Building Design Management With ASTM E1557 UNIFORMAT II

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

UNIFORMAT II enables superior building design management with all project stakeholders communicating effectively, using and sharing the same project elemental cost estimate data.

This building design article appeared in the May 1998 issue of "THE PROJECT MANAGER." It's about improving building project management through better project team communications, coordination and productivity with the ASTM UNIFORMAT II Standard.

 

The author is Robert P. Charette, PE, CVS, who was co-chairman of the ASTM Task Group that developed UNIFORMAT II. He presents seminars on a regular basis on UNIFORMAT II, Life Cycle Costing, and Value Engineering.

Abstract

This article, which appeared in the May 1998 issue of "THE PROJECT MANAGER," is about improving building project management through better project team communications, coordination and productivity with the ASTM UNIFORMAT II Standard Classification for Building Elements and Related Sitework. It explains how UNIFORMAT II is used as a common structure to link schematic phase Preliminary Project Descriptions (PPD), described in CSI Practice FF/180, to elemental design estimates.

This approach provides the technical and cost information necessary to initiate life cycle costing, energy analysis, and value engineering studies during the initial phase of the design process, i.e. schematic design. Building design management team members at this time are receptive to alternatives that provide better value because design changes can be made at little or no cost, and potential savings are greater than at the following design development phase. Lack of design and cost information is always one of the major obstacles to the effective introduction of life cycle costing, energy analysis, and value engineering early in the design process, a problem that can be resolved with UNIFORMAT II.

Furthermore, it allows input, at the schematic phase, from: (1) the facility programmer and users, who can comment as to whether or not program functional requirements are satisfied, (2) the construction manager, who can advise on constructability earlier than usual, and (3) the facility manager, who can advise on acceptable building systems with competitive operating and maintenance costs. The project benefits from their expertise at a time when design decisions are not frozen and suggestions can be seriously considered in a constructive exchange of views, without the confrontation that would occur if they were proposed in the final stages of design.

The article should be of interest to all stakeholders in a building project, i.e. owners, project and construction managers, cost managers, designers, value engineers, energy analysts, life cycle costing analysts, facility managers and users. - everyone on the building design management team.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

The Problem

Project managers face two major problems during the design phase that have a significant impact on the building design management team performance:

  • Inadequate communications and coordination among project team members resulting in misunderstandings, delays, and lower productivity than anticipated.

  • Estimating formats that differ from project to project, require too much time to comprehend, do not support design cost analysis, and that cannot easily be monitored from one design phase to another (no audit trail). As a result, many project managers do not give cost control the high priority it requires throughout a project, often with serious consequences for all team members and the client.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

The Solution

To resolve these problems, two relatively new tools are available to project managers:

  • The American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) E1557 Standard Classification for Building Elements and Related Sitework - UNIFORMAT II.

  • Construction Specification Institute (CSI) Practice FF/180: Preliminary Project Descriptions and Outline Specifications.

Their integration into the design process results in:

  • At the Schematic Phase, preliminary project descriptions (PPD) based on a standardized elemental classification framework that is consistent from project to project. Consequently, the various consultants must think the project through early in the design process and communicate this information in a format common to other team members.

  • Elemental design estimates with a standardized classification system that is consistent from phase to phase and project to project, that is more accurate because of the information provided in the PPD, easily understood by all team members, and suitable for design cost analysis.

  • Significantly improved project team communications, coordination and productivity as a result of linking the PPD and the estimate within a common framework at the Schematic Design Phase, the most crucial phase of a project.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

ASTM Standard E1557 UNIFORMAT II

ASTM E1557, UNIFORMAT II, defines a standard classification for building elements and related sitework. The classification was the direct responsibility of Subcommittee E-06.81 on Building Economics, and it is the only such standard in North America. (See Figure 1 - Classification Of Building Elements and Figure 2 - Classification Of Building Related Sitework).

