Glossary of Terms

This is a glossary of construction terms, expressions and acronyms related to legal and technical matters.

Abatement: (1) A reduction or lessening of something. Often used in relation to reducing a price or value if the works have not been carried out to the correct specification, or are incomplete. (2) To reduce noise or other emissions.

ACA: Acronym for Association of Consultant Architects.

Acceleration: An increase in the rate of progress of a contractor above that initially planned by the contract.

Acceleration costs: The additional costs incurred by the contractor arising from acceleration. For example, the additional labour or overtime for labour incurred as a result of acceleration.

Accepted Programme: This is a term found in NEC contracts, such as the Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC). The Accepted Programme is prepared by the contractor. If it is not identified in the Contract Data, the Contractor submits a first programme to the Project Manager for acceptance within the period stated in the Contract Data, or soon after starting on site. NEC contracts requires Accepted Programme to be regularly revised, including to show the actual progress achieved on each operation and its effect upon the timing of the remaining work. The time effect of Compensation Events must also be measured against the Accepted Programme. Refer to our Brief Guide to NEC Programmes.

ACE: Acronym for Association of Consulting Engineer.

Acoustics: The science of sound. In construction, the acoustic properties of materials / designs are considered in order to keep down noise within a room, or to prevent it from passing through walls.

Activity: An operation which needs to be done in a construction project, and which is separately identified for the purpose of planning or delay analysis.

Activity Schedule: Used in some standard form contracts, such as some versions of NEC and JCT contracts.  Generally, a priced list of activities the contractor is required to carry out.

Actual cost: This expression is sometimes used as a synonym for prime cost in a cost contract. It is also a defined term in the NEC2 contract, replaced by ‘Defined Cost’ in the NEC3 and NEC4.

Ad hoc: Latin phrase meaning “for this thing”. When used in English it is generally considered to mean “for this specific purpose“. It refers to actions taken to address a specific problem, and not usually intended to address other or ongoing problems.

Ad Idem: Latin phrase meaning “A Meeting of Minds”. Negotiating parties are said to be ad idem when have reached agreement on an issue.

Adjudication: Adjudication is a ‘fast track’ binding interim method of dispute resolution introduced by section 108 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. It is available under all relevant construction contracts, where the dispute is decided by an independent and impartial Adjudicator. Refer to article entitled ‘A Brief Guide to UK Construction Adjudication’.

Adjudicator: An independent person who resolves disputes under an adjudication procedure.

Adjudicator Nominating Bodies: Organisations that nominate adjudicators. Examples include:

  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
  • Technology and Construction Solicitors Association (TeCSA)
  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
  • Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
  • Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)
  • Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR)
  • Construction Industry Council (CIC)
  • Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb)
  • Technology and Construction Bar Association (TECBAR)

ADR: Acronym for Alternative Dispute Resolution. A structured method of settlement disputes, often by means of mediation and/or mini-trial.

ADR clause: A clause within a contract whereby the parties agree that, in the event of dispute, they will attempt to resolve that dispute by means of ADR.

Advance payment: Payment made to a contractor in advance of the commencement of the work, or in advance of the contractual date for payment of executed works. Advanced payments are sometimes made to allow the contractor to order items with a long lead-in.

Aggregate: A particulate material used in the manufacture of concrete, and other construction work. They are usually made up of pebbles, shingle, gravel, sand or crushed stone.

Agrément Certificate: A certificate issued by the British Board of Agrément. The certificate is awarded to products / materials after undergoing a comprehensive series of tests, to confirm their fitness for purpose.

Affidavit: A written statement sworn on oath, which can be used as formal evidence.

Airbrick: A perforated brick used for ventilation. They are primarily used to create an airflow underneath a suspended ground-level timber floor.

AHU: Acronym for Air Handling Unit.

AI: Acronym for Architect’s Instruction. 

Air conditioning: Mechanically controlling the temperature, humidity, cleanliness and distribution of air within a building.

All ER: Abbreviation for All England Reports. 

Ambiguity: The possibility of more than one meaning. 

ANB: Adjudicator Nominating Body. A body that selects adjudicators in the UK under. Refer to paragraph 2(3) of The Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998 No. 649).

Angle bead: Proprietary trim, used by plasterers for shaping and protecting the corner of a wall. Usually made from stainless steel or Upvc.

Apex: The highest, pointed part of a gable.

Appeal: A process by which the decision of a court is subject to reconsideration by a higher court.

Appellant: The party who brings an appeal to a higher court.

Application for Payment: A document requesting payment for the works carried out. Generally speaking, the application for payment should specify the sum claimed, along with details of how it is calculated.

Typically produced by a subcontractor and submitted to the main contractor, or produced by a main contractor and submitted to the employer or a specified person under the contract (such as the Architect or Contract Administrator).

Standard forms of contract use different names for the Application for Payment. For example, the JCT Design and Build contract 2016 edition (“JCT DB 2016”) refers to the contractor’s “Interim Payment Application”, whereas the related subcontract (i.e., the JCT DB-Sub/C 2016) refers to the subcontractor’s “Payment Application”.

APR: Acronym for Annual Percentage Rate. 

Arbitration: A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Proceedings before a private tribunal to which the parties agree to submit disputes as an alternative to the courts.

Art Deco: An architectural style which first appeared in France just before World War I. It became fashionable during the 1920s and 30s. The movement often used bold ornamental design elements. It also sometimes used modern materials such as cast concrete, often in a creative, geometric design. Stained and leaded glass were frequently used.

Articles: In the contract, the Articles provide headline details on the key agreements within the contract.

Artists and tradesmen: An expression used in pre- 1980 JCT contracts to refer to persons who execute work on behalf of the Employer but not forming part of the main contract.

Art Nouveau: A style of art and architecture which most popular between 1890 and 1910. It drew inspiration from natural forms such as the curves of plants and flowers. Its influence is visible in some Edwardian buildings, particularly in terms of decorative glazing and interiors.

Asbestos: Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. It was frequently used for insulation (including in houses, factories, offices, schools and hospitals) but was found to represent a serious a health hazard, causing many thousands of deaths. It should not be disturbed, and specialist advice sought if found or suspected.

Asbestos cement: Mainly a mixture of cement and 10-15% white asbestos (i.e., chrysotile). The asbestos fibre is used as reinforcement. The mixture was moulded and compressed to produce a range of products, often used in the past for roofing tiles and gutters. It is fragile and will not bear heavy weights. Hazardous fibres can be released when cut, drilled or broken.

As-built drawings: The original construction drawings amended to include all of the design changes made during construction. Contractors use as-built drawings to record locations of services, including ductwork, plumbing and electrical. The drawings are used by the building owner for future maintenance, operations and alteration of the building or structure.

As-built programme: The graphical reconstruction of the actual sequence and duration of the works. This is often compared with the original / planned programme to identify the reasons for overall delay on a project and the impact of identified delay events.

As-planned impacted: A method of delay analysis. A programme which illustrates the impact of delay events on the original /planned programme, in order to establish the likely completion date or to subsequently analyse the effect of identified delay events on the works. Refer to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

As-planned v as-built: A retrospective method of delay analysis. Often used as a first step in identifying activities that were not carried out in accordance with the original / planned programme. It involves a simple comparison of a contractor’s original /planned programme against what actually happened. Refer to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

Asphalt: Similar to bitumen. A black, tar-like, highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum. It is very sticky and impervious to moisture. Used on flat roofs and under tile felt.

Assets: An item of property regarded as having value and available for paying debts.

Assignment: The transfer by agreement of a right or interest to another person.

Atrium: The internal courtyard of a building. Often several storeys in height.

Attestation: The signing and/or sealing of legal documents.

AutoCAD: Computer software developed for computer-aided design.

Award: The decision given by an arbitrator / arbitration tribunal. The decision is called an ‘award’ even though all claims may have failed, and thus neither party pays any money.

Backfilling: The process of refilling trenches or holes created during excavation, especially around foundations.

Baffle: A device for breaking up the flow of air, gas, water or light. 

Balanced flue: A common flue design used with gas appliances. Unlike a conventional flue, a balanced flue allows air to enter from outside to supply the appliance with oxygen, whilst also allowing fumes to escape.

