Jargon is defined as a type of specialized vocabulary used to fit specific situations. Just about every profession has it. Law is famous for it as is medicine, computer science, business and really any type of scientific field. Jargon fulfills the function of describing situations in which one needs a specialized knowledge to fully comprehend, so it does serve a purpose. But specialized vocabularies also make those situations intimidating for the uninitiated. Have you ever backed out of buying something, like a computer, because you don’t know what a 7th-gen 2.8 gigahertz processor, a RAID equipped SSD, or DDR4 memory is? You’re not alone.

Unfortunately, the world of commercial construction is filled with it’s own specialized vocabulary. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a nice list of things you might hear a lot and handily defined those words for you. We already have one list of terms for you, but let us fill in the blanks. It never hurts to add more vocabulary to your arsenal. Don’t feel intimidated when you talk to a commercial construction contractor about the work you need done – knowledge is power. 



Project Manager: This person is the top of the pyramid. Ultimately, budgeting, the project timeline, goalposts, and planning are up to the project manager. The project manager is also the person who will be the communications line between the business owner and the builders.

General Contractor (GC): This is the main person responsible for the project. S/he oversees subcontractors, and ensures the project is on budget and on time.

Foreman: This person is in charge of a specific construction crew at the construction site. 

Subcontractor: Specialized worker performing a trade. Subcontractors come in many flavors, from electricians to welders to pavers.


Delivering the project

Design-bid-build: This is the most traditional type of construction project model. Following a flow chart, it goes owner→designer→builder. The owner of a property contracts a designer to make a plan,  after completing the plan, the designer has contractors bid on who can fulfill it. Selecting a contractor is based on cost and time estimates. 

Design-build: This is a simplified version of design-bid-build. In it, the designer is also the contractor. Cutting out the extra step can reduce costs and help make for a faster project delivery timeline.

Target value design: In this model, the owner, designer, contractors, subcontractors, and anyone else working on the building create a design. It is determined by the goals, budget, and timeline of the owner. The model is effective because all stakeholders work together and it helps eliminate costly and time-consuming redesigns.

Integrated project delivery: This model, also called IPD, uses a multi-party contract. The contract is signed by the owner, designer, and builder. These stakeholders share risk and reward for the project. 

Integrated labor delivery: ILD sees labor begin at the design stage. This is beneficial for a huge variety of reasons. Namely the timeline can be shortened and labor used more efficiently. Construction in the US currently has an enormous shortage of labor, so using contractors well is a wise choice.


Design terminology

MEP: This is just a simple abbreviations for a project’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning of a building/project. HVAC is more important now than ever thanks to the ongoing pandemic.

Acoustics: How sound travels echoes, or is otherwise transmitted in an area. Typically acoustics refers to the sound quality of an individual room. It can also be an outdoor area like a stadium, amphitheater, and more.

Fenestration: Arrangement of the windows, doors, skylights, and other openings.

Footings: This is another term for the building’s foundation. If the building is non-traditional then the footings describe how a load is dispersed.

Load bearing: A structural piece of a construction that supports the weight of the other parts of a building above it. 

Easement: A part of the property owned by one party, but allowing use by another party. A parking lot shared by two businesses could be an example.

Drawings/Blueprints: Graphics/written documents telling what is to be built.

Specifications: These detail the materials and build quality of the construction.

Floor-plan: These show the layout of a specific floor of the building when viewed from directly above. 

Section: Similar to a floor plan, but vertical. 

Shop drawings: Shop drawings show the level of detail/specs of specific building materials that must be prefabricated – usually in a shop.



Site plan: This drawing shows the entire site in detail. Included is topography, utilities, property lines, measurements, easements, and much more.

Bid: Turned in by contractors after seeing a design, the bid is a documented proposal covering costs, build time, and   work necessary.

Addendum: Adds, changes, or gives more details to an existing bid.

Change order/ Field order/ Change Directive: A document given to the contractor allowing for changes in building specs. These changes alter the project timeline or cost. Usually one is given based on unexpected events occurring during construction.

Transmittal/Submittal: This confirms that all correct materials, and documents will be used. It’s usually necessary to the architect/engineer. It confirms that all drawings, charts, and documentation will accurately describe the build of a prefabricated piece.

Purchase order:  A PO details the buying of materials, parts, services and products from an outside source. 


Of course, there are a lot more terms

We’ve done our best to concisely list a range of terms that can help you and your project. However, you will always find more jargon. If the whole thing seems intimidating, that’s because it kind of is! There’s so much to learn for any owner who wishes to have work done on a property. Reliable Commercial is happy to help you simplify and get your project done. We are a commercial contractor company who can speak to you in layman’s terms and make your dream project a reality. Contact us today to get started.