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abatement (n.)

The act of ending, reducing, lessening, or mitigating something.

In construction, refers to the act of ending or removing a problem, typically hazardous material or conditions, so that it no longer causes harm—e.g., mold, asbestos, lead.

See mitigation and remediation.


abutment joint (n.)

A device installed on an existing structure to allow for controlled, independent movement of a new adjoining structure.

Often used in new addition applications.

Frequently synonymous with isolation joint.

accessory (n.)

A secondary material used during the installation of products or system components.

Examples include fasteners, adhesives, clips, and trim.


See American Council of Engineering Companies.


See aluminum composite material.

acoustic insulation (n.)

Materials used to control the absorption or deflection of sound passing between building elements such as walls, ceilings, doors, and windows.

Also known as soundproofing.

See MasterFormat® Section 09 81 00 “Acoustic Insulation.”

acoustics (n.)

The study of sound and its properties.

Particularly relevant in the design and construction of interior spaces.

addenda (n.)

Additional written information provided to the contractor during the bidding process that supplements or provides clarification on the bidding documents.

Once the construction contract is executed, the addenda become part of the contract documents.

Plural of addendum.

See MasterFormat® Section 00 91 13 "Addenda."

additive (n.)

A substance that is incorporated into another building material during the manufacturing process to enhance specific properties such as water repellency.

See admixture.

adhere (v.) 1

To stick to, hold onto, or attach to something.

An object can be adhered to a surface by an adhesive, such as a pad or tape, or by hardware (i.e., "mechanically attached").


adhere (v.) 2

Synonymous with comply, as in “code compliance.”

adhered stone masonry veneer (n.)

Thin stone, manufactured stone, or brick adhered to a substrate using mortar or another form of adhesion in place of anchors.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 43 13.16 “Adhered Stone Masonry Veneer.”

adhesive (n.)

A material used to provide a bond between two surfaces as a form of attachment.

admixture (n.)

A supplementary substance added during the on-site mixing process.

Admixtures typically improve the performance of the matrix into which they are included—e.g., retarding the curing period of a concrete mixture.

See additive.

advertisement for bids (n.)

A document containing basic project information and bid requirements that is published to solicit competitive bids for a project.

See MasterFormat® Section 00 11 13 "Advertisement for Bids."


advertisement for prequalification of bidders (n.)

A document used prior to publishing an advertisement for bids to assess the suitability of a General Contractor for a project, based on work experience, financial soundness, resources, and expertise needed to perform the work.

See MasterFormat® Section 00 11 15 "Advertisement for Prequalification of Bidders."

aesthetic (adj.)

Indicates that an object displays certain visual qualities that are artistically pleasing.

aesthetic (n.)

The appearance of an object, typically regarding its artistic qualities and visual impression.


agreement (n.)

Known in the design and construction industry as the written document that forms the construction contract which is legally binding and signed by responsible parties, the Owner and the Contractor.


aggregate (n.)

A category of hard minerals such as sand, gravel, or marble that are ground to a suitable size and commonly used to produce various construction materials, including concrete and terrazzo.

Aggregates are appropriate for use in non-decorative applications and suitable for achieving decorative finishes, as well.



See authorities having jurisdiction.


See American Institute of Architects®.

air barrier (n.)

A system designed to control the flow of air traveling into and out of the building enclosure.

See MasterFormat® Division 07 “Thermal and Moisture Protection.”

allowance form (n.)

Indicates a budgeted amount to be set aside for a line item when the exact cost is unknown.

See MasterFormat® Section 00 43 21 "Allowance Form."

aluminum composite material (n.)

Two outer layers of thin aluminum bonded to either side of a polyethylene (PE) core and used to make rigid sheet panel products, such as signage and cladding.

Abbreviated to ACM.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 42 13.23 “Metal Composite Material Wall Panels.”

American Council of Engineering Companies

A national business organization comprised of representatives, advocates, and educators that serves companies in the engineering industry.

Abbreviated to ACEC.

American Institute of Architects®

A private organization of architects known for establishing a code of conduct for architects, including legal contract documents regarding the interaction of the Owner, Architect, and Contractor in the project delivery process.

Abbreviated to AIA®.


American National Standards Institute®

A nonprofit organization that manages a voluntary conformity standards system in the U.S., and a member of the International Organization for Standardization® (ISO®).

Abbreviated to ANSI®.


American Society of Civil Engineers Construction Institute

A professional training and networking community for those in the construction industry.

Abbreviated to ASCE CI.

American Society of Testing and Materials

A private organization known for developing a systematic standardization for testing construction materials, consisting of written documents containing test results and instructions on the safe use and implementation of those materials.

ASTM documents are organized by nomenclature consisting of a single letter followed by four numerals—e.g., ASTM C1629, “Standard Classification for Abuse-Resistant Nondecorative Interior Gypsum Panel Products and Fiber-Reinforced Cement Panels.”

Abbreviated to ASTM®.

anchor (n.)

An device used to securely fasten another object to a material in applications where screws or similar fasteners are not suitable—e.g., concrete construction.

anchored stone masonry veneer (n.)

Thin stone veneer attached to a backup surface using masonry anchors rather than mortar or another method of adhesion.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 43 13.13 “Anchored Stone Masonry Veneer.”


See American National Standards Institute®.

applied fireproofing (n.)

Fire-resistive coating materials applied to structural building components to increase fire resistance, and to possibly provide more time for occupants to evacuate a burning building and for firefighters to extinguish a blaze.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 81 00 “Applied Fire Protection.”

Architect (n.)

