Confusing Jargon


Office Interior Fit Out Terminology

If you have already stepped into the realms of office fit out you will know that there is an array of terminology used.

Below are explanations for some of the things you will see written or hear spoken in project meetings.

Word of warning if you get so far down and lose the will to live please give us a call and see if we can make life a little easier supporting you on your project

Design & Visual Terminology

Ancillary functions: Support areas serving individual departments such as print/copier zones, meeting/breakout areas, or storage space.

Agile working: A term used to describe flexible working methods including hot desking, home working or working on the move with flexible hours.

Block planning: The practice of allocating departments and functions within your scheme to a scaled plan to indicate the approximate spatial suitability of a building or floor space.

BREEAM: Short for ‘British Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method’. This is an environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings that encourages designers and clients to focus on low carbon and low impact design.

Breakout space: Areas allocated within the floor space to provide informal work, social or refreshment zones for office occupants.

Building regulations: A set of government controlled rules that set out a required standard for the built environment. They cover areas such as fire resistance of materials used, means of escape in the event of fire, disabled access provisions and the structural integrity of any interior construction work.

Carbon offsetting: The implementation of green initiatives aimed at balancing the green house gas emissions of a business by investment in renewable energy, forestry projects and energy efficiency programmes.

Cellularisation: The building of private enclosed offices within the office environment.

CGI’s: Short for ‘Computer Generated Images’ which are widely used to provide a photo realistic depiction of your proposed new office space.

Circulation space: The areas in an office allocated to corridors and free space around working areas.

Design brief: The detailed schedule of wants and needs used to inform the design team prior to their initial planning and concept development.

As built drawings: Detailed drawings depicting the layouts and structure of the finished office interior.

CAD: Short for ‘Computer Aided Design’ which is widely used to produce accurate design drawings in place of the old school drawing board method.

Design vision workshop: An informal get together with the design team and client to explore ideas and direction for design concepts.

Dimensional survey: A measured survey to check the accuracy of the building structure and floor plans provided by the landlord.

Elevation drawing: A drawing depicting the design detail on any given vertical surface.

Floor plate: The floor area available to be used for office occupation measured in square feet or square metres.

Finishes schedule: A schedule of every colour reference and product specification chosen for your scheme.

Fit factor: A term used when comparing the efficiency of useable floor space in various buildings affected by the shape and physical components of the building.

GA: Short for ‘General Arrangement’. This is the drawing plan that shows the furniture, partitions and main building structure and is used as the primary tool to explain your office layout options to you.

Hot desking: A now well used term to describe the practice of providing shared desk positions which are available on a first come first served basis. The principal assumption is that a percentage of staff will always be out of the office providing spare capacity at any one time.

Hotelling: A practice where office staff can pre-book a desk position in any given office for a fixed day or period of time rather than having a permanently allocated desk position.

Design freeze: An important point in the design process where the design is agreed and no changes are then made. This allows a fixed specification and cost to be calculated.

Flexible working: A term used to describe alternative working styles for an individual such as job sharing or home working.

Lux level: A unit applied to the illumination level of a particular light fitting or lighting scheme

CER room: The ‘Central Equipment Room’ is where the server racks, telephone systems and IT equipment are situated. Sometimes also called the Comms room or Server room.

LEED: Short for ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’. This is a method for rating the energy and environmental performance of buildings developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Primary circulation: The main corridor routes on a floor plate providing access to core areas and fire exits.

SKA rating: This is an environmental assessment method, benchmark and standard for commercial fit-outs which is led and owned by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Space analysis: A process carried out by the design team to establish the likely space requirements for a particular business prior to block or space planning.

Space standard: A set of agreed standards of space allocation for varying functions within the office such as an open plan workstation or managers office.

Stacking model: A useful design graphic produced as a sectional drawing showing the allocation of headcount and departments in a multi floor project.

Walkthrough: A visual journey through a computer generated virtual 3d model of your proposed new office space.

Sectional drawing: A drawing which depicts its subject as if sliced in two. Typically used in office design to show a vertical graphic of the various floors in a building or to show the depth of a floor or ceiling void.

Contract Related Terminology

Adjudication: A situation where a dispute in a construction contract is resolved through a decision by an independent adjudicator.

Collateral warranty: A method of passing the benefit of a contractors contractual obligations to a third party.

Certificate of practical completion:

This is the approval notification indicating that a contractor has achieved practical completion and issued by the employers agent or project manager.

Defects liability period: The time allowed in the contract where the contractor is obliged to rectify any issues outstanding with the works.

Design and build contract: A construction contract where the contractor is responsible for both the design of the scheme and the associated building works.

Employers agent: Usually a Quantity Surveyor or Project Manager acting within a design and build contract on behalf of the client as their representative.

Extension of time: A certificate issued by the contract administrator allowing a change to the contracted deadline for the works due to circumstances beyond the control of the contractor.

Joint names insurance: An insurance policy undertaken jointly by client and contractor covering against loss or damage to finished works and materials on site.

Letter of intent: A letter of partial commitment from client to contractor subject to the specific detail of the letter indicating the intention to enter into a full contractual arrangement.

Liquidated and ascertained damages: A figure agreed and added to the contract terms based around the estimated financial consequences should completion of a project be delayed. Often estimated on a weekly basis.

Arbitration: A formal hearing to determine a contractual dispute between two parties.

Detail and build: An office improvement development where the client provides the design and specification and the contractor takes on board the pre-prepared design for implementation.

Novated: A term used when responsibility for an element of the contract is passed on to a third party, often applied to the design element of the work.

Packages: A section of work within the contract carried out by a particular specialist contractor.

PC sum: Short for prime cost – a term used while preparing cost estimates and defining the prices of materials and labour when the actual cost is not yet known.

Practical completion: A contractual event where the client or clients representative agrees that works are complete and occupation is possible.

Procurement route: Refers to the specific form of contract applied to a project and the methodology for developing the scheme.

Provisional sum: A provisional sum is a figure allocated to a scheme that can’t be fully detailed or priced at the time of tender or presenting proposals.

Retention: An amount of money set against the original contract sum held by the client until the end of the defects liability period.

Traditional procurement: A method of procurement where the design process is separate from construction where the contractor is usually selected through a tender process.

Variation order: A written instruction from the client or clients representative issued during the contract period changing an element of the works.

Snagging list: Items of defects outstanding after practical completion that require completion by the contractor.

Building And Services Related Terminology

Building shell: The built external structure and internal core areas of a building.

CAT A: This term describes a building that has an interior construction in place provided by the landlord including suspended ceilings, raised floors and general services but no element of internal divisions or fittings.

CAT B: This term describes a tenant office design and development including partitioning, furniture and fittings.

Central atrium: A glazed architectural feature within a building allowing provision of external light to the floor space.

Chilled beam: A type of air conditioning system that heats or cools a space based around pipework in or around the suspended ceiling within an office space.

Common parts: Areas within a building that are shared with other occupiers or serve other floors such as toilet blocks, staircases, lifts and the main reception.

Downflow unit: A type of air conditioning unit that is wall or floor mounted and supplies conditioned air through the base of the unit. Often used in CER rooms.

Facade: The front elevation of a building facing the street and housing the primary entrance.

Ceiling void: Describes the space above a suspended or false ceiling and the structural ceiling above. This space provides space for unsightly services such as air-conditioning ductwork and electrical cables.

Fan coil unit: A component of air conditioning which supports the function of cooling or heating air as part of the temperature control in a building.

Floor plate: A term used to describe a typical individual floor within a building.

Gross external area: This is the total area occupied by a building footprint including the main structure and external walls.

HVAC: Initials representing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

M&E services: The mechanical and electrical systems within a building.

Mullions: The vertical bar between window units on the exterior of a building.

Raised access floor: A raised or suspended false floor creating a void space allowing assess for power and data cabling to run out of sight.

Service riser: A vertical duct for pipework and trunking distribution between floors.

Shell and core: The condition of a building left as a concrete shell devoid of any internal fittings or services.

VAV: ‘Variable Air Volume’ refers to a type of air conditioning system that manages the room conditions by controlling the flow volume of air set at a constant temperature.

VRV/VRF: Refers to a type of air conditioning capable of cooling and heating air known as ‘Variable Refrigerant Volume’ or ‘Variable Refrigerant Flow’ systems.

UPS: Short for uninterrupted power supply providing electrical power back up if mains supply fails.

Mezzanine: An additional floor constructed between two existing floors in a building.

Other Commonly Used Terminology

Approved list: A selection of suppliers or contractors who have passed required criteria to be considered for a project.

Asbestos report: An asbestos survey and report will be needed prior to any fit out works to comply with current regulations protecting occupiers in the event of historical asbestos being present in the building.

Back up generator: A standby back up generator is a back up system that operates automatically when there is power loss in a building or a specific area such as the CER room.

Break clause: An inclusion in a commercial lease giving the parties the right to terminate the lease at a given point.

BMS system: Short for ‘Building Management System’ which is the central building system for monitoring and controlling services such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

CDM: The ‘Construction Design and Management Regulations’ came into force in 2007 to improve safety standards in the construction industry.

Contract programme: A graphic interpretation of the tasks, events and related timescales for the project.

Cost analysis: A report produced by a quantity surveyor or project manager comparing and verifying cost proposals of one or more contractors.

Best practice: The recommended method of carrying out an aspect of the design and construction endorsed by a recognised authority.

DDA: The ‘Disability Discrimination Act’ came into play to protect the disabled from discrimination in connection with employment and provision of facilities and services.

Dilapidations: This refers to the works required to be undertaken by a vacating tenant to complete their obligations under the terms of the lease. This usually involves returning a space back to its original condition prior to the start of the tenancy.

ISDN lines: Short for ‘Integrated Services for the Digital Network’ – ISDN lines are digital phone lines which allow transmission of voice, video and data.

Licence to alter: To enable an incoming tenant to be allowed access to their space to make changes or fit out the space they will need a Licence to alter approval from their Landlord.

N + 1 Redundancy: Refers to the provision of additional services providing 100% equivalent back up cover in the event of a system failure. Often referred to in terms of cooling requirements in CER rooms.

PABX: Short for ‘Private Automated Branch Exchange’, this is a telephone exchange system that allows a single access number to offer multiple line options.

Turnkey solution: Used to describe the design and build methodology where all disciplines for design and project management work together as a single entity to provide the entire project delivery service.

VOIP: ‘Voice Over Internet Protocol’ is the system of running telephone services over the data network as opposed to separate telephone lines.

Workplace appraisal: The process of reviewing and assessing the office environment and working practices within a business.

Rent free period: Landlords will often offer a rent free period to an incoming tenant as an incentive to take a particular building .

What to do now?

You now have the tools to be confident in project meetings, have knowledge that no one is going to trip you up with confusing jargon.

If this is the start of your office improvement process then we hope is a success.

If you would like to speak with us for advice and recommendations we provide a free initial consultation service find out more by contacting us.

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Trevor Chaplin

Trevor Chaplin

Candour Business Consultancy, first choice for Facilities and Estates reviews, office fit outs and space management, providing good honest and reliable advice.

Please get in touch to find out more about our Property and Facilities Management. Call 07766 397605 or email -