Baluster: A small post, often ornate, used to support a handrail or fill the space below a handrail.

Balustrade: A series of uprights (balusters) supporting stair handrail, landing or parapet. They are also used as the collective name for the entire framed enclosure guarding the side of a stair or landing etc.

Bankrupt: When a person is declared in law as unable to pay their debts.

Banwell Report: The Placing and Management of Contracts for Building and Civil Engineering Work’ by Sir Harold Banwell, published by HMSO in 1964 under the banner of the Ministry of Public Building and Works. This report aimed to improve the way the industry was organised and the way construction projects were procured. It identified the key issue as the separation between design and construction.

Bar: The legal profession of barristers.

Bargeboards: Boards fixed at the gable ends of roofs to conceal and protect the ends of the roof timbers.

Barrister: A person who has been called to the Bar of England and Wales. 

Base course: In road and pavement construction, the layer of material above the road base and below the wearing course. The base course is a load spreading layer which spreads the load imposed on the wearing course over the wider area of the road base. It is usually hot rolled asphalt or dense bitumen macadam.

Base date: The base date is the date from which various contractual events are related. For example, JCT Standard Building Contracts 2016 clause 4.5.2, which deals with the supply of goods and services which become exempt from VAT at the Base Date. In addition, the Base Date is applicable if fluctuations in the prices of materials are to be taken into account in calculating the final contract sum. The base date tends to be the date on which tenders were submitted, although the parties can choose any date for the base date.

BATNA: Acronym for Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.

Batten: Timber member of small, rectangular cross-section. Battens are used for several purposes in buildings, such as rendering, fixing roof tiles and sub-frames for cladding.

Battle of the forms: This can occur during the course of a negotiation between two parties attempting to agree a contract on their respective standard contract terms. One party rejects the other party’s terms by sending back their own contract terms. Generally, the last terms sent are deemed to have been accepted and will prevail. 

Beam and Block (Floor): Suspended floors consisting of precast, pre-stressed concrete beams, spaced at centres to suit the use of standard blocks as infill between the beams. They are currently the preferred solution for suspended ground floors in housing. They are also used for upper floors in all kinds of construction, from residential to commercial buildings.

Bearing capacity: The capacity of the ground to support the loads applied to it. The bearing capacity of soil is the maximum contact pressure between the foundation and the soil without causing a shear failure or settlement.

Bed joint: The mortar the brick lies on and bind bricks together.

Bending schedule: A comprehensive list / schedule that describes the type, diameter, size, length, number and bending details, of each steel reinforcement bar shown on a drawing of steel bar reinforcement required for reinforcing concrete.  The schedule is used to plan the cutting and bending process, and to assist with cost estimating and ordering.

Bills: Abbreviation for bills of quantities.

Bills of Quantities: An itemised contract document featuring all the materials and workmanship involved in a construction project.  It provides a detailed description of the amount and type of work necessary for completion of the works, often cross-referring to specification clauses. It is often drafted in accordance with rules set out in a standard method of measurement (such as SMM7, CESMM or NRM2). Used to help the contractor price the project.

BIM: An acronym for Building information modelling. A 3-D modelling process of creating a computer model that includes all of the details of that structure, from its basic layout to the smallest measurements.

Bitumen: A black, oily, viscous, sticky petroleum-based substance, related to asphalt. Traditionally used in sealants, mineral felts and damp-proof courses. Used in roof repairs and damp proofing masonry.

Bitumen felt: A flexible material for roofing.

BLR: Abbreviation for Building Law Reports.

Blueprints: 2-dimensional technical drawings showing the project’s details.

BMS: Acronym for Building Management System.

BOQ: Acronym for Bill of Quantities.

BRE: Acronym for Building Research Establishment.

Breather membrane: A membrane that repels water but nevertheless allows water vapour to escape from the other side.

BREEAM: Acronym for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.

Breach: The non-fulfilment of a contractual (or other) obligation.

Breeze block: An old type of building block, typically made with a blend of concrete and ash.

Brick bond: The various patterns of laying bricks, while ensuring that no vertical joints align with those of the row of bricks immediately above or below.

Brise soleil: A French phrase which means breaking, or smashing the sun. It is a building component designed to prevent solar gain inside buildings. It consists of a shade fixed over a window in such a way as to prevent the sun from directly hitting the glazing.

Brownfield site: A plot of land which has previously been developed on. Often for industrial purposes. In contrast with greenfield site.

BSI: Acronym for British Standards Institution

Buggeration: Jargon for disruption and the resultant uneconomic working.

Building control: Laws and procedures to ensure that buildings are constructed to comply with building regulations.

Building Law Reports (BLR): A set of law reports published for the construction industry, reporting on important judgments, including from the Technology and Construction Court, appellate courts and relevant international jurisdictions.

Building Regulations: A set of legal requirements and minimum standards which aim to ensure the health, safety and welfare of building users.

Burden of proof: The obligation of a party in dispute to prove his case. The burden can swing from the claimant to the defendant, depending on the allegations being made. The burden of proof is not to be mistaken with the standard of proof, which is the level of proof required to discharge the burden.

Buttress: A mass of masonry built against or projecting from a wall, typically used to strengthen or support it from lateral forces.

Byelaw: The law as developed by local authorities under delegated legislation.

Cable tray: A cable management system, usually supported at high level from the building structure, typically used to carry electrical and data cabling, usually emanating from plant rooms.

CAD: Acronym for computer-aided design. Architecture software used to create detailed building models.

Calderbank Offer: A written offer of settlement made by one party to the other party in a dispute which is not disclosed to the court except in relation to the question of costs. The offer to settle is often labelled “without prejudice save as to costs”. This was first recognised in the case of Calderbank v Calderbank [1975] 3 All ER 333. CPR Part 36 has largely removed the need for such offers. The term has been used to describe a sealed offer in arbitration.

Cant: An angled, or slanting edge / surface. Cant bricks are often used for feature brickwork (e.g., for corner details and window/door reveals) where crisp, clean lines are required.

Cantilever: A projecting beam, or other part of a structure, that is secured at one end only.

CAR policy: A contractors’ all risks insurance policy.

Casement window: A opening window which is attached to its frame by hinges.

Caulking: A flexible, rubbery material that is used to seal joints.

Causation: The connection between a wrongful act and the loss suffered. This can become complicated where more than one factor has contributed to the loss.

Caveat Emptor: Latin phrase meaning “Let the buyer beware”. A maxim indicating that any risk is upon the buyer for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made

Cavity barrier: Barriers incorporated in walls and floor voids to prevent the passage of smoke or fire.

Cavity tray: A stepped damp proof course, usually installed above windows and door openings to prevent the ingress of water into the cavity.

Cavity wall: A wall formed by an inner skin and an outer skin of masonry. It is a common method of building external walls of houses. The two ‘leaves’ of brick or blockwork separated by a gap (cavity) and tied together with wall-ties. The cavity prevents rain on the external leaf from penetrating into the building.

Cavity wall insulation: A method of improving the thermal insulation of a wall by filling the wall cavities with thermal insulation.

CDM: Acronym for Construction (Design and Management).

CDP: Acronym for Contractor Designed Portion.

CEDR: Abbreviation for the Centre for Dispute Resolution.

Cement: A grey or white powdery material which is mixed with an aggregate and water to produce concrete or mortar. A chemical reaction of the cement causes the mixture to harden.

Certifier: The person named in a contract as having power to issue certificates which have a contractual effect, such as in respect of interim payments. In the JCT contract the certifier is usually the Architect or Contract Administrator. In NEC contracts the certifier is the Project Manager.

CESMM: Acronym for Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement.

Cesspit: A watertight pit into which all the household waste, including human waste, is piped and stored for subsequent emptying. Sometimes an outlet is provided to allow soakage of liquids from the cesspit into surrounding ground. Not to be confused with septic tank.

Chair: A piece of bent reinforcement bar used to support the upper layer of reinforcement. The chair sits on the bottom reinforcement and supports the upper reinforcement.

