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Supporting structure at each end of a single span bridge. Types of abutments vary based on geotechnical, geographic, and constructability factors.


A device operated either electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically that acts as a motor to change the position of movable devices such as valves or dampers.


Any documentation (drawings, specifications, etc.) issued during the bidding process to modify, clarify, or complement the information outlined in the bidding documents. Addenda become part of the contract documents upon awarding of the contract to a firm.


A particulate material which is made up of sand or crushed stone. Aggregates are used in materials such as concrete and are a fundamental part of building foundations.

All-In Rate

Total expenses for a project that includes all direct and indirect costs.


The name of the architectural company that is listed on the issued permits, yet who may not actually do the design for the construction project.


The common term for marked up floor plans (usually in red ink) showing how installation differed from the original design drawings. As-builts are usually created for utilities and in-wall systems that aren’t directly visible. The formal term for as-builts is record drawings.


Back charge

A charge against a contractor’s contract for costs incurred by another party that should have been incurred by the contractor. A back charge typically takes form in a deductive change order. For example, if the contractor in charge of fire sprinklers damaged a wall using a boom lift, that contractor may incur a back charge from the drywall contractor for the repair work.


The process of refilling trenches or holes created during excavation, especially around foundations.


Beams run horizontally along the main walls of a building at ceiling level, supporting the structure.

Best Value Method

A construction procurement method where contractors are awarded the bid based on prices and quality measurements from previous work performance.


Price proposal typically based on the design specification and documents.

Bid Package

Construction documents where the pertinent portions of information are placed into a suitable bidding package by the contractor.

Bid Selection

The process of examining and comparing contractors’ bids to select the right one based on price and services provided.

Bid Solicitation

Notifying potential bidders regarding a bid opportunity as it may be a request to submit a bid or obtain a request for proposals.

BIM (Building Information Modeling)

A 3-D modeling process that feature the details of the building.


A construction technique to join, fill or reinforce the building structure.


A 2-dimensional technical drawing that has all of the project’s details.


The bill of quantities is a contract document that contains a list of materials and workmanship involved in a construction project. It is necessary for properly pricing a project.

Box Crib

A temporary structure used to add support or to reinforce heavy objects that are used during the construction process.

Building automation system (BAS)

An energy management system, usually with additional capabilities, relating to the overall operation of the building in which it is installed; this includes equipment monitoring, protection of equipment against power failure, and building security. It’s the digital automation that takes operation of an HVAC design out of someone’s physical hands and moves it onto a computer interface.

Building Engineer

An expert in design, construction and assessment technologies.

Building management system (BMS)

An energy management system relating to the overall operation of the building in which it is installed. It often has additional capabilities, such as equipment monitoring, protection of equipment against power failure, and building security. It may also be a direct digital control (DDC) system where the mode of control uses digital outputs to control processes or elements directly.



CAD (computer-aided design) refers to using architecture software to create detailed models of buildings to speed up the design process, allow for more creativity, and ensure greater accuracy in measurements.


An angled surface or line that cuts a corner off.


A beam which is securely supported at one end, and hangs freely at the other, like balconies that have no pillars or columns supporting them.

Catastrophic Failure

An accident in the construction process that causes severe damage that creates a permanent loss.


A flexible, rubbery type of material that is used to seal gaps in a joint.

Ceiling joist

Parallel framing members that support ceiling loads and are themselves supported by load-bearing walls.

Change Order (CO)

A written document that modifies or changes the project’s plans, price or specifications in the construction contract. A change to the original contract scope of work, resulting in either an increase or decrease in project costs and/or schedule. This could be issued by a client to the general contractor or the general contractor to a subcontractor.

Circuit breaker

A switch in the electrical panel that shuts off power to certain parts of the building.

Clear and grub

The process of removing vegetation and material from land in the construction area. This prepares the site for excavation and grading work to take place.

Close out

A phase that encompasses the end of a project. This consists of punch lists, O&M manuals, as-builts/record drawings, warranties, and the overall completion of project work.


A structural enclosure installed to retain water in damp soil or bodies of water. The cofferdam is installed and water is pumped out of the enclosure to provide a dry and safe work environment.


The process of testing and verifying the intended behavior of the building systems, such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical, life safety, lighting, etc. This is generally conducted by the contractor in tandem with the facility management team in order to ensure that the building staff are prepared to operate and maintain its systems and equipment.


A building material created by a hardened mixture of cement, gravel, sand, and water. It is used for slabs, columns, and other types of structures.

