Say What? Your Guide to Understanding Common Commercial Construction Terms

For those of us who have been in the industry most of our lives, we’ve become so accustomed to acronyms and construction jargon that to outsiders and people new to the industry, it can sound like we’re operating in a foreign language.

While knowing all of the construction terms may not seem like a big deal, having a basic understanding of common terms is important to the success of a project. As we’ve mentioned before, clear communication is the only way to keep a construction project on track. Improve communication with your construction team with the fundamentals of  common construction terms:

  • General contractor (GC)– the main contractor who is responsible for project oversight, including scheduling, budget, and managing subcontractors.
  • Subcontractor– hired and contracted by the general contractor, they are generally specialty trade workers such as electricians or workers specializing in drywall, glass and glazing, concrete and more.
  • Foreman– the lead supervisor in charge of the crew on a jobsite.
  • Project manager – a representative who manages all parts of the construction process including timelines, budget and communications.

Construction Document Terms:

  • Addendum– a document that adds, clarifies or changes information in an existing bid document.
  • Bid– a price proposal covering the scope of work generally based on design documents and specifications.
  • Change order– a written document that modifies the plans, specifications, and/or price of the construction contract.
  • Construction Change Directive/Field Order– written document that gives authorization to the contractor to take on additional unexpected project work that could affect the schedule or cost of the project.
  • Submittal/transmittal– required by the architect, engineer and other parties involved to confirm that all correct products will be used, these include shop drawings, charts, samples, and other product data that accurately describe the composition or custom fabrication of a product.
  • Site plan– 2D rendered drawings that show the entire site in detail, including building footprint, utilities, topography, etc.
  • Purchase order (PO)– a document that controls the purchase of products and services from external vendors and suppliers. It details the types, quantities and prices for each item.
  • Punch list– a list documenting items that need additional attention or correction at the end of a construction project.

Design and Build Terms:

  • Acoustics– the room qualities that affect the way sound is transmitted, such as the size of the room or what materials are used in the room.
  • As-Builts – as modifications are necessitated to a design throughout a build, as-built drawings are created to give a final and complete record of the building, specifications and work completed.
  • Design-build– when a main contractor bids to provide the design and construction services for the entire construction project.
  • Design-bid-build– first an architect designs the project and then the plans are bid out to contractors for final selection.
  • Easement– a portion of the property owned by one party that allowed another party the right to use.
  • Fenestration– how the windows, skylights and doors are designed and arranged in a building.
  • Footings – the building’s foundation or support system that distribute the building’s load on the ground.
  • HVAC– heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
  • Load bearing– critical structural element that supports the weight of structural elements above it.
  • MEP– mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

While this list is not exhaustive, it’s a starting point for improving communication between you and your general contractor. Schedule a consultation today to see how we can help you with your next project.

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