The original UNIFORMAT was developed jointly by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1972 for estimating and design cost analysis. UNIFORMAT II, first issued by ASTM in 1993, is an enhanced version developed by a task group that included amongst others CSI, GSA, AACE, the Tri-Services, R.S. Means and CIQS. It is more comprehensive than the original, particularly with respect to the mechanical and sitework elements. Thus the format is suitable for numerous other applications, such as Schematic Phase PPD.

Elements are traditionally defined as "major components, common to most buildings, that perform a given function, regardless of the design specification, construction method, or materials used." In practice, an element may be considered any logical component of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). From a project management perspective, the UNIFORMAT II classification is the ideal WBS for the design phase of a building project to control scope, cost, quality, and time.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

CSI Practice FF/180 Elemental PPDs

The basic principles of Preliminary Project Descriptions and Outline Specifications are set out in CSI Practice FF/180. According to the practice, a PPD should be structured according to the UNIFORMAT classification rather than MASTERFORMAT, based on the fact that design information at the Schematic Phase may be communicated more effectively by building functional elements. Information is also more easily understood by clients and others who do not have a technical background.

For the Design Development Phase, the practice suggests an "Outline Specification", organized according to MASTERFORMAT (Divisions 1-16). In practice, the elemental format could also be used for this phase by the addition of more detailed design information to the description of each element, thus improving the building design management process.

A Preliminary Project Description example from the CSI Manual of Practice is shown in Figure 3 - Elemental Preliminary Project Description. Note that the language is simple, no more technical than necessary, and meant to be easily understood by all building design management team members, design professionals as well laymen.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Using UNIFORMAT II at the Schematic and Design Development Phases has the following advantages:

  • Each design discipline is obliged to think through the project during the Schematic Phase and propose tentative baseline solutions as well as alternatives for the concept and building systems that meet design program requirements.

  • The cost manager is provided with the information necessary to prepare more comprehensive and accurate estimates based on a description of elements provided by each design professional: guesswork is reduced.

  • The elemental PPD serves as a checklist for everyone that reviews and comments on the project. Omissions are more readily identified and items that are not related to design program requirements can be deleted.

  • The PPD format can be used to record design decisions.

If the design as described in the PPD is within project scope and budget, the designers can proceed from the Schematic Phase to the Design Development Phase with the assurance that most major outstanding issues have been resolved or identified, the building design management team clearly understands the scope of work, and the client has signed off on the PPD. This means fewer subsequent changes and a more efficient building design management process.

Software for both Preliminary Project Descriptions and Outline Specifications is available commercially for under $275 (sources are listed at the end of this article.)

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

UNIFORMAT II Elemental Estimates

Elemental estimates differ from trade estimates in that they are based on a building systems/assemblies classification (UNIFORMAT II) in lieu of a product classification (CSI MASTERFORMAT Divisions 1-16). For example, in a conventional trade estimate, all components of an exterior wall such as the brick, vapor retarder, insulation and block back-up would be priced separately, distributed in their respective divisions, and their cost summarized with all other products, according to Divisions 1-16, usually with no indication as to their construction function, i.e. for foundations, walls or partitions.

With the elemental approach, the description, quantity and cost of the Exterior Wall B2010 would be identified separately, thus greatly facilitating cost analysis. Figure 5 - Means Assemblies Cost Data is an example of a composite cost for element B2010, Exterior Walls. For other projects with similar walls, the unit cost shown of $ 20.40 per SF can be used for a relatively accurate early design estimates, thus saving a great deal of time. Unit costs for most UNIFORMAT II elements, including mechanical and electrical, can be found in the Means Assemblies Cost Data Manual.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

A UNIFORMAT II elemental estimate cost summary for a 54,000 SF office building is presented in Figure 4 - Building Elemental Cost Summary. It differs from a MASTERFORMAT product or trade based Divisions 1-16 estimate summary in that numerous analytic parameters and ratios are generated that facilitate design cost analysis and the monitoring of costs from the design program phase through completion of the Construction Documents Phase. For example, the average cost of partitions, (C1010) from the elemental estimate is $3.46/ SF. The partition density (the ratio of the quantity of partitions per square foot GFA) is 1.27. Partitions represent 4.39% of total cost. Extracting such data for analysis from MASTERFORMAT Division 1-16 estimates would be extremely time consuming and costly.

