Glossary of Terms I-Z

This glossary of terms provides explanations of technical and construction language. This resource can be used by program directors and members of the local program's facility planning team.

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Instructions to Bidders: Instructions contained in the bidding requirements for preparing and submitting bids for a construction project. Same as notice to bidders.

Invitation to Bid: A solicitation of competitive bids. The term usually is employed in connection with private construction projects, but also may be used for government projects, for the purchase of supplies or other goods, or in connection with the sale of property. Same as advertisement for bids.

Invited Bidders: The bidders selected by the architect and the owner as the only ones from whom bids will be received.


Job: Same as project. Same as work.

Job Captain: A member of the architect's staff normally responsible, on a given project, for the preparation of drawings and their coordination with other documents.

Job Site: The site of the construction project.

Job Superintendent: Same as superintendent.


Labor and Material Payment Bond: A bond of the contractor in which a surety guarantees to the owner that the contractor will pay for labor and materials used in the performance of the contract. The claimants under the bond are those having direct contracts with the contractor or any subcontractor.

Landscape Architect: A person trained and experienced in the design and development of landscapes and gardens.

Land Survey: A survey of landed property establishing or re-establishing lengths and directions of boundary lines. Land boundaries are usually defined by ownership, commencing with the earliest owners through successive ownerships and partitions.

Latest Event Occurrence Time: In CPM, the latest point in time by which no further work must be done on an activity if the project is not to be delayed.

Latest Start Date: In CPM, the latest possible point in time by which an activity must be started if the project is not to be delayed.

Letter Of Intent: A letter signifying an intention to enter into a formal agreement, usually setting forth the general terms of such agreement.

Liability Insurance: Insurance which protests the insured against liability on account of injury to the person or property of another.

Licensed Architect: Same as architect.

Licensed Contractor: A person or organization certified by governmental authority, where required by law, to engage in construction contracting.

Licensed Engineer: Same as professional engineer.

Lien: A right enforceable against specific property to secure payment of an obligation.

Lien Waiver: Same as waiver of lien.

Life Cycle Cost: The cost of a building or equipment based not only on the initial expenditure, but also on its maintenance and operating cost over its entire lifetime.

Liquidated Damages: A sum specified in a contract whereby damages in the event of breach are to be determined. In a construction contract liquidated damages usually are specified as a fixed sum per day for failure to complete the work within a specified time.

Listed: Equipment, materials, or products included in a list published by an organization acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

Loss of Use Insurance: Insurance protecting against financial loss during the time required to repair or replace property damaged or destroyed by an insured peril.

Lowest Responsible Bidder, Lowest Qualified Bidder: The bidder who submits the lowest bona fide bid and is considered to be fully responsible and qualified to perform the work for which the bid is submitted.

Lowest Responsive Bid: The lowest bid which is responsive to and complies with the bidding requirements.

Lump Sum Agreement: Same as stipulated sum agreement.


Main Contractor: Same as general contractor.

Maintenance Bond: A bond that provides a guarantee to an owner that the contractor will rectify defects in workpersonship or materials reported to the contractor within a specified time period following final acceptance of the work under contract.

Measured Drawing: An architectural drawing of an existing structure, drawn to scale.

Mechanic's Lien: A lien on privately owned real property created by state statute in favor of persons supplying labor or materials for a building or structure or improvements thereof, generally for the value of the labor or materials supplied by them.

Model Code: A proposed building code that is written and published by building official associations available for adoption by states, counties, and municipalities.

Modification: A written amendment to the contract document signed by both parties. A change order. A written order for a minor change in the work issued by the architect.

Modular Construction: Construction in which a selected unit or module, such as a box or other sub-component , is used repeatedly in the aggregate construction.

Mortgage: A loan in which property is used as security for the debt.

Mortgagee: The lender from whom a mortgage is obtained.

Mortgage Lien: A charge against property as security for the payment of a loan.