Chalk line: A length of string, coated in chalk dust, which is used to produce accurate straight lines between two points. It is used for many carpentry and decorating tasks. The line is held at both ends and ‘twanged’ against a surface to transfer chalk dust to it.

Change: A variation of the works. A term often used in design and build contracts, such as the JCT Design and Build 2016 edition.

Change Order: A written document that varies or changes the plans or specifications in the construction project.

Chartered builder: A Member or Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building.

Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb): The professional body for arbitrators.

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB): The leading worldwide professional body in relation to the management of the total building process.

Chattels: Personal property.

Chimney breast: Wall of the chimney that projects into the room and contains the fireplace and flues.

Chinese wall: Arrangements within a business, especially legal firms, requiring information held by one part of the business to be withheld from others within the same business.

CIArb: Abbreviation for the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

CIBSE: Acronym for Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers. 

Cill or Sill: The horizontal shelf at the bottom of a window or door. It generally has a splay so that water runs off it when it rains.

CIMAR: Acronym for Construction Industry Model Arbitration Rules. 

CIOB: Acronym for Chartered Institute of Building.

Circuit breaker: A switch in the electrical panel that shuts off power to certain parts of the building.

CIS: Acronym for Construction Industry Scheme.

Citation: The act of identifying an authority (such as a law report) in support of a legal submission.

Claim Form: A document which initiates a civil claim (formerly a writ).

Claimant: The party who initiates litigation or arbitration. Previously known as the ‘plaintiff’. 

Clerk of Works (COW): A representative of the employer, whose duty is to act as an on-site inspector, checking that the works being built conform to the contract requirements.

Collapsed As-Built

A method of delay analysis. The first edition of the Protocol’ (published in 2002) defines the ‘collapsed As-Built’ method as follows:

A method of delay analysis where the effects of events are ‘subtracted’ from the as built programme to determine what would have occurred but for those events”.

Refer to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

Collateral warranty: A contract that is additional to the primary contract to which it relates, which creates a contractual relationship between a party to the contract and a third party who has an interest in the Works. For example, the Employer often requires a collateral warranty with the contractor’s design consultants and subcontractors. 

Common law: Law embodied in case precedent as opposed to statute law or equity. The unwritten law derived from the traditional law as developed by the courts.

Compensation event: A term found in NEC contracts for an event entitling a contractor (/subcontractor) to further payment and/or an extension of time (A delay to the Completion Date).

Concrete: A building material produced by a hardened mixture of cement, gravel, sand and water. It is used for floor slabs, columns and other types of structures.

Concrete cover: In reinforced concrete it is the minimum distance between the outer concrete surface and the reinforcement.

Concurrent delay: A delay caused by two or more events occurring at the same time.

Condition: An important term of a contract.

Condition precedent: A term in a contract which provides that certain parts of the agreement will only come into force if and when certain conditions are satisfied.

Consequential loss: Loss that occurs as a consequence of a breach of contract, but is not a loss that flows directly from the breach. Consequential loss is a secondary loss to a loss suffered directly as a result of the breach. Consequential loss may include economic loss, such as loss of profit and loss of earnings.

ConLR: Abbreviation for Construction Law Reports.

Consideration: The inducement provided by a party to a contract.

ConstLJ: Abbreviation for Construction Law Journal. 

Contamination: The presence in, on or under land of a substance at a concentration above the level at which the substance is normally present, and where that presence presents a risk of harm to human health or the environment.

Contract: An agreement which is binding in law.

Construction Act: In England and Wales, the Construction Act is an informal reference to Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and amended in October 2011, by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

Construction Drawings: The final pre-construction drawings of the whole project.

Construction Industry Law Letter (CILL): A monthly bulletin of current developments in construction law.

Constructive acceleration: When a contractor decides to accelerate to meet the date for completion due to a failure by the employer to grant the contractor an extension of time.

Contingency sum: An amount of money that is to cover the costs of unexpected events.

Contra charge: Commonly used in the construction industry to mean set-off.

Contractor’s Proposals: The document in a design and build contract whereby the contractor sets out how he proposes to meet the employer’s requirements.

Contra proferentem: Latin phrase meaning “against the offeror”. Also referred to as “interpretation against the draftsman”. A legal rule that in the event of ambiguity, a clause in a contract will be interpreted against the party who prepared or drafted and was intended to benefit from, or relied on the clause.

Coping stone: Top course of a wall, designed to prevent water penetrating into the core of the wall. In addition to shedding rainwater they often provide a decorative finish.

Copyright: An exclusive legal right to copy or allow others to duplicate or re-use drawings / designs.

Corbel: A stone or timber support built into a wall which projects to support the load of some element of the super structure.

Corbelling: The projection of masonry formed by building successive courses outwards by a small amount to form small steps with each additional course.

Corinthian: One of the classical orders of Greek architecture, along with Doric and Ionic. Taking its name from the city of Corinth, Corinthian architecture is the most ornate of the orders.

Cornice: A decorative moulding at the junction between walls and ceiling of a room.

Counter-sink: To insert a suitable screw so that its head does not protrude above that surface.

Counterclaim: A cross action brought by a respondent against the claimant.

Court Of Appeal: The court which hears appeals, civil or criminal, from the High Court, County Courts and Crown Courts.

Course: A row of bricks or concrete blocks in a wall.

CPR: Abbreviation for the Civil Procedure Rules, introduced in April 1999, as a result of the Woolf Final Report “Access to Justice”, by Lord Woolf, July 1996 (HMSO).

Critical delay: A delay that causes or contributes towards a delay in completion of building works as a whole.

Critical path: In programming a construction project, it is the path of those activities / operations that are critical to completion of the whole project. Activities on the critical path have no float.

Critical Path Analysis: The process of identifying activities which must be completed on time for the whole project to be completed on time. 

Cross claim: A claim put forward by a party against another party making a claim against him.

Crown Court: The branch of the courts which deals with criminal trials (plus some civil cases).

Culpable delay: A delay in the progress of works for which the contractor would not be entitled to an extension of time and consequently is at risk of liability for liquidated damages.

Curing: The ‘setting’ of concrete once it has been poured.

Curtain wall: A form of external cladding to a building which is non-load bearing. Curtain wall systems generally comprise a lightweight aluminium frame onto which glazed and/or opaque infill panels are fixed.

Cut and fill: The excavation of soil from one part of a building site and its deposit on another part of the site.

CVI: Abbreviation for Confirmation of Verbal Instruction i.e., the confirmation by the contractor in writing of a verbal instruction issued by the architect or contract administrator.

DAB: Acronym for Dispute Avoidance Board.

Damages: The financial remedy (money awarded) to compensate a party for his loss caused by another’s breach of contract or tortious act.

Damp Proofing: A procedure used to keep the interior dry and to prevent moisture absorption.

Damp-proof course (DPC): A horizontal layer of impervious material inserted towards the base of walls to stop rising damp. In older buildings, slates were used. A more modern practice uses tough plastic or a bituminous strip.

Damp-proof membrane (DPM): Normally a layer of plastic sheeting (such as ‘visqueen’) or mastic asphalt, laid over the site hardcore of a building, to prevent groundwater / moisture rising into the floor structure. The DPM should be connected to the DPC in the surrounding walls to be fully effective.

Data protection: The Data Protection Act 1998 dictates how personal information should be held and used by companies and the government. The Act requires everyone who collects data to follow strict rules and to keep information safe.

Date for completion: The contractual date that the contractor is obligated to complete the works. See for example JCT forms of contract.

Date of possession: The contractual date upon which the contractor is to be given possession of the site and from which the contract period usually runs. See for example JCT forms of contract.

Daywork: Usually variation work where the work cannot be measured and valued by reference to rates and instead is carried out and paid for on a daywork basis, namely a cost-plus basis.

Defect: A non-conformity of construction works.

Defective Premises Act 1972: This statute imposes certain duties on those undertaking the work for or in connection with dwellings. Where the project is for the provision of dwellings, the duties under this statute are in addition to those owed under any relevant contract. The Act allows a direct claim against the contractor in respect of work carried not out in a “workmanlike or, as the case may be a professional manner, with proper materials and so that as regards that work the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed.”