A standardized cost reporting format based on UNIFORMAT II, such as shown in Figure 4 - Building Elemental Cost Summary, has the added advantage of facilitating the rapid reconciliation of estimates from different sources; this is because all design and inflation contingencies, and overhead and profit can be calculated in the same way, a rare occurrence when comparing design estimates in today's context.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Using the UNIFORMAT II classification to structure design estimates has numerous other advantages in the building design management process, including the following:

  • Realistic elemental budget and design program estimates can be prepared from historical and published elemental cost data, using cost modelling techniques outlined in the text "Project Budgeting for Buildings" that is listed in the UNIFORMAT references9. Each discipline can therefore be assigned Design-To-Cost (DTC) targets before design is initiated. These can change as design progresses, but within the total budget established.

  • The cost of most design changes, even major ones, can be readily and accurately estimated.

  • Cost overages are identified earlier than usual, allowing more time for corrective action to be taken without delaying the design schedule.

  • The unit rates of most elements are indicative of their quality level, vital information for designers and clients.

  • Value Engineering workshops are more productive because all costs are transparent, function costs can be readily quantified, and the UNIFORMAT classification serves as a checklist for brainstorming sessions.

  • Elemental estimates are linked to a PPD with a common classification at the outset of a project, further facilitating design cost analysis.

  • During the Construction Document Phase, line items in the elemental estimate can be coded and sorted according to MASTERFORMAT DIVISIONS 1- 16, by trade, or by bid packages. Linking the formats at this phase is beneficial for the design team and the construction team that may already be on board.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Other UNIFORMAT II Applications

The classification has other practical applications in planning, design, construction, and facilities management that standardize reporting and link all phases of a building life cycle, improving the overall building design management process.

Some of the applications include:

  • Design program performance specifications and technical requirements

  • Design-Build performance specifications and technical requirements

  • Design-Build Post-Construction Performance Evaluation

  • Technical design reviews

  • Cost risk analysis (Monte Carlo simulation)

  • VE Function cost modelling

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page
  • VE brainstorming sessions

  • Life-Cycle Costing studies

  • Construction punch lists (deficiencies)

  • Building condition assessment

  • Reserve funds

  • Long term capital replacement budgeting

  • Code conformity reports

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

It should be noted that:

  • The new Seventh Edition of the McGraw-Hill Time Saver Standards for Architectural Design Data is based on UNIFORMAT II.

  • The Annual Whitestone Research Maintenance and Repair Cost Data Reference Manual is based on UNIFORMAT II.

  • Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are required to present UNIFORMAT II estimates with their design projects.

  • The Design-Build performance specification template being developed jointly by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) is based on UNIFORMAT II.

  • The new ASTM cost risk analysis standard includes an example of how Monte Carlo simulation is applied to UNIFORMAT II estimates to quantify project contingencies.

  • A major North American electrical utility has used UNIFORMAT II to structure building condition evaluation reports for over 700 buildings. Several major U.S. universities and a large international pharmaceutical company are also planning to utilize the classification for this purpose.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Benefits of Elemental Specifications and Estimates

All building design management team members, including the client and user, benefit from a structured, standardized approach to elemental PPD and design estimates based on UNIFORMAT II. Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Each discipline must think through the project as the Schematic Phase progresses, select baseline concepts and construction systems that are judged most appropriate, and propose alternatives. As a result, the architect is in a position to initiate project coordination earlier. Pushing the decision making up front for the selection of building systems also reduces the probability of major changes as design progresses, changes that are time consuming and costly to everyone concerned.

  • The project manager, client and user are presented with a clear and simple project description, element by element, at the Schematic Phase; they are in a position to provide informed comments much earlier than usual on any changes that may be required.

