Design+Construction Glossary


ACT Acoustic Ceiling Tile - This is a type of ceiling that consists of a metal grid that is hung from the structure above, into which ceiling tiles are installed. This is widely used in commercial construction and comes in many different configurations.
ADA This refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a federal law that protects persons with disabilities and calls for standard dimensions and details that ensure that protection. In the world of architectural design, it requires us to maintain certain clearances throughout the space in the interest of accessibility. The most common impact on space planning relates to the size and configuration of toilet rooms and the clearance around doorways. There are many other ADA issues to comply with, but those have the biggest impact on the plan layout. Through the plan review and construction inspection process, the cities require compliance before issuing a certificate of occupancy. Depending on existing conditions and the overall scope of work, tenant improvement remodels often have non-accessible elements grandfathered in. Your architect is essential in helping you to navigate these issues.
Add Alternate This is an item identified in the Instructions to Bidders, or on the bid form that calls for a separate price breakout for an item that is expected to be more expensive than the specified item. This is often used to give the owner a choice on an item based on how expensive the alternate item is. Example: The architect may suggest an add alternate be used to see how much more expensive it would be to upgrade the light fixtures that are specified. It then gives the owner the option of choosing which way they want to go. Conversely, you can have a "deduct" or "deductive" alternate that involves a choice that is expected to be less expensive.
AFP Annual Facility Permit - This is program offered by some cities, like Phoenix and Mesa where building owners and managers can register multiple facilities under one umbrella permit. This is a completely separate group in the building safety department. Owners and architects involved in this program have the benefit of having the same individual inspectors on each and every facility that they have registered with AFP. This works much like a "permit by inspection" process, but without the restriction on the size and scope of the work involved. The inspectors do their own plan review, thereby dramatically reducing the plan review time. This consistency in personnel allows for the architect and owners to develop strong working relationships with the inspectors, ultimately resulting in smoother and more efficient construction projects.
ALTA Survey This is a boundary survey prepared to a set of minimum standards that have been prepared and adopted by the American Land Title Association. Additionally, an ALTA survey shows improvements, easements, rights-of-way, and other elements impacting the ownership of land. Generally prepared for commercial properties by civil engineers, these drawings are very helpful to the owners and the architects in establishing their city required site plans.
Architect Legally, this term is reserved for persons who have been registered by the State Board of Technical Registration under the rules and regulations established for professional practice. A registered architect has typically received a professional degree from a university, has gone through an internship program, and has passed the national Architectural Registration Exam, which is a 4-Day exam covering 9 separate divisions. A person who has not passed the ARE and been registered in the State cannot legally call themselves an "Architect".
Bearing Wall A wall that structurally supports any vertical load in addition to it's own weight.
Bid Generally refers to the process of preparing a binding construction cost estimate, based on the construction permit documents, that is to be submitted to the owner or architect for review and selection. Ideally, this process occurs simultaneous to the city plan review process, allowing a contractor to be selected around the same time that a building permit is available. In Public Work projects, the low bidder is usually required to be contracted, but in private work, the owner has the right to accept any bid submitted regardless of the price.
Blue Prints or Blue Line Drawings A term that once described drawings that had been processed by a now obsolete process called Diazo, where light was forced through the original drawing and onto a coated sheet of paper and then run through an ammonia processor transforming the remaining coating (that was not burned off through the light process) into a blue line. The major downside to this process was the requirement that each individual sheet had to be fed by human hand into the blueprint machine. In other words, if your drawing set had 130 sheets, you needed someone to manually feed 130 originals for each and every set of drawings produced. With the improvement in direct digital copy process, the blueprinting process has been replaced with "Xerox" copying.
BOMA Calcs This refers to standards for measuring floor area and are recognized as the industry standard to ensure consistency. They are established by the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA) and establish the standard for Usable Area and Rentable Area among others.
