Crosswalk celebrates one-year impact with AECO

Peter Kray, CSI, Hugh Seaton

In May 2020, CSI launched Crosswalk, a groundbreaking digital engine that is designed to dramatically enhance standards communications among the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner (AECO) community. With the program in use for more than a year now, we sat down with Hugh Seaton, the product lead for Crosswalk, to discuss how early adoption of the technology is helping software providers add powerful new capabilities to streamline construction projects.

The Crosswalk product enables software users to easily look up and cross-reference classifications made in MasterFormat, UniFormat, and OmniClass through an enterprise-grade application programming interface (API), resulting in spot-on accuracy and accelerated efficiency.

Can you provide a brief overview of what Crosswalk is and how it can impact the work of specifiers?

The Crosswalk product is a digital way to easily access the standards, which are so critical to what specifiers do. It is not just MasterFormat and UniFormat and OmniClass individually, but all three of them, with the most up-to-date information across the board. The Crosswalk API provides the ability to translate between them for the most useful classification for those specifications. This makes it much easier for downstream users of specifications to accurately use, track, and work with specifications.

With the Crosswalk product, we have made CSI standards accessible to software products through an API. The relevance here is: everything specifiers are producing is being consumed by software somewhere. What we are doing is making it easier to access and used more accurately.

Can you share some examples?

One example would be when construction estimators are doing material take offs, which means pulling quantities of materials from construction plans. These plans are specified in MasterFormat but estimates and other job-specific documents are usually created with UniFormat. In fact, a general point is UniFormat is used by construction companies, while MasterFormat is used by architects and their specifiers. So, you have designed the project in MasterFormat but want to operate and do project controls in UniFormat. That is what the Crosswalk product was created for. By powering today’s premium software to translate between standards accurately and automatically, the Crosswalk product reduces the need for hand-coding and provides powerful new tools for software.

How does Crosswalk ensure everyone has the same information, no matter which CSI standard they are using?

Crosswalk’s API will also power translation between different versions of the standards. So, processes can be made backward-compatible. The API powers translation of classifications not only across standards, but also within the standard, allowing different functions to seamlessly talk to each other without loss of data and with more accuracy.

Is there a cost savings?

Yes, there is a huge cost savings. A client told me the average transcription error is between 11 and 33 percent. So, if you have a person going from column A to column B, they are going to make mistakes, especially when it is specifications. Imagine you got a specification for floor tiles and ordered $100,000 of this tile but mis-classified them. Now, they are sitting on the jobsite, and accounting has the wrong numbers, costing the job as much as that $100,000. This happens more than we would like to admit.

Now, imagine the personnel expense of manually translating between MasterFormat and UniFormat, especially when there are multiple rounds of value engineering. The savings the Crosswalk product can create are significant.

I have also seen statistics suggesting more than $150 billion a year is spent on rework and construction mistakes. I am not saying the Crosswalk product will save all of this, but we are chipping away at it.

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