Mortgagor: The borrower who obtains a mortgage.


Negligence: Failure to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under the same circumstances.

Negotiation Phase: Same as bidding or negotiation phase.

Non-Collusion Affidavit: A notarized statement by a bidder that he or she has prepared his or her bid without collusion of any kind.

Nonconforming Work: Work that does not fulfill the requirement of the contract documents.

Notice to Bidders: A notice contained in the bidding requirements informing prospective bidders of the opportunity to submit bids on a project and setting forth the procedures for doing so.

Notice To Proceed: Written communication issued by the owner to the contractor authorizing him or her to proceed with the work and establishing the date of commencement of the work.


Observation of the Work: A function of the architect in the construction phase, during his or her periodic visits to the site, to familiarize him/herself generally with the progress and quality of the work an to determine in general if the work is proceeding in accordance with the contract documents. Same as certificate of occupancy.

Opening of Bids: Same as bid opening.

Ordinance: A law or rule adopted by a local governmental authority.

Orientation: The placement of a structure on a site with regard to local conditions of sunlight, wind, and drainage.

OSHA: The abbreviation for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor.

Over Design: As applied to structural design, a design based on requirements higher than service demands, usually as a means of compensating for unknown and/or anticipated deficiencies.

Owner: The architect's client and party to the owner-architect agreement.

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

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

Owner's Inspector: A person employed by the owner to inspect construction on the owner's behalf.

Owner's Liability Insurance: Insurance which protects the owner against claims arising from his or her ownership of property and which may be extended to cover claims which may arise from operations of others under the construction contract.


Package Dealer: A person or organization assuming responsibility under a single contract for the design and construction of a project to meet the specific requirements of another.

Parcel: Of land, a contiguous land area which is considered as a unit, which is subject to a single ownership, and which is legally recorded as a single piece.

Partial Occupancy: Occupancy by the owner of a portion of a project prior to final completion.

Partial Payment: A progress payment.

Payment Request: Same as application for payment.

P.E.: The abbreviation for professional engineer.

Penal Sum: The amount named in a contract or bond as the damages or penalty to be paid by a signatory in the event he or she failed to perform his or her contractual obligations or does not do so within the time prescribed by the contract.

Penalty-and-Bonus Clause: Same as bonus-and-penalty clause.

Penalty Clause: A contract provision setting forth the damages a party must pay in the event of his or her breach. If such a clause is regarded by the court as too harsh to be regarded as a fair estimate of probable damaged, it will normally be held invalid. Same as liquidated damages.

Percentage Agreement: An agreement for professional services in which the compensation is based upon a percentage of the construction cost.

Percentage Fee: Compensation based upon a percentage of construction cost. Same as fee.

Performance Bond: A bond of the contractor in which a surety guarantees to the owner that the work will be performed in accordance with the contract documents; frequently combined with the labor and materials payment bond; except where prohibited by stature.

Permit: A document issued by a governmental authority having jurisdiction to authorize specific work by the applicant.

Personal Injury: In insurance terminology, injury or damage to the character or reputation of a person, as well as bodily injury. Person injury insurance usually covers such situations. Same as bodily injury.

Personal Property: Movable and other property not classified as real property.

PERT: Acronym for "project evaluation and review technique."

PERT Schedule: A PERT chart of the activities and events anticipated in a work process. Same as critical path method (CPM).

Planning: The process of studying the layout of spaces within buildings and of buildings and other facilities or installations in open spaces in order to develop the general scheme of a building or group of buildings.

Post-Completion Services: Additional services rendered after issuance of the final certificate for payment, such as consultation regarding maintenance, processes, systems, etc.

Power of Attorney: An instrument authorizing another to act as one's agent. Same as attorney-in-fact.

Preliminary Drawings: Drawings prepared during the early stages of the design of a project.

Preliminary Estimate: Same as statement of probable construction costs.