Concrete Cover

Reinforced concrete as it is the least distance between the outer concrete surface and the reinforcement.

Concrete Slab

A horizontal platform used to construct the ceiling or the floor of the building.

Construction Build Out

Changing or modifying the existing commercial space to make it usable for business functions.

Construction daily reports (CDR)

A record of field notes, including work completed, weather conditions, and materials delivered or used.

Construction Drawings

The final preconstruction drawings of the whole building.

Construction Estimate

Forecasting the construction costs for the building as it may be used to determine the feasibility of the project.

Construction Management at Risk (CMAR)

Project delivery method where the construction manager commits to delivering the project at within the guaranteed maximum price.

Construction management software

This software is designed for construction managers to help them more efficiently run a construction project; it can include features to manage accounting and financials, documentation, and team workloads.

Construction Management Software

An application used by construction managers to efficiently run the project as it features accounting, documentation and team workloads.


The cost provisions in the project budget that make allowance for oversights and unforeseen circumstances associated with the project. Depending on the nature of the contract, the contractor may require owner’s approval to draw funds from contingencies.

Contract drawings

The conformed set of drawings that represents the entire contract scope.

Contract Formation

A contract in the construction industry that indicates the offer and the acceptance between to agreeing parties as the agreement is signed.

Core & shell

A term that refers to the base construction of a building. This includes its structure, cladding, and vertical systems, such as MEP utility risers, stairs, and elevators, as well as its finished common areas, such as lobby and restrooms.

Cost Codes

Codes used to track budgets and expenses of labour activities.

Cost-Plus Contract

A contract where the contractor is paid for all of their allowed expenses as well as an additional profit payment.


Concrete blocks, stones or bricks in a continuous masonry row.

Cross Bracing

Reinforcements in an X-shape that provides enhanced durability to a structure.


Daily Report

A report that documents materials installed, crew information, safety incidents and work completed as the document is created by the foreman at the end of each day.

Damp Proofing

A procedure used to keep the drywall interior dry and to prevent moisture absorption.

Damp-proof course

Usually abbreviated as DPC, this is a watertight layer applied to masonry to prevent moisture rising up from the ground.


Also known as datum point, this refers to any elevation taken as a reference point for leveling.

Derrick barge

Also known as a crane barge. These floating cranes lift large loads while on water. These are great for offshore construction use.


A traditional project delivery method where the owner or agency contracts separate firms to design and construct the building.


A project delivery method where the owner or agency hires a single firm or company to handle both the design and construction of the building.


Structure reinforcement technique using steel beams placed in diagonal grids.


A dimension is used in the planning stage and refers to a measure between two points.

Direct digital control (DDC)

A type of control where controlled and monitored analog or binary data (e.g., temperature, contact closures) are converted to digital format for manipulation and calculations by a digital computer or micro-processor, then converted back to analog or binary form to control physical devices.

DLB (dig, lay, bury/backfill)

Term used in underground construction that describes the activity of utility installation. Dig/excavate dirt, lay your utility line, and backfill.


A panel made from gypsum plaster that is wrapped in cardboard. It is commonly used as a fundamental material for framing a building.


Piping that carries air throughout a structure.



A way of exiting a structure, such as a window or door. Laws require a certain number of egress windows in certain parts of a home.

Elevation Drawing

A drawing of a structure that shows the front or side of the buildings facades; it is a first angle projection.


An elevated landmass made of compacted soil or aggregate. Embankments help create roads and level surfaces for slabs or levees.


The encasing of underground pipes in concrete or when encasing hazardous materials that have been installed.

Energy management system (EMS)

A system of computer applications used by building engineering staff to monitor, control, and optimize the building’s operating performance (e.g., energy consumption, occupant comfort levels). EMS optimizes building operating performance through supervisory control programs that utilize core BMS functionality. An EMS is a more refined definition of a building management system (BMS) focused exclusively on operating performance with things like indoor air quality (IAQ), occupant productivity and comfort, and energy output as key metrics.



A temporary structure used to support an arch or bridge during the construction or repair process. In other words, These are the temporary structures that are built to hold and support cast-in-place concrete during pours and while it cures to strength.

Field measure

Taking measurements within the structure itself rather than relying on blueprints.

Field order

A work order issued to a contractor by the owner or general contractor to perform work not included in the contract. The contractor will then be entitled to a change order for the extra work. Field orders are used to expedite work in an emergency or crucial situation, when there is no time to compile and approve a change order request.

Field Work Order

The general contractor’s document given to the subcontractor regarding the completion of work that is not included in the original scope of the project.

Fit out

A term that refers to the interior construction of a building to make it suitable for occupation. This could include distribution of MEP services, ceiling systems, finishes, furniture, lighting, etc.

Floor plan

The floor plan refers to the layout of the building. It is a drawing of the horizontal section that shows how the different spaces relate to each other.


The leading supervisor at the construction site who is in charge of the work crews. He ensures workers perform daily tasks based on established schedules while creating documents regarding completed work.


General Contractor

The main contractor for the building construction. Their main responsibility is the oversight of the project as they manage subcontractors, handle scheduling and monitor the budget.


The main horizontal support of a structure that supports smaller beams.

GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price)

A contract where the contractor is paid for the actual costs that are incurred in addition to a fixed fee that has a price ceiling cap.

Grade and compact

The process of leveling out an area of land and exerting force using heavy equipment to stabilize the soil or aggregate.


Hip roof

A roof where all four sides slope down towards the walls.


An abbreviation that stands for heat, ventilation, and air conditioning. Abbreviation used to signify the heating, ventilation and cooling structures and systems of the building.

The equipment, terminals, and distribution systems that provide, either collectively or individually, the processes of heating, ventilating, or air conditioning to a building or portion of a building. Basically, the setup of machines that make a room or space warmer, cooler, or more conditioned in some regard


A space or group of spaces within a building with heating, cooling, and ventilating requirements that are sufficiently similar so that desired conditions (e.g., temperature) can be maintained throughout using a single sensor (e.g., thermostat or temperature sensor).



A beam that has a cross-section that looks like the capital letter I. Girders often have an I-beam cross-section.

IFB (Invitation for Bid)

Request given to contractors for them to submit a project proposal regarding their provided services and products.


Material that’s designed to prevent heat from leaving or entering a building. Insulation material is placed within the walls, ceiling, or floor of a structure.

Integrated Labor Delivery

A construction model where the project labour is brought in at the design phase as subcontractors perform roughly 80% to 100% of the labour.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)

A construction model where a single multi-party contract is established between the owner, architect and builder. The contract outlines that all stakeholders will share both the risks and incentives of the project.


This stands for “inspection request” which is a form required by independent third-party inspectors to confirm an installation detail or method. It is often used for work such as welding, anchoring, and concrete pours.


Job Costing

Accounting method used to track construction work that is completed and measures whether the amount of activity aligns to the project budget.


A construction interface between two separate building elements that do not have a physical connection to each other but may overlap or align to the other element.


The location where the surfaces of two components are joined. Horizontal elements that are connected to beams perpendicularly to provide load transfer functions.


K-rail / Jersey barrier

A precast concrete barrier that comes in 10’ or 20’ lengths. These are used to separate traffic, protect traffic from a leading edge, or designate the construction zone.

King stud

A framing member that runs from the bottom to the top of a panel or sheet.


A unit of force or weight, equal to 1,000 pounds, used to measure engineering loads.



A metal wire on the frame of a building that serves as a base for laying down stucco or plaster.

Lean Construction

A construction methodology where all stakeholders share relationships and goals to manage the project so as to reduce waste while maximizing the project’s value.


A project delivery method where a school will lease a site to a contractor who will construct a building to be used by the school. The contractor will then lease the constructed building back to the school. At the end of the lease, the title of the building would be vested to the school.


A property claim made by the contractor against the owner when they are not paid for the completed work.

Lift Slab Construction

Construction method where concrete slabs are cast on the ground level and then are lifted into place using hydraulic jacks.

Liquidated damages

An amount of money that the contractor would owe the owner in the event of a breach of contract. These are typically calculated by a formula such as $10,000 per day of substantial delay of completion.

Load-bearing wall (partition)

A partition or load-bearing wall carries the load of the structure above it. As a result, they cannot be removed without compromising the integrity of the structure.

Low Bid Procurement

A construction bidding method where the lowest bid is automatically accepted and awarded the job.

Lump Sum Contracts

A contract where a single price is quoted for the entire construction project.



A pneumatically-driven device inserted into the ground to create holes for construction elements such as pipes and heat pump systems.

Monocrete Construction

A construction method that uses precast concrete panels which are bolted together to make concrete structures.


In masonry, mortar is the paste that is used to bind stones, bricks, and other similar types of units used to construct the walls of a building. Mortar can be made up of a variety of things, such as asphalt, pitch, or clay.

MSE (mechanically stabilized earth) wall

A wall system consisting of vertical panels and horizontal straps backfilled with aggregate or soil. MSE walls allow for easier and quicker installation than traditional cast-in-place methods.


Negotiated Procurement

A government procurement method where a contractor is chosen without formal price competition or formal advertising.


O&M manual

This stands for operations and maintenance manual which is an instruction guide to running and servicing a building. The O&M manual is given to the owner at turnover.

OAC meeting

A meeting held at a scheduled time (generally weekly or biweekly) between the owner, the architect, and the general contractor. This meeting covers general project management topics, such as safety, scheduling, procurement, RFIs, submittals, change orders, design changes, etc. The general contractor is usually responsible for leading the meeting and distributing the meeting minutes.


Particle board

A substitute for plywood that is composed of sawdust mixed with resin.

Pay Applications

A construction document that details how the contractor will be paid.

Performance Gap

A performance gap is an instance where the expected work progress does not match to the results that are given.


Usually, a long structural member driven into the ground to act as support for a foundation or wall. There are many forms of pile that differ by material, shape, and size.


A panel of wood that is made from multiple layers of veneer, compressed together.


A method for prestressing (strengthening) concrete whereby cables are pulled or the concrete is jacked up after it has been placed.


This stands for “personal protective equipment” which is basically the proper attire for a construction job. Such equipment often includes a hard hat, hard-soled boots, reflective vest, safety glasses, long pants, and a shirt with at least 6” long sleeves.

Precast Concrete

Concrete elements created offsite that are transported to the construction site for final assembly.

Preliminary notice

Documents notifying other parties that they are working on the project. They’re often required to preserve mechanics lien rights. But even when not required, they provide invaluable transparency and communication.

Procurement log

A spreadsheet that tracks how long it will take for certain materials to be delivered on-site, especially those with long lead times. It tracks when the submittals for these materials need to be approved so that they can be ordered for fabrication and delivery. Some examples of items that may be on a procurement log are structural steel, HVAC equipment, lighting fixtures, and custom cabinetry.

Project Manager

The project manager handles the entire management of the construction project. They oversee project deliverables, schedules and budgets.

Project schedule

The contract timeline for the duration of the project, usually in Gantt chart format showing relationships and the critical path (what items are driving the overall schedule). It is generally composed of long duration tasks, sorted by scope and location, as opposed to the 3 week look ahead (which is very detailed and short term).


A project delivery method where a government agency and a private sector company collaborate to fund, build and maintain construction projects as the private generates income from the project.

Punch List

A document listing construction work that does not meet the customer’s specifications. It is made at the end of the project as the contractor needs to complete the job to receive the payment.

A list of all items that need to be fixed before the building or project can be turned over to the client. Punch list items are also known as snags or deficiencies, and include things like paint scratches, damaged siding, cleanup, etc. This process comes at the end of the project after a preliminary walkthrough of the jobsite. The final punch list is usually tied to a cost withheld from the contractor until it is completed and verified.

Purchase Orders (PO)

In construction, a purchase order is a document from the buyer that indicates their intent to purchase services and products from the seller, such as a supplier.


A horizontal and longitudinal beam used on the roof structure to support the rafters.


Short for polyvinyl chloride, this common plastic is used most commonly for water pipes and sometimes for flooring.



This stands for “quality assurance/quality control” which is the formalized process of confirming proper installation methods and materials on-site.



A series of roof frame pieces that are connected to the supports and hold up the roofing and sheathing.

Reinforced concrete

Concrete that is strengthened by adding steel bars or mesh within the concrete.

RFI (Request for Information)

This preliminary document contains general information about the capabilities provided by potential vendors or suppliers.

A formal question to the design team, client, or general contractor that will likely affect the contract scope, drawings, and/or specifications. The response to an RFI acts as a contract change and could result in a change order.

RFP (Request for Proposal)

A document request to vendors to obtain an overview of their costs and offerings for specific services.

RFQ (Request for Quote)

A document featuring predetermined specifications for the project as it requests the vendor’s costs to fulfill these specifications.

Rim Joist

In flooring, a rim joist is attached to the end of the main joists to give lateral support.


The initial stage of the wall framing, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing installation. This includes all of the components that won’t be seen after the completion of the project. All trade rough-ins must generally be inspected prior to insulation and application of finishes.

RTT (Request for Tender)

A formal invitation to vendors to submit their bid to supply products and services to the construction project.