Building Code This is a published document listing the rules and regulations under which the construction must take place. These are typically broken down into each particular discipline. For instance, there will be a code dedicated to electrical systems, and another dedicated to mechanical systems. The primary code is the building safety code. Today, many of the cities have adopted the same code which is the "International Building Code", otherwise know as the IBC. These codes are revised every 3 years and each city is on their own schedule for adopting the revisions.
Building Permit A building permit is the document that signifies that the city has reviewed and approved the proposed work and is ready to perform inspections.
CAD This is a term used to describe "Computer Aided Drafting". In today's world, CAD is widely used as the standard method for producing construction drawings. While there are still a few out there who hand draft their drawings, most modern architects and engineers have adopted CAD as a much more efficient process for producing drawings. AutoCAD is the industry standard software product used for CAD work.
Certificate of Occupancy AKA C of O This is the final document issued by the city that indicates that the building inspector has found the construction to be complete and in compliance with the construction documents and city requirements and thus allows for the full-unrestricted occupancy of the tenant. Often, but not always, some cities will offer a temporary C of O, or "T-C of O", which allows the tenant to move equipment in, but falls short of allowing full occupancy of personnel.
Change Order A written document which modifies the plans and specifications and/or the price of the construction contract. While this term can refer to a design (owner-architect) change, it is most often referring to a change in the construction contract involving the addition of money for an item that has been added to the scope of work. It often is the actual document that is produced by the contractor that outlines the change in the scope of work, associated cost, and a signature line for the owner to approve. The review and approval of a formal change order should always occur before any of the associated material or labor is ordered.
City Submittal This is the process of logging the drawings into the city for plan review. Typically, the city will require a certain number of drawing sets, along with an application form and a plan review fee.
Consulting Engineers It is not typical for architects to have engineers on staff in their offices. Some larger firms do, but it's the exception rather than the rule. When staff engineers are not available, architect subcontract the engineering to consulting engineers who prepare all of their design and documentation on the architect's title block. Ultimately, the architect holds the contract with the owner, so it is their responsibility to coordinate the engineering into their overall drawing set, and to be the communication link between the owner and the engineers. In a typical project, there will be separate consulting engineers for mechanical/plumbing, and for the electrical systems. If the project involves any new structural elements, a structural engineer is required. If the project involves any significant sitework, a civil engineer is required. Finally, a landscape architect is often used for any planting requirements that the city has. The architect typically rolls the fees from each of these consulting engineers into their architectural services proposal that is presented to the owner.
Deferred Submittal This is a term used to describe certain portions of the work that are excluded from the initial drawings submittal with consent from the city. It most often refers to fire sprinkler and alarm work. Many, but not all cities will allow you to defer submittal of the fire drawings, thereby allowing the ultimate hired fire subcontractor to produce their own drawings for review. In these cases, the contractor is required to receive approval on their drawings prior to any work happening on the building's fire systems.
Design Directive This refers to a change in the scope of work that is originated from the owner or architect and is addressed to the general contractor.
Design-Build Process whereby the design and construction is covered under one contract with the owner.
Fluorescent Lighting This is a widely used type of lighting that is inherently very efficient in it's power usage. Typically coming in 2x2 or 2x4 sizes for ACT ceilings, or strip configurations for open ceiling areas. In ACT ceiling systems, these fixtures typically come with prismatic lenses, which are the flush, cheap type, or parabolic louvers which are more like an egg-crate of varying sizes. Fluorescent lights generally can not be dimmed.
General Contractor The General Contractor is the Prime contractor with whom the owner has a contract with.
Header The top framing member of an opening that is found in a wall or partition.
HVAC Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Term generally used to describe the A/C and heating systems in a building.
Incandescent Lighting This is the type of lighting typically found in residential homes, or in specialized locations in commercial construction. In commercial construction these lights can be used as spot lights, or recessed down lights and have the ability to be controlled by a dimmer.;
Legal Description This is a method of describing a particular parcel of land in such a way that it uniquely describes the particular parcel and no other.
Masonry Pronounced just like it is spelled, NOT "Mason-ary" like it often is incorrectly pronounced. This refers to the trade involving concrete block or brick.
