Commercial Construction Terminology

Commercial construction terminology can sometimes be confusing. Here is a list of terms and definitions:

Bid: A construction bid is an estimate based on design and specifications.

Change Order: A change order is a document showing construction plans revisions to specs or pricing of the contract.

Design-Bid-Build: Design-bid-build is the traditional approach to construction projects where the design or architecture firm is separate from the contractor. The client choses a design firm and gets a finished design before getting bids from construction firms.

Design-Build: In this scenario, the construction contractor provides design as well as final building construction. Therefore there is more collaboration and speed of delivery for the final product.

Field Work Order: A field work order is typically given by the main contractor to the subcontractor, listing out items to execute which may be out of original scope.

Commercial Construction TerminologyForeman: The foreman is the main supervisor overseeing the construction crew. He or she oversees specific daily tasks and documents completed work.

General Contractor: A general contractor is the lead contractor overseeing a commercial construction project with elements such as budget, schedules and subcontractors management.

Integrated Project Delivery: In this scenario the architect, job owner and contractor are all part of one multi-party contract, sharing expectations among all parties.

Integrated Labor Delivery: In an integrated labor delivery model, the labor portion of a construction project can start during the design stage via prefabrication. This helps alleviate problems such as labor shortages.

Lean Construction: Lean construction is a structure where all stakeholders collaborate to minimize waste and maximize output on the construction project at hand.

Lien: A lien is a legal term where builders can file a claim on property if they have not been paid for work done there.

Project Manager: The project manager oversees the important aspects of construction jobs such as schedules, deliverables and costs. The project manager also works with the client directly to ensure the project is done well and that the client is happy.

Punch List: Punch lists document items at the end of a construction project which the client is not 100% happy with. These items typically are required for full project completion and payment.

Rebrand: A rebrand project is where a storefront, corporate office or other building gets a refresh from a corporate branding perspective in construction.

Request for Information: An RFI is a process for obtaining info in construction decision-making, such as for a contract.

Roll Out: A roll out in construction is a project such as with franchises where multiple buildings, storefronts or offices are implemented with the same construction elements for brand consistency.

Submittal: Submittals can be for a variety of construction documentation, for architects and engineers to be assured the correct elements are being implemented in the construction project.

Subcontract: A subcontract is an agreement between the primary contractor and a subcontractor to execute specific deliverables.

Subcontractors: Subcontractors perform commercial construction duties managed by the general contractor. Subcontractors are typically chosen by expertise in specific trades such as drywall, mechanical, concrete or electrical.

Target Value Design: Target value design is where all project stakeholders commit to execute their piece of the commercial construction project to the owner’s budget.

Tenant Improvements: TIs are the commercial construction elements executed, typically after white box construction, to make a building move-in ready for the tenant. Attributes include those such as wall finishes/painting, carpet, lights and fixtures.

Time and Materials: Time and materials is a way to charge clients based exclusively on costs of time and materials (and any other agreed upon charges). 

White Box: A white box or vanilla box in commercial construction means a building which is stripped down to its core and given basic everything: white walls, electrical, plumbing, concrete floors, restrooms and emergency evacuation routes. The building is then ready for tenant improvements and finishing for a tenant to move into and setup business.

Want more? Read about Buildrite Construction's Roll Out services.