Construction Dictionary

Construction is technical and, at times, seems to have a language of it's own. Here’s a list of words and terms that relate to interior and commercial construction to help you navigate through the terminology.

Office Space Conditions

1st Generation Space
New office space that has been constructed on a floor that has never been customized for a tenant, that is in a condition that is ready to accept renovations.

2nd Generation Space
Office space that was previously occupied by a tenant and therefore has some improvements that may be reusable by a subsequent tenant.


Building Type Definitions

Class A buildings
The highest quality buildings in their market - generally the best looking buildings with the best construction, and possess high-quality building infrastructure. Class A buildings are also in great locations, have good access, and are professionally managed with rents above average for the area and include state of the art building systems.

Class B buildings
Class B buildings usually have good quality management and tenants and are decently maintained, but tend to be a little older and a little more moderate in design, aesthetic and finishes.  Typically the building does not compete with Class A Buildings at the same price.

Cold Shell
A building with an unfinished interior that lacks heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and usually has no existing lighting, ceilings or walls included in the space but may have fully functioning core (electrical closets, mechanical rooms, elevator lobbies or restrooms).

Warm Shell
A warm shell is typically considered ready to lease and ready to receive tenant improvements (TI).  A warm shell building will have partial HVAC systems installed, ready for distribution by tenant. Space may have fully functioning core (electrical closets, mechanical rooms, elevator lobbies or restrooms).


Contracting / Delivery Methods

Construction Manager At Risk (CMR)
The Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) is a delivery method which entails a commitment by the Construction Manager (CM) to deliver the project within a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) which is based on the construction documents and specifications at the time of the GMP plus any reasonably inferred items or tasks. The CMAR provides professional services and acts as a consultant to the owner in the design development and construction phases.

General Contractor
A general contractor (GC) is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and the communication of information to all involved parties throughout the course of a building project. It's not uncommon for a GC to act as a CM for certain owners.

This is the most traditional process where the owner contracts with a designer and engineer to prepare a set of drawings to be bid to general contractors.

Under this method, an owner typically hires a single entity, the design/builder, to perform both design and construction under a single contract. Portions or all of the design and construction may be performed by this entity or subcontracted to other companies. This method is characterized by high levels of collaboration between the design and construction disciplines, input from multiple trades into the design, and a single entity bearing project risk. Design Build has been touted to be the most cost effective and fasted delivery method.

Agency Construction Manager or Project Management
A fee-based service in which the construction manager (CM) is responsible exclusively to the owner and acts in the owner's interests throughout each stage of the project. An agency CM does not contract with subcontractors. The agency CM offers advice to the owner on matters such as optimum use of available funds, control of the scope of the work, and project scheduling.



Tenant Improvement (TI)
Changes made to the interior of a commercial or industrial property by its owner, landlord or tenant.

Tenant Improvement Allowance
The tenant improvement allowance is the amount a landlord is willing to spend so that the tenant can renovate or retrofit the office space. It is usually expressed in a $/sq.ft. amount or a total dollar sum. This amount is decided upon during lease negotiations.

Retrofitting is the process of adding functional component(s) to a current space that was not included in it's original build. adding something to the original construction.It is often used in relation to the installation of new building systems, but could also refer to the fabric of the building such as insulation. Seismic retrofitting is the modification of existing structures to resist seismic activity in areas at risk of earthquakes, ground motion, or earth slides. 

Demising Wall
The wall which separates a tenant's suite from another tenant's suite, or other building common areas. In most cases, a demising wall will be constructed from floor to either the building roof deck or floor deck. The wall may also be a fire rated wall (see "partition wall").

Partition Wall
A wall constructed to create work areas such as offices or conference rooms. Depending on security needs, a partition wall may not be constructed to the roof or floor decking, but may terminate at lower point such as a suspended ceiling.

Punch List
A list of incomplete or unacceptable construction items which upon remedy and completion will usually complete the obligations of the contractor under a construction contract.

Substantial Completion
The point during construction at which the contractor is ready to turn the property over to the tenant or client for acceptance and final punch list. Usually occurs upon the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

The process of removing previously installed hazardous materials from a site including asbestos or lead paint.


COMMON Abbreviations

APM - Assistant Project Manager

PM – Project Manager

CM – Construction Manager

ACES – Accurate Construction Estimating Service

HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning

MEP – Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing

RFI – Request for Information

DD – Design Drawings

CD – Construction Drawings


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