Defects certificate: Term used in the NEC form to describe a list of defects notified by the Supervisor.

Defence: The formal response to the claim form and particulars of claim in which a defendant in litigation and a respondent in arbitration sets out a summary of its response to the claim.

Delay analysis: The uncovering of causes of delay and the measurement of their effect. Delay analysis techniques often include a critical path analysis, by reference to programmes. Refer  to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

Deleterious materials: Materials, products or building techniques which are dangerous to health, or which tend to fail in practice.

Design and build: A procurement method where the owner hires a single firm or company to handle both the design and construction of the building. Design and build is sometimes considered to be a method of procurement that arrived in the 1960’s. However, in the nineteenth century a form of design and build existed was the standard procedure for providing buildings in that the Architect, having designed the building to the client’s approval, would then employ craftsmen to construct it. The ‘traditional’ procedure only developed when early in the twentieth century. The principal advantage of ‘design and build’ procurement is that it offers the client single point design and construction responsibility for the complete project, thereby removing the divisions of liability inherent in the traditional form of procurement.

Direct loss and/or expense: Loss and damage flowing naturally in the usual course of things within the first limb of the rule in the case of Hadley v Baxendale [1854]. The expression is used in JCT forms of contract to describe loss recoverable by the contractor as a result of the regular progress of the works being materially affected by ‘Relevant Matters’, including variations and acts of prevention by the employer.

Disclosure: CPR term for discovery. The production before trial of documents relating to a case. Refer to CPR Part 31.

Dispute Avoidance Board: A board of up three expert professionals, designed to avoid conflict and help maintain relationships on live projects. If disputes arise, they attempt to help resolve them quickly and effectively. They are intended to save money and help the parties deliver the project on time and on budget.

Disruption: Loss of productivity, hindrance or interruption of progress

Doric: The largest of the three orders of ancient Greek classic architecture, which was later used by the Romans and in British Classicism.

Dormer: A roofed structure, which projects vertically from the pitch of a roof. It usually containing a window.

Dormer window: The window at the vertical end of a dormer.

Dowel: A short length of wood, round in section, used for a variety of purposes such as joining timbers.

Downpipes: The pipe used to take rainwater from the roof guttering to the below ground drainage system.

Dry rot: Decay caused to timber by one of several species of fungi.

Due Date: In some other industries, the due date is the date on which a payment or invoice is scheduled to be received by the payer. That is not necessarily the case in the construction industry, with each specific contract having to be considered individually. Perhaps somewhat confusingly, the ‘Due Date’ is not the date when the actual payment will be received. However, the date that the payment should be received (the ‘final date for payment’) is usually measured from the due date.

Duress: Pressuring someone to do something, or refrain from doing something. In the contractual context, duress means using illegitimate pressure to obtain a contractual promise, payment, service or other benefit.

Duty of care: A duty arising in tort, independently of any contract, not to cause damage to others.

Early warning: A term used in the New Engineering Contract (NEC) that requires each party to issue written notice of problems so that their impact on the progress of the works can be minimised. Refer to our Brief Guide to NEC Contract Notices.

Earthworks: Operations that loosen, remove, deposit, shape or compact earth, soil or rock etc. Also referred to as groundworks or civil works.

Easement: An easement gives one party the right to use or enter part of the land belonging to another. Easements do not grant ownership, only the right to use another’s property for specified purposes. A right of way easement is often needed to gain access to electricity, water, or gas services that run across another owner’s property.

Eaves: The lowest horizontal edge of a roof. The eaves usually project out beyond the external wall, with a soffit below. Occasionally, eaves terminate flush with the outer face of the wall, in which case it is known as a ‘flush eaves’.

Economic loss: Loss that is purely monetary or pecuniary, as distinct from property damage, personal injury or intangible form of losses such as diminished reputation. In a claim under tort, pure economic loss is generally not recoverable, subject to certain exceptions, such as economic loss arising from the negligent misrepresentation of a consultant.

Efflorescence: Salt crystals which appear on the surface of a wall or on grout joints, leaving a white powdery deposit / crust. These crystals are formed when water reacts with the natural mineral salts in the construction material. It is harmless but unsightly.

Egan Report: An influential 1998 report on the UK construction industry entitled ‘Rethinking Construction’. It was produced by an industry task force chaired by Sir John Egan.

Eichleay formula: A formula for calculating the cost of the head office, overheads and the profits arising during a period of reimbursable contract overrun in loss and expense claims. This formula was first considered in the case of Eichleay Corp v US ASBCA No 5183 (1960). Similar to Emden’s formula and Hudson’s formula, as it provides provide a simple solution to calculate such a loss in relation to a period of prolongation.

Ejusdem generis: The legal rule that provides that general words are to be construed within the realm of preceding particular words.

Elevation Drawing: A drawing of a structure that shows the front or side of the building’s facades.

Edwardian architecture: An architectural style popular during the reign of King Edward VII (1901-1910), where architecture was chiefly influenced by the arts and crafts and Art Nouveau styles.

Emden’s formula: A formula for calculating the cost of the head office, overheads and the profits arising during a period of reimbursable contract overrun in loss and expense claims. Similar to Emden’s formula and Hudson’s formula, as it provides provide a simple solution to calculate such a loss in relation to a period of prolongation. Received some judicial approval in the case of St Modwen Developments Ltd v Bowmer & Kirkland Ltd [1996].

Emmerson Report: Survey of Problems before the Construction Industries’. A Report Prepared by Sir Harold, published in 1962. This report criticised a lack of cohesion between the parties to a construction contract.

Employer’s Agent: Someone the client employees to manage the contract on their behalf. For example, see the JCT Design and Build contract.

Employer’s Requirements: The documents whereby the requirements of the employer in a design and build contract are defined. The employer’s requirements can be a simple written statement of what the employer expects the building to achieve, or a bundle of drawings and specifications etc.

Engineering brick: A strong and dense type of brick, impervious to water and hence ideal for use in damp areas.

EOT: Abbreviation for Extension of time. A phrase found in JCT contracts.

Equity: A body of law based upon discretion and conscience. It evolved historically to remedy apparent unfairness in other forms of law, such as the common law and statutory law. Where an aggrieved person is unable to obtain relief under statute or the common law, equity may be able to provide relief. Examples of equitable remedies are injunctions, specific performance and claims for unjust enrichment.

Estimate: An approximation of the expected cost to complete the work/project as outlined in the scope of work.

Estimator: A person employed by a contractor to estimate the cost of proposed building works.

Estoppel: A principle of equity by which A is not allowed to alter his position if, to his knowledge, B has relied, to his detriment, on A’s statement or representation as to facts or A’s knowledge or belief.

Excepted Risk: Any risk liability for loss or damage caused by or arising from which is excluded under the All Risks Insurance required to be taken out under the JCT standard forms of contract. The Excepted Risks are as follows:

(a) ionising radiations or contamination by radioactivity from any nuclear fuel or from any nuclear waste from the combustion of nuclear fuel, radioactive toxic explosive or other hazardous properties of any explosive nuclear assembly or nuclear component thereof (other than such risk insofar, but only insofar, as it is included in the Terrorism Cover from time to time required to be taken out and maintained under this Contract); 

(b) pressure waves caused by aircraft or other aerial devices travelling at sonic or supersonic speeds; and 

(c) any act of terrorism that is not within the Terrorism Cover from time to time required to be taken out and maintained under this Contract.

Exceptionally adverse weather conditions: A Relevant Event under the JCT standard forms of contract, which can entitle the contractor to an extension of time for completion of the works.

Exclusion clause: A contractual provision purporting to exclude liability, wholly or in part. Sometimes referred to as an exemption clause.

Exemption clause: See ‘exclusion clause’.

Ex-Parte: The absence of one of the parties to a dispute.

Expert determination: A process by which parties agree to refer their dispute to an independent expert for determination. Whether or not the findings of the expert are binding will depend on what the parties have agreed to.

Extension of time: This is a term found in contracts such as those published by the JCT. Where the contractor is delayed in performing works by a specified event of delay (‘Relevant Events’ in JCT contracts), the contractor may be entitled to an extension equivalent to that delay, to the date for completion. Usually, the contractor must comply with a prescribed process to claim the extension and the extension may be reduced where there is a concurrent delay.