During the construction project, unwanted concrete is broken down into small pieces that are used in the base for new surfaces.


Schedule of Values

A project’s work item list that corresponds the items to their value as the list represents the entire amount of the work project.

The breakdown of a contract amount into sub-items and sub-costs for identifiable construction elements. This is usually used as the basis for submitting and reviewing progress payment.

Scope Creep

Scope creep involves when continuous changes and modifications are made or when the work grows uncontrollably beyond the original scope of the project.

Scope of Work (SOW)

A detail in the agreement outlining the work that will be performed for the project.


This is a drawing or model that shows what it would look like if you sliced vertically through a building and were able to see its various components or layers, showcasing exactly how a building is constructed top to bottom.


A device or instrument designed to detect and measure a variable.


Wood panels on the sides of buildings, barns and other structures.

Shop Drawings

A contractor’s drawings that details the fabrication of components.


A construction method that uses wood or metal props to support the structure while it is worked on.

Temporary structural support for underground excavation to prevent soil movement or collapse. Shoring is used when you can no longer excavate to your maximum allowable slope.


Concrete that is shot onto a reinforced surface, usually wire mesh, by way of air pressure and hose. Shotcrete is a typically installed on soil nail walls.


Material that covers up the joint between the floor and a wall in the interior of a building, for aesthetic purposes.

Soil Stockpile

A pile of soil created when bulldozers excavate the site as the soil may later be used for grading purposes.

Sole Source Procurement

A procurement method where only one contractor is selected without a competitive process to fulfill all the project’s requirements.


The specifications provide details regarding the materials and work quality desired for the building design.


A structural member, usually inclined and shorter in length, used to resist axial force.


A material made from aggregates, a binder, and water. It is often used as a decorative coating on walls and ceilings.


An agreement made with the contractor and subcontractor that outlines the specific work services for the project.


The subcontractor is specialized in a specific construction or building trade, such as electrical or plumbing. They are contract workers who are hired by the general contractor.


Material data, shop drawings, and product data for architects and engineers so they can verify that the correct products were installed.

A document that is prepared by the installing contractor that indicates the products and locations that will be procured and installed. The document will need to be approved by the architect (and other applicable design team members), as well as the general contractor and client. An example of a submittal would be a cut sheet of the sink that will be installed in the bathrooms.

Substantial completion

A milestone in construction projects defined as the stage when work is sufficiently completed in accordance with the contract documents. This indicates that the owner can now utilize the building or facility for its intended purpose. Only minor works, such as punch list items, will ordinarily remain after reaching substantial completion.


A structure that is built on top of another structure.



A document that lists the types and quantities of materials that will be required for the construction project.

Target Value Design

This design method involves all key stakeholders — including the owner, subcontractors, designers and contractors — who will design the construction project to meet the owner’s goals and budget.


A contractor’s or supplier’s submission response about the supplies and services that they can offer to the project when receiving a bid invitation.

Three(3)-week look ahead

The schedule that is published each week by the general contractor that outlines what is occurring in the next three weeks of the project. This is broken down into small, actionable tasks, as opposed to the main project schedule (which is the overall timeline).


Construction elements used to tie to separate materials together inside cavity walls.

Time and Materials Contracts

A contract method where the contractor is paid for the actual costs, which include time and materials.


When alternating bricks are left projecting from walls in order to bond with future work.

Tremie concrete

Concrete that is designed to be poured underwater through a gravity feed system. This method is often used to create underwater foundations as well as seal cofferdams and caissons.


The materials used to provide a clean finish of the building, such as moldings around window and door openings, or the baseboards in rooms, for example.



Construction technique to strengthen the foundation of an existing structure with the use of beams, concrete or base pining.

Unit Price Contracts

A contract where the contractor is paid based on the estimated quantity of items for the project and their unit prices.


Variable-frequency drive (VFD)

An electronic device that varies its output frequency to vary the rotating speed of a motor given a fixed input frequency. They are used with fans or pumps to vary the flow in the system as a function of a maintained pressure.


A very thin sheet of wood. It is typically a finer wood that is used as a decorative cover for lower-quality wood.

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)

All of the multi-disciplinary project models which can include the analysis model, visualizations, costs, and engineering modeling.

Voided Biaxial Slab

Concrete blocks with voids inside that maintain their strength and durability while using less concrete.



A distortion of material, which can be a sign of water damage.



A government regulation that involves restricting how a property is used. For example, industrial buildings cannot be constructed in areas zoned solely for residential.