Convergence begets cooperation: Enter CLADI

With our "fourth utility" now spread over multiple Divisions, we as designers will need to remind the AE that while each piece of the low-voltage pie may be small, the sum of these can prove to be a noticeable chunk of the project budget.

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The telecommunications infrastructure and information services applications (in NEC "codes speak," that would be "low voltage") are converging. Not exactly breaking news, but bear with me.

For years, designers attempted to have all ofl the technology requirements for a building (telecommunications infrastructure and information services) be considered as a single entity. These included not only telephone and data, but also all the signal and control facilities (i.e., HVAC control, access control, fire detection and security monitoring). And we were garnering architects' and engineers' (AE) attention with our assertion that we were designing the "fourth utility."

For years, we have followed BICSI's "Division 17 Initiative," spearheaded by Tom Rauscher (President, Archi-Technology, Rochester, NY), to add a separate division to the CSI MasterFormat to better classify telecommunications.

MasterFormat is a list of numbers and titles for organizing information about construction requirements, products, and activities into a standardized sequence. This includes organizing data in project manuals, categorizing cost data, filing product and technical data, identifying drawing objects, and presenting construction market data.

Although it's not mandatory, most architects and engineers use MasterFormat as a reference to organize requirements for a new building or renovation when preparing construction specifications.

The "Division 17 Initiative" to separate telecommunications from electrical was very successful, and CSI MasterFormat 04 will now have separate divisions for each low-voltage application within the Facility Services Subgroup:

  • Division 20 – Reserved for future expansion
  • Division 21 – Fire Suppression
  • Division 22 – Plumbing
  • Division 23 – Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning
  • Division 24 – Reserved for future expansion
  • Division 25 – Integrated Automation
  • Division 26 – Electrical
  • Division 27 – Communications
  • Division 28 – Electronic Safety and Security
  • Division 29 – Reserved for future expansion

The CSI MasterFormat Expansion Task Team plans to have MasterFormat 04 available to users later this year. MasterFormat is produced jointly by The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), Alexandria, VA, and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC), Toronto. (For more info, see

It all adds up

With our "fourth utility" now spread over multiple Divisions, we as designers will need to remind the AE that while each piece of the low-voltage pie may be small, the sum of these can prove to be a noticeable chunk of the project budget.

To help us with this task, a new "Initiative" is being discussed.

Voice, data, video (VDV); audio visual (AV); automation, nurse call, security and wireless ... in the old days, each of these systems had their own unique components—wire, connectors, black-boxes, application software. And their own professional associations wrote their own standards and design guides, and tested for their own unique professional certifications.

Now that much of the cabling is structured, and every application from lighting control to nurse call is moving to IP—this is the convergence that we have been hearing about—designers are expected to be competent in multiple low-voltage systems.

Most of us have received our training and our registrations/certifications/licenses from our professional associations, but each facet of our industry has many such associations and designations. Each has design guidelines to study, conferences to attend and continuing education requirements to meet. It seems that the more diverse your knowledge base, the less time you actually have to apply your skills to your work.

Wouldn't it be great if the professional associations and their design guides, standards, and professional certifications would also begin to converge? Or, at the very least, recognize the low-voltage industry's need for these professional associations to work closely together? Examples of how this has worked well between product manufacturers are the Fiber Optic LAN Section (FOLS) and the Category 6 Consortium.

To create a neutral common ground where these professional associations could work together, enter CLADI—the Communications, Life Safety, and Automation Design Institute. It will be sort of an association of associations that focus primarily on design of traditional low-voltage systems—VDV; AV; automation, nurse call, security and wireless.

On a mission

CLADI will promote our diverse industry in the eyes of construction professionals and building owners through articles, seminars, presentations and advertisements that would feature one facet of the industry while simultaneously identifying each of the individual organizations that make up the industry. Second, it will help the designers from varied disciples gain a perspective on where they are in relation to each other and how they can complement each other.

CLADI's objectives will include: Developing a Web site; developing spreadsheet-based estimating utilities and calculators; developing broad-based, vendor-neutral independent standards and methods manuals.

While the mission is good and the objective noble, it is going to take a lot of everything—time, cooperation, manpower, and money, to float this boat.

And before someone asks me about the CLA acronym, I will offer the following:

  • They are changing telecommunications to Communications to harmonize with CSI Division 27 and NEC;
  • Automation is Division 25;
  • Division 28 is Electronic Safety and Security.

So, I am clueless as to where the life safety came from. Guess someone "bought" a consonant.

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Donna Ballast is BICSI's standards representative, and a BICSI registered communications distribution designer (RCDD). Send your questions to Donna via e-mail:

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