Façade: An architectural term for the external face of a building.

Falsework: A temporary structure constructed to support and hold the span during construction or repairs. Mostly used for large arch structures and bridges.

Fanlight: Glazed panel over the door but within the doorframe, designed to brighten the rooms either side.

Feasibility study: A study to determine a project budget, programme and requirements. The feasibility study usually includes a conceptual design, site investigation such as geotechnical and utility infrastructure, cost estimating including construction costs, project management fees, financing requirements and investigation into any issue that will have an effect on the outcome of the project. A report is usually prepared to explain if the project is feasible and what will be required to move forward with the project.

FIDIC: Abbreviation for Federation Internationale des Ingenieurs-Conseils. This is French for the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. It was founded in 1913 and although it is based in Switzerland they have members in over 60 countries.

FIDIC forms of contract: The standard forms of international engineering contracts drafted and published by FIDIC. These forms of contract were originally based on the ICE standard forms, but have been updated and amended.

Field measure: Taking measurements on site or within the structure itself rather than relying on drawings.

The Final Date for Payment: This is the latest date that the payee should receive payment from the payer. For example, the JCT Design and Build contract (2016 edition) provides that: “The final date for payment of each Interim Payment and the final payment shall be 14 days from its due date” (clause 4.9.1). In the event of a non-compliant contract, the ‘Scheme’ stipulates that payment should be made “17 days from the date that payment becomes due”.

Flashing: Strip of impervious material, used to cover a joint where water could otherwise penetrate. Usually made from a flexible metal (such as lead, galvanised

Fluting: A series of parallel concave channels used to decorate the surfaces of stone, plaster or timber etc.

Force Majeure: This generally refers to a contract clause that removes liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes, such as war or an act of god.

Formwork: A temporary structure into which concrete is poured for it to be settled and set in the desired form.

Frog: An indentation / depression in a brick. The frogs reduce the brick weight and make them easier to handle. The frog should always be laid uppermost.

Floor plan: The floor plan shows the layout of the building, the horizontal section that shows how the different spaces relate to each other.

Frustration: This takes place when an unforeseen event occurs after a contract is entered into, which is outside the control of the parties, and makes the contract either physically or commercially impossible or illegal to perform, or changes performance of the contract into something so fundamentally different from the intended purpose, that it would be unfair to hold the parties to their obligations.

Frustration of contract is notoriously difficult to establish. The classic case of frustration is Taylor V Caldwell [1863] 3 B&S 826, involving a music hall which was hired to give four concerts.  Some time prior to the performance there was a fire and the hall was destroyed, but neither party was at fault for this destruction. The claimant sued for breach of contract. Until this case, parties to a contract were held to be absolutely bound and a failure to perform was not excused by radically changed circumstances. The doctrine of frustration was created to avoid the harshness of the absolute obligation rule

Gable: The vertical part of the end wall of a building contained within the roof slope, usually triangular in shape.

Gantt Chart: A horizontal bar chart which provides a graphical illustration of the scheduled activities for a project, including the start and finish dates. It helps to plan, coordinate and track progress, and is frequently used in project management. 

Garnishee: Court proceedings where a judgment creditor may obtain a court order directing a third party who owes money to, or holds money for, the judgment debtor to pay the judgment creditor. Garnishee orders are often obtained against a bank, requiring the bank to pay money held in the account of the debtor to the creditor.

General Damages: Unascertained damages, to be assessed by the tribunal.

Georgian architecture: This covered the period from 1714 to 1830, with architecture inspired by the proportion and symmetry embraced by influential Italian renaissance architects. Georgian buildings often possess perfectly symmetrical facades, with designs are based around the mathematical proportions of the cube, square and circle.

Geotechnics: Encompasses soil mechanics, rock mechanics, geology, geophysics, hydrology and related sciences.

Global claim: A claim made by a contractor which incorporates a number of individual claims on the basis that they are indivisible.  Such claims are highly vulnerable to challenge.

GMP: An acronym for Guaranteed Maximum Price. A pricing mechanism whereby the contractor is paid according to the cost of the work, but subject to a maximum.

Good faith: An obligation to act with honest intent and not to act intentionally in a manner to cause another party to be commercially disadvantaged. Refer to article entitled ‘Fussed about Trust? A Brief Introduction to Good Faith and NEC Clause 10

Greenfield site: A site on which there has been no previous building. In contrast with brownfield site.

Ground heave: The swelling effect of clay sub-soil due to absorption of moisture. This can lift foundations resulting in damage to buildings.

Hearsay: Testimony by a witness as to a matter not within his personal knowledge.

Hipped Roof: A term used to describe a pitched roof, the ends of which are also sloped and meet at an external angle.

Hudson formula: A formula for calculating the cost of the head office, overheads and the profits arising during a period of reimbursable contract overrun in loss and expense claims. Similar to Emden’s formula and Eichleay formula, as it provides provide a simple solution to calculate such a loss in relation to a period of prolongation. Received some judicial approval in the case of J F Finnegan Ltd v Sheffield City Council (1988) 43 BLR 124.

Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act (HGCRA): Part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 introduced various amendments of, or additions to, terms in “construction contracts” (defined in the Act). The HGCRA was amended by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 (LDEDCA).

HVAC: Abbreviation that stands for heat, ventilation, and air conditioning.

I-beam: A steel beam that has a cross-section that looks like the capital letter ‘I’. Girders often have an I-beam cross-section.

ICC: Abbreviation for the International Chamber of Commerce.

ICE: Abbreviation for the Institution of Civil Engineers.

IChemE: Abbreviation for the Institute of Chemical Engineers

IMechE: Abbreviation for the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Impacted As-Planned

This is a simple type of delay analysis, which involves introducing delay events into a logic-linked baseline programme that reflects the original plan for completion of the works. The programme is then recalculated to establish the likely effect of the delay events, including any new completion date.

Refer to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

Implied term: A term which is imported into a contract in addition to those expressly agreed by the parties.

Independent certifier: An Architect, Contract Administrator, Project Manager or Engineer responsible for issuing certificates under a construction contract, certifying various aspects of the time/cost risk in a project (e.g., interim payment certificates). The Independent Certifier has an obligation to act impartially in carrying out its certification duties.

Inspection chamber: An access point to underground drains comprising a chamber with a drainage channel at the bottom and a removable cover at ground level. Also referred to as a ‘manhole’.

Institution of Civil Engineers: This is a professional body for civil engineers, which was established in 1818. The ICE is also a nominating body for adjudicators and arbitrators.

Insulation: Material placed within the walls, ceiling, or floor that is designed to prevent heat from leaving or entering a building.

Ionic: One of the three ‘orders’ of ancient Greek architecture and one of the five Roman ‘orders’, with slight variations between the two.

Jamb: The sides of a window or door opening.

JCT: Abbreviation for the Joint Contracts Tribunal.

Joiner: A carpenter, usually responsible for finer work.

Joint: (1) A construction interface between two separate building components. (2) Two or more sharing a right or obligation such that their interest is not severed, each having an interest in the whole.

Joint venture: A contractual association of two or more parties where each participant usually contributes resources, and which is often created for the purpose of a particular project, or other financial undertaking or endeavour, with a view to mutual profit.

Joist: A beam supporting a floor (floor joist) or ceiling (ceiling joist). Usually made of timber or steel. Steel beam sections are generally called rolled steel joists (RSJs).

Judgment: The determination of a court or other judicial body in legal proceeding e.g., the order given by a court after hearing a case.

Jurisdiction: The scope of authority of a court of law or tribunal over matters brought before it. Relevant to determining the respective rights and liabilities of the parties to a dispute.

Key Performance Indicator: A benchmark standard, usually specified in a contract, that is to be achieved or maintained. A contractor’s remuneration and bonuses may be calculated by reference to KPIs.

KPI: Acronym for Key Performance Indicator.