Premises: Land and/or its appurtenances.

Pre-Bid Conference or Pre-Bid Walk-Through: A meeting of any interested bidder, at the job site, giving an opportunity to review the project, and discuss any unclear design or programming issues.

Pre-Qualification of Prospective Bidders: The process of investigating the qualifications of prospective bidders on the basis of their competence, integrity, and responsibility relative to the contemplated project.

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

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

Prime Professional: Any person or firm having a contract directly with the owner for professional services.

Principal: One on whose behalf or in whose name binding transactions may be entered into by another, usually called the agent.

Production Drawings: Same as working drawings.

Professional Adviser: An architect engaged by the owner to direct an authorized design competition for the selection of an architect.

Professional Engineer: A designation reserved, usually by law, for a person or organization professionally qualified and duly licensed to perform such engineering services as structural, mechanical, electrical, sanitary, civil, etc.

Professional Liability Insurance: Insurance designed to insure an architect or engineer against claims for damages resulting from alleged professional negligence. Also know as errors and omissions insurance.

Professionals Practice: The practice of one of the environmental design professional in which services are rendered with the framework of recognized professionals ethics and standards.

Program: A statement prepared by or for an owner, with or without an architect's assistance, setting forth the conditions and objectives for a building project including its general purpose and detailed requirements, such as a complete list of the rooms required, their sizes, special facilities, etc.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT): A management control technique applied to building construction; determines what must be done to complete construction by a given date.

Progress Chart: A chart prepared by a contractor, brought up-to-date monthly; the principal trades of the project are tabulated vertically and the scheduled construction time shown horizontally.

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

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

Project: A construction undertaking, composed of one or more buildings and the site improvements, planned and executed in a fixed time period.

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 of professional services, contingency costs, and other similar established or estimated costs.

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

Project Manager: A third party consultant or employee of the owner that works for the owner and coordinates the activities of the project. Assists with the development of specific strategies of the project (including bidding and contracting), establishing time frames and benchmarks for the project, assisting the owner in hiring other professional services, reviews plans and drawings and makes recommendations to the owners, monitors the budget of all phases of the project, works with all consultants, monitors the day-to-day work progress of the contractor, assists the owner in close-out, and prepares for occupancy.

Project Manual: The manual prepared by the architect for a project, including the bidding requirements, conditions of the contract, and the technical specifications.

Project Representative: The architect's representative at the project site who assists in the administration of the construction contract.

Property: Any asset, real or personal.

Property Damage Insurance: Part of general liability insurance covering injury to or destruction of tangible property, including loss of use resulting from, but usually not including property which is in the custody and control of the insured.

Property Line: A recorded boundary of a plot.

Property Survey: Same as boundary survey.

Proposal: In construction terminology, could be the same as bid.

Request For Proposals: A document used by the owner to evaluate the professional capabilities of a business, agency, or individual against a set of pre-established criteria that may be weighted on a numerical scale using a set of questions that allows the owner to determine the best business, agency, or individual to hire for their specific job. Normally, the proposal does not include the cost of services, cost is generally a negotiated amount after the competing proposals have been evaluated and ranked. The proposal, however, is designed to evaluate such criteria as previous work experience, work with the organization, and specifically your program; preference can be given to local or in-state business; the qualifications of the lead professional and the qualifications of the team that will be working on the project; and if their previous work has been completed on time and within budget.

Proposal Form: Same as bid form.

Public Liability Insurance: Insurance covering liability of the insured for negligent acts resulting in bodily injury, disease, or death of others than employees of the insured, and/or property damage.


Quality Assurance: The inspection, testing, and other relevant action taken to ensure that the desired level of quality is in accordance with the applicable standards or specifications for the product or work.

Quality Control: The inspection, analysis, and other relevant action taken to provide control over what is being done, manufactured, or fabricated, so that a desirable level of quality is achieved and maintained.

