NMS development guide
NMS Development Guide (PDF, 406 KB)
1. Requirements of new sections
It is important that the technical content of NMS Sections remain current with new construction practices and materials. New sections should incorporate the following criteria:
- New and or appropriate reference standards
- Modern materials, products and systems
- Sustainable materials, work practices and design criteria
- Advanced and innovative products
- Advanced and innovative installation methods
- Current and advanced environmental considerations
- New decontamination and abatement procedures
- Guidance to NMS Users where choices are apparent within the body of the specification through the use of descriptive Technical Spec Notes and Environmental Spec Notes
New sections should incorporate new technical information and current environmentally responsible criteria for specified materials, products or systems.
NMS follows the rules, guidelines and tenets for construction specification writing that have been accepted by the North American construction industry. The fundamentals are described in detail in the Construction Specification Handbook published by Construction Specification Canada (CSC) and are in the NMS User's Guide. This allows specifiers to concentrate their efforts on writing the technical and environmental aspects of each new section. These technical items should include such things as appropriate and up-to-date standards, new materials, innovative solutions and current installation technologies, while continuing to be aware of the generic nature of NMS.
The new NMS Section numbers will be assigned in accordance with the current edition of MasterFormat™. Where a new section is required that is not contained in the current edition of MasterFormat, a new number and title will be proposed and submitted to the National Master Specification Secretariat with supporting rationale ready for review by the CSC/CSI MasterFormat™ Maintenance Task Team.
2. Important Notices
2.1 Copyright Notice
© Her Majesty the Queen, in Right of Canada as represented by the National Research Council of Canada, 1999- All rights reserved.
Permission is granted to the National Master Specification (NMS) User to store electronically and/or to print any information residing in NMS for internal use only and for the purpose of preparing proposals and project specifications. No part of NMS may be reproduced, modified, or redistributed in any form or by any means, for any purpose other than those noted above (including sales), without the prior written permission of the National Research Council of Canada. No guaranty or warranty, expressed or implied, is made about the value or stability of the information or links made herein.
2.2 Disclaimer and Limitations of Use
"National Master Specification (NMS)" or "Canadian National Master Construction Specification (NMS)" is not a substitute for Project Manual or contract specifications.
The appropriate specification sections of NMS require editing and adapting to suit the requirements of individual construction projects. The responsibility for determining the suitability of use and the selection of choices rests with the NMS user.
NMS is based on the requirements of the National Building Code of Canada and does not necessarily include all possible regional or municipal variations concerning products, methods, materials, systems, assemblies or accessories, their availability or their method of construction. It may not list or describe every product, material, system, assembly or accessory required for an individual project. It may not describe, in detail, the entire execution of the required work.
NMS makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the data and specifically disclaims any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and shall in no event be liable for any loss of profit or any incidental, consequential or other damages.
2.3 National Research Council of Canada (NRC)
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the Government of Canada's premier organization for research and development. NRC partners with Canadian industry to take research impacts from the lab to the marketplace, where people can experience the benefits. This market-driven focus delivers innovation faster, enhances people's lives, and addresses some of the world's most pressing problems. We are responsive, creative and uniquely placed to partner with Canadian industry and to invest in strategic R&D programming that will address critical issues for our future.
NRC provides administrative support for the development and maintenance of NMS. Direction is given to NRC by the NMS National Advisory Board, comprised of the principal federal department funding partners. NMS follows the recommendations of: Construction Specifications Canada's (CSC) Manual of Practice for the document format, numbering, language and style; and CSC/Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) which jointly developed MasterFormat® for Section names and numbers and SectionFormat™/PageFormat™ for article names & order and page layout conventions. These documents can be found on the SpeX website.
For contact information on the above, and other contact information related to NMS, refer to NRC's NMS page.
3.1 References to be utilized for developing new NMS Sections are:
CSC's Manual of Practice (MOP), a detailed source of information on facility life cycle theory and practice.
SectionFormat™/ PageFormat™ 2008 — A recommended format for construction specifications available in English only at this time.