LADs: Acronym for Liquidated and ascertained damages

Land Drain: Sometimes referred to as a French drain. A drain used to stop the ground from being waterlogged, especially behind retaining walls. They usually consist of perforated pipes laid below ground and surrounded by pea gravel or similar material.

Latent defect: A defect that is hidden.

Lath: A thin strip of wood and/or metal wire used as a support for plaster on walls and ceilings. Especially found in old buildings.

Lessee: The person under a lease who is granted the right by the Lessor to occupy the whole or any part of a premises for residential or commercial purposes. Also known as Tenant.

Lessor: The person under a lease who grants to the Lessee the right to occupy the whole or any part of a premises for residential or commercial purposes. Also known as Landlord.

Letter of intent: A letter of intent typically records the intentions of a party who is expecting to enter into a legally binding contract and in the meantime requests the other party to carry out works before that contract is agreed. Depending on how the letter of intent is drafted, it may also be binding as an interim agreement, allowing works to commence on a provisional basis. Refer to article entitled ‘Playing with Fire! – A Brief Guide to Letters of Intent.

Lintel: The horizontal beam bridging an opening in a wall, to support masonry above windows and doors.

Liquidated Damages: This refers to a pre-agreed sum / rate written into a contract that is payable for a specified breach of contract.

Litigation: Court proceedings to resolve a dispute between parties.

Load-bearing wall: A partition or load-bearing wall which supports the structure of the building above. As a result, they cannot be removed without compromising the integrity of the structure.

LPG: An acronym for Liquid Petroleum Gas (or Propane). Often used in areas without mains gas. Contained in a storage tank.

Lump Sum Contracts: A contract where the remuneration for the contractor is a single price for the entire construction project, usually subject to variations.

Maintenance period: The specified period of time, following Practical Completion, in which the parties agree that the contractor will provide maintenance for the Works. The contractor’s remuneration for maintenance during the maintenance period is usually included within the contract sum.

Manhole: See inspection chamber

M&E: Mechanical and electrical work, such as plumbing, heating, ventilation, electrical and lift installations.

Mediation: An ADR technique whereby an independent third party (the mediator), attempts to facilitate a settlement between the parties by techniques including caucus sessions, in which the mediator will talk to the parties independently of each other. Although mediation is a private process it is reported to have a very high success rate and is generally faster and more cost effective than the other forms of dispute resolution. However, for a mediation process to be successful, both parties must agree to take part. Unless agreed otherwise by the parties, the costs and expenses of the mediation are to be shared equally.

MEP: Acronym for Mechanical, electrical and plumbing work.

Milestone: A date which is prescribed for the doing of an act or completion of part of Works, usually specified in the contract. Progress payments are often linked to the achievement of milestones.

Mitigation: Abatement of loss or damage.

Mitre: A joint where the two parts are each cut at 45 degrees so that the make a neat right angle.

Mortar: Usually a mixture of sand, cement and sometimes lime, used for rendering, pointing or laying bricks, blocks or stone.

Mullion: Vertical dividing member of a frame between door or window lights.

NEC: Acronym for New Engineering Contract

Nuisance: Unlawful interference with the use or enjoyment of land.

Obiter Dictum: Latin phrase meaning “something said by the way”. A statement of a judge on a point not directly relevant to the court’s decision. Case reports may contain helpful discussion of related legal issues which are not strictly necessary to the ratio decidendi. A statement in a higher court which is obiter dictum may have persuasive effect in later cases in the absence of other authority.

Occulus: A small circular panel or window.

On demand bond: A bond which is payable on the demand of the party to whom it is payable.

Onus: Latin phrase meaning “burden”.

Open book contract: A contract that permits a principal a right of access to the contractor’s documents and records relating to a project.

Oral contract: A contract that is not evidenced in writing.

Oriel: A bay window which projects from an upper floor only.

Overheads: Costs incurred by a party that are generally not attributable to any particular part of a project or product (e.g., accounting costs).

Parapet: Low wall along the edge of a roof, terrace or balcony etc.

Parol evidence rule: A rule of evidence that excludes the use of non-contractual materials (e.g., prior correspondence) in determining the meaning and legal effect of words in a written contract. There are exceptions to the rule.

Part 36 offer: An offer to settle made under Part 36 of the CPR

Patent defect: A defect that is not hidden.

Pay Less Notice: A Pay Less Notice must be issued when a paying party wishes to change its mind on the amount included in a Payment Notice, allowing it to alter the amount due to the payee near to the end of the payment cycle. Unless the payer issues a valid Pay Less Notice on time, it must pay the notified sum on or before the final date for payment. Under JCT contracts, the payer must issue any Pay Less Notice “not later than 5 days before the final date for payment”. However, in the event of a non-compliant contract, the ‘Scheme’ stipulates that it should be issued “not later than seven days before the final date for payment”. Refer to our Brief Guide to Payment Procedures and the Construction Act.

Payment Notice: This is the document the payer issues to the payee, providing details of the sum payable and how it has been calculated. The sum payable is known as the ‘notified sum’, which should be paid by the ‘final date for payment’. In JCT contracts, a Payment Notice must be issued no later than five days after the due date. In the event of a non-compliant contract, the ‘Scheme’ also stipulates that payment notices should be issue “not later than five days after the payment due date”. Refer to our Brief Guide to Payment Procedures and the Construction Act.

Performance bond: A written guarantee or pledge to guarantee the performance obligation(s) of another (e.g., to complete construction). If there is a failure to perform then the bonding party will make good up to the amount of the bond.

PERT: An abbreviation for ‘Program Evaluating and Review Technique’. This is used in planning / programming and involves a diagram that illustrates a project’s estimated start and completion times.

PFI: Private Finance Initiative. A means of procuring public assets using private capital.

Pier: A vertical column of brickwork or other material built into a wall, used to strengthen the wall at the ends and at intervals along it.

Planning permission: Formal permission from a local authority for the erection or alteration of buildings or similar development. The main statutes governing planning law are:

  • Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
  • Planning and Compensation Act 1991
  • Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
  • Housing Act 2004
  • Planning Act 2008
  • Housing and Planning Act 2016

Pointing: Raking out mortar joints and inserting new mortar to finish a masonry wall

PPC 2000: A standard form of contract drafted by David Mosey of Trowers and Hamlins and published by the Association of Consulting Architects. It was launched in September 2000 by Sir John Egan, Chairman of the Construction Task Force who were authors of the report “Rethinking Construction” (July 1998) [HMSO]. ISBN 1 85112 094 7.

PPP: An acronym for Public-Private-Partnership. A project delivery method where a government agency and a private sector company collaborate to fund, build and maintain construction projects.

Practical completion: Under JCT standard forms of contract practical completion marks the end of the construction period of a project, when the works are finished, except for minor defects that can be rectified with minimal interference or disturbance to the occupier. At practical completion, a certificate is issued to that effect and the employer takes back possession of the site.

Prevention Principle: In English law there is such a thing as the ‘prevention principle’, whereby an employer cannot benefit from his own act of prevention. An employer cannot delay a contractor and then charge liquidated damages when, as a result of the employer delay, the contractor fails to meet the completion date.

Prima facie: Latin phrase meaning “at first sight” or “at first view”.

Privity of contract: The doctrine of privity of contract is a common law principle that dictates that only the parties to a contract (or its assignee) can enforce it. This principle is now subject to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Project Manager: This is a person providing management services in relation to a construction project. The project manager generally manages the entire management of the construction project. Project Manager is an identified term in NEC contracts, for the person who is appointed by the Employer / Client to carry out the impartial contract administration.

Prolongation: An increase in the time taken to complete the project.

Promissory Estoppel: A form of Estoppel in which a promise has been made from one party to another and the other party has relied on that promise to its detriment.

Purchase Orders: A purchase order is a document from the buyer that indicates their intent to purchase products and/or services from the seller / supplier.

Purlin: A horizontal and longitudinal beam used in the roof structure for additional support. Usually supports the rafters.

Quantum Meruit: Latin phrase meaning “as much as he deserved“. A claim for the recovery of a reasonable sum of money for work done or services rendered at the request of and accepted by the defendant. It is a form of restitutionary claim founded on the principles of unjust enrichment. Quantum Meruit claims often arise where a contract is unenforceable or becomes void.

