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Term Definition
Abrasion Resistance

Resistance to being worn away by rubbing or friction.


The process by which a liquid or mixture of liquid and gases is drawn into the pores of a porous solid material.


The relative ability to absorb sound and light.

Abutment Joint

A surface divider joint designed to allow free movement between new and existing construction or between different materials.


A substance, such as calcium chloride, added to a concrete mix to speed up its setting and strength development.

Access Flooring

A raised finish floor surface consisting entirely of small, individually removable panels beneath which wiring, ductwork, and other services may be installed.

Access Right

Right of an owner to have ingress and egress to and from a property.

Accessory Building

A building or structure on the same lot as the main or principal building.

Acoustical Ceiling

A ceiling of fibrous tiles that are highly absorbent of sound energy.

Acoustical Glass
A glazing unit used to reduce the transmission of sound through the glazed opening by bonding a soft interlayer between the layers of glass.
Acoustical Plaster
Calcined gypsum mixed with lightweight aggregates.

Science dealing with the production, control, transmission, reception and effects of sound, and the process of hearing.


A transparent thermoplastic made from esters of acrylic acid.

Active Pressure

The pressure exerted by retained earth against a retaining wall.


Materials mixed with a basic plastic resin to alter its properties.


The ability of a coating to stick to another surface.


A substance used to hold materials together by surface attachment.


A prepared substance added to concrete to alter or achieve certain characteristics.


A material that has the ability to cause molecules of gases, liquids, or solids to adhere to its surfaces without changing the adsorbent physically or chemically.


The sudy or theory of beauty.


A process that bonds ground iron-ore particles into pellets to facilitate handling.


Sand, gravel, crushed stone or other material that is a main constituent of Portland Cement, concrete and aggregated gypsum plaster. Also, polystyrene, perlite and vermiculite particles used in texture finishes.


Inert granules such as crushed stone, gravel, and expanded minerals mixed with Portland cement and sand to form concrete.


(1) The American Institute of Architects. Founded in 1857 and headquartered in Washington DC, the AIA offers resources for architects and is an advocate for the value of architecture.

Architects also use the AIA designation to indicate that they are both members of The American Institute of Architects and licensed to practice the profession.

(2) American Insurance Assn., successor to the National Board of Fire Underwriters and a nonprofit organization of insurance companies.

Air Entrainment

The incorporation of tiny air bubbles into concrete or mortar to improve its workability and resistance to freezing.

Air Gap

In plumbing, an unobstructed vertical distance between the lowest opening of any pipe that supplies a plumbing fixture and the level at which the fixture will overflow.


The process of treating air to control simultaneously its humidity, cleanliness, and temperature and to provide distribution within a building.

Air-Dried Lumber

Wood dried by exposing it to air.

Air-Entrained Cement

A Portland cement with an admixture that causes a controlled quantity of stable, microscopic air bubbles to form in the concrete.

Air-Entrained Concrete

Concrete with an admixture added that produces millions of microscopic air bubbles in the concrete.

Air-Supported Structure

A membrane enclosing a pressurized occupied space, which must be held down to its foundation.

Airborne Sound

Sound traveling through the medium of air.


Synthetic resin modified with oil for good adhesion, gloss, color retention, and flexibility.

Allowable Stress

The maximum unit stress permissible in a structural member. Also referred to as working stress.


A metallic material composed of two or more chemical elements one of which is a metal.

Aloying Element

Amu substance added to a molten metal to change its mechanical or physical properties.

Alternating Current

An electric current that varies periodically in value and direction by flowing first in one direction and then in the opposite direction.


The angle that the sun makes with the horizon.


A hydrated form of aluminum oxide from which aluminum is made.

Ambient Temperature

The temperature of the surrounding air.


A basic SI unit that measures the rate of flow of electric current.

Anaerobic Bonding Agents

Bonding agents that set hard when not exposed to oxygen.


Metal securing device embedded or driven into masonry, concrete, steel or wood.

Anchor Bolt

Heavy, threaded bolt embedded in the foundation to secure sill to foundation wall or bottom plate of exterior wall to concrete floor slab.

Angle of Repose

The angle of the sloped surface of the sides of an excavation.


Heating a metal to a high temperature followed by controlled cooling to relieve internal stresses.

Annular Ring Nail

A deformed shank nail with improved holding qualities specially designed for use with gypsum board.


Am electrolytic process that forms a permanent, protective oxide coating on aluminum.


American National Standards Institute, a nonprofit, national technical association that publishes standards covering definitions, test methods, recommended practices and specifications of materials. Formerly American Standards Assn. (ASA) and United States of America Standards Institute (USASI).

APA Performance-Rated Panels

Plywood manufactured to the structural specifications and standards of APA - The Engineered Wood Association.


An underground permeable material through which water flows.

Arc Resistance

The total elapsed time in seconds and electric current must arc to cause a part to fail.


A curved structure in which the internal stresses are essentially compression.

Architectural Terra Cotta

Clay masonry units made with a textured or sculptured face.

Area Separation Wall

Residential fire walls, usually with a 2- to 4-hour rating, designed to prevent spread of fire from an adjoining occupancy; extends from foundationGlossFoundation.1041 to or through the roof. Identified by codes as either "fire wall", "party wall" or "townhouse separation wall."


Formerly American Standards Assn., now American National Standards Institute (ANSI).


Dark brown to black hydro-carbon solids or semisolids having bituminous constituents that gradually liquify when heated.


Formerly American Society for Testing and Materials, now ASTM, a nonprofit, national technical society that publishes definitions, standards, test methods, recommended installation practices and specifications for materials.


Reduction in sound level.


A high-pressure steam room that rapidly cures green concrete units.

Awning Window

A window that pivots near the top edge of the sash and projects toward the exterior.

Axial Load

A longitudinal load that acts at the centroid of a member and perpendicular to it's cross section.

Axminster Construction

Carpet formed by weaving on a loom that inserts each tuft of pile individually into the backing.


A horizontal angle measured clockwise from North or South.

Back Blocking

A short piece of gypsum board adhesively laminated behind the joints between each framing member to reinforce the joint.


Earth filled in around a foundation wall to replace earth removed for construction of the foundation.

Backup Strips

Pieces of wood nailed at the ceiling-sidewall corner to provide fastening for ends of plaster base or gypsum panels.


An electrical device to provide the starting voltage and operating current for fluorescent, mercury, and other electric discharge lamps.

Balloon Frame

Method of framing outside walls in which studs extend the full length or height of the wall.

Bank Measure

The volume of soil in situ in cubic yards.

Bar Joist

Open-web, flat truss structural member used to support floor or roof structure. Web section is made from bar or rod stock, and chords are usually fabricated from "T" or angle sections.


The absense of environmental barriers, permitting free access and circulation by the handicapped.


The amount of concrete mixed at one time.


Narrow strip of wood, plastic, metal or gypsum board used to conceal an open joint.


Ore containing high percentages of aluminum oxide.


Board for the Coordination of Model Codes; part of the Council of American Building Officials Association (CABO).


A straight horizontal structural loadbearing member spanning a distance between supports.


Support area upon which something rests, such as the point on bearing walls where the weight of the floor joist or roof rafter bears.

Bearing Capacity

The ability of a soil to support load.

Bearing Pile

A pile that carries a vertical load.

Bearing Plate

A steel plate placed under a beam, column, or truss to distribute the end reaction from the beam to the supporting member.

Bearing Wall

A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to it's own weight.


To set firmly and permanently in place.


The hard, solid rock formation at or below the surface of the earth.

Bench Mark

A relatively permanent point of known location and elevation.


Bowing of a member that results when a load or loads are applied laterally between supports.

Bending Moment

The algebraic sum of the moments of all forces that are on one side of a give cross-section of a beam.

Bending Stress

A compressive or tensile stress developed by applying non-axial force to structural members.


A process of grinding and concentration that removes unwanted elements from iron-ore before the ore is used to produce steel.

Bentonite Clay

An absorptive clay that swells several times its dry volume when saturated with water.


A convex shapeed bank of earth.


Film-forming ingredient in paint that binds the suspended pigment particles together.


A generic term describing a material that is a mixture of predominantly hydrocarbons in solid or viscous form. It is derived from coal and petroleum.

Bitumenous Coating

Coating formulated by dissolving natural bitumens in an organic solvent.


Excess water that rises to the surface of concrete shortly after it has been poured.


Wood pieces inserted between joists, studs, rafters, and other structural members to stabilize the frame, provide a nailing surface for finish materials, and block the passage of fire between the members.

Board Foot (Bd. Ft.)

Volume of a piece of wood, nominal 19 x 129 x 18. All lumber is sold by the board-foot measure.


Lumber less than 2 inches (50.8 mm) thick and 1 inch (25.4 mm) or greater in width.


A closed vessel used to produce hot water or steam.

Bond Beam

A continuous reinforced beam formed from horizontal masonry members bonded with reinforced concrete.

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