Think of a master plan sheet as a set of general instructions of how to assemble a building component without regard to a specific installation. Unlike a site specific plan, Master Plan Sheets are typically used by manufacturers to describe general installation conditions which may or may not be sufficient for a permitted installation. They typically contain a number of installation combinations which the user is to select to determine their installation condition.
Master Plans Sheets can be related to instructions of how to assemble a bicycle. The instructions don’t say how to assemble a bicycle just for you, but how they all go together and how the seat, handlebars, and gears can be set to your liking. A site specific plan is tied to an address and would be similar to saying how that specific bicycle is to be set for your exact needs.
Other terms to describe Master Plan Sheets include product evaluations/approvals and technical evaluation reports. Those all describe the general nature and limitations of use for the component in question, but not how it applies to your specific need.
Governing engineering statues in many states contain language regarding the development and use of product evaluation documents. As an example, Florida Administrative Code 61G15-36 defines Product Evaluation Documents as
(2) Product Evaluation Documents. Engineering documents that define procedures, materials, devices, fabrication, and methods of construction and installation of a product, or standardized group of products, through product evaluation or rational analysis, with the objective of obtaining approval from the authority having jurisdiction of that product for installation. Product evaluation documents shall be generic and do not include documents prepared for a site specific project.
61G15-36.003 Common Requirements to all Product Evaluation Documents.
(1) The product evaluation for various sizes and design capacities shall be specific for each size and design capacity listed.
(2) The documents shall include engineering data presented in a manner that facilitates the application of the product at the project site. The documents shall be annotated to the effect that alterations or additions to the document are not permitted.
(3) The documents shall state under which conditions the product evaluation is suitable to be applied by the Contractor, or under which conditions the product evaluation is only for use by a licensed engineer or architect acting as a Delegated Engineer. The requirements for submission of delegated engineering documents found in subsection 61G15-30.005(2), F.A.C., may be waived at the option of the engineer who prepares the product evaluation documents.
(4) The documents shall comply with Chapter 61G15-23, F.A.C., regarding seals, and shall bear the original seal, signature and date, or shall meet the procedure for signing and sealing electronically transmitted plans, specifications, reports or other documents.
Manufacturers typically request Master Plan Sheets for the building components they produce while contractors and end users typically want a site specific plan for their installation condition but could also use a certified master plan sheet (sealed by an engineer) to submit for permit. Building Departments typically require the Master Plan Sheet to be marked up with the spans, detail conditions, and options selected for a project.
Contact your local building official BEFORE ordering any engineering to determine which model they will accept. Engineering Express has hundreds of pre-engineered, certfied Master Plan Sheets and Technical Evaluation Reports (TER’s) for permit in their Online Plan Store at https://www.engineeringexpress.com/store/