  • The cost manager can prepare more detailed Schematic Phase estimates for all disciplines with a higher degree of accuracy than usual, based on the PPD provided by each consultant; if the project is within budget, there should be no major concern as to the final project cost other than for major scope changes initiated by the client and for which additional funding should be provided.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page
  • Presenting the project description and estimates in the same elemental format facilitates and accelerates the design review and approval process; any corrective action related to scope or cost may be taken earlier, without consuming a disproportionate amount of design fees and without significant delays in the design schedule.

  • Life Cycle costing can now be effectively initiated during the Design Development Phase to evaluate alternatives. This is possible because baseline systems have been well defined and estimated in the Schematic Design Phase and changes can still be made to lower the project life cycle cost without incurring major design costs.

  • With a common understanding at the concept phase between client and designers as to building systems selected and the scope and cost of the project, the Design Development Phase can be initiated with fewer uncertainties and the schedule can likely be accelerated. Redesigning can be minimized, adding to the profitability for designers, and creating a good environment that encourages teamwork.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page
  • Earlier, more productive VE workshops can now be held at completion of the Schematic Design Phase in lieu of the Design Development Phase because suitable project descriptions and estimates are available for all disciplines. As a result, fewer major changes are likely to occur during the Design Development Phase, and the design schedule likely accelerated.

  • Changes in the project team, i.e. the designers or even the project manager, are not as disruptive, because new team members can easily locate pertinent information in the elemental UNIFORMAT II specifications and estimates.

  • Quality management programs such as ISO9000 require documentation at each stage of a process. The PPD at the Schematic Design Phase followed by the outline specifications at the Design Development Phase and full bid specifications at the Construction Documents Phase provide an audit trail that could form part of a TQM program for the design process.

  • As a result of the above, communications and coordination amongst the client, project manager and designers can be improved significantly, and the design process managed more efficiently. This prevents projects from going "sour" because of costly redesigns and delays due to cost overruns and scope creep that must be resolved early on in a project.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Implementing UNIFORMAT II

To implement UNIFORMAT II effectively for building design management, written directives or guidelines must be issued to each team member; a briefing session for the team should be held prior to the start of design to ensure that everyone clearly understands the procedures to be followed and the resulting benefits for all participants. The directives should include ASTM Standard EE1557lement definitions, CSI Practice FF/180 and examples of both elemental estimates and specifications. Special instructions from the project manager pertaining to specifications and estimates should also be included in the directives.

The implementation of UNIFORMAT II during design must be planned by the project manager with the consultants to avoid any potential roadblocks. The first projects could be viewed as pilot projects and additional design fees possibly considered to encourage everyone’s collaboration in view of the anticipated benefits. Ideally, the requirement for the use of UNIFORMAT II for the preparation of PPD and estimates should be incorporated in the consultant RFP and contract documents.

As a result of improved team communications and coordination, the project manager can have more time to address other important issues, and manage the project to a successful completion with less effort than normally required.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Conclusions

There is a need in North America to improve communications and coordination during the design of buildings. Doing so results in economic benefits to the construction industry as a whole. Project managers and clients can support this objective and benefit from standardizing PPD and design estimates based on two key building design management tools, the ASTM UNIFORMAT II Standard Classification E1557 and CSI Practice FF/180.

Additional information on UNIFORMAT II is provided in the resources that follow.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

Building Design Management Resources

Outline Specifications

  • AIA MASTERSPEC® OUTLINE Specifications
    Arcom Master Systems, Salt Lake City, Utah Tel.: (800) 424-5080 / Fax: (801) 521-9166 Web Site: arcomnet.com

  • CANADIAN MASTER OUTLINE Specifications
    HPT Buildwrite, Ottawa, Ontario Tel.: (613) 233-9455 / Fax: (613) 567-3894 e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • MASTER OUTLINE SPECIFICATIONS
    Kalin Associates, Inc. Newton Centre, MA Tel.: (617) 964-5477 / Fax: (617) 964-5788 Web Site: spec-net.com