Queen’s Counsel (or ‘QC’): A senior barrister.

Rafter: Rafters are a series of diagonal pieces of timber forming the roof framework and supporting the roof covering. The rafters attach to the edge of the wall plate and often overhang to form the eaves.

Ratio Decidendi: Latin phrase meaning “the reason” or “the rationale for the decision”. The relevant part of a judge’s decision in a case, which is authoritative.

Referral Notice: In adjudication, within seven days of issuing the Notice of Adjudication, the Referring Party must issue its ‘Referral Notice’ (i.e., claim), to both the other party and the Adjudicator.

Regency: The last ten years of the Georgian era, when King George III was deemed unfit to rule due to his illness and his son ruled as his proxy, as prince regent. Many buildings of the Regency style have an entryway to the main front door which is framed by two columns. As part of this style, rows of houses were often configured in the shape of a crescent and bow windows came into fashion.

Reinforced concrete: Concrete that is strengthened by adding steel bars or mesh within the concrete.

Remediation: Generally, arises in the context of the removal of any contamination of land.

Rendering: The vertical plaster used for external walls.

Reply: A pleading from a claimant in answer to the defendant’s defence. For example, in adjudication it is the term used to describe the Referring Party’s answer to the Responding Party’s ‘Response’.

Repudiation: An express or implied refusal by one party to perform or be bound by a contractual obligation under a contract (including the denial of the existence of a contract) that is sufficiently serious to give the innocent party to treat the contract as terminated. Repudiation is an anticipatory breach of a contract.

Whether a material or anticipatory breach is sufficiently serious will depend upon the severity and effect of the breach. Examples of possible repudiation events include:

  • Failure by an employer to allow access to the site
  • Refusal by the contractor to carry out the work
  • The contractor abandoning the site
  • A contractor contracting with another subcontractor to carry out the same work
  • Where time is of the essence then a delay can amount to repudiation.

Request for Information (RFI): A request by one party to a contract (usually the contractor) to another party (usually the employer) for information in relation to a matter (e.g., design information) arising out of or in connection with a contract.

Respondent: The defendant in an arbitration or adjudication.

Response: In adjudication, the Responding party is given the opportunity to issue a ‘Response’ (i.e., a defence) to the Referral Notice, providing all evidence / documents on which it relies

Reveal: The inward plane of a door or window opening between the edge of the wall and the window or door frame.

RFI: An acronym for Request for Information.

RIBA: An acronym for the Royal Institute of British Architects. This is a professional body for Architects, which was awarded its Royal Charter in 1837. The RIBA has long been one of the most influential architectural institutions in the world and it is now a registered charity. The RIBA is a member organisation, with circa 30,000 members. The RIBA is also a nominating body for adjudicators and arbitrators.

RICS: An acronym for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This is a professional body for chartered surveyors. The RICS is also a nominating body for adjudicators and arbitrators.

Ridge: The highest point of a pitched roof that receives the end of the rafters.

Ridge Tile: A purpose-designed tile that covers the ridge apex of a pitched roof.

Rising damp: A building defect resulting from moisture from the ground soaking up a wall. It can lead to rot in timbers, plaster decay and damage to decorative finishes.

Rotunda: A building or room that is circular (or sometimes oval) in plan. Also implies a domed roof. Found in classical and neoclassical architecture.

Sash window: Vertically opening windows generally associated with traditional architecture. The window incorporates two sashes, which slide within a frame. The sashes are counterbalanced by weights hung on ropes, called sashcords.

Scheme: The Scheme is a Statutory Instrument to provide implied contract terms, in order to make any Adjudication work. It is:

  1. the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations 1998, which came in to force on 01 May 1998;

as amended by

  1. the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations 1998 (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2011, which came in to force on 01 October 2011.

Scope of Work: A document that outlines the work to be carried out on a project.

Scott Schedule: A schedule (usually in the form of a table) that identifies the differences that are in dispute between the parties. Often prepared for the purposes of litigation.

SCL: An acronym for the Society of Construction Law.

Screed – Final, level, smooth surface of a solid floor onto which the floor covering is applied. Commonly confused with concrete, screed is different to concrete. It is a thinner layer of concrete which is typically poured over a concrete slab.

Security for costs: An order made by the court / arbitration tribunal that a party (usually against a claimant / plaintiff) give money or another form of security to the court / tribunal to ensure that, if unsuccessful in the litigation, it will be in a position to pay any costs ordered against it.

Section: This is a drawing that shows what it would look like if you sliced vertically through a building and were able to see its various components or layers. It helps to show exactly how a building is constructed top to bottom.

Section Drawing: A drawing that shows the building’s view as if cut on a vertical plane.

Self-levelling compound: A special compound poured over an uneven floor to produce a level surface.

Septic Tank: Sewage disposal system that collect and clean wastewater in homes, businesses and other areas that are off-mains. The system usually consists of two or three linked chambers within which bacterial processes breakdown the effluent. The final result being a liquid which is clean enough to be fed into a land drain or soakaway. Not to be confused with cesspit.

Set-Off: Diminution or extinction of a claimant’s claim in an action by deducting a counterclaim. Where a right of set off arises, it can act as a defence to part or the whole of a claim.

Shiplap: A specific type of wood plank used to create exterior cladding. Often used for barns and sheds.

Shop Drawings: A contractor’s drawings that detail the fabrication of components.

Shoring: A construction method that uses wood or metal props (or ‘shores’) to hold up something weak or unstable. Used to support a structure while it is worked on.

Sic: Latin for “thus”. It is derived from the Latin phrase “sic erat scriptum”, meaning “thus was it written“. Use of “sic” in brackets after a word in a quotation, signifies that the original text referred to contains an apparent error.

Sill: Refer to cill.

Simple contract: A written or oral contract not executed as by deed.

Skirting: A material (usually made from wood) running along the base of an interior wall to cover up the joint between the floor and the wall, for aesthetic purposes.

Soakaway: An arrangement for draining rainwater into the ground. A highly effective way of dealing with surface water. Soakaways collect all surface water run-off into one point before allowing it to percolate in a controlled manner into the surrounding ground. It consists often of a large hole filled with broken bricks, rubble or similar ‘waste’ materials into which the surface water is piped.

Society of Construction Law: Since its foundation in 1983, the Society of Construction Law has worked to promote for the public benefit, education, study and research in the field of construction law and related subjects.

Soffit: The underside of a structure, such as an arch, a balcony or an overhanging roof.

Spandrel: The roughly triangular shaped infill contained by the top of an arch and a rectangular frame.

Specifications: The specifications provide details regarding the materials and work quality required for a construction project.

Specific Performance: An equitable remedy for breach of contract which is most often used in transactions involving land and construction work. It is used to compel a person to perform their obligation under a contract.

Spirit Level: A tool consisting of a sealed glass tube partially filled with a liquid, containing an air bubble whose position reveals whether a surface is perfectly level. It is used to establish true vertical and horizontal lines by looking at the bubble.

Statute: An Act of Parliament.

Statutory Adjudication: This was introduced by the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and amended in October 2011, by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. 

Statutory Instrument: A form of delegated legislation, which has full force of law. The power to make a statutory instrument is set out in an Act of Parliament.

Step-in rights: Rights of a third party to ‘step-in’ and replace one of the parties to a contract. Often found in collateral warranties.

Straightedge: A length of timber or metal with at least one edge truly straight.  Used for testing whether something else is straight and for checking levels etc.

Stretcher: A stretcher is the longer face of the brick as seen in the elevation. In the brick of size 215 mm x 102.5 mm x 65 mm (length x depth x height), the 215 mm × 65 mm face is the stretcher. In stretcher bond all the bricks are arranged in stretcher courses.

Subcontract: An agreement made between a contractor and subcontractor, for the subcontractor to provide a specified part of the work required in the main contract.

Subcontractor: A subcontractor is usually specialised in a specific building trade (e.g., plastering, electrical, plumbing.) The subcontractor generally takes on a portion of the main contract works, under a subcontract with the main contractor.