NRC NMS User's Guide 2016
Catalogues of Reference Standards (CGSB, CSA, ASTM, etc.), available from the specific standards development organization or
Standards Council of Canada
270 Albert Street, Suite 200
Ottawa, Ontario, KlP 6N7
NOTE: MasterFormat™, SectionFormat™, PageFormat™, and UniFormat™ are North American construction format documents produced and published jointly by Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) and its sister organization in the United States the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). These documents are available from:
Construction Specifications Canada
120 Carlton Street, Suite 312
Toronto ON, M5A 4K2
Phone: (416) 777-2198
Fax: (800) 668-5684
4. NMS Development Criteria
4.1 Analyzing of Products and References
Development of a new NMS Section includes the following: investigation and collection of manufacturers' literature and data, product evaluation and review, technical accuracy, current product environmental issues and concerns.
Consultant specifiers should have knowledge in researching and interpreting reference standards and testing methods of construction materials. Consultant specifiers are responsible for obtaining or purchasing up-to-date reference standard materials on behalf of the NMS Secretariat. Costs for purchasing reference standards are reimbursable; purchased materials will remain a part of the NMS Secretariat deliverables as the primary copyright holder.
Consultant specifiers should take into account regional and provincial diversities and deviations from across the country. It is acceptable to have appropriate SPEC NOTES which guide the End User options appropriate for that particular region of the country, NRC offices, and preferences of public or private sector. SPEC NOTES should have sufficient technical guidance so that the End User can identify and make appropriate changes to satisfy regional preferences.
4.2 Composition of Sections
4.2.1 NMS Sections
All new NMS Sections will be consistent with the CSC/CSI SectionFormat™ and PageFormat™ (SFPF) in regards to appearance and format. SectionFormat™ and PageFormat™ are subdivided into three parts: PART 1 — GENERAL, PART 2 — PRODUCTS and PART 3 — EXECUTION.
PART 1 — GENERAL: Defines the specific administrative and procedural requirements unique to a section and complement Division 1, without duplicating statements.
PART 2 — PRODUCTS: Describes in detail the description and quality of items that are required for incorporation into the Work under that section.
PART 3 — EXECUTION: Describes in detail preparatory actions and how the products are to be incorporated into the Work.
Each PART of a specification section is divided further into Articles or Paragraphs. Article titles are selected from SFPF to be used when required to describe the Work. If any Part of SFPF has no information included within it, clearly write the words Not Used.
4.2.2 Page layout
NMS page layout is based on CSC full PageFormat™ recommended formatting described in the SFPF document. Standardized elements of NMS page layout include: margins; spacing; arrangement and placement for page headers; page numbering; section number and name; part title; paragraphs; and an END OF SECTION designation.
Consultant specifiers will be provided a digital template with styles and pre‑determined numbering for parts, articles, paragraphs, headers and footers, and SPEC NOTES (DESCRIPTIVE, ENVIRONMENTAL and SUPPORT).
4.3 Language / Style
The language, vocabulary, spelling, metric measurements, punctuation and grammar, follow the recommendations and standard industry practice recommended by Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) as outlined in the Construction Specifications Handbook published by the CSC. Also, refer to the NMS User's Guide. Although American spelling is technically correct, the NMS Secretariat strongly encourages the use of Canadian spelling to maintain consistency within NMS Sections.
4.3.2 New sections
Write new technical sections in the imperative mode, exclusively addressing the potential reader; typically this would be the Contractor in the case of stipulated price contract, or the Subcontractor/Trade Contractor in design-build or construction managed contracts.
The phrase shall be is not acceptable in any NMS Sections. NMS avoids indicative mood statements.
4.3.3 Do not use negative statements
Use streamlined language as demonstrated in existing NMS Sections. The streamlining effect should not lose the intent or force of the statement. When listing products, materials and reference standards:
- use a colon (:) instead of "to be"
- use "in accordance with" when the action is implied
- use "to" when referencing, are considered streamlining devices
NMS uses correct punctuation and follows each comma, semi-colon and colon with one space. Punctuation ending a sentence is followed by one space. To meet correct French language conventions, punctuation will be adjusted during translation.
NMS strives to construct sentences so that misplacing or eliminating a punctuation mark will NOT change the intended meaning. The serial (penultimate) comma is often used to ensure clear and unmistakable separation of statements.
Words are the essence of NMS. They are selected and used in context with their precise meanings. NMS attempts to use each word with only one meaning; the same word is used whenever that particular meaning is intended.
NMS avoids the use of the following words and phrases:
4.3.7 Generic specification
NMS promotes the use of GENERIC names in referencing construction materials, and follows the recommendations of the CSC Manual of Practice.