  • SPECTEXT® OUTLINE Specifications
    National Institute of Building Sciences, Washington, DC Tel.: (888) 7734-2898 / Fax: (202) 289-1092 e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

  • OUTLINE SPEC©
    W2 Consultants Ltd, Sherwood Park, Alberta Tel.: (403) 672-8525 / Fax: (403) 672-9882 e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

UNIFORMAT Building Design Management References

  • ASTM E1557-97: Standard Classification for Building Elements and Related Sitework - UNIFORMAT II, 1997, American Society of Testing Materials, West Conshohocken, PA.

  • CSI/CSC PRACTICE FF/180 - Preliminary Project Descriptions and Outline Specifications 1992. The Construction Specifications Institute, Alexandria, VA.

  • ASTM E 1496- 98: Standard Practice for Measuring Cost Risk of Buildings and Building Systems, 1998. American Society of Testing Materials, West Conshohocken, PA.

  • Bowen, Brian, Robert Charette, and Harold Marshall. 1992. UNIFORMAT II - A Recommended Classification for Building Elements and Related Sitework. NIST Special Publication 841, Gaithersburg, VA: National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  • Charette, Robert, Brian Bowen. 1997. "UNIFORMAT II for Estimating and Design Cost Analysis". Section 1.14 Time Saver Standards for Architectural Design Data. Seventh Edition, McGraw Hill.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page
  • Bowen, Brian, Robert Charette, Linda Hartman. "Write Outstanding Technical Performance Specifications using the ASTM UNIFORMAT II Standard". Proceedings of the Design - Build Institute of America 1997 Conference, New Orleans.

  • Increase VE Team Performance with the UNIFORMAT II Standard Classification Of Building Elements and Related Sitework - December 1995, Charette, Robert PE, and Shooner, Anik, Arch., The Canadian Value Analysis Society Journal Optimum V.

  • Dell ‘Isola, Michael. 1998. "Value Engineering Applications Using UNIFORMAT II". Proceedings of the Society of American Valve Engineers (SAVE), Atlanta.

  • Charette, Robert and Anik Shooner 1995. "Using UNIFORMAT II in Preliminary Design and Planning." Chapter 25. Means Square Foot Estimating. Second Edition. Kingston MA: R.S. Means Company.

  • Bowen, Brian, Robert Charette. "Elemental Cost Classification for Building Design". Proceedings of the American Association of Cost Engineers 1991 Conference, Seattle.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page
  • Parker, Donald E. and Dell’Isola, Alphonse J. 1991. Project Budgeting for Buildings. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. (based on the original UNIFORMAT)

  • Killingsworth, Roger, 1988. Cost Control in Building Design. R. S. Means Co. Inc., Kingston, MA

  • Bowen, Brian. 1994. "Construction Cost Management". The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice. American Institute of Architects. AIA Press.

  • Means Assemblies Cost Data, 23rd Annual Edition 1998, R.S. Means Co. Inc., Kingston, MA

  • Means Square Foot Costs, 19th Annual Edition, 1998, R.S. Means Co. Inc., Kingston, MA

  • Means Residential Square Foot Costs, 1988, R. S. Means Co. Inc., Kingston, MA

  • Means Graphic Construction Standards, R. S. Means Co. Inc., Kingston, MA

Copies of the articles "UNIFORMAT II for Estimating and Design Cost Analysis" and "Increase VE Team Performance with UNIFORMAT II" may be obtained from the author.

BUILDING DESIGN MANAGEMENT
Top of Page

The Author

Robert P. Charette, PE, CVS was co-chairman of the ASTM Task Group that developed UNIFORMAT II. He presents seminars on a regular basis on UNIFORMAT II, Life Cycle Costing, and Value Engineering at the McGill University School of Architecture Design & Modelling Centre. He may be reached by telephone or fax at 514-739-3522 or by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .