Glossary of Architectural & Construction Terminology

(source:  Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, Third Edition, as edited by Cyril M. Harris, McGraw-Hill, copyright 2000)


Addendum: A written or graphic instrument issued prior to the execution of the contract which modifies or interprets the bidding documents, including drawings, and specifications, by additions, deletions, clarifications or corrections; becomes part of the contract documents when the construction contract is executed. Plural form: Addenda

American Institute of Architects (AIA): A professional organization, founded in 1857, whose purpose is to establish and promote professionalism and accountability on the part of its members, and to promote architectural design excellence.

Americans with Disabilties Act (ADA): A federal law, enacted in 1990, requiring that public accommodations be accessible to those having physical disabilities; this law mandates that existing physical barriers be replaced or modified so there are no impediments to access by the physically disabled.

Agreement: 1. A meeting of minds. 2. A legally enforceable promise or promises to between two or among several persons. 3. On a construction project, the document stating the essential terms of the construction contract which incorporates by reference the other contract documents. 4. The document setting forth the terms of the contract between the architect and the owner or between the architect and a consultant. 5. An arrangement indicating the intent of a contract but not necessarily fulfilling all the enforceable provions of it. See also: Contract.

Architect: 1. A person trained and experienced in the design of buildings and the coordination and supervision of all aspects fot he contruction of buildings. 2. A designation reserved, usually by law, for a person or organization professionally qualified and duly licensed to perform architectural services, including analysis of project requirements, creation and development of the project design, preparation of drawings, specifications, and bidding requirements and general adminstration of the construction contract. An architect usually renders services that require the application art, science, and the aesthetics of design to the construction of buildings, including their components and appurtenances and the spaces around them, taking into account the safeguarding of life, health, property, and public welfare; often includes consultation, evaluation, planning, the provision of preliminary studies, designs, and construction documents; and may also include construction management, and the administaration of construction documents.

Basic Services: The services performed by an architect during the following five phases of a project: schematic design; design development; construction documents; bidding or negotiation; and contract administration.

Bid: 1. An offer to preform the work described in a contract at a specified cost. 2. A complete and properly signed proposal to do the work, or designated portion thereof for the sums stipulated therein, supported by data called for by the bidding requirements.

Bidder: One who submits a bid for a prime contract with the owner, as distinct from a sub-bidder who submits a bid to a prime bidder. A bidder is not a contractor on a specific project until a contact exists between him and the owner.

Bidding Documents: The advertisement or invitation to bid, instructions to bidders, the bid form, and the proposed contract documents including any addenda issued prior to receipt of bids.

Bidding or Negotiation Phase: The foruth pase of the architect’s basic services, during which competitive bid or negotiated proposals are sought as the basis for awarding a contract.

Bidding Requirements: Thos documents providing information and establishing procedures and conditions for the submission of bids. They consist of the notice to bidders or advertisement for bids, instructions to bidderws, invitation to bid, and sample forms. See also: Bidding Documents.

Bond: The financial guarantee by a surety company that work will be completed as described in a contract.

Builder: The individual or firm who is the employer of craftsman required for erecting a building in accordance with the plans and specifications prepared by the architect and who carries the responsibility for doing so.

Building: A more or less enclosed and permanent structure for housing, commerce, industry, etc., distinguised from mobile structures and those not intended for occupancy.

Building Code: A collection of rules and regulations adopted by authorities having appropriate jurisdiction to control the design and construction of buildings, alteration, repair, quality of materials, use and occupancy, and related factors of buildings within their jurisdiction; contains minimum architectural, structural, and mechanical standards for sanitation, public health, welfare, safety, and the provision of light and air.

Building Permit: A written authorization to an applicant (usually a builder) for a specific project allowing him to proceed with construction; granted by the municipal aganecy having jurisdication after plans have been filed, reviewed.

Building Trades: Specialized skills connected with building construction, such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing, plastering, etc.

Certificate of Occupancy: A document issued by governmental authority certifying that all or a designated portion of a building complies with the provisions of applicable statutes and regulations, and permitting occupancy for its designated use. Also called an occupancy permit or a certificate of use and occupancy permit.

Change: In building construction, an authorized alteration or deviation from the design or scope of work as originally defined by the contract documents.

Change Order: A written order to the contractor signed by the owner and the architect, issued after the execution of the contract, authorizing a change in the work or an adjustment in the contract sum or the contract time as originally defined by the contract documents; may add to, subtract from, or vary the scope of work. A change order may be signed by the architect alone (provided he has written authority fromt eh owner for such procedure and that a copy of such written authority is furnished to the contractor upon request), or by the contractor if he agrees to the adjustment in the contract sum or the contract time.

Conditions of the Contract: Those portions of the contract documents which define, set forth, or relate to: contract terminology; the rights and responsibilities of the contracting parties and of others involved in the work; requirements for safety and for compliance with laws and regulations; general procedures for the orderly prosecution and management of the work; payments to the contractor; and similar provisions of a general, nontechnical nature.

Construction: 1. All the on-site work done in building or altering structures, from land clearance through completion, including excavation, erection, and the assembly and installation of components and equipment. 2. A structure. 3. The manner in which something is built.

Construction Budget: 1. The sum established by the owner as available for construction of the project. 2. The stipulated highest acceptable bid price or, in the case of a project involving multiple construction contracts, the stipulated aggregate total of the highest acceptable bid prices.

Construction Cost: The cost of all the construction portions of a project, generally based upon the sum of the construction contract(s) and other direct construction cost; does not include the compensation paid to the architect and consultants, the cost of the land, right-of-way, or other costs which are defined in the contract documents as being the responsbility of the owner.

Construction Documents Phase: The third phase of the architect’s basic services. In this phase the archtiect prepares from the approved design development documents, for approval by the owner, the working drawings and specifications and the necessary bidding infromation. In this phase, the architect also assists the owner in the preparation of bidding forms, the conditions of the contract, and the form of agreement between the owner and the contractor.

Construction Phase: Administration of the Construction Contract: The fifth and final phase of the architect’s basic services which includes the architect’s general administration of the construction contract(s). See also: Contract Administration.

Consultant: An individual or organization engaged by the owner or the architect to render professional consulting services complementing or supplementing the architect’s services.

Contract: A legally enforceable promise or agreement between two or among several persons. See also: Agreement.

Contract Administration: The duties and responsibilities of the architect during the construction phase.

Contract Documents: Those documents that comprise a contract, e.g., in a construction contract, the owner-contractor agreement, conditions of the contract (general, supplementary, and other conditions), plans and/or drawings, specifications, all addenda, modifications, and changes thereto, together with any other items stipulated as being specifically included.

Contract Sum: The price stated in the owner-contractor agreement, which is the total amoung payable by the owner to the contractor for the performance of the work, under the contract documents; can be adjusted only by a change order.

Contract Time: The period of time established in the contract documents, pursuant to other agreement between the parties, or by operation of law, within which the work must be completed.

Contractor: One who undertakes responsibility for the performance of construction work, including the provision of labor and materials, in accordance with plans and specifications and under a contract specifying cost and schedule for conpletion of the work; the person or organization responsible for performing the work.

Contractor’s Affidavit: A certified statement of the contractor, properly notarized, relating to payments of debts and claims, release of liens, or similar matters requiring specific eveidend for the protection of the owner. See also: Noncollusion Affidavit.

Design: 1. To compose a plan for a building. 2. The architectural concept of a building, as represented by plans, elevations, renderings, and other drawings. 3. Any visual concept of a man-made object, as of a work of art or a machine.

Design Development Phase: The second phase of the architect’s basic services. In this phase, the archtiect prepares (from the approved schematic design studies, for approval by the owner) the design development documents consisting of drawings and other documents to fix and describe the size and character of the entire project as to structural, mechanical and electrical systems, materials and such other essentials as may be appropriate; the architect also submits to the owner a further statement of probable cost. See also: Statement of Probable Cost

Division: One of sixteen basic organizational subdivisions use in the AIA uniform system for construction specifications, data filing, and cost accounting.

General Conditions: That part of the contract ducuments (of the contract for construction) which sets forth many fot he rights, responsibilities and realtionships of the parties, involved. See also: Conditions of the Contract.

General Contract: 1 Under the single contract system, the contract between the owner and the contractor for construction of the entire work. 2. Under the separate contract system, the contract between the owner and a contractor for contruction of architectural and structural work.

General Contractor: The prime contractor who is responsible for most of the work at the construction site, including that performed by the subcontractors.

Inspection List: A list of items of work to be corrected by the contractor.

Modification: 1. A written amendment to the contract document signed by both parties. 2. A change order. 3. A written or graphic interpretation issued by the architect. 4. A written order for a minor change in the work, issued by the architect.

Owner: 1. The architect’s client and party to the owner-architect agreement. 2. One who has the legal right or title to a piece of property.

Owner-Architect Agreement: A contract between the architect and client for professional services.

Owner-Contractor Agreement: A contract between the owner and a contractor for a construction project.

Prime Contract: A contract between the owner and contractor for construction of a project or a portion thereof.

Prime Contractor: Any contractor on a project having a contract directly with the owner.

Progress Payment: A partial payment made during progress of the work on account of work complete and/of materials suitably stored.

Progress Schedule: A diagram, graph or other pictorial or written schedule showing proposed and actual time or starting and completion of the vairous elements of the work.

Project: 1. A construction undertaking, composed of one or more buildings and the site improvements, planned and executed in a fixed time period. 2. In an office, a job or a commission. 3. A planned, large apartment building or housing complex, usually built at minimum cost with governmental funds for low-income families; also called a housing project. 4. The total construction designed by the architect, of which the work performed under the contact documents may be the whole or in part.

Project Budget: The sum established by the owner as available for the entire project, including the construction budget, land costs, equipment costs, financing costs, compensation for professional services, contingency allowance, and other similar extablished or estimated costs.

Project Cost: The total cost of a project including professional compensation, land costs, furnishings and equipment, financing and other charges, as well as the construction cost.

Punch List: The architect’s list of work to be corrected or performed by the contractor. See also: Inspection List.

Schematic Design Phase: The first phase of the architect’s basic services. In this phase, the archtiect consults with the owner to ascertain the requirements of the project and prepares schematic design studies consisting of drawings and other documents illustrating the scale and relationship of the project components for approval by the owner. The architect also submits to the owner a statement of probable cost. See also: Statement of Probable Cost.

Scheme: 1. The basic arrangement of an architectural composition. 2. Preliminary sketch for a design.

Specifications: A part of the contract documents contained in the project manual consisting of written descriptions of a technical nature of materials, equipment construction systems, standards, and workmanship. Under the uniform system, the specifications comprise sixteen divisions.

Statement of Probable Construction Cost: Cost forecasts prepared by the architect during the schematic design, design development, and construction documents phases of basic services for the guidance of the owner.

Subcontract: An agreement between a prime or general contractor and a subcontractor for the execution of a portion of the contractual obligation of the prime contractor to the owner.

Subcontractor: A person or organization who has a direct contract with a prime contractor to perform a portion of the work at the site.

Supervision: The observation and inspection of construction work in order to ensure conformity with the contract documents; direction of the work by contractor’s personnel. Supervision is neither a duty nor a responsbilitiy of the architect as part of his basic professional services.

Supplementary Conditions: A part of the contract documents which supplements and may also modify provisions of the general conditions. See also: Conditions of the Contract.

Working Drawings: Drawings, intended for use by a contractor, subcontractor, or fabricator, which form part of the contract documents for a building project; contain the necessary infromation to manufacture or erect an object or structure.