Subfloor: The surface beneath a floor covering, often concrete or timber.

Subpoena: Now called a witness summons. An order requiring a person to appear at court, to give evidence or to produce documents.

Subrogation: The legal right, held by most insurers to legally pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured, to bring an action in the name of a person who has been indemnified.

Sub-soil: The soil immediately below the topsoil, onto which foundations p-often bear.

Sue: To institute legal proceedings for a civil remedy.

Summons: An order to appear in a court of law.

Superstructure: A structure that is built on top of another structure, usually on top of the substructure.

Supra: Latin phrase meaning “above”.

Supreme Court: The highest UK court. Formerly the House of Lords’ Judicial Committee.

Surety: Someone who takes responsibility for another’s performance of an undertaking. Synonym for guarantor.

Suspension: The temporary cessation of work on a project.

T&Cs: Terms and conditions of a contract

Tanking: The waterproofing of a below ground structure, such as a basement.

Take-off: A document that lists the types and quantities of materials that will be required for the construction project.

Take over: The passing of possession of works or a section from the contractor to the employer. This is a term found in NEC contracts and has a similar meaning to partial possession.

TCC: Abbreviation for the Technology and Construction Court.

TeCSA: Abbreviation for the Technology and Construction Solicitors’ Association

Tender: A contractor’s or supplier’s submission response (e.g., quotation) in respect of the supplies / services that they offer to the project when receiving a bid invitation.

Termination: The bringing to an end of the parties’ primary contract obligations. At common law there are rights to terminate a contract. These include in respect of ‘frustration’ and ‘repudiation’. In addition, most standard forms of construction contract include express provisions that allow termination, setting out the circumstances under which the contract may be terminated and the procedure to be followed. Insolvency is an example of a circumstance that usually allows the contract to be terminated.

Tie bar: Heavy metal bar passing through walls to brace a structure suffering from structural instability. The ends are usually visible on the outside of the building by the large metal plates which spread the load over the external walls.

Timber frame: A method of building construction where the walls, floors, roof etc are manufactured using timber off-site and erected onto a completed foundation base. In modern timber framed buildings, the inner timber construction is often covered by using an outer skin of brick or similar materials to give a traditional appearance.

Timber framed wall: A wall composed of structural wooden components, enclosed on both sides, or infilled with masonry etc.

Time bar: A clause in a contract that gives a party a set duration to submit a notice of claim for an extension of time or additional cost and seeks to prevent the party from making such a claim unless it complies with the deadline.

Time at large: This is the consequence of the prevention principle, whereby a contractor who has been prevented from completing the works by the contractual completion date, for which delay the contract does not entitle him to an extension of time, is only obliged to complete within a reasonable time and the employer is unable to enforce liquidated damages.

Time of the essence: The effect of a contractual term that makes performance by a stated date an essential requirement, failing which the contract may be terminated.

Tort: In common law jurisdiction, a tort is a civil wrong. It is independent of contract or breach of trust.

Trace heating: A method of heating pipework, to maintain or raise the temperature of pipes. Often utilised to reduce the risk of freezing or to maintain a required temperature. It involves the attachment of an electric cable along the length of the pipe, beneath insulation, and passing a low current along it.

Transom: Horizontal dividing member of a frame between window lights, or separating a doorway from a fanlight above

Trespass: A tortious injury to the person or goods of another, or an unauthorised entry upon their land.

Truss: Framework usually based on a series of triangles to create a rigid beam to the roof. Usually made from timbers or metal bars.

Trust: A legal instrument by which property is held by trustees for the benefit of beneficiaries.

Trim: A material used to provide a clean finish, such as mouldings around window and door openings, or the baseboards in rooms.

Triple glazing: A type of window providing thermal insulation by using three panes of glass, hermetically sealed with two internal air gaps.

Uberrimae Fides: Latin phrase meaning ‘utmost good faith’. Required in certain transactions, typically insurance contracts. Construction contracts are not contracts uberrimae fidei.

Ultra Vires: Latin phrase meaning ‘beyond the powers’. Acting beyond the scope of the authority or power that is granted.

UNCITRAL: Acronym for the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, which has produced a Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and Rules of Arbitration. As UNCITRAL is not an arbitral institution the UNCITRAL Rules are used in ad hoc arbitrations and were designed with international disputes in mind.

Underpinning: Construction technique to strengthen weak foundations by supporting the walls of an existing structure, digging underneath and inserting new foundations. If the project is being done on a previously built structure, the foundation might not be strong enough to carry the new building. Underpinning can be mass concrete, beams and base pinning, or mini-piled pinning, depending on the appropriate solution for the structure.

Undue influence: This generally occurs when an individual is able to influence another’s decisions due to the relationship between the two parties. The courts set aside transactions obtained by undue influence.

Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977: A statute that regulates contracts by restricting the operation and legality of some contract terms, especially in respect of terms which limit liability or are otherwise unreasonable.

Unjust enrichment: Acquiring a benefit by one party at the expense of another in circumstances where it is unfair. The law of restitution provides a remedy.

Unliquidated damages: Damages for loss which are not quantified in the contract. They are assessed by the court.

U-value: A measure of heat transfer through a building and the efficiency of insulation.

Valley: Where the intersection of two roof surfaces forms an internal angle.

Value engineering: A systematic method to improve the ‘value’ of a design. Value can be defined as the ratio of function to cost. Value engineering involves evaluation of construction methods and/or materials, to consider whether the value can be reduced and /or the function / quality can be increased. Factors considered include costs, durability, reliability, maintainability, aesthetics, safety and security.

Vapour barrier: A layer of impervious material, often heavy gauge polythene sheeting, used to prevent the passage of moisture through the structure.

Variation: The term ’variation’ can be defined as a change in design, material, scope or method of working, compared to what was specified in the contract. Variations are usually changes from the original scope of work, which can be in the form of an addition, omission or substitution. It also applies where there is a change in the conditions in which the work must be carried out, such as access arrangements, limitations of working space or working hours.

Refer to our article entitled: For a Few Dollars More: Brief Guide to Variations.

Veneer: A very thin sheet of wood. It is typically high-quality wood that is used as a decorative cover for lower-quality wood.

Venetian window: A three light window where the central light is the tallest / largest of the three and usually has a round head.

Veranda: An open shelter or gallery in front of a building with a lean-to roof supported by verticals.

Vesting: The transfer of title in materials and / or plant, such as from the contractor to the employer, or from a subcontractor to the contractor.

Vinyl flooring: A soft flexible and cushioned flooring available in sheets or tiles.

Wall plate: Timber laid longitudinally on top of the wall. The ends of rafters are fixed to it.

Wall tie: Proprietary connector (usually metal) built into masonry walls to provide a structural link between the inner and outer skins.

Warping: A distortion of material. Often can be a sign of water damage.

Weep hole: A small drain hole used to drain water collecting behind and prevent hydrostatic pressure developing. Especially used on retaining walls.

Wet rot: Decay of timber due to wet or damp conditions.

Window furniture: Accessories for a window, such as hinges, locks and stay bars (to hold casement windows in an open position).

‘Windows’ Analysis

Windows analysis is a forensic technique, where the construction process is viewed in multiple ‘windows’, or slices of time during the period of performance.  The total project duration is divided into a number time periods (windows), often monthly, based on dates of interim progress reviews, or major project milestones. The end of one window acts as the start of the next window.

Refer to our Brief Guide to Delay Analysis Techniques.

Without prejudice: Without prejudice is a legal term that means ‘without detriment to any right or claim’. It typically relates to a written offer of settlement made by one party to the other party in a dispute, which cannot be disclosed to the court except in relation to the question of costs. The offer to settle is often labelled “without prejudice save as to costs”.

Z Clauses: Additional conditions of contract incorporated into an NEC contract. Refer to article entitled ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Brief Guide to Z Clauses’.

Coniston Construction Associates Ltd - Specialist commercial and contractual services for the construction industry

Eugene Lenehan

Commercial & Construction Contract Consultant

BSc LLB(Hons) MSc
Barrister* (non-practising / unregistered)

Coniston Construction Associates Ltd - Specialist commercial and contractual services for the construction industry