A licensed, trained professional hired to create a design and administer the construction process of buildings and other structures, or other specialized aspects of a construction project—e.g., landscaping.

architectural (adj.) 1

Denotes that an object has a higher aesthetic value or quality than another object—e.g., architectural concrete is typically considered to be more artistically sophisticated than other kinds of concrete.

architectural (adj.) 2

Points to the domain of products, systems, assemblies, processes, and tasks for which the Architect is particularly responsible—e.g. the architectural drawings, prepared by the Architect, are usually identified with an “A” at the beginning of a string of numbers.

architectural concrete (n.)

Concrete that is permanently exposed to view and provides an aesthetic finish.

See MasterFormat® Section 03 33 00 “Architectural Concrete.”

architectural design (n.)

The concept of establishing and consolidating building components and system elements in accordance with specific requirements and objectives for both aesthetic and structural performance.

Architectural Woodwork Institute

Organization formed in 1954 that creates and publishes Standards for architectural woodwork and related interior finishes.

Abbreviated to AWI.

asbestos (n.)

A group of six types of silicate mineral fibers, all of which occur naturally. Asbestos is frequently considered a carcinogen, making it one of the most hazardous materials once incorporated in the built environment.

Asbestos is typically found in buildings constructed prior to 1970, and is often contained in the following materials:

Spray-applied or troweled-on surfacing material for ceilings or walls

Thermal insulation around pipes or ducts

Fireproofing on structural members

Shingles, siding, roofing felts, vinyl floor tiles, gypsum board patching compounds, caulking, and carpet and floor tile adhesives

as-built (n.)

A revised, detailed set of Drawings submitted at the end of construction that reflects the final Drawings and specifications of the building, allowing the comparison of the original design with all changes that occurred throughout the construction process.

as-cast (adj.)

Describes a finished surface of a molded material to which no additional finishing treatments or remedial efforts have been applied.


See American Society of Civil Engineers Construction Institute.

as indicated (adj.)

Denotes that desired information is represented in Drawings.

as scheduled (adj.)

Indicates that a scheduled list of selected materials and finishes is provided in Drawings.

assembly (n.)

Materials, equipment, or other components that are incorporated together to serve a single, specific function and purpose.


See American Society of Testing and Materials.

authorities having jurisdiction (n.)

Any civil servants responsible for regulating a building’s adherence to standardized requirements, such as a building code, an electrical code, or the Life Safety Code®.

The term originates from the NFPA®, which commonly abbreviates it to AHJ.


See Architectural Woodwork Institute.


awning (n.)

A covering—typically composed of fabric, but sometimes made of metal—that is attached to a structure to control sun exposure and to provide an aesthetic effect for a building’s exterior.


baffle (n.)

An object used to control the transmission of excess sound or light.

batt (n.)

Non-rigid sheets of insulating materials often added to walls or ceilings—e.g., fiberglass or mineral wool insulation.

Batts are a pre-cut form of blanket insulation.

bidding (n.)

The process of calculating and submitting the details of costs and services required to complete construction or to complete an aspect of the construction project.

See MasterFormat® Division 00 "Procurement and Contracting Requirements."


See Building Information Modeling.

binding (adj.)

Describes a certain, irrevocable promise or agreement.

A legally binding document (e.g., a contract agreement) places a party under legal obligation to perform or carry out specified duties and responsibilities.

blanket insulation (n.)

Non-rigid forms of insulating materials often added to walls or ceilings—e.g., fiberglass or mineral wool insulation.

Forms of blanket insulation are batts and rolls.


block (n.)

Typically refers to a unit of concrete, wood, or other material used in various types of construction.

Concrete block, synonymous with CMU, is used in masonry construction and is often larger in size than brick.

Blocks can also be made from wood and are commonly used in wood framing construction.

See blocking.


block (v.) 

To place something in the path of a material or element (e.g., air, water, sound, light) to stop or prevent passage through another material or object.


blocking (n.) 

Typically refers to a piece of dimensional lumber material that is installed to provide structure and stability or to serve as an area for attachment, and often seen in wood construction, including wall, ceiling, and floor framing applications.

Blocking can also be made of metal or synthetic material.


bond strength (n.)

The measured amount of energy required to break the bond between certain materials—e.g., concrete, adhesive, plastic—that have been securely joined to another material or surface.


See Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method®.


 breeze block (n.)

A type of aesthetic concrete masonry unit.

Breeze blocks can be installed to allow for increased air flow through a wall.

brick (n.)

Typically refers to a rectangular-shaped unit of masonry made from clay or shale.

Brick units can also be made from concrete, but this type is typically larger in size and more commonly referred to as concrete block and CMU.

brick masonry (n.)

A type of construction that can be used structurally and non-structurally and involves individual brick units installed in horizontal rows, often bonded by mortar.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 21 13 “Brick Masonry.”

brick masonry unit (n.)

Synonymous with clay masonry unit, but commonly referred to as brick.

building envelope (n.)

Materials and system components installed on the exterior of a building to protect the interior environment from the effects of exterior elements such as air, heat, and moisture.

See MasterFormat® Division 07 "Thermal and Moisture Protection."

Building Information Modeling

A process using 3D digital technology to manage the planning, design, and construction of buildings.

Abbreviated to BIM.

building joint (n.)

See joint.

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method®

A worldwide, voluntary assessment method that supports building sustainability throughout different building lifecycle stages.

Abbreviated to BREEAM®.

built environment (n.)

The systems, materials, assemblies, space, and additional items which constitute a building site.



See contract administration.


cabinetry (n.)

A framed or frameless construction typically made of wood or types of engineered wood that is used for storage and consists of a 5- or 6-sided box and can have shelves, drawers, and hinged doors.

See MasterFormat® Section 06 41 00 “Architectural Wood Casework.”

See also MasterFormat® Section 12 30 00 “Casework.”


See computer-aided design.

calcine (v.)