4.3.9 Abbreviations, Acronyms and Symbols
NMS makes extensive use of acronyms (words formed from the first, or first few, letters of a series of words). Industry-accepted acronyms often increase understanding and speed up comprehension. However, NMS always writes the full explanation of each acronym used the first time it is referenced in each section.
Abbreviations are discouraged as they can be misinterpreted. Abbreviations such as those used for dimensions and standard references appear on one line, not separated onto two lines. This is done by the use of a "hard" space when information is originally incorporated into an NMS section.
Comprehension is only realized if the abbreviation or acronym is readily recognizable. Abbreviations and acronyms are avoided where doubt exists.
Like abbreviations and acronyms, symbols are avoided unless they are readily recognized. The full description of the acronyms should be given once in the text for the first occurrence of the acronym. The following are a few of the many acronyms used by NMS:
- American Society for Testing and Materials
- American National Standards Institute
- Canadian General Standards Board
- Canadian Construction Documents Committee
- Construction Specifications Canada
- Construction Specifications Institute
The use of symbols is limited by the availability of symbols in word processing software or computer-aided drafting programs. Confirm that where symbols are used, they form part of a standard Unicode or ASCII text-defined element such as '%' for percent (standard keyboard entry) or '°' for degrees (Unicode Character Code 00B0).
Use non‑breaking hyphens and spaces to keep text components from splitting at the end of a line within a paragraph.
Use ASCII Character 00B2 or 00B3 to represent the square or cube descriptions in units of measurement and shown as '²' or '³' instead of using the superscript within text formatting. When indicating fractional numbers use Unicode characters such as Unicode Character 2153 representing ⅓ where fractional descriptions are required instead of 1/3.
(See CSC Manual of Practice Chapter 13 – Specification Language – "Symbols and Expressions")
4.3.10 Capital Letters
NMS uses capital letters in a consistent manner, in addition to specific capitalization of certain words, to provide clarity to the intent of the document.
Capitalization should be consistent within documents and match the capitalization used in the General and Supplementary Conditions. In contract documents, the following words might be capitalized:
4.3.11 Metric in NMS
All measurement-sensitive descriptions, whether volume, weight, height, length, pressure etc., are based on the International System of Units (SI), generally referred to as metric units. NMS does not use centimetres as a unit of measurement.
4.4 SPEC NOTES
Consultant specifiers should add SPEC NOTES where appropriate when writing new sections. The SPEC NOTES used in NMS always precede the paragraph under discussion. SPEC NOTES are intended to provide guidance to the End User for the selection, application or use of materials, their options and criteria. SPEC NOTES provide cautionary advice on the use, application or installation of a product, material or system, and should provide sufficient direction for a choice contained within the technical specification content for the End User to make their own choices.
SPEC NOTES are intended as a guide to aid the End User when making appropriate choices, selections and decisions.
SPEC NOTES are not intended to convey design information.
SPEC NOTES should only give information on subject matter that the End User has either control over or influence over.
NMS provides for a SPEC NOTE DESCRIPTION at the top of every section. This SPEC NOTE is a relatively new addition and, as a result, should be included in all new sections. The SPEC NOTE DESCRIPTION is intended to give the End User general information about the content or use of the section.
NMS provides for a SPEC NOTE SUPPORT at the top of all sections where the NMSS had developmental or review support from an association or organization. This SPEC NOTE is intended to recognize and acknowledge the support provided by a manufacturer, a specialized trade, a professional association, or other government organizations. This SPEC NOTE should be used only with the permission and consent of the supporting organization.
NMS provides for a SPEC NOTE SUSTAINABILITY at the top of all sections using environmentally responsible greening actions and sustainable building design products and methods. This SPEC NOTE is intended to notify the End User that the section has been written to include choices for environmentally responsible materials, products and systems. It should only be used to assist the End User in making appropriate Green choices, selections and decisions. The SPEC NOTE SUSTAINABILITY should not be used as an educational tool and should avoid advising on things over which the End User has no control.
Refer to the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) for more information on LEED. Visit the CaGBC website for further information.
4.5 Square Brackets
Square brackets are used frequently in NMS Sections to indicate that a selection has to be chosen by the End User. The End User must make a selection, fill in the appropriate information, or edit the contents within the square brackets. Square brackets containing a blank space are immediately preceded or followed by words or symbols, which clarify the intent of the blank space.
4.6 Reference Standards
NMS references standards by including a list of standards, their date of issue and title in PART—1, under the heading REFERENCES in accordance with SectionFormat™. References should be up-to-date and correctly titled.
