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Mission: To enable and promote the CLA industry’s participation in the design and construction of buildings.

  • By working to create awareness within the design, construction and building owner communities of the CLA industry resources, associations and certifications
  • Through articles, seminars, presentations and simple marketing (i.e. one ad that features an aspect of the CLA industry while simultaneously identifying the individual organizations that make up the industry.)

  • By brokering relationships within and across industry boundaries
  • By developing and distributing design tools and forums for use by CLA industry professionals
  • Establishment of a broad based CLA industry design certification that is recognized as being inclusive of all current and future design certifications. (BICSI’s - RCDD, ICIA’s CTS-D, ASIS’s - CPP and CSI’s – CDT)

History: From Division 17 to CLA

The Beginning-Division 17

BICSI, a not for profit international telecommunications association proposed the Division 17 initiative in 1999. Division 17 was an initiative to establish a formal position for telecommunications and technology infrastructures in the process of the design, construction, and management of commercial buildings by adding a 17th Division for telecommunications to the MasterFormatTM, which at the time contained 16 Divisions.

The MasterFormat is the construction industry's most widely used organizational model. Published jointly by Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and Construction Specifications Canada (CSC), the MasterFormat is a master list of numbers and titles for organizing information about construction requirements, products, and activities into a standard sequence. First introduced in 1963, the MasterFormat is updated every five to seven years. At the time Division 17 was organized, the 1995 edition was the latest MasterFormat and a new edition was scheduled for 2002.

The absence of telecommunications in the MasterFormat could be traced to the monopoly of the Bell System during which time telephone company BICs provided architects with the necessary requirements for telecommunications installations. A section in the MasterFormat was unnecessary when the telephone companies handled all the design and installation details.

Two events changed this scenario. After the 1984 break-up of the Bell System, the responsibility of adding telecommunications systems and infrastructure was transferred to the building owner. Also, the low-voltage world became much more complex. With the rapid advances in voice, data, and video technology, installations became increasingly more complicated. These installations were managed by the information technology departments of building owners or tenants and formal communication with the architecture/engineering/construction industries was typically very limited.

Without a formal place in the building process, telecommunications systems were not generally integrated during the planning and design phase of a building project. Instead they were frequently retrofitted during the construction phase or in some cases even after construction, which many times resulted in less efficient and more expensive systems.

The Division 17 initiative drafted a document that provided details on telecommunications requirements utilizing the same look and structure as the other 16 divisions in the MasterFormat. Division 17 also contained T-Series Technology Drawings and CSI Specification Formats.

In keeping with its leadership position in the telecommunications industry, BICSI took a leadership role in the Division 17 initiative. In October 1999, BICSI submitted a proposal to the CSI Institute Technical Committee concerning Division 17 implementation in the next MasterFormat edition. BICSI's proposal was accompanied by letters of support from a number of associations including Building Owners Management Association International (BOMA), Association of College and University Telecommunications Administrators (ACUTA), National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

CSI established the MasterFormat Expansion Task Team (MFETT) under the leadership of Chair Dennis Hall, FCSI, AIA, CCS, CCA. Tom Rauscher represented BICSI on the Task Team.

The document underwent four drafts with major revisions and additions, numerous stakeholder symposiums with participation from every affected section of the industry, many trade magazine articles, and countless e-mail comments from industry professionals.

"The Task Team looked at the needs of the entire construction industry," says Hall. "We wanted the document to be logical, have built-in flexibility for future expansion, and affect the entire life cycle of the facility, not just construction."

In January 2004, CSI announced the content of the next edition of the MasterFormat. To view an outline of MasterFormat04, visit

Hall continues, "This particular MasterFormat revision is the most revolutionary in its 40-year history, more than tripling the number of divisions," says Hall.

Enter CLA
Telecommunications systems are included in MasterFormat 04, grouped in three new areas: Division 25-Integrated Automation, Division 27-Communications and Division 28-Electronic Safety and Security.

"This is everything we'd hoped for from the Division 17 initiative. The goal was to include a new and independent division for telecommunications in MasterFormat 04. The actual division number was never an important issue," says Rauscher.

The systems and infrastructure covered in these three divisions include: communications cable plant, data systems (both wired and wireless), voice systems, communications services, integrated audio video systems, distributed communications systems, intercom systems, dictation equipment, paging systems, public address, sound masking, electronic/digital signage systems, tracking systems, video systems, MATV, CATV, CCTV, internal cellular, internal paging, healthcare systems, nurse call, hospitality and entertainment systems, clock systems, access control, electronic surveillance systems, intrusion detection systems detection and alarm, personal protection systems, integrated automation instrumentation and control.

"That's a lot to say when someone asks what's included in the new divisions," says Rauscher. "At one point during the MasterFormat 04 development, the division titles were Communications, Life Safety, and Automation, so the term CLA was coined and it stuck, even though the division titles have changed."

CLA is gaining national prominence in the building, construction, and telecommunications industries as a term referring to the group of systems and infrastructures that transport information in a building, similar to the commonly used MEP (for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing), which refers to systems and infrastructures that transport energy in a commercial building.

The BICSI News has printed several articles on the Division 17 process. To view these articles, visit Click on BICSI News, scroll to BICSI News archives, and click on the desired issue.

"From Division 17 to CLA," Mar/Apr 2004 BICSI News
"MasterFormat Draft Four," July/Aug 2003 BICSI News
"What's in a Number?", Nov/Dec 2002 BICSI News
"Division 17 Update," Nov/Dec 2001 BICSI News
"New BICSI Building Features Division 17 and 'T' Drawings, Nov 2000 BICSI News
"Division 17-Telecommunications," April 2000 BICSI News

BICSI published a brochure titled "Division 17-It Adds Up for Everyone" in July 2001.

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