters. There are several classifications of members. For information on membership categories and how to become a member of CSI and the Los Angeles Chapter of CSI, please go to Join CSI.

The Construction Specifier, a monthly magazine, is the official publication of the Institute. The magazine is an authoritative resource with up-to-date technical information on the processes and products for everyone in the construction industry. The magazine reports on construction practices and technology with technical articles, features and industry news.

One of the principal achievements of CSI was the development of the 16 Division Format in 1963, now known as MasterFormat™.

For more that 40 years MasterFormat™ has been the recognized industry standard used to organize specifications.  A new revision, published in late 2004 as “MasterFormat™ 2004″ has the potential for 50 divisions under a new system of organization. Architectural divisions remain relatively unchanged. Divisions 15 and 16, which have been Mechanical and Electrical, respectively, are now divided into more detailed categories, and are relocated to 20-series numbers. Sitework is relocated to 30-series numbers. The 40-series is reserved for process equipment and systems.

In lieu of the familiar 5-digit numbering system, the new system utilizes 6 digits, written as follows: 00 00 00, and if need be for certain applications, the system allows for the appending of 00, so that a number for a detailed item could read: 00 00 00.00.

The most current version of MasterFormat™ is the 2014 version. The 16 Division Format is outdated and no longer supported by CSI.


The Project Delivery Practice Guide is the authoritative resource for the organization, preparation, use and interpretation of construction documents. This publication describes in detail the entire construction process from programming, through design, construction, commissioning, life cycling and ultimately, recycling and demolition. The intent of the Institute is for this manual to be one of the primary resources for construction related information. It is also intended as a teaching manual, both for the CS1 certification program, described below, and for colleges with architectural and engineering programs.

CSI also publishes various format documents, including UniFormat and SectionFormat/PageFormat, to provide guidance for consistently organizing construction information logically and uniformly. Section Format was recently revised to make it more consistent with MasterFormat™ 2014.

GreenFormat, the most recent addition to CSI’s suite of standards, structures information about the sustainable attributes of products.

The National CAD Standards (NCS) provides standards for organizing and presenting information in drawings.

PerSpective is the first commercially available database of performance-based specifications for the construction industry, and was a joint venture of CSI and the Design-Build Institute of America (currently available through BSD.

All these, and many more, are the product or collaboration among CSI and other organizations interested in the advancement of construction technology. More information is available from the Institute at www.csiresources.org/practice/standards.

The Institute sponsors an annual convention in the spring or summer of each year. The convention includes one of the largest display or commercial building products in the United States. The convention also provides continuing education tracks including separate technical and administrative presentations of interest to the members. Technical tours and sightseeing tours of the convention city are available. Exciting social events provide an opportunity to network with fellow CSI members. Impressive ceremonies and notable keynote speakers highlight the activities. For information on the upcoming Construct Show, see here.

The Annual Business Meeting of Institute members is held during the Institute convention each year. Resolutions submitted by Chapters or members are discussed and voted upon. Other business, as appropriate, is conducted.

The institute maintains a nationally recognized certification program to demonstrate member and non-member proficiency in the field of construction technology, specifications writing, construction administration, and to demonstrate proficiency as a construction product representative.

The certification categories are as follows:
CDT (Construction Documents Technologist): Demonstrates knowledge of the fundamentals and formats of construction documents. This is a basic CSI certification and is required prior to sitting for other more advanced programs.

CCCA (Certified Construction Contract Administrator): Demonstrates knowledge and skill in administering all phases of construction contracts.

CCS (Certified Construction Specifier): Demonstrates experience, knowledge and the necessary skills to prepare written construction documents.

CCPR (Certified Construction Product Representative): Demonstrates knowledge and ability to use construction documents and advise design professionals in preparing such documents.

The Institute offers awards for outstanding contributions to education, advances in technology, and service to the institute.

Distinguished Membership and Honorary Membership are the most prestigious honors of the Institute. They are conferred on individuals who have performed distinguished services to the construction industry in fields of activity related to the purposes of the Institute. Membership in the Institute is a requirement for Distinguished Membership and is not required for Honorary Membership.

Fellowship in the Institute is granted, to persons who have notably contributed to the advancement of construction technology, to the improvement of construction specifications, to education and by service to the Institute.

Awards, honorary membership, and fellowship are presented at the annual convention.