To apply intense heat to a material for the purpose of producing chemical effects, such as oxidation.

Calcined lime is a common material used in the built environment.

calcium silicate masonry unit (n.)

A manufactured masonry unit molded from a mixture of high calcium lime, silica sand, and water.

It can be installed with full thickness on a brick ledge, or as a thin application adhered to a structural substrate.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 71 13 Calcium Silicate Manufactured Brick Masonry.”

canopy (n.)

A covering with open sides that is often used at exterior entrances of a building to provide overhead protection from weather.

As opposed to an awning, a canopy is generally free-standing and is only sometimes attached to a building.

cast stone (n.)

A material manufactured using a mixture of cement, sand, aggregates, and color pigments to resemble the look and texture of natural limestone.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 72 00 “Cast Stone Masonry.”

caulk (n.)

A type of semi-rigid sealant typically used at joints and seams around doors, windows, and plumbing piping to prevent leakage of air or water.

Alternatively spelled calk.

Also referred to as caulking.

caulk (v.)

To apply caulking.

caustic (adj.)

A modifier denoting that a material possesses corrosive qualities.

cavity (n.)

Empty air space separating the inner and outer portions of a wall, allowing for thermal and moisture protection.

Often seen in masonry construction.

cement (n.)

A powder made from a combination of clay and calcined lime.

A common ingredient in mortar and concrete.

cement block (n.)

Synonymous with concrete masonry unit.

cementitious (adj.)

A modifier describing concrete materials whose primary ingredient is cement.

centimeter (n.)

A metric unit that indicates a measurement of length, equal to 0.01 meters or 0.39 inches.

ceramic (n.)

A clay-based material that is fired in a kiln to produce a characteristic hardness.


See continuous insulation.


cinder block (n.)

A block created in the same shape and size as traditional CMU but composed of a different cementitious mixture—including coal cinders or ash—in order to produce a more lightweight product.

Commonly mistaken for concrete masonry unit.

cladding (n.)

A type of surface material designed to protect against weather and to cover the outer surface of another material for aesthetic purposes.

Often refers to exterior building materials—e.g., stone masonry or metal wall panels—but can also include other materials, such as plastic laminate for interior doors and cabinets.

Synonymous with exterior wall covering.

clay (n.)

A natural mineral soil which behaves with plasticity when contact with moisture occurs.

clay masonry unit (n.)

Dried, clay-based brick. Various types can be used for structural, finish, or landscape applications.

Synonymous with brick masonry unit, but commonly referred to as brick.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 21 00 “Clay Unit Masonry.”


See concrete masonry unit.

coating (n.)

A liquid layer applied to partially or fully cover a substrate in order to provide a decorative finish or surface protection—e.g., paints, fluoropolymers, sealant, and various other fluid-applied products.

code (n.)

Standard rules, requirements, and standards established by authorities having jurisdiction to protect public health and safety.

Applicable to all aspects of building construction.

cold-formed (adj.)

A modifier denoting that a metal has been formed and shaped—without the use of heat—by using a series of dies. 

Cold-formed metal is commonly used for manufacturing framing members—e.g., studs, joists, metal supports. 

 See MasterFormat® Section 05 40 00 "Cold-Formed Metal Framing."

column (n.)

A vertical architectural feature typically designed to provide support to a roof, arch, or other overhead structure.

column cover (n.)

A material designed to conceal the outer surface of a column for aesthetic purposes.

See MasterFormat® Section 05 58 13 Column Covers.”

comparable (adj.)

Admitting of comparison with another; similar or equivalent.


composite (n.)

A distinct material produced by the combination of two or more different material elements.

Examples of composite materials can include:

Wood composites, such as plywood

Metal composites, typically combining metal and plastic

Fiberglass, combining plastic and glass fiber

computer-aided design (n.)

A method of design often utilized by architects, engineers, and designers that uses computer software to create technical drawings and 3D models.

Abbreviated to CAD.

concrete (n.)

A mixture of building materials that cures and hardens and is composed of cement, aggregates, other additives, and water.

See MasterFormat® Section 03 00 00 “Concrete.”

concrete block (n.)

Synonymous with concrete masonry unit

concrete finish (n.)

A method of achieving the desired texture or appearance for concrete surfaces by using various tools and techniques.

concrete masonry unit (n.)

A rectangular block or brick made from a mixture containing portland cement and other aggregates.

Also see breeze block, cement block, cinder block, and concrete block.

Abbreviated to CMU.

See MasterFormat® Section 04 22 00 "Concrete Unit Masonry."


conditions of contract (n.)

Refers to stated requirements, including rights, responsibilities, and relationships, set forth in the contract that affect binding obligations of the responsible parties.

See MasterFormat® Section 00 70 00 “Conditions of the Contract.”


Consensus Docs® (n.)

A coalition, of forty (40) organizations in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry that developed and published a series of standard contract documents.

ConsensusDocs® is led by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA).


constraint (n.)

A limiting variable within a situation.

In the built environment, monetary and time constraints are most common.

construction documents (n.)

Written and graphic forms of information serving as an official record used for administering the construction contract and for communicating design intent throughout all phases of a project.

See MasterFormat® Division 01 "General Requirements."

construction joint (n.)

An object designed and installed to separate concrete construction into smaller units.


construction schedule (n.)

Critical information detailing when the project is to be constructed and completed based on the construction activity timeline.

Construction Specifications Institute (n.) 

A national association of professionals that has developed various educational and certification programs focusing on building information management, while also working with global organizations to create and maintain communication and documentation standards in the building construction industry.

Abbreviated to CSI®.


continuous insulation (n.)

Material that provides uninterrupted thermal protection across all structural members and claddings of the building envelope.

