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What is my architect saying? - Architectural jargon busted

From doctors to engineers, they all use slang, abbreviations, and terminology that can seem like a foreign language to those people outside their professional circle. Architects are no different and can often be heard waxing lyrically about architectural articulation, facades, and fenestration. Or maybe they are talking about the implications on the DPC in relation to the DPM and FFL. If you’re a regular human being you’re probably wondering… “What does it all mean?!”.

If you are employing an architect, just remember that a substantial number of the words that are coming out of their mouth can probably be replaced by simpler alternatives that would be more easily understandable for a layperson. Don’t be afraid to ask the architect to avoid using jargon and abbreviations. Ultimately, you are the client and are paying for the architectural service, therefore it is vital that you understand what your architect is talking about!

Jargon Busting Dictionary

Articulation – creating interest to a large or uninteresting surface by adding windows, alternative materials, features, etc.

Approved Documents – a set of documents providing guidance on how to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations

Building Envelope – the walls, floors, roofs, windows, and doors

Building Regulations – statutory standards for design and construction of buildings that ensure minimum standards for health, safety, welfare, energy efficiency, sustainability, etc.

CAD [Computer-aided Design] – drawings and design produced on a computer rather than by hand

CDM [Construction (Design and Management) Regulations] – a set of regulations for managing the health, safety, and welfare of construction projects

Context – the features, both natural and manmade, surrounding a building or site

DPC [Damp Proof Course] – a ribbon of plastic that stops moisture from moving from one part of a building to another.

DPM [Damp Proof Membrane] – the sheet of plastic that separates the building from the ground and prevents damp from getting in

Elevations – drawings showing what each external face of a building looks like

Façade – the exterior wall of a building, which is usually, but not always, the front

Fenestration – openings in the walls and roof, including windows, doors, roof lights, etc.

FFL [Finished Floor Level] – the top of the floor that you walk on

Insulation – materials used to stop heat escaping (thermal insulation) or the transfer of noise (acoustic insulation)

Lintel – a beam that is used over a door or a window to create the opening

Massing – the shape, form, and size of a building

Orientation – the positioning of a building or parts (Eg. windows) in relation to the sun, wind, etc.

OS Plan [Ordnance Survey Plan] – a plan produced by the Ordnance Survey mapping company which shows buildings in relation to their surroundings – roads, paths, other buildings, etc.

Party Wall – a shared wall between two adjoining buildings

PD [Permitted Development] – what you can build without planning permission

RWP [Rain Water Pipe] – the pipes that take rainwater from the roof to the sewer

RSJ [Rolled Steel Joist] – a beam, usually ‘I’ shaped

Scale – the size of a building in relationship to another building or its surroundings

Section – drawing based on a vertical cut through the building

Setback – the distance a building is set back from a street or from an adjacent part of the same building

Statutory Applications – applications required by law in relation to building projects. Eg. Planning and Building Regulations

Structural Opening – opening in the wall of a building, often for a door or window

U-Value – a measurement of how good walls, roofs, walls, and windows are at stopping heat escaping from a building

Vernacular – design that is based on identifiable local materials, styles, and traditions

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