The commercial construction industry has plenty of vocabulary which, at first, can seem self-evident. But then, as your commercial build or remodel gets underway, new terms come up that can throw you for a loop.

This is natural. We wouldn’t be considered specialists in commercial construction here at Reliable if there weren’t a lot of training, knowledge and experience that made this vocabulary so complex. To ensure you and your construction contractor understand each other perfectly over the course of your commercial projects, we compiled a solid (though non-exhaustive) list of commercial construction-related terms you might encounter during the construction process.

The following terms make up some of the most used in the industry.



An aggregate is a particulate material that is made up of either sand or crushed stone. These are used in concrete as a fundamental part of building foundations.


Architects Supplemental Information (ASI)

The ASI is a form architects use to specify additional interpretations of plans or new instructions. An ASI is also issued any time minor changes in the architectural work is made to the original plans.


As-Built Drawings (also known as Record Drawings)

The contract drawings are marked up to specify changes made during construction, and the end result is called the as-built drawing.



Once trenches or holes are created during excavation, they later have to be filled. This process is called backfilling.


Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building information modeling is the process of creating computer models of the building design. This includes all the details of the structure, from layout to materials and even the smallest details of the final measurements space-by-space.


Bill of Quantities (BOQ)

The bill of quantities is one of the contract documents you’ll see on a commercial construction project. It lists the materials required and workmanship involved in the project, as outlined.


Capital Construction Project

In general, capital projects are any long –term, capital-intensive investment project taken on to add to or improve an asset. In the case of capital construction projects, that asset is a commercial property.


Change Order

Whenever a change is requested to the construction work (or an adjustment is made to the contract sum or time), the written document reflecting that is called a change order.


Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR)

This is a workmanship delivery method where the construction manager commits to deliver the finished project within a “Guaranteed Maximum Price,” or GMP.


Core Area

The core area of a commercial structure includes the main common area plus any vertical penetrations into that building, measured in square feet. This is usually expressed as a percentage of the net rentable area in the whole facility, and usually ranges from 5-20% for most office buildings. The core area percentage can also be determined floor-by-floor or for the whole building.


Critical Path

The critical path refers to a set of activities that must be completed (and on time) over the course of the project to meet the completion date.


Deferred Maintenance

Any maintenance projects that aren’t included in the general maintenance process or the capital repair process are referred to as “deferred maintenance.” This maintenance lacks funding at the time of construction, and therefore is set for a later date.


Floor Plate

In the case of a multi-story building, the gross square footage of each floor is referred to as the floor plate.


Functional Obsolescence

This descriptive term is used when a building can’t be improved to meet current market standards or the client’s requirements. Without a complete replacement of the building’s systems and finishes, the structure is deemed “functionally obsolete.”


Job Ordering Contracting (JOC)

This form of construction contracting is a streamlined way for organizations to get multiple construction projects done quickly. Multi-year contracts are used to reduce levels of engineering, design and contract procurement time.


Load Factor or Core Factor

The load factor is the rentable building area (or RBA) divided by the usable area. In markets where space is leased based on usable areas, if that load factor is 15%, for example, then the usable area can be multiplied by 1.15 to find the RBA.


Move Budget Estimate

A move budget estimate is used for the reconfiguration of any small furniture, new furniture, or even small electrical work, painting, or carpeting. In other words, it’s not just the acquisition of a new space that gets budgeted—it’s the cost of getting key finishes and staging put in.


Punch List

At the end of a commercial construction project, a list of anything that’s incomplete, sub-par or unacceptable is compiled by the project manager during an inspection and put onto the punch list to get fixed before the contractor packs up.


Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM)

The rough order of magnitude documentation will include the estimate (in cost and time) when requirements aren’t explicitly outlined in earlier stages of the project.


Schedule of Values

The schedule of values is a statement provided by the commercial contractor to the architect or engineer to outline the budgets allotted for specific parts of work.


Shell Space

Any space within a property that isn’t fully built out is called “shell space.”


State Fire Marshal (SFM)

The State Fire Marshal will always have a say in commercial construction. The marshal also provides support in regulating buildings, controlling substances that can be used in constructions, regulating hazardous liquid pipelines, and reviewing building standards.


Time and Materials (T&M)

A written agreement between the commercial contractor and the client that outlines the actual cost of labor, equipment, materials and other services required to meet the building’s plans and project contract is called the T&M.


Value Engineering

The evaluation of methods of construction (or the materials used) to determine which can help reduce costs (without hurting reliability, performance, safety, or other details) is called value engineering.


Talking to your commercial construction contractor will be a breeze if you know what words to watch out for. Your contractor will also be happy to explain steps of the process as well as specific pieces of paperwork.

Just remember: there’s a reason why we hire professionals to do specialized work. You’re an expert in your world, and we’re an expert in ours. Start the conversation today to get your own commercial construction project started.