Quality Survey: A detailed analysis and listing of all items of materials and equipment necessary to construct a project.

Quitclaim Deed: A written instrument whereby the seller conveys only whatever interest he or she has in property, but makes no warranties or representations as to the nature of that interest or as to the absence of any limitations or restrictions thereon, or even that he has any right to the property at all.

Quotation: A price quoted by a contractor, sub-contractor, material supplier, or vendor to furnish materials, labor, or both.


Real Estate: Property in the form of land and all its appurtenances, such as buildings.

Real Property: Land, everything growing on it and all improvements made to it.

Realty Officer: An employee who assists the governments in realty issues including, but not limited to, disputes, developments, and assignments.

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 to the architect.

Record Sheet: On a construction job, a sheet or printed form for keeping a record, usually of materials delivered, number of people working at the various trades, hours worked, etc.

Regulation: Any rule prescribing permitted or forbidden conduct, whether found in legislation or in the actions of an administrative agency or federal agency.

Release of Lien: Instrument executed by one supplying labor, materials, or professional services on a project which releases his or her mechanic's lien against the project property. Same as mechanic's lien.

Render: To give a mechanical drawing, as in elevation, a more or less complete indication of shades and shadows.

Resident Engineer: A person representing the owner's interests at the project site during the construction phase; term frequently used on projects in which a governmental agency is involved.

Resident Inspector: Same as owner's inspector.

Responsible Bidder: Same as lowest responsible bidder.

Restricted List of Bidders: Same as invited bidders.

Restriction: On land, an encumbrance limiting it use.

Restrictive Covenant: An agreement between two or more individuals, incorporated within a deed which stipulates how land may be used.

Retainage: A sum withheld from progress payments to the contractor in accordance with the terms of the owner-contractor agreement.

Retention: The withholding of a portion (usually 10%) of a periodic payment to a contractor, by prior agreement, for work completed. The retention is held in escrow for a stipulated time period after the acceptance of the completed work by the architect and owner.

Retention Money: Same as retention.

Right-of-Way: Any strip of land, including surface and overhead or underground space, which is granted by deed or easement for the construction and maintenance of specified linear elements such as power and telephone lines.


Satisfaction: Cancellation of an encumbrance on real property, usually by payment of the debt secured by it.

Schedule: A detailed tabulation of components, items, or parts to be furnished.

Schedules of Values: A statement furnished by the contractor to the architect reflecting the portions of the contract sum allotted for the various parts of the work and use as the basis for reviewing the contractor's application for progress payment.

Schematic Design Phase: The first phase of the architect's basic services. In this phase, the architect 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 construction costs.

Schematic Drawing: Same as schematic design phase.

Scheme: The basic arrangement for an architectural composition. Primary sketch for a design.

Selected Bidder: The bidder selected by the owner for discussion relative to the possible award of the construction contract.

Selected List of Bidders: Same as invited bidders.

Setback: The minimum distance between a reference line and a building, or portion thereof.

Shop Drawings: Drawings, diagrams, illustrations, schedules, performances charts, brochures, and other data prepared by the contractor or any subcontractor, manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, which illustrates how specific portions of the work shall be fabricated and/or installed.

Single Contract: A contract for construction of a project under which a single prime contractor is responsible for all the work.

Site: An area or plot of ground with defined limits on which a building or project is located or proposed to be located.

Site Investigation: An examination of the subsoil and surface of a site to obtain complete information necessary for the design of foundations and structures on them.

Site Plan: A plan of a construction site showing the position and dimensions of the building to be erected and the dimensions and contour of the lot.

Special Conditions: A section of the conditions of the contract, other than general conditions and supplemental conditions, which may be prepared for a particular project. Same as conditions of the contract.

Special Hazards Insurance: Additional perils insurance to be included in property insurance.

Specifications: A written document describing in detail the scope of work, materials to be used, method of installation, and quality of workpersonship for a parcel of work to be place under contract; usually utilized in conjunction with working drawings in building construction.

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 workpersonship.

Standard: A document prepared by a recognized standard-setting organization that prescribes methods and materials for the safe use and consistent performance of specific technologies.

Standards of Professional Practice: Statements of ethical principles promulgated by professional societies to guide their members in the conduct of professionals practice.

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.

Statute of Limitations: A statute specifying the period of time within which legal action must be brought for alleged damage or injury. The lengths of the periods vary from state to state and depend upon the type of legal action.

Statutory Bond: A bond, the form and contents of which is prescribed by statute.

Stipulated Sum Agreement: A contract in which a specific amount is set forth as the total payment for performance of the contract.

Structural Design Documents: The plans, design details, and job specifications prepared by the structural designer.

Structural Drawings: Drawings, usually prepared by a structural engineer, of the design and working drawings of a building's structure.

Structural Engineering: That branch of engineering concerned with the design and construction of structures to withstand physical forces.

Sub-Bidder: One who tenders to a bidder on a prime contract a proposal to provide materials and/or labor.

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 contract 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.

Subcontractor Bond: A performance bond given by a subcontractor which guarantees performance of a contract and the payment of bills for labor and materials.

Substantial Completion: Same as date of substantial completion.

Substitution: A materials or process offered in lieu of, and as being equivalent to, a specified material or process.

Successful Bidder: Same as selected bidder.

Superintendent: At a construction site, the contractor's representative who is responsible for continuous field supervision, coordination, and completion of the work and unless another person is designated in writing by the contractor to the owner and the architect for the provision of accidents.

Supervision: The observation and inspection of construction work in order to ensure conformity with the contract documents, direction of work by the contractor's personnel.

Supplemental Conditions: Same as supplementary conditions.

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

Surety: A person or organization who, for a consideration, promises in writing to make good the debt or default of another.

Surety Bond: A legal instrument under which one party agrees to answer to another party for the debt, default, or failure to perform of a third party.

Survey: A boundary and/or topographic mapping of a site.


Tender: A proposal or bid for a contract to perform work, often on a form, completed by a contractor giving estimated price and time to complete a contract.

Terminal Expense: An expense incurred in connection with the termination of a contract.

Time: Time limits or period stated in the contract.

Timely Completion: Completion of the work or designated portion thereof on or before the date required.

Time of Completion: The date established in the contract, by name or by number of days, for substantial completion of the work.

Title Insurance: Insurance, offered by a company, that the title to property is clear or that it may be cleared by curing specified defects.

Title Search: An inquiry into the historical ownership record of a property.

Topographical Survey: The configuration of a surface including its relief and the locations of its natural and human-made features.

Trade: A person's occupation or craft, usually involving manual skill.

Turn-Key Job: A job in which the contractor completes all work and furnishing of a building so that it is ready for immediate use.


Variation Order: Same as change order.

Visual Inspection: Inspection by examination without the use of testing apparatus.


Waiver of Lien: An instrument by which a person or organization who has or may have a right of mechanic's lien against the property of another relinquishes such right. Same as mechanic's lien and release of lien.

Work: All labor necessary to produce the construction required by the contract document.

Working Drawings: Drawings, intended for use by a contractor, subcontractor, or fabricator, which form part of the contract documents for a building project.

Worker's Compensation Insurance: Insurance covering liability of an employee to his or her employees for compensation and other benefits required by worker's compensation laws.


Zoning: The control by a municipality of the use of land and buildings, the height and bulk of the buildings, the density of population, the relation of a lot's building coverage to open space, size and location of yards and setbacks, and the provision of any ancillary facilities.

Zoning Permit: A permit issued by appropriate governmental authority authorizing land to be used for a specific purpose.

Glossary of Terms I-Z. The National Head Start Facilities Assistance Desk. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. n.d. English.

Last Reviewed: April 2009

Last Updated: August 7, 2015