November 17, 2022

Ultimate Guide to Commercial Construction Terms


There will be certain challenges you can expect to face with your upcoming commercial construction project. One of those obstacles might be industry jargon and deciphering every detail of your plan when certain terms are new to you. It’s always a best practice to ask for clarification when you need it. But it also might be helpful to have a glossary of terms and definitions handy. 

Even the savviest of professionals may have a little doubt when it comes to deciphering commercial construction estimates and plans. And conversations with your contractors might be less productive if you’re unsure of terms and expectations. What you need is a roadmap of common words, phrases, and definitions. Here’s the ultimate guide to understanding commercial construction terminology.

Terms Associated with Planning

Here are a few select terms and definitions that might come in handy during the initial planning and discovery phases of your commercial construction journey. There are design processes and methods that might be new to you. And these definitions can help provide the clarity you need. 

Design-bid-build: This concept refers to a commercial construction project where various elements are completed by separate entities and contracts. These include pre-construction planning, construction, and post-construction services.

Design-build: This project delivery method implies that every aspect of the commercial project is to be handled by one company under one contract.

Feasibility Study: This is a term used to describe the process for evaluating a project’s budget, schedule, and requirements. It usually includes designs, site investigations, utility infrastructure, and estimating.

Performance Specifications: These typically refer to the minimum acceptable standards and results.

Project Programming: These are all the physical requirements involved with a Capital Improvement Project, including occupancy, infrastructure, and basis for a design.

Design Terms

When you’re ready to design your commercial build, there will be a host of jargon and terms that might seem foreign to you. Here are just a few definitions you should know.

CSI Master Format: This refers to a system of numbers and titles used to better organize your commercial construction details into standard order or sequence.

Constructability Review: A review of specifications by a third party or contractors for accuracy.

PD Phase: Preliminary design phases intend to develop plans by demonstrating physical spaces and features, including windows, walls, and doors.

SD Phase: The schematic design phase is more conceptual in nature, showing scaled sizes and program spaces.

Auto CAD/CAD: Computer-Assisted Drawing

Bidding and Estimating Terms

During the phase of your journey where estimations and securing bids are prevalent, these are a few construction terms that will be helpful to understand.

Conceptual Estimate: These estimates are early planning figures intended to determine the complexity of a commercial construction project.

Budget Estimate: This type of estimate determines the approximate expenses associated with your project. These estimates are more often used to secure funding for the project.

Request for Proposal (RFP:) This refers to the solicitation made through a bid process whereby products or services can all be evaluated.

Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM:) This refers to an estimate of costs and timelines for requirements that aren’t entirely specified yet in your commercial construction project.

Schedule of Values: This refers to the statement provided by the contractor, engineer, or architect outlining the sum of various parts of the project for purposes of reviewing applications and progress payments.

Construction Terms in the Field

There’s no shortage of construction jargon when it comes time to execute the build. Here are some of those more common yet potentially mysterious terms to help you prepare. 

Building Envelope: Sometimes also called the building shell, the building envelope refers to the waterproofing elements of a structure. It can also imply the outer structure of a commercial building.

Blueprints vs. Drawings: Blueprints, drawings, and plans are all terms for technical drawings representing the vision of the commercial construction. Designers, architects, and engineers draw and reference these as a roadmap for executing the build. 

Campus Master Plan: This is a document that references guidelines and policies to be set as standards for the campus.

Construction Manager at Risk (CM@R:) This refers to the scenario and delivery method whereby the contractor and architect enact separate contracts with you but collaborate together during the design phases.

Critical Path: This refers to the set of actions that needs to be completed for the project due date to be met. These steps are considered a priority with deadlines.

Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP:) The GMP is the price you agree to with your contractor to build your projects according to specs and drawings, at maximum.

Job Order Contracting (JOC:) This refers to the method with which commercial entities can effectively get multiple construction projects done quickly, based on year-end contracting.

Notice of Completion (NOC:) These documents are written statements issued by you or your representative notifying applicable parties that all project work is done.

Punch List: This list might feature deficiencies, unacceptable, or incomplete work based upon the results of a final project inspection. Jerdon Construction completes a punch list at the end of every project to make sure your project is up to your satisfaction.

Integrated Labor Delivery: This refers to the construction model involving labor being brought in during the design phase. Subcontractors perform nearly 80%-100% of the labor.

Integrated Project Delivery: The IPD model involves a single, multi-party agreement between you as the owner, the builder, and the architect. This contract itemizes all stakeholders as responsible for risks and incentives.

Daily Report: As the name implies, this is a document that highlights all materials installed, safety incidents, construction crew details, and work completed. It’s typically prepared by the foreman and delivered to the project manager at the end of each day.

Change Order: This is a document that is initiated to modify or change the original agreed-upon construction plan. It may encompass changes to price, materials, or specifications.

Tools, Titles, and Roles

There will be various roles and responsibilities among your contracted teams, each using unique sets of tools, methods, and provisions. Here are some of those roles, along with definitions and common tools that might come up in conversation. 

Owner’s Rep: This optional role is a representative, as the name implies, contracted by you as the owner to serve as an oversight liaison between contractors and your stakeholders. 

General Contractor: This person, usually selected through a bid process, will oversee projects and subcontractors associated with your commercial project.The general contractor  may additionally perform some of the work themselves, as well.

Construction Manager: This person will typically serve as the owner’s representative, managing and assessing quality and all aspects of the work.

Architect-in-Record: This refers to the architectural company listed on all required permits for the project but may not necessarily be the responsible designer for the project.

Microsoft Project – Software used to plan the project schedule.

Viewpoint TEAM – This is a cloud-based solution used by the general contractor to improve construction collaboration while connecting the back office and field operations with the extended team of subcontractors, suppliers, architects, and owners.

As you take the next steps to bring your commercial construction project to life, keep this glossary of common terms handy. Ask questions, and don’t hesitate to request more information from anyone involved in your project. And when you’re ready to work with a commercial construction professional with years of experience and a proven record of success, contact the Jerdon Construction team.