The A-Z of Architecture Argot
Working with your Architectural project team on a new home, house extension, or development project is always an exciting adventure, however, the hundreds of technical architectural terms we use can be confusing.
Whilst Architectural words and phrases form part of our daily discussions, for someone new to our world it can indeed sound like a foreign language.
To help you better understand this dialect of industry acronyms and colloquialisms we have put together a list of the most common phrases you might hear being used by our Architect team when planning your next building project.
ACO Drain – A drainage system that collects water from the surface of a pavement and directs it into an underground drain.
Aesthetic – The appearance of something.
Arcade – A covered walkway lined by columns.
Archway – An opening with a curved or pointed top.
Asbestos Survey – A survey undertaken on a property to identify if asbestos-containing materials are present.
Architectural Symmetry – Characteristic by which the two sides of a facade or architectural floor plan of a building present mirror images of one another.
Balcony – A platform that projects from the wall of a building.
Balustrade – A guard to protect from falling or to assist with walking.
Banal – The architect’s version of “boring”.
Bespoke – Individual and unique. This often applies to joinery, built-in carpentry, or kitchens.
Beam – A horizontal structural member usually in steel or timber which needs to be designed /sized, in most cases by a Structural Engineer
Bracket – A projection from a vertical surface that provides structural and/or visual support for overhanging elements.
Building Envelope – The elements that wrap around a building – the outside of the total building.
Build Over Agreement – Compliance for when your extension or conversion takes place near or over a public sewer to confirm the foundations of your new construction have given sufficient clearance from the sewer and that access will still be possible if the need arises. An application to the water authority will need to be made and a fee paid.
Cantilever – A long projecting element fixed at only one end, with no columns to support it.
Casement Window – A window frame that is hinged on one vertical side or at the top, and which swings open to either the inside or the outside of the building.
Cashflow Forecast – A chart to show how the total cost of the project will be spread over the whole programme of the building works.
Column – A vertical structural member or pillar usually in steel or timber to support a horizontal structural member.
Conservation Area – An area of a town or village designated by the local authority as needing to be managed and protected due to the special architectural and historic interest of the place.
Contamination Report – A Phase 1 report by a specialist is often needed to accompany a planning application when a barn conversion or new home is proposed to check if any previous use on that land would cause a risk to future residents of a dwelling or other new use. If contamination is predicted then a Phase 2 report will be required, complete with soil and other tests if asked for in the planning conditions, followed by a Remediation Report and finally at the end of the build a Verification Report.
Contemporary – Current and up-to-date design.
Dimension – The length or height of something.
Domesticity – A description of a place’s homeliness.
Dormer Window – A perpendicular window located in a sloping roof to provide more space, height, and light.
Eaves – The projecting edge of a roof that overhangs an exterior wall or opening and supports the gutter (unless there is a concealed gutter).
Elevation – The view when looking at the face on each side of the building
Extension – The construction of extra floor space for an existing building.
Facade – An exterior wall, or face, of a building.
Fascia – A sheet of material timber, plywood, or sometimes UPVC at the eaves and behind the gutter.
Fenestration – The arrangement of windows and external doors.
First Fix – the first stage of fitting in a building project, for example, fitting the wires for the sockets or the pipework to the future radiators or sanitary ware
Floor Plan – The arrangement of rooms in a building at each level.
Floor Area – The total area measured as square metres taken up by a building on each floor, usually taken from within the exterior walls
Foundations / Footings – Designed by a structural engineer to sit under the building to evenly transfer the weight of the building to the earth, most often in concrete.
Gentrification – Standardising, normalising and bringing wealth into a place.
Ironmongery – Items made from iron such as door handles, locks, hinges window fittings, railings, handrails, switches, and sockets.
Joinery – Carpentry.
Joists – A horizontal structural element that supports the floor and/or ceiling
Juxtaposition – Two opposites placed together for increased effect (old and new).
Listed Building – A listed building or structure is one that has been placed on a statutory list by Historic England and requires protection not to be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the Local Planning Authority.
Listed Building Consent – Permission is given when a Listed Building Application has been made and approval has been given.
Loft Conversion – The process of transforming an existing empty attic space or loft into a functional room.
Masonry – Being of stone, brick, or concrete.
Massing – A simple arrangement of the to-be-designed spaces.
Modular – Describes a (simple) construction system for a building that could be added indefinitely.
Nodes – The connecting point of a network, usually of roads or paths.
Orangery – an extension, which has a solid structure with proportionately more brickwork than that of a conservatory with, a flat roof and a lantern and windows at the sides separated by columns that sit beneath the roof formed of internal pelmets and glass panels.
Organic – Natural and often curvy in appearance.
Parapet – Usually a piece of wall that protrudes up above a flat roof, for example, to hide a gutter when you build close to a boundary
Party Wall – A wall, also known as a common wall is a dividing partition between two adjoining buildings that is shared by the occupants of each residence or business. If you need to cut steel beams into a party wall then a party wall agreement is required.
PEA – Preliminary Ecological Assessment – often required accompanying planning applications for barn conversions or new houses to assess if any protected species are living within the agricultural building or on the land.
Plan – An aerial view, looking down onto the building. They can show the roof, doors, walls, and windows, together with the internal layout.
Planning Permission – Permission is given to carry out certain building works or extensions issued by the Local Planning Authority after an application has been made following the issue of drawings and other related documents.
Planning Conditions – Each planning permission has attached to it certain conditions to be complied with some of these are pre-commencement planning conditions that need to be satisfied before construction can begin by means of extra drawings or reports to be issued with a further planning application for approval of conditions.
Programme – A chart to show which order building work will be carried out over a number of weeks.
Projection – A side wing, tower, or window bay that protrudes from a building.
Proud – Sticking out, as in “the countertop is proud of the cabinet”, sits proudly
Purlin – Longitudinal, horizontal structural member in a roof (often used in roofs which do not have trusses.)
Rafter – A sloped structural member such as a wooden beam that extends from the ridge, or wall plate, or has been designed to support the roof deck.
Rebate – A recessed strip.
Regenerate – To improve and bring back to life.
Ridge – The horizontal line at the junction of the top edges of two sloping roof surfaces.
Ridge Beam – The top structural member of a roof either in steel or structural timber
Robust – An object, method, or idea that seems to be flawless and sensible.
Roofline – The top of the part of a building that rises above the eaves of the building.
Rooflight – A window in the slope of a roof or set on a flat roof with upstands.
Sanitary Ware – Toilets, basins, showers, shower trays, baths, taps, etc.
SAP Calculation – A rating that is required to produce a Predicted Energy Assessment and an On Construction Energy Performance Certificate.
Sash Window – A window usually made from timber, which has the opening parts sliding vertically (or horizontally) within a frame. Mostly works on a series of lead weights but more recently by a pair of spiral sash balances.
Scale – The size of something. Planning drawings are often at a scale of 1:100 and construction drawings are at a scale of 1:50 or 1:20 with joinery details at a larger scale of 1:10. 1:5 or 1:2.
Second Fix – The final process of fitting electrical or mechanical work at the end of a project – completing actual fittings such as sockets, taps, radiators, and sanitary ware.
Section – A drawing of a vertical cut-through of the building that results in the removal of one of the selected parts to reveal the object’s inner elements – used usually to show the space and structure of a building.
Sequence – A defined order of items.
Setback – A step-like recession in a wall.
Site Investigation – A preliminary process used to gather the information needed to carry out the viability of the project.
Soffit – The flat board in timber, ply, or UPVC under the eaves.
Spatial Composition – How a building and its parts sit together and interact with its context.
Sustainability – A measure of how environmentally friendly a building is.
Threshold – The boundary between two spaces, often marked by a door, change of flooring, or similar change.
Trial Hole – A pit or trench dug to determine the geology and the water table of the site. Structural engineers can need to commission these to be dug in the ground to analyse the make of the ground at different depths to be able to design the foundations of a building or extension. Particularly needed if there are trees in close proximity.
Topographical Survey – Az survey by a company of existing buildings and land to measure what exists and work out ground levels.
Trusses – A triangular roof structure usually made of wood that actually makes up the roof structure.
U Value – The measure of how effective the building’s fabric areas are at preventing heat from transmitting between the inside and the outside of a building.
Vernacular Architecture – Vernacular architecture responds to local methods of building construction, local climates, and local living needs and traditions.
Our talented Architects offer exciting ideas and expert opinions on layouts and plans for new homes, house extensions, conversions, home offices, pool houses, and much more. Take advantage of our extensive local ‘planning permission’ and ‘permitted development’ knowledge and let our brilliant team turn your concept into a reality.
Author: Jessica Parkes. Read more articles for MP Architects LLP https://www.mpcharteredarchitects.co.uk/news/