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September/October 2011

A Hierarchy that Works

ASTM’s E1557 UNIFORMAT II Standard Paves the Way for Smoother Construction Projects

For any construction project, it is too late to discover during bids that a project is not financially feasible. For many years, an ASTM International standard has provided a means for elemental cost planning, cost control and estimating for building construction projects. This helps ensure that a project will move forward and will enhance reporting at all stages of construction.

The standard, E1557, Classification for Building Elements and Related Sitework–UNIFORMAT II, was developed by Subcommittee E06.81 on Building Economics, part of ASTM International Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings.

According to its scope, E1557 “envisages elements as major permanent physical components common within a constructed entity that perform particular functions regardless of their design or specification. The classification is a common thread that links activities and participants in any building construction project from initial planning and implementation through operations, maintenance and disposal.”

“Creating meaningful comparisons between several iterations of a developing design, with ever increasing detailed definition, is difficult without a summary structure that is equally usable when one knows nothing as it would be when one knows everything,” says Anthony Huxley, the E06.81 task group chairman for UNIFORMAT II and E1557, and an independent consultant who provides cost planning, cost control, estimating, scheduling, risk management and forensic review services in pre-contract and post-contract stages of building design and construction.

According to Huxley, E1557 provides this structure from a cost-to-function point of view, but the standard has proved useful in other ways too.

“Others have discovered that the same hierarchy of building elements is suitable for other activities as well, including value engineering workshops, preliminary project descriptions, condition reports, maintenance plans, preliminary time scheduling and other disciplines. The classification is sufficiently generic to fit many types of building and associated users,” says Huxley.

It is also noted in the scope that the users of UNIFORMAT II fall into the following categories:

  • Financial and Investment — Owners, developers, bankers, lenders, accountants and financial managers;
  • Implementation — Project managers, facilities programmers, designers and project control specialists;
  • Facilities Management — Property portfolio managers, operating and maintenance staff;
  • Others — Manufacturers, educators, students and other product stakeholders.

E1557 is currently being used by federal, state, provincial and municipal agencies throughout the United States and Canada. The standard is also being used for conducting condition assessment, asset management and capital planning program for more than 5,000 education facilities for the Ontario Ministry of Education.

Huxley notes that the subcommittee is preparing for the standard’s next five-year review, which is scheduled for 2014.

“Due to its longevity and the many vested interests now using E1557, any revision is not to be taken lightly, but after more than 30 years in use, in essentially similar versions, this elemental classification is ripe for revision to reflect changing technology and the needs of many stakeholders,” says Huxley. “The world environment has changed too, prompting an increased emphasis on items and functions that were hitherto of lesser importance.”

In order to facilitate future revisions, Huxley encourages frequent users of E1557 to forward succinct suggestions for revision to him.