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Term Definition

Measure of sound absorption of a surface, equivalent to 1 sq. ft. of a perfectly absorptive surface.


A ridge in a roof deck that divides two sloping parts, diverting water toward roof drains.


Fire stop material in the space between floor slab and curtain wall in multi-story construction.

Safing Off

Installation of fire safety insulation around floor perimeters, between floor slab and spandrel panels. Insulation helps retain integrity of fire resistance ratings.


A sedimentary rock formed from sand.

Sanitary Sewage

Waste material containing human excrement and other liquid wastes.

Sanitary Sewer

A sewer that receives sanitary sewage without the infusion of other water such as rain, surface water, or other clear water drainage.


The wood near the outside of the log just under the bark.


Southern Building Code Congress International, nonprofit organization that publishes the Standard Building Code.


Small piece or block of wood that bridges several members or provides a connection or fastening between them.

Scratch Coat

The first coat of gypsum plaster that is applied to the lath.


A tool used to strike off the surface of freshly poured concrete so it is flush with the top of the form.


The process of striking off the surface of freshly poured concrete with a screed so it is flush with the top of the form.


An outlet in a parapet wall for the drainage of overflow water from the roof to the outside of a building.


An opening through the ceiling and roof to provide access to the roof. It is covered with a waterproof cover. Also referred to as a roof hatch.


A mastic used to seal joints and seams.


A material used to seal the surface of a material against moisture.


Removing moisture from green wood.

Seated Connections

Connections that join structural steel members with metal connectors, such as an angle upon which one member, such as a beam, rests.

Section Modulus (S)

Numerical relationship, expressed in in.3, of the resistance to stress of a member. It is equal to the moment of inertia divided by the perpendicular distance from the neutral axis to the extremity of the member.

Security Glass

Glass panels assembled with multiple layers of glass and plastic to produce a panel that will resist impact.

Sedimentary Rock

Rock formed from the deposit of sedimentary materials on the bottom of a body of water or on the surface of the earth.


The tendency of large aggregate to separate from the sand-cement mortar in the concrete mix.

Seismic Area

A geographic area where earthquake activity may occur.

Seismic Load

Forces produced on a structural mass by the movements caused by an earthquake.


Coatings that allow some of the texture and color of the substrate to show through.

Sensible Heat

Heat that causes a detectable change in temperature.

Septic Tank

A watertight tank into which sewage is run and where it remains for a period of time to permit hydrolysis and gasification of the contents, which then flow from the tank and are absorbed in the soil.

Service Entrance

The point at which power is supplied to a building and where electrical service equipment, such as the service switch, meter overcurrent devices, and raceways, are located.

Service Equipment

The equipment needed to control and cut off the power supply to a building, such as switches and circuit breakers.

Service Temperature

The maximum temperature at which a plastic can be used without altering its properties.


An undesirable condition where the joint finish shows through the surface decoration.

Shaft Wall

Fire-resistant wall that isolates the elevator, stairwell and vertical mechanical chase in high-rise construction. This wall must withstand the fluctuating (positive and negative) air-pressure loads created by elevators or air distribution systems.


Clays that have been subjected to high pressures, causing them to become relatively hard.


A wall built on the dividing line between two adjoining parcels, in which each owner has an equal share of ownership.


Force that tends to slide or rupture one part of a body from another part of the body or from attached objects.

Shear Panel

A floor, wall, or roof designed to serve as a deep beam to assist in stabilizing a building against deformation by lateral forces.

Shear Plate Connector

A circular metal connector recessed into a wood member that is to be bolted to a steel member.

Shear Stress

The result of forces acting parallel to an area but in opposite directions, causing one portion of the material to "slide" past another.

Shear Studs

Metal studs welded to a steel frame that protrude up in the cast-in-place concrete deck.


Plywood, gypsum, wood fiber, expanded plastic or composition boards encasing walls, ceilings, floors and roofs of framed buildings. May be structural or non-structural, thermal-insulating or non-insulating, fire-resistant or combustible.


A pully over which the elevator wire hoisting rope runs.


Wood, metal, or concrete members used to hold up the face of an excavation.


Leading brand of gypsum panel for interior wall and ceiling surfaces, developed and improved by United States Gