Construction Terminology Glossary

Definitions of Construction Terms

To help you better understand the construction process, we’ve put together a glossary of construction terms that we may use at Jos Schmitt Construction. *Please note that construction terms and definitions may vary based on each company and services provided.

Adaptive Reuse

The conversion of an existing structure for a purpose other than which it was originally designed, often preserving the building’s historic elements while adapting it for modern use.

Addendum (Addenda)

This is a formally written document that modifies the original contract documents. It acts as an extension or amendment to the initial agreement.

Alternate Bid

An alternate bid lets you propose changing materials or methods for specific parts of the project, affecting the final cost.

Architects Supplemental Information (ASI)

Think of this as an architect’s “post-it note” on the blueprints. It clarifies something, fixes a mistake, or makes minor adjustments to the plans. It’s a way to fine-tune things without completely redrawing everything.

As-Built Drawings

Updated drawings that reflect any changes made during the construction process, providing an accurate representation of the completed project.

Assignable Square Footage (ASF)

Assignable Square Footage (ASF) refers to the functional area within a commercial space, excluding areas such as closets and hallways. It represents the square footage allocated to the primary activities occurring within the space.


A formal offer, usually in response to a request for proposal (RFP) or invitation to bid, outlining the cost of performing a construction project.

Bidding Documents

These are the official instructions for construction companies, telling them what to build, how much it should cost, and the rules they need to follow.


Detailed architectural and engineering drawings that serve as a guide for construction, including floor plans, elevations, and specifications.

Building Envelope

The building envelope refers to all the structural and non-structural elements that separate the conditioned interior environment of a building from the unconditioned exterior environment.

Building Manager

This is the building’s head housekeeper, making sure everything runs smoothly and fixing any problems that pop up. They’re like the captain of the ship, keeping things afloat.

Campus Master Plan

Imagine a blueprint for the entire campus, showing where buildings will go, how they’ll connect, and how the space will be used. It’s the long-term vision for the campus’s growth and development.

Change Order

A written order that modifies the original construction contract, detailing changes in the work, specifications, or other project aspects.

Cohesive Construction

An approach emphasizing collaboration and integration among project team members to achieve a seamless and efficient construction process.

Concrete Mix Design

The process of proportioning ingredients to create a concrete mix with specific strength, durability, and workability characteristics.

Constructability Review

Before you start building, it’s wise to have someone double-check the blueprints. A constructability review is like hiring an expert to examine the plans and make sure everything is accurate, feasible, and well-detailed. This can save time and money by avoiding construction mistakes later on.

Construction Documents (CD Phase)

Think of these as the blueprints for building your dream house. Construction documents, also known as CDs, are detailed plans and instructions that show exactly how to construct the physical spaces of a building. These include drawings, specifications (lists of materials and methods), and any add-ons (changes made during the planning process).


The key person/entity responsible for executing the physical work required to complete a project. They can be individuals or companies, and their involvement takes a variety of forms depending on the project and its delivery method.

Critical Path

The sequence of tasks in a project that determines the minimum time needed for its completion, often used in project scheduling.

CSI Master Format

Imagine a giant filing cabinet for all things construction. The CSI Master Format is like the labeling system for that cabinet, using numbers and titles to organize information in a standard way. This makes finding things easier and communication smoother for everyone involved in a project.

Date of Substantial Completion

The day the building is ready for its main purpose, even if minor details remain.


A project delivery method where a single entity, often a design-build firm, is responsible for both the design and construction phases of a project, promoting collaboration and efficiency.


The removal of groundwater or surface water from a construction site to create a dry work environment.


A building material used to create interior walls and ceilings, consisting of gypsum plaster pressed between sheets of paper.

Earned Value Management (EVM)

A project management technique that measures project performance by comparing planned work with the actual work completed.


An approximation of the project’s total cost based on preliminary information. It’s not exact, but it gives you a ballpark figure to work with.


The process of removing soil or rock to create a void in the ground for construction purposes.

Fast-Track Construction

An approach that allows construction to begin before the design is fully complete, enabling a project to be completed more quickly by overlapping design and construction phases.


The substructure of a building that supports the structure above, typically consisting of footings, piers, and a slab or crawl space.


The structural skeleton of a building, including the framework of walls, floors, and roofs.

General Conditions

In construction, general conditions encompass essential operations, procedures, and indirect costs crucial for project success but not directly tied to construction tasks. These conditions, outlined in the construction contract and project specifications, include items such as project management, temporary site facilities, safety compliance, waste removal, and other necessary components.

Green Building

The practice of designing and constructing buildings with a focus on energy efficiency, sustainability, and environmental responsibility.


A mixture of cement, water, and sand used to fill gaps, reinforce structures, or support foundations.

Gross Square Footage (GSF)

The total enclosed area within the external walls of a building, measured from the outside face of the exterior walls on all floors. It includes all enclosed spaces, regardless of their function or intended use.

Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP)

A GMP is a fixed maximum cost agreed upon by the owner and contractor before anything begins.


The non-plant, hard elements in landscape architecture, such as paths, walls, and patios, often constructed using materials like concrete, brick, or stone.

Hazardous Waste

A type of waste that is dangerous to humans or the environment if not handled properly. Construction projects need to know how to dispose of it safely.

Historic District

A designated area containing a concentration of historic buildings, structures, and sites that are protected and regulated by local preservation ordinances.

Heavy Equipment

Large machines and vehicles used in construction, such as bulldozers, excavators, and cranes.


Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems that control the temperature and air quality within a building.


A steel beam shaped like the letter “I,” commonly used in construction to provide support for floors and roofs.


The material used to reduce the transfer of heat, sound, or electricity in buildings, contributing to energy efficiency and comfort.


Horizontal structural members used to support a ceiling or floor, typically arranged parallel to one another and supported by larger beams or walls.

Kick Plate

A protective metal or wood plate installed at the bottom of a door to prevent damage from kicks, impacts, or other wear.

Land Use Planning

The systematic process of allocating and organizing land for different uses, such as residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational, to promote efficient and sustainable development.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

Think of LEED as a green thumbs-up for buildings. It’s a rating system that recognizes buildings designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. This means using eco-friendly materials and practices, creating energy-efficient designs, and minimizing environmental impact.


A horizontal structural element (often a beam) placed above an opening (such as a window or door) to support the load from the structure above.


The construction of structures using individual units (bricks, concrete blocks, or stone) laid and bound together with mortar.

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing)

The collective term for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in a building, encompassing heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and plumbing components.

Net Zero Energy Building

A building designed to produce as much energy as it consumes over a year, typically through the use of renewable energy sources and energy-efficient technologies.

Notice of Completion

This official notice lets everyone involved in a project know it’s finished, starting a specific timeframe for any potential claims or disagreements.

Plan Check

Before construction begins, plans are rigorously reviewed by experts to ensure they meet safety, engineering, and planning regulations, like a building’s structural integrity or fire safety measures.

Preliminary Design (PD Phase)

The PD phase is like drawing a rough sketch of your house, showing the basic layout of rooms, doors, windows, and walls. It’s not the final plan yet, but it gives everyone a good idea of the overall vision.


The act or process of maintaining and protecting historic buildings, structures, and sites in order to retain their cultural and historical significance.

Project Architect

This person leads the team that creates the blueprints, specifications, and construction documents, ensuring your building vision becomes a reality.

Project Manager and Management

The person who coordinates all aspects of the project, from contractors and budget to timeline and quality control, ensuring everything runs smoothly and meets the goals set by the project sponsors and review team.

Project Review Team

This group brings together expertise from various departments to collaboratively assess project scope, ensuring it aligns with long-term plans for campus buildings and their operation, maintenance, and development.

Punch List

A document that lists any remaining work or items requiring correction at the end of a construction project before final completion and occupancy. It serves as a roadmap for completing the final touches and ensuring everything meets expectations.


A horizontal structural member in a roof, providing support for the rafters and transferring roof loads to the primary structure.

Quality Control (QC)

The process of ensuring that construction materials, workmanship, and the finished product meet specified standards and comply with regulations.

Quantity Takeoff

The process of estimating the quantity of materials needed for a construction project, often used to determine costs and create a bill of quantities.


The external corner stones or bricks in a masonry wall, often larger or more decorative than the surrounding stones, adding visual emphasis.

Rebar (Reinforcing Bar)

Steel bars or mesh used in concrete construction to provide tensile strength, helping to reinforce and prevent cracking.


The process of upgrading a building to be more modern, efficient, or better structure. Sometimes, it can be a complete overhaul, while other times it’s just a fresh coat of paint and upgraded fixtures.

Request for Information (RFI)

An RFI is a contractor’s way of asking the owner or architect for clarification or missing details in the plans after the contract is signed.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is like an invitation for construction companies to compete for a project by submitting proposals outlining their ideas and prices.

Retaining Wall

A structure designed to resist the lateral pressure of soil, often used to create level surfaces on sloped terrain.


The process of upgrading or modifying existing structures or systems to improve performance, energy efficiency, or compliance with current standards.


Temporary structures, often made of metal or wood, that are erected to support workers and materials during construction, maintenance, or repair of buildings.

Schedule of Values

This document shows how the total cost is divided among different parts of the project, helping everyone track progress and payments.

Schematic Design (SD Phase)

The SD phase is like drawing a more detailed plan of your house, showing the actual sizes and proportions of rooms, hallways, and other spaces. This helps everyone understand how the different parts of the house will fit together and function.

Scope Changes

Adjusting the original plan of work due to unforeseen circumstances. They might affect cost and timeline, but only sometimes.

Scope of Work

This document outlines the specific tasks and responsibilities agreed upon by everyone involved, ensuring everyone’s on the same page about what needs to be done. (often in line with the blueprint)


The minimum distance required by zoning regulations between a structure and a property line or between structures on the same property.


The temporary support system, often with props or braces, used to prevent soil movement or building collapse during excavation or construction.

Site Analysis

The process of evaluating a section of land to determine its suitability for a specific development project, considering factors such as topography, soil conditions, and environmental considerations.


Detailed descriptions of the materials, methods, and quality standards expected for every aspect of the building. They’re like instructions for the builders, ensuring everyone is on the same page about how to create the house you envisioned.

Strategic Plan

A roadmap for your building’s future. This plan outlines long-term goals and priorities for managing and maintaining campus facilities, ensuring they serve the needs of the community for years to come.


A professional or firm hired by a primary consultant (sometimes a designer) to provide specialized services as part of a larger project. They function as second-tier consultants, supporting the prime consultant in delivering their services to the client.


A specialized contractor hired by the main contractor to perform specific tasks or provide specific services within the scope of a construction project. They function as second-tier contractor, supporting the prime contractor in delivering their services to the client.


The process of inviting contractors to submit competitive bids for a construction project based on detailed project specifications and drawings.

Tie Beam

A horizontal beam that connects two or more columns in a structure, providing additional stability and helping to distribute loads.

Value Engineering

Analyzing construction methods and materials to find ways to achieve the desired outcome while saving money or resources.


A thin layer of decorative facing material applied to the surface of a wall or other structure, often for aesthetic purposes.


Wooden paneling applied to the lower part of an interior wall, often for decorative or protective purposes.


The application of materials or techniques to prevent the penetration of water into structures, protecting against water damage and deterioration.


The process of making a building more resistant to the effects of weather, typically through insulation, sealing gaps, and other measures to enhance energy efficiency.

Weep Hole

Small openings in a wall or structure that allow the drainage of water, preventing moisture buildup and potential damage.


The process of joining two or more pieces of metal by melting and fusing them together, often used in the construction of steel structures.

Yield Strength

The amount of stress a material can withstand without permanent deformation, this is a critical factor in determining the structural integrity of construction materials.

Zero Lot Line

A building design where one or more sides of the structure are built directly on or very close to the property boundary, maximizing the use of available space.


The division of land into zones with specific regulations and restrictions for the type of construction and land use allowed in each zone, as set by local authorities.

Zoning Ordinance

Local regulations that specify the permitted uses, density, setbacks, and other requirements for properties within a specific geographic area.