Permit Fee The permit fee is due when the permit is picked up, or "pulled" from the city. You'll often hear that the contractor is going down to "pull" the permit. That just means that he is picking it up. The permit fee is typically additional to the plan review fee that is paid when submitting the drawings for plan review.
Permit By Inspection Permit by Inspection is a building permit process offered by some cities that expedites the overall time frame. Typically reserved for projects of smaller size and scope, submitted drawings and specs are routed directly to building inspectors who are also trained to review drawings. In a nutshell, the inspectors to their own plan review, thereby bypassing the typical plan review route, which in some cities like the City of Phoenix, can take more than 8 weeks to get through.
Plan Review This is a process that takes place at the city or town where the project is located. It is a process that involves the review of the construction permit documents that have been prepared by the Architect for the construction of the work. There are typically several plan reviewers involved in this process representing each discipline (ie: building, electrical, mechanical, structural, fire, etc.) Plan reviewers will either approve their area of review, or "redline" changes that are required. If changes or additional information is required, the architect is notified and revisions are made before resubmitting the drawings for "2nd Review". This process continues until all drawings are approved for building permit. It is reasonable to expect a 2nd review on tenant improvement projects, and even more on ground-up projects. Each city or town handles this process differently, so it's best to ask your architect about what is to be expected in your particular area.
Plan Review Fee Often based on the "valuation" or estimated construction cost of the project, this is a fee that is typically collected by the city when drawings are initially submitted for plan review.
Punch List This is a list of items that still need to be completed in order for the project to be considered complete. This list is typically generated during a walk-through of the project near completion.
RCP This stands for Reflected Ceiling Plan and describes the architectural drawing that specifies how the ceiling is to be built, much like how the Floor Plan describes how the floor is to be built. The RCP drawing is also used as a background for many other drawings from the consulting engineers ie: mechanical plan, lighting plan, sprinkler plan, etc.
Redline A "redline" is a change that has been required by the city plan reviewer, often in the form of notes or sketches, written in red ink, directly on the drawing sheet where the change is required. You'll often hear about the "redline set", which is the entire roll of drawings that have been redlined by the various plan reviewers. These are typically picked up by the architect and returned to the city on the resubmittal along with the revised sheets.
RFP Request for Proposal. This is an acronym that is used throughout our industry when an individual or ownership group publishes a notice that they are looking for bids on design services.
Right-Of-Way This is a parcel of land granted by deed or easement for construction and maintenance according to a designated use. This may include highways, streets, canals, ditches, or other uses.
Sheet Vinyl This is a vinyl flooring product that comes in a roll and is welded at the seams with a chemical or a heating process, resulting in a virtually seamless floor. This flooring is used in areas where water is likely to be present on the floor.
Sill The bottom framing member of an opening that is found in a wall or partition, or the framing member that rests on the slab and is anchored to the foundation.
Soffit A building element, often constructed from drywall material, that serves as a transition element between the overall space and the ceiling. Soffits can be used to accent areas, or provide an element into which specialized lighting can be installed.
Space Plan This is a term used to describe the initial floor plan that is put together by the architect proposing a solution for the layout. Often times, the space planning process involves several schemes that are continually revised until a final layout is arrived at. The final space plan typically is used as a basis for all future work including the construction permit drawings.
Specifications AKA "Specs" These are written descriptions of how materials are to be installed, how jobsites are to be maintained, etc. They are found incorporated onto the drawing sheets, or in a separate letter size manual, depending on the complexity of the job and architect's preference. You'll often hear architects and contractors refer to the "plans and specs".
Subcontractor A Subcontractor is a vendor or contractor who supplies a portion of the work, and is contracted directly to the General Contractor, ie: electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc.
VCT Vinyl Composition Tile - This material typically comes in 12x12 tiles and is widely used in commercial construction as a durable flooring material.
Waste Line This is a plastic pipe used to collect and drain sewage waste.