Abbreviated to ci.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 21 00 “Thermal Insulation.”


contract (n.)

 The legally binding written agreement between at least two parties and consists of three basic elements: an offer, acceptance, and consideration.

In construction, the contract is typically between the Owner and the Contractor involved in the project.


contract documents (n.)

Legally enforceable contracting drawings, specification, addenda, and other documents in written and graphic form that are considered part of the signed contract.

See MasterFormat® Division 00 "Procurement and Contracting Requirements."

contraction joint (n.)

A sawed or tooled joint in concrete or masonry that allows for dimensional change without the development of cracks or separation caused by shrinkage.

More commonly known as a control joint.

Contractor (n.)

The party responsible for providing materials, equipment, and labor and fulfilling the requirements for the Work of the project according to the construction contract.

The Contractor is responsible for the means, methods, and techniques of construction.


contracts and forms (n.)

See contract documents.

control joint (n.)

See contraction joint.

coping (n.)

Material installed on top of a wall that provides a slanted or sloped horizontal surface to shed water and prevent infiltration of water from above.

See MasterFormat® Division 07 “Thermal and Moisture Protection.”

copolymer (n.)

A type of polymer used to manufacture certain polymer-based materials—including polyethylene-vinyl acetate (PEVA), nitrile rubber, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)—that can provide the properties of strength, impact resistance, and heat resistance.

corrosion (n.)

The chemical reaction or deterioration of a living or non-living material due to contact with or exposure to environmental elements or other substances such as salt, moisture, temperature, or certain chemicals.

corrosive (adj.)

A term used to indicate that a material is capable of causing corrosion.

cove base (n.)

A flared-edge trim that covers the joint between the wall and the floor, providing a smooth transition.



See Construction Specifications Institute.


cure (v.)

To control the moisture content and temperature of new concrete immediately following the placing and finishing process, allowing cement and water to properly bond during hardening.

The slower that water leaves concrete (a process called dehydration), the harder the concrete will be, and its surface will have smaller and fewer cracks.

See MasterFormat® Section 03 39 00 "Concrete Curing."

curing (adj.)

Describes a type of material used to aid in the process of curing concrete.

See MasterFormat® Section 03 39 00 "Concrete Curing."

curtain wall (n.)

A self-supporting, nonstructural exterior wall system that is typically comprised of aluminum framing members and glass infill panels and is designed to protect the interior environment from air and water infiltration.

See MasterFormat® Section 08 44 00 "Curtain Wall and Glazed Assemblies."


dampproofing (n.)

The process of spraying on or hand-applying a coating to the outside of an earth-retaining concrete or masonry wall in order to prohibit the passage of soil moisture into interior spaces.

Commonly mistaken for waterproofing.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 10 00 “Dampproofing and Waterproofing.”


See Design-Build Institute of America.

decorative concrete masonry unit (n.)

A rectangular block or brick, made from a mixture containing portland cement and other aggregates, that can have a cosmetic finish—e.g., texture, color—and is typically used for achieving both a functional and aesthetic design.

Synonymous with decorative CMU.

decorative CMU

See decorative concrete masonry unit.


delegated design (n.)

The procedure of an Architect passing along responsibility for some aspect of design to a General Contractor.

Commonly delegated items include exterior metal stud assemblies and metal stairs.

describe (v.)

To characterize or give an account of something or to convey an idea or impression; expressed in words, including relevant details.

descriptive (adj.)

Characterized by description; serving to describe.


Design-Build Institute of America (n.)

A collaborative group of architectural, engineering, and construction industry professionals, academics, students, and project Owners, that provides design-build project delivery education and certification.

Abbreviated to DBIA.

design intent (n.)

The purposed appearance and function of a product as specified and designed by a designer.


detail (n.)

A graphic depiction of individual attributes or elements relative to the design and construction of a building.

A detail is typically a large-scale diagram of a single object.

Architectural drawings contain a large number of details and sections, as well as other kinds of diagrams.

Drawings (n.)

The set of documents created by the Architect which visually depict the building(s) to be built in a given project.

Architectural Drawings typically consist of floor plans, reflected ceiling plans, elevations, details, and finish schedules, among other components.

Abbreviated to DWGS.


duty (n.)

Refers to responsibilities or obligations to others.

Legal duties are to be fulfilled according to the law.



See Drawings.


efflorescence (n.)

A white salt deposit on a porous material's surface that is a result of extended exposure to water.

Efflorescence can be an aesthetic issue and an indicator of possible moisture problems.


e.g., (adv.)

An abbreviation meaning “for example” and indicating that an example will follow directly after the presentation of a concept.

The letters refer to the Latin phrase exempli gratia, literally meaning “gracious example.” However, the phrase came to carry the sense of “free example” or “for the sake of example” and was commonly placed immediately before the citation of an example.


See exterior insulation and finish system.


See Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee.

elasticity (n.)

The degree to which a material will assume its original shape after having been temporarily deformed by an outside force.

elastomer (n.)

A flexible, rubber-like material which characteristically possesses a quality of viscoelasticity.

Elastomeric materials, such as EPDM rubber, are used frequently for membranes, adhesives, and sealants, among other kinds of products.

elastomeric (adj.)

A modifier indicating that an object possesses the qualities of an elastomer.

elevation (n.)

A two-dimensional diagram depicting some part of a building’s interior or exterior wall.

An elevation is a kind of diagram regularly found in architectural drawings.

engineer (n.)

A professional who designs or builds systems or structures to meet safety, performance, and code requirements according to an architectural design.

Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee

An entity which has developed fair and objective standard documents for engineering design and construction projects. 

The committee represents a business arrangement between the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), National Society of Professional Engineers/Professional Engineers in Private Practice (NSPE/PEPP), and the American Society of Civil Engineers Construction Institute (ASCE CI).

Abbreviated to EJCDC.

epoxy (n.)

A two-component thermosetting polymer often used for making construction products such as adhesives, coatings, sealers, and other building materials.


See expanded polystyrene.

expanded polystyrene (n.)

A lightweight foamed plastic that is often used as thermal insulation and is molded into a board from small, puffed spheres.

Abbreviated to EPS.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 21 00 "Thermal Insulation."

expansion joint (n.)

A gap designed to accommodate building movement and prevent structural damage caused by the expansion and contraction of construction materials and seismic events.

expansion joint cover assembly (n.)

Materials installed to provide a safe transition across an exposed expansion joint and to prevent moisture damage within the joint.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 95 00 "Expansion Control."

exposed (adj.)

A modifier denoting that a material is open to view or unprotected by some form of covering.

exposure class (n.)

A categorized list of performance characteristics and requirements for exposed materials, such as stone and concrete.

The exposure class determines the level of weather resistance of a material based on measurable effects of exposure such as water, salt, and extreme thermal changes.

exterior insulation and finish system (n.)

A non-load-bearing exterior cladding system that includes material components for continuous insulation, water resistance, and protective finish for building elements such as walls and soffits.

Abbreviated to EIFS.

See MasterFormat® section 07 24 00 "Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems."

extruded polystyrene (n.)

A lightweight foamed plastic that is often used as thermal insulation and is formed into a board through an extrusion process at high heat.

Abbreviated to XPS.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 21 00 "Thermal Insulation."


extrusion (n.)

The process of pressing a softened material, like molten metal or plastic, through a die to yield a new shape with a continuous profile.



See fluoroethylene vinyl ether.

fiberglass (n.)

A fibrous material created from molten glass to form fine, flexible threads.

Fiberglass is designed to provide insulation, strength, and reinforcement to various types of products used as thermal and acoustic insulation, such as wall cladding materials, roof coverings, and adhesives.

fireblocking (n.)

Materials installed in fire-rated and non-fire-rated assemblies to prevent the movement of hidden fire and smoke occurring within a concealed cavity space or between floors.

fireproofing (n.)

Non-flammable materials used to provide fire-resistance.

Fireproofing can also refer to the act of applying fire-resistant materials to walls, ceilings, and other installations as passive protection for a building's structural members against destruction caused by heat or flame.


fire protection (n.)

Fire- or smoke-activated equipment—e.g., alarms, sprinklers, or other systems—that work to slow the spread of fire.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 80 00 "Fire and Smoke Protection."

fire-resistance (n.)

A product’s ability to be inherently non-flammable and often self-extinguishing.

A fire-resistant product can withstand melting or dripping when it is directly exposed to flame.

fire retardant (n.)

A manufacturer-applied chemical treatment designed to slow the spread of flames or to self-extinguish when a material is exposed to open flame.

firestopping (n.)

Materials or systems installed in fire-rated walls or assemblies and designed to provide a protective seal around openings, joints, and penetrations to prevent fire, smoke, and toxic gases from passing from one side of the fire-rated wall or assembly to the other.

flashing (n.)

A material that is installed to direct water and prevent its infiltration into a structure or joint.

See MasterFormat® Section 07 60 00 "Flashing and Sheet Metal."

fluoroethylene vinyl ether (n.)

A copolymer composed of fluoroethylene and vinyl ether that is often used as a component of fluoropolymer coatings.

Abbreviated to FEVE.

fluoropolymer (n.)

Synthetic plastic or resin material used as part of a coating system and often applied to exterior metal substrates for a corrosion- and UV-resistant finish.

Types include polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and fluoroethylene vinyl ether (FEVE), among others.

foot (n.)

12 inches, or approximately 0.33 yards, or approximately 30.48 centimeters.

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the imperial standard, as opposed to the metric, system of measurement.


See fiberglass-reinforced plastic.

furring (n.)

A strip of wood or sheet metal used to provide level finish substrates on walls or ceilings.

Furring is used to level surfaces as well as to create space for insulation or to reduce contact between finishes and exterior walls.

fusible link (n.)

A type of fuse involving two metal components fused with a softer metal and which melts at a certain temperature, causing components to separate.

A fusible link is commonly used with electronic equipment to initiate automatic operation in the event of fire.


gage (n.)

A measurement describing the thickness of a piece of sheet or wire metal.

Alternatively spelled gauge.

gasket (n.)

A ring, typically of rubber, plastic, or a similarly behaving material, which creates a seal.


See gage.


General Contractor (n.)

An official term for the person or responsible party contracted, typically by the Owner, to manage and execute the construction plan for a building project.


See glass-fiber-reinforced concrete.

glazed (adj.)

A modifier indicating that an object includes glazing.

glazing (n.)

An assembly of glass within a frame.

See glass.

See MasterFormat® Section “08 80 00 Glazing.”

gradation (n.)

The particle size distribution of the coarse aggregate used in concrete.

grout (n.)

A mixture of water, cement, and sand used for filling voids.

Grout is used in various applications, including repairs in concrete, between pieces of tile, and for reinforcing masonry walls.

Also see mortar.


See glass-reinforced plastic.


heat (n.)

See thermal energy.


impact sound (n.)

Noise generated by the force of two objects striking one another.

Impact sound is commonly heard between floors and ceilings—e.g., footsteps, or items dropped on the floor.

inch (n.)

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the imperial standard (as opposed to the metric) system of measurement.

insulation (n.)

A material used to minimize or prevent the effects of unwanted acoustical or thermal transmission between materials or assemblies.  

integrated exterior mockup (n.)

A representation of an exterior envelope design that is constructed onsite and used to evaluate performance or details of its components. 

intumescent (adj.)

Indicates that a coating material is designed to expand when exposed to heat.

Intumescent coatings are typically applied to wood or steel structural members.

isolation joint (n.)

See abutment joint.


joint (n.)

The point at which building elements are adjoined.

Its primary categories are movement joints and non-movement joints, which include various types of construction joints, expansion joints, and contraction joints.

Also referred to as a structural joint or building joint.


kilometer (n.)

1000 meters, or approximately 0.62 miles.

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the metric, as opposed to the imperial standard, system of measurement.



See Living Building Challenge®.

Life Safety Code®

A document created by the NFPA® to address the protection of human life in both new and existing structures.

Catalogued as NFPA 101®.

lime (n.)

A component of mortar that improves workability.

Lime is a calcined material, composed of calcium compounds.

lite (n.)

A pane of glass.

lumber mill (n.)

See sawmill.


man-made mineral fiber (n.)

A group of fibers used to produce materials for insulation, fire protection, and reinforcement, including mineral wool and fiberglass.

Abbreviated to MMMF.


mason (n.)

A tradesman skilled in working with unit materials such as brick and stone.

masonry (n.)

Term that refers to a work performed by a mason or the materials themselves that are used to construct a building or structure using units of materials—e.g., stone, brick, and concrete block—that are bound together using mortar.

masonry cement (n.)

A specially-formulated blend of portland or hydraulic cement, lime, and other admixtures to which sand and water are added in the field.

Masonry cement is primarily used to produce mortar.

masonry unit (n.)

Unit materials such as brick or stone which are usually bound with mortar.

MasterFormat® (n.)

A standard method of organization commonly used in the construction industry for writing specifications for building projects.

MasterFormat® uses a formatting system that includes a 6-digit numbering system, sections dedicated to a specific topic, and divisions that categorize the sections included in the project manual.

material (n.)

A physical substance or element used in a manufacturing process to produce a product or other composite materials.

MCM (n.)

Metal composite material.

See metal wall panels.


See medium-density fiberboard.

membrane (n.)

A pliable sheet material typically used as a protective barrier to control or prevent the transmission of air or water in unwanted areas of construction.

meter (n.)

100 centimeters, or approximately 1.09 yards, or approximately 3.28 feet.

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the metric (as opposed to the imperial standard) system of measurement.

methyl methacrylate (n.)

A raw material primarily used to manufacture certain types of acrylic-based plastics, polymer resins, paints, coatings, sealers, and adhesives.

Abbreviated to MMA.

mildew (n.)

A relatively harmless type of fungi that tends to be powdery and white or gray in color and thrives on damp materials. Often confused with mold, which is more dangerous and difficult to remove.

mile (n.)

5280 feet, or approximately 1.06 kilometers.

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the imperial standard (as opposed to the metric) system of measurement.

millimeter (n.)

0.1 centimeters, or approximately 0.04 inches.

A unit measuring linear length and belonging to the metric (as opposed to the imperial standard) system of measurement.

Abbreviated to mm.

millwork (n.)

Wood or alternative-wood products—including interior doors and frames, molding, trim, wall paneling, cabinetry, flooring, and other products—that are typically produced in a sawmill.

mineral fiber insulation (n.)

Fibrous materials used in producing insulating construction materials, including mineral wool and fiberglass products.


mineral wool (n.)

Fibers made from molten rock and commonly used to produce insulating construction materials.

Often synonymous with stone wool, slag wool, and rockwool.


mitigation (n.)

In construction, refers to the act of minimizing risk, diminishing the intensity, or reducing the degree of damage, loss, or harm resulting from something undesirable—e.g., disruption, delays, and hazardous materials or conditions

See abatement and remediation.


See millimeter.



See methyl methacrylate.


See man-made mineral fiber.

mockup (n.)

A full-size representation of a proposed construction design that is built on-site as a temporary or permanent structure, and which is used to evaluate the details, performance, and appearance of specified assemblies or components.

Types of mockups include integrated exterior mockups and room mockups.

moisture (n.)

A small amount of liquid—usually water—dispersed across a solid surface.

mold 1 (n.)

A black or dark green fungus that grows on damp materials and often causes harmful effects to humans, such as respiratory issues, allergies, and fatigue.

mold 2 (n.)

A hollow form used for creating castings in order to duplicate an item.

Molds are often used in fabricating types of unit masonry.

mortar (n.)

A paste made of cementitious materials that is used to bond and fill unit masonry.

Also see grout.

mortar cement (n.)

A pre-mixed blend of portland cement, lime, and other admixtures that is combined on site with sand and water, and requires minimum bond strengths.

movement joint (n.)

A type of separation at specific locations of adjoining building elements.

A movement joint is designed to allow controlled movement in order to prevent structural damage due to thermal expansion and contraction, wind, seismic events, and ground settlement.


National Fire Protection Association

An organization known for producing standardization documents related to fire safety in the built environment.

National Fire Protection Association code nomenclature reads as a numeral (one to three digits) sometimes followed by a letter—e.g., NFPA 11A.

Abbreviated to NFPA®.

Net Zero Energy Building

A sustainable design paradigm annexed within the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

Abbreviated to NZEB.


See National Fire Protection Association.

nominal dimension (n.)

A dimension which is used in the description of a product yet is technically different from the actual dimension of the product—e.g., a nominal 2 x 4 wood stud is actually 1-5/8-inches by 3-1/2 inches.

non-movement joint (n.)

A device providing the connection of materials where no expansion or contraction are anticipated.


See Net Zero Energy Building.



See Owner-Furnished, Contractor-Installed.


See Owner-Furnished, Owner-Installed.

on-site (adv.)

A modifier pointing to the location where construction activities are occurring.

Owner-Furnished, Contractor-Installed (adj.)

Denotes that an item is provided by the Owner yet installed by the Contractor during the construction process.

Abbreviated to OFCI.

Owner-Furnished, Owner-Installed (adj.)

Denotes that an item is provided by and will be installed by the Owner and is not included in the Work performed by the Contractor.

Abbreviated to OFOI.


panel (n.)

A relatively flat sheet or slab of material installed onto walls or ceilings or laid into suspended grids.


party (n.)

An individual, company, corporation, or other legal entity that enters into an agreement.

In a construction contract, the Owner and the Contractor are typically the signing parties.

penetration (n.)

An opening created to allow for the passage or installation of items through a wall or floor.

perform (v.)

To begin and carry through to completion; do.

To take action, function, or accomplish something in accordance with requirements of; fulfill.


performance (n.)

The way in which someone or something functions; manner or quality of functioning.

The execution or accomplishment of work.

The manner in which, or the efficiency with which, something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.


plaster (n.)

A soft paste mixture that is spread while wet onto a surface and hardens as it dries.

For exterior use, plaster is typically a mixture of lime, sand, and cement and is sometimes called stucco. For interior use, the mixture may feature gypsum instead of cement.


See polymethyl methacrylate.

pointing (n.)

The finishing of the exterior-facing part of a mortar joint between masonry elements.

polymer (n.)

A molecular substance used in manufacturing certain types of polymer-based materials that is often used in construction—e.g., plastics, rubbers, elastomers, epoxy resins, expanded polystyrene (EPS), polyvinylchloride (PVC), adhesives, foams, paints, and sealants.

polymethyl methacrylate (n.)

An acrylic material used to produce certain transparent, shatter-resistant plastic products.

Abbreviated to PMMA.

polystyrene (n.)

A type of plastic foam material used to manufacture various types of insulation products.

In construction, extruded polystyrene and expanded polystyrene are manufactured into insulation boards.

polyurethane (n.)

A resinous material often used in the manufacture of products that serves to coat or protect other construction materials.

Polyurethane is commonly a component of numerous types of products including:

Paints, coatings, and elastomers

Adhesives and solvents

Caulking, sealants, and foam insulation

Laminates and composite wood materials

Abbreviated to PU.

porcelain (n.)

A sub-type of ceramic characterized by a white color throughout its entire matrix.

Porcelain is harder and more brittle than ceramic tile.

portland cement (n.)

The most common type of hydraulic cement in modern construction, used as an ingredient in concrete, mortar, grout, and other materials.

preliminary project schedule (n.)

Information used during the procurement phase, prior to the award of the contract, to provide bidders the essential details needed to prepare cost estimates for the project.


prescriptive (adj.)

Relates to making or giving directions; rules.

Sanctioned by long-standing usage or custom.


primer (n.)

A material applied to the surface of wood, metal, and other materials as a base coat in preparation to receive paint, adhesives, or other finishing materials.

product (n.)

A raw or manufactured material or good that is marketed and sold.

proprietary (adj.)

Of or relating to a proprietor or to ownership; owned by a private individual or corporation.

proprietor (n.)

One who has a legal title to something; an owner.



See polyurethane.


quoin (n.)

A masonry unit used for structural or decorative purposes at an exterior corner of a wall.


rainscreen (n.)

A system of materials installed as an exterior cladding primarily designed to protect the weather barrier by allowing proper drainage and by controlling airflow on the exterior of the building.

recessed (adj.)

A modifier indicating that an installation of a building component—such as a wall, door, or window—is set back from its surroundings or flush with supporting construction.

reference (n.)

Referring to something; significance for a specified matter.

A reference noted in a publication serves to refer the reader to another passage or source.

remediation (n.)

In construction, refers to the necessary process for addressing an underlying problem and preventing future occurrence—e.g., mold.

See abatement and mitigation.



remove and salvage (v.)

To remove, handle, and store designated construction materials or equipment of existing construction in a manner that allows the materials to be reused or sold.

Removing and salvaging is typical in demolition and renovation applications where some of the existing materials are intended to be reused.

repointing (n.)

The act of restoring the pointing in a masonry assembly.

resilient (adj.)

Describes a material that is able to return to equilibrium after undergoing stress.

Commonly used to describe flexible types of sheet, plank, or tile flooring materials—e.g., vinyl and linoleum—that retain their shape and resist denting under impact from fallen objects.

resin (n.)

A natural or synthetic material, typically clear or translucent, that is often used to produce various other construction materials such as plastics, adhesives, epoxies, and coatings.

resinous (adj.)

A modifier indicating that a material or type of material contains resin—e.g., resinous flooring.

retrofit (n.)

The addition or modification of an element that was not included in the original installation.


right (n.)

An established claim or entitlement.

Legal rights are recognized and protected by law.


rock wool (n.)

A popularly used proprietary term for mineral wool.


roll insulation (n.)

A form of blanket insulation that is typically available in a continuous roll and cut to size for installation.

rust (n.)

A reddish-orange coating that typically forms on steel or iron surfaces and is a result of a chemical reaction to air and moisture exposure.


salvage (v.)

To reuse building materials, products, or equipment from demolition or deconstruction work without prior processing.

sawmill (n.)

A facility that uses machinery to cut and process raw lumber in order to produce millwork.

Also referred to as a lumber mill or wood mill.

seismic activity (n.)

A technical term for earthquake.

seismic joint (n.)

A separation between two adjacent structures or separate parts of a single structure that is designed to allow for movement in perpendicular and intersecting directions in the event of seismic activity.

Seismic joints are often installed in areas such as walls, floors, and roofs to prevent structural damage in the event of seismic activity, and/or to meet local building codes.

sheathing (n.) 

Board products—e.g., wood-based, gypsum, glass mat gypsum, or cement products—fastened to building framing in roofs, walls, and floors that act as a substrate on which to attach materials.


Certain sheathing products can be used as part of a weather-resistive barrier system.



Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association

An ANSI®-accredited organization of contractors that developed globally-accepted technical standards and manuals that address all areas of the sheet metal industry. 

Abbreviated to SMACNA.


slag wool (n.)

A material created from recycled molten steel and used to produce mineral wool products.

slump (n.)

A measurement recorded in inches that is used to indicate the consistency or amount of workability of poured concrete.

The slump test involves evaluating a concrete sample and is used for quality assurance and performance purposes.


See Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association.

soffit (n.)

The underside of any projecting or overhanging feature of a structure.

sound insulation (n.)

See acoustical insulation.

soundproofing (n.)

See acoustical insulation.

storefront system (n.)

A type of glazed framing usually used near the base of the building for up to two stories in height.

A storefront system performs at lower air, water, and structural performance requirements than curtain wall and window wall.

structural joint (n.)

See joint.

stucco (n.)

A cement plaster used for coating exterior surfaces, such as walls and soffits.

stud (n.)

A vertical framing member commonly used in walls.

subcontractor (n.)

A party hired by the General Contractor to perform contractor duties on a smaller scale within a project.

Subcontractors are typically responsible for securing workers and materials for a specific portion of a project’s total Work—e.g., a subcontractor responsible for ensuring the proper installation of MEP work.

substitute (n.)

One that takes the place of another.

substitute (v.)

To put or use in place of another.


substitution (n.)

The act or process of substituting.


termination bar (n.)

A strip of stainless steel, aluminum or plastic used to attach the termination of products such as membrane flashings or drainage boards.

Termination bars seal the product to the substrate.

terrazzo (n.)

A type of aesthetic flooring consisting of aggregate mixed into a matrix, which is polished after curing.

Terrazzo binders are usually epoxy-based but can also be composed of cement or methyl methacrylate.

thermal (adj.)

A modifier indicating relation to heat.

thermal break (n.)

A material (e.g., continuous insulation) installed between building elements to prevent thermal bridging.


thermal bridging (n.)

The transfer of heat from one material to another, typically through direct contact.

A common example of thermal bridging is the transfer of heat or cold through an interior metal stud in an exterior wall assembly.

thermal energy (n.)

An object’s energy manifested as temperature.

A technical term for heat.

thermal insulation (n.)

Materials used to slow or stop the transmission of heat.

See MasterFormat®  Section 07 21 00 "Thermal Insulation."

thermal movement (n.)

The expansion and contraction of building materials due to temperature changes.

thermoplastic (n.)

A material that softens when heated, and hardens when cooled.

thermoplastic polyolefin (n.)

A blend of thermoplastic and elastomeric materials.

Thermoplastic polyolefin is frequently used in roofing membranes.

Abbreviated to TPO.

thinset (n.)

A thin adhesive composed of portland cement, silica sand, water, and other additives that can be used to provide a bond between tile or stone materials and a substrate.  

Synonymous with thinset mortar, thinset cement, dryset mortar, and drybond mortar.


thin set (adv.)

Denotes that a specific method has been used to directly adhere tile or types of stone or masonry materials to a substrate without the use of lath or wire mesh reinforcement by using thinset adhesive.


 thinset cement (n.)

See thinset.

thinset mortar (n.)

See thinset.

tile (n.)

A relatively flat piece of material installed onto a flooring, wall, or ceiling substrate.

Tiles are often made of natural materials such as ceramic or metal, though synthetic tile materials are also common, such as vinyl.

The term tile is often used interchangeably with panel to refer to the concept of a panel, despite the differences between the two concepts.

topcoat (n.)

The final layer applied to finish and protect a material’s surface—e.g., paint, sealant, adhesive, and cement materials.


See thermoplastic polyolefin.

traffic (n.)

Any form of transportation within an area, including vehicular and pedestrian movement.

tripartite relationship (n.)

The way in which three separate parties are connected according to each contract.

In a construction contract, the tripartite relationship is typically between the Owner, the Contractor, and the Designer.


tuckpointing (n.)

The act of repointing in which some mortar is colored to match the brick and is used to fill in the bulk of space, while other mortar is colored more brightly and is applied carefully to produce thin, clean pointing.



See urban heat island.

urban heat island (n.)

A densely populated and densely constructed area of a city that experiences warmer air temperatures than its rural surroundings due to the heat generated by roof and paving surfaces and the day-to-day activities of the people who live and work there.

Abbreviated to UHI.

urethane (n.)

An ingredient commonly found in sealants, adhesives, coatings, and elastomeric products.

Urethane is frequently used to protect the surface of products such as wood, concrete, and stone flooring.

Also referred to as polyurethane.


vapor (n.)

A substance that is diffused or suspended in the air in a liquid or solid form.

veneer (n.)

A thin layer of material behaving as a surface for a substrate.

Wood, for example, is commonly used as veneer to cover a plywood layer in the manufacture of doors and millwork.


vinyl (n.)

A material containing polyvinyl chloride that is commonly used for window frames, plumbing pipes, floor coverings, and roof membranes.


viscoelasticity (n.)

The degree to which a material displays properties of both viscosity and elasticity.

Viscoelasticity is a distinctive characteristic of elastomers.


viscosity (n.)

The degree of a material's internal friction: that is, the degree to which a material is thick and will resist its own flow.

The higher a material’s viscosity, the more the material will resist deformation.

Honey, for example, has a higher viscosity than water.



wood mill (n.)

See sawmill.



See extruded polystyrene.





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