NMS uses references from Canadian Standards Writing Organizations where appropriate, and from American and International Standards Writing Organizations that are recognized by the Standards Council of Canada. Where recognized standards and agencies are not available to fully describe performance requirements, the Consultant Specifier should incorporate appropriate references to American or International Standards Writing Organizations.
The references are included in PARTS 1, 2 and 3 as required, however they are indicated only by the standard number in the main body of the text. The date and title of the reference standard is only indicated in PART—1, in the References article.
The standard's date of issue is included in the square brackets in the REFERENCES article, PART—1 of an NMS individual section.
The content of the referenced standards directly affects the description of the product, material or systems choices, criteria and attributes and installation methods. Therefore, contents of the referenced standard(s) must be reviewed to determine the correctness and completeness of the section's text.
NMS contains references to standards such as the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB), Canadian Standards Association (CSA International), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC) and others. These consensus standards are written accords or agreements on certain materials, testing procedures, or processes that conform to criteria developed and accepted by a recognized public or private authority or agency. The term "consensus standard" means that those documents or publications were developed by these agencies, often with public input. They are referred to in a uniform manner. References to these standards are indicated within the text of a section.
Standards are identified here and are referenced in other articles of the section by their acronym and alpha/numeric designation only. A Standards organization line should be followed by a colon, with a paragraph keep‑with‑next or similar format, with subsequent list of reference standards as simple line items. Listings are not sentences so do not need periods at the end of each line.
NMS specifies all materials, products and systems in a generic manner. Do not use manufacturer names, product numbers or trade names within NMS. Generic content should be consistent with manufacturers information used to develop the specification such that the range described by the generic descriptions is achievable by a wide range of market solutions. Manufacturer names and product numbers or trade names may be added to NMS content to illustrate the performance described by the performance based (generic) specification requirements based on previous project content, private or public sector usage, or project manager direction.
A review of manufacturers' literature, product data, specifications and samples will be necessary to properly ascertain the completeness, correctness and currency of the information when developing the new NMS section. Generic information should indicate a reasonable range of performance expectations, and should be developed from a range of manufacturers' available products. Generic descriptions based on a single source are not acceptable. Include SPEC NOTE guidance where a variety of performance requirements are described that could be interpreted as a least-medium-high cost or low‑mid-high range performance attribute.
The name, address, telephone and fax numbers, email address and contact person of each manufacturer contacted during the new section development process should be included in the information submitted as part of the final deliverable.
4.8 Environmental Criteria
The specific environmental criteria used to supplement the materials' specification should be included with the materials' other criteria.
Each technical section in NMS should have several articles:
- a couple in Part 1 under DELIVERY, STORAGE AND HANDLING dealing with packaging waste management;
- SUSTAINABLE DESIGN SUBMITTALS describing proof of performance requirements specified under Part 2;
- another under PERFORMANCE/DESIGN CRITERIA for the environmental or sustainable performance requirements; and
- another article in Part 3 (under CLEANING), dealing with waste management disposal as a result of construction / deconstruction.
Sustainable and environmental performance requirements should be described under Products and should not rely solely on submittal of product information as a part of the recordkeeping for the project.
Sustainable and environmental performance requirements described in Part 2 should account for a variety of rating systems and not rely on a single organization such as the Canadian Green Building Councils, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®). Public and private sector projects can use different rating systems including Green Globes, Living Building Challenge and other organizations.
The above examples need to be modified depending on the subject matter.
Compare traditional reference standards with environmental standards (e.g., new raw material manufacturing vs. recycled material). Traditional material or material testing standards may have to be supplemented within NMS to accommodate environmental responsible and sustainable design. Recycled material specifications should identify whether or not the recycled are "post-consumer."
Include environmental considerations (e.g., attributes of a product or process; environmentally responsible methods of application, use or disposal).
Meet with industry associations to verify feasibility of environmental SPEC NOTES.
Do not include environmental SPEC NOTES that the End User has no control over.
Keep SPEC NOTES brief. If a SPEC NOTE covers more than a quarter of a page, it starts to lose its intent to convey the information for the purposes of editing the NMS for project specifications. One subject per SPEC NOTE is recommended.
Do not theorize the environmental SPEC NOTE. Unless facts are proven and supported with sound engineering or scientific data, do not include them in the SPEC NOTE ENVIRONMENTAL. Writing something that "may" happen also implies that it "may not" happen.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: