The Future of Bidding and Quoting Fire Alarm Systems

Anyone who has ever reviewed bid or construction specifications for a fire alarm, CCTV, access control, security or other electrical system is already familiar with the old "16 Division Format" used by architects and engineers and published by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The CSI was formed in 1948 and is a national association of more than 13,000 volunteers, including specifiers, architects, engineers, contractors, facility managers, product representatives, manufacturers, owners and others who are experts in building construction, according to the institute. Their primary product is the MasterFormat, which is a customizable document sold to architects, specifiers and engineers. Used to standardize the specifications for the construction of buildings and their many various systems, it is widely adopted by government agencies, architects, engineers and design-build contractors. This past May, a revised MasterFormat was released. Compared to the 16 Division format, the recent revision includes great advancements in its scope.

Prior to 2004, Division 16 was the all-inclusive "Electrical" section in which anything and everything that had conductors was included; where each system was described in great detail as to how it should look and perform. Over the years, those at CSI responsible for the MaterFormat's maintenance and upkeep came to realize that there were many specialized electronic trades that were being lumped together within this section. The decision to add 18 more divisions now allows building owners easier control over the subcontractors who are hired. The most significant impact this has on our industry is that the alarm company or integrator no longer has to be a subcontractor to the winning electrical contractor.

Division 26 is the new number of the Electrical section and is devoid of any mention of alarm systems. Instead, Fire Alarm Systems is in Division 28 under the title "Electronic Safety and Security." In Division 28 you will also find access control, electronic CCTV surveillance, intrusion detection and alarm, various gas leak detection, water leakage, radiation detection, mass notification and alarm monitoring. However, the heart of it all (as I see it) is section 28 31 00, titled "Fire Detection and Alarm."

Another sub-section of Division 28 includes conduit, back box and wiring specifications allowing Division 28 to stand alone without any reference to, or dependence upon, Division 26 "Electrical."

Fire alarms, security and life safety systems can now be separate and independent of the "Electrical" contractor's bid. In the near future, as the 2010 MasterFormat makes inroads with professional designers and contractors, the alarm community will be found standing tall, separate and independent; something many of us have been waiting for.

Greg Kessinger SET CFPS is SD&I's longtime resident fire expert and regular contributor to the magazine. Reach him at