Glossary of Design and Construction Terms

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Additional Services: These are services which are beyond the scope of the original contract.

Adjacency Requirements: Programming information concerning optimal functional proximity of various personnel groups and equipment areas in a company. This information is a major element of the criteria used in space planning.

Ambient Lighting: The “general” lighting within a space, as opposed to the “specific”, or task lighting.

ANSI: American National Standards Institute, Inc., an American National Standard implies a concensus of those substantially concerned with its scope and provisions. An American National Standard in intended as a guide to aid the manufacturer, the consumer and the general public.

ANSI / BOMA Z65.1 – 1996: The recognized standard method for measuring floor area in office buildings.

Area Takeoff: The tabulation of area in square feet or yardage. This information is used to quantify spaces in planning and budgeting efforts.

ASTM: American Society of Testing and Materials, organized in 1898, ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world. It provides as forum for the development and publication of voluntary concensus standards, for materials, products, systems and services. Many Specifications for construction and finish elements refer to ASTM test methods.

Asbestos Abatement: Removal of building products containing asbestos; as asbestos is deemed to be a harmful substance, the removal must be done by qualified specialists to protect users, neighbors and themselves from coming into contact with or breathing air that might be contaminated.


Bay: The space between column center lines. Bay depth or width is the dimension between column centers and can be a critical determinant in Space Planning.

Bearing Wall: A structural, as opposed to non-structural, wall which supports any load from above.

Bidding: The process of obtaining from various approved contractors or suppliers proposals to supply the labor, equipment and materials for the project, or portions of the project.

Bidding Documents: In addition to the Construction Documents, the proposed form of contract and bidding instructions are included. These are the documents a contractor uses to develop his proposal to perform his work.

Block Diagram: Initial form of space allocation in which the spatial requirements determined in the programming phase are shown. This diagram shows, in correct proportion, departments and their proposed locations within the space.

BOMA: Buildings Owners and Managers Association International, the premier trade association of the office building industry. Founded in 1907, BOMA International’s mission is to actively and responsibly represent and promote the commercial real estate industry’s interest through effective leadership and advocacy; the collection, analysis and dissemination of information; and professional development.

Budgetting: The process of estimating costs associated with the project. Initially, the estimate may be based upon previous projects of similar scope and quality. Subsequent budgets are refined with more specific information.

Building Common Area: The method of measuring the areas of a building that provide services to building tenants but which are not included in the Office Area or Store Area of any specific tenant. Specifically excluded from Building Common Areas are Floor Common Areas, parking space, portions of loading docks outside the building line, and major vertical penetration’s.

Building Department: The division of the primary governing body (usually city of county) having jurisdiction over a construction project. The Building Department will usually require submittal plans for checking conformance to planning, building, and fire codes. The Building Department dispatches inspectors to visit the project periodically to observe construction.

Building Standards: A compilation of construction elements, materials, details and Specifications that are building specific. Building standards are used by building owners or managers to offer consistent quality while controlling costs for tenant improvement construction.


Consultant: One who gives professional advice or services for a fee. Consultants typically associated with an interior project usually include specialists in fields such as interior design, graphic design, lighting design, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, acoustical, structural engineering, illustration, computers, programming, etc.

Consultant Coordination: The Process of orchestrating non-staff professionals with special expertise required for the project and the incorporation of their work into the Construction Documents.

Contract Administration: During the construction phase of the project, progress observation, review of shop drawings and general review to determine conformance of the construction to approved construction documents.

Contract Furniture: Furniture obtained by contract through dealers or manufacturers. This term frequently implies that the furniture has been developed for commercial use which, through testing, is considered adequate to meet the safety regulations and rigors of a public environment.

Core: The portion of the building containing a concentration of components such as elevators, elevator lobbies, restrooms, equipment rooms, etc.

Critical Path Method: A planning technique whereby a construction project is scheduled. It maps which events are “critical”, or those which must be complete before a subsequent step which, if delayed, would directly result in a delay in the project. It permits determination of the relative significance of each event, and establishes the optimum sequence and duration of operations. Also known as C.P.M.

Curtain Wall: The non-structural exterior skin of a building.


Dedicated Circuit: A single electrical circuit which has its own circuit breaker, used where interference from other equipment should be minimized.

Demolition Plan: Part of the Construction Documents; usually drawn in the same scale and orientation as the Partition Plan. It identifies components which will be removed prior to construction.

Demising Wall: A partition separating individual tenants on a multi-tenant floor. Usually the wall runs from the floor to the structural ceiling above (sometimes called “slab to slab”) with gypsum board on both sides. It may contain sound insulation.

Design Development: The process of refining the approved conceptual design drawings to finer levels of detail prior to the production of the Construction Documents.

Digital Presentation: A presentation to review the design elements utilized in the project (i.e. concepts, space plans, color, materials, finishes and furnishings).

Details: Illustrations normally part of the working drawings but drawn at a larger scale than the other coordinating drawings, depicting a greater detail specific components and their juxtaposition.


Elevations: Usually drawn at a larger scale than the Partition Plan. These drawings are vertical projections of walls inside the building drawn as if standing within the space and looking square at the wall. Typically shown are: doors, windows, soffits, cabinets, trim, millwork, fixtures, and other miscellaneous environmental.

Exit: The continuous and unobstructed path one travels from a space to a public street or alley outside the building. May include reception rooms, corridors, stairways, elevators, courtyards, etc.


Field Report: A written report documenting progress of the project during construction and/or installation. Information provided usually includes: date of report, people present at site, and notes regarding the work in progress with particular attention to schedule and issues requiring verification or action.

Finish Boards: Boards prepared to illustrate proposed finishes. The boards will sometimes have photographs or graphic descriptions, but will frequently have physical samples of items, such as wallcoverings, carpets, laminates, tiles, stone, etc.

Finish Plan: Usually drawn at same scale as the Partition Plan. It shows the primary building elements for reference and graphically locates the individual materials and finishes.

Finish Schedule: As opposed to the Finish Plan, which is graphic, the Finish Schedule provides a written description of the proposed finishes. It cross references the Finish Plan.

Floor Common Area: A method of measuring areas of a building floor such as washrooms, janitorial closets, eletrical rooms, telephone rooms, mechanical rooms, elevator lobbies, and public corridors which are available primarily for the of tenants on that floor.

Foot Candle: Foot candle is a quantitive unit used for measuring the degree of illumination. It is used in the determination of conformance to lighting standards and Specifications. One foot candle is equal to one lumen of light per square foot area.

Furniture Installation Coordination: The coordination of the installation of all of the movable, as opposed to built-in, furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Typically included tasks are: expediting of orders, inspection of delivered goods, scheduling of delivery and installation, and coordination of the various personnel involved.

Furniture Plan: Usually drawn at the same scale as the Partition Plan, the Furniture Plan locates and identifies the new and existing furniture in the proposed arrangement.


Glazing: Clear or translucent light-transmitting materials. Examples may be made of glass, plastic, fiberglass, etc., and may be tinted, obscure, beveled, fire-rated, wire-reinforced, or bullet resistant.

Graphic Design: As it relates to interior design, is the design and documentation of a functional and compatible directional signage and/or corporate identity program for the project.

Gross Building Area: A method of measuring the total constructed area of the building. Unless the building is leased to a single tenant, real estate professionals do not use this method of measurement. The Gross Building Area of the building is usually computed by measuring to the outside finished surface of permenant out building walls, without any deductions. All enclosed floors of the building, including basements, garages, mechanical equipment floors, penthouses, and the like are calculated. Gross Building Area is often referred to as the construction area.

Gypsum Board: A sheathing for interior partitions, walls or ceiling composed of a core of gypsum, a compound of lime, sulfur and water, covered on each side by a heavy kraft paper. (Also called “gyp board”, “sheet rock”, “drywall”, or “wallboard”.)


Handicap Requirements: A series of regulations for making sites, buildings, and facilities within them accessible and usable by the physically handicapped. Title 24 of the California Administrative Code is the State building code and contains a number of provisions for accomplishing accessibility.


Inventory of Furniture of Equipement: A count of all existing furniture and/or equipment. Frequently, the condition of each piece is documented, sometimes with photographs. The inventory can be used to determine which items, if any, will be used in the proposed project.




Lease Analysis: A lease analysis is a review of the lease with particular attention to rental rates, areas, methods of computation, scheduling, and details regarding payment for construction of improvements.

Legend: Depicts and identifies symbols used in the Working Drawings. For example, the legend on the Power and Telephone Plan would identify receptacles, switches, etc.

Lighting Plan: Drawn in the same scale and orientation as the Partition Plan, the Lighting Plan locates and identifies the ceiling-mounted light fixtures. This information may be incorporated into a Reflected Ceiling Plan.


Millwork: Built-in counters, shelving, cabinetry, wall or ceiling paneling, mouldings, etc. usually fabricated off-site and made of wood and/or similar materials.

Move-Coordination: Optional services which include scheduling of contractors, moving and delivery crews, and installers to assist the owner in occupying the space.



Optional Services: Services not normally provided in a typical contract for interior design services. These services are frequently provided by the designer but are sometimes provided by other consultants. These may include: historical and future trends analysis, lease review and negotiation, building evaluation, inventory of existing furniture, accessories, custom design, signage/documentation, artwork program, interior plants, record drawings, jobsite visits, changes, administration of outside contracts, or design review with governmental agencies.


Partition Plan: Part of the Construction Documents. A drawings in the same scale and orientation as the Space Plan. It is used to locate most of the built elements.

Partition Wall: Partitions are walls which span the vertical distance from the floor to the underside of the ceiling, or sometimes beyond, within the tenant space and are non-structural, or non-load-bearing. “Low” partitions run from the floor slab to some point below the ceiling (due to code restrictions, low partitions are frequently limited a maximum height of 60″)

Perimeter Wall: The exterior wall of a building which may be structural (load bearing) or non-structural (see Curtain Wall).

Plan Check: Prior to issuance of permits, a review of proposed plans by a govermental agency (Building and Safety, Fire Department, Handicap, etc.) to determine conformance to applicable codes.

Power and Telephone Plan: Drawn at the same scale as the Space Plan showing major fixed elements for reference. The designer may provide a plan locating some components critical to the clients request or to the design intent, with a comprehensive plan provided by the electrical engineer. Typically delineated are: equipment rooms, receptacles, switches, light fixtures, (if not shown on a separate lighting plan), phone jacks, smoke detectors, computer system and security system components.

Programming: The initial stage of a project in which spatial requirements are determined considering numbers and classifications of personnel, size of departments, anticipated future expansions or reductions, and required adjacencies.



Raceway: A closed connecting channel or space in an accessible panel used to carry electrical power and outlets, voice or data cable within a workstation.

Record Drawings: Construction drawings revised to show significant changes made during the construction process; usually based on marked-up prints, drawings and other data furnished by the contractor or the designer.

Reflected Ceiling Plan: Drawn in the same scale and orientation as the Partition Plan. Usually locates light fixtures (See Lighting Plan), ceiling systems, soffits, sometimes electrical and mechanical components, and special conditions. Describes material and finishes.

Rentable Area: A method of measuring the usable area of an Office Area or Store Area with its associated share of Floor Common Areas and Building Common Areas. Rentable Area is determined by multiplying the Usable Area of an Office Area or Store Area by the R/U Ratio. Real estate professionals use this figure to analyze the economic potential of a building. In some cases, the Rentable Area of a floor is fixed for the life of the building. The Rentable Area of a floor is usually computed by measuring to the inside finished surface of the dominant protion of the permanent outer buidling walls, excluding any major vertical penetrations of the floor (such as stairs, ducts, and elevators). Usually, no deductions are made for columns or projections.

R/U Ratio: The conversion factor when applied to the Usable Area, gives the Rentable Area of an Office Area or Store Area.


Schedule: A table that organizes and identifies materials and components, including: doors, hardware, windows, finishes, materials, fixtures, fitting, appliances, and other equipment. Information usually includes size, type, manufacturer, material, color, finish, other technical data and special conditions. A Schedule can also be a time-line showing critical dates for assuring a timely completion of the project.

Schematic Plan: A Schematic Plan is a preliminary Space Plan showing the proposed form and location of the primary components of the space. It provides, in plan view, a graphic depiction of the architectural elements, the furniture, and their interrelationship.

Section: Sections are views of vertical planes, “sliced” through an object. It graphically describes an object in its third dimension (vertical) showing various components and their juxtaposition. Typical materials are located and identified. Some areas are noted and enlarged elsewhere for clarification.

Shop Drawings: Drawings furnished by suppliers and manufacturers of various components and equipment. They must conform to the design intent of the Construction Documents and original drawings, but are not part of them as such. Other submittals may include drawings, diagrams, illustrations, schedules, performance charts, brochures, and other data prepared by the contractor or subcontractor, manufacturer, supplier or distributor, which illustrate how specific portions of the work shall be fabricated or installed.

Space Plan: A preliminary layout which graphically illustrates basic needs, future growth and adjacencies as defined by the project statement. It is drawn as if the building were “sliced” horizontally, the room and ceiling removed and viewed from above. It indicates placement of walls and type of construction, wall penetrations (doors, windows), defined exit ways, circulation within the area being planned, support areas (such as file rooms, libraries, raised floor computer areas, etc), along with their relationship to existing building elements. Furniture and equipment layouts will provide an understanding of the general use of the spaces being presented.

Space Planning: In the space planning phase, the approved Block Diagram is developed into a space plan. The space plan is a drawing that shows the proposed space in a plan view, in scale, delineating the primary elements of the space (architectural features, furniture, and equipment) and their interrelationship.

Specifications: A written, rather than graphic, description of the materials and workmanship required by the contract. These are “cross-referenced” by the related working drawings. The material contains the standard and special provisions pertaining to the quantities and qualities of materials to be furnished under the contract.

Stacking Plan: Used when more than one floor is required by a tenant, identifies on a per-floor basis each proposed major work group within an organization on multiple floors.

Store Area: A method of measuring the area of a building suitable for retail occupancy. The Store Area is computed by measuring the area enclosed by: the building line in the case of street frontage: the finished surface of the Store Area side of corridor and other permanent walls; the dominant portion or a major vertical penetration; and the center of partitions that separate the store area from adjoining Store Areas, Office Areas and/or Building Common Areas.


Task Lighting: Localized lighting of a work surface, emitting from an under-cabinet fixture or portable light fixture, usually individually controlled, as opposed to general, or ambient, lighting.

Temporary Certification of Occupancy: Documentation issued by the governing agency that the construction project is complete and correct enough to allow users to safely inhabit the premises, but only on a conditional basis until the “final” Certification of Occupancy is obtained.

Tenant Improvement: Construction work in a building aside from the shell and core building work, usually of a store, and office or a suite of offices.


Usable Area: A method of measuring an Office Area, Store Area or Building Common Area of a multi-tenant building. The total amount of Usable Area on a multitenant floor can vary over the life of a building as floors are remodeled. The Usable Area of an office is computed by measuring to the finished surface of the office side of the corridor and other permanent walls, to the center of the partitions that separate the office from adjoining Usable Areas, and to the inside finished surface of the dominant portion of the permanent outer building walls. No deductions are made for columns or projections necessary to the building.



Working Drawings: These drawings delineate the intent of the proposed design, for the use of the client, contractors, and suppliers in coordinating the completion of the project. Working Drawings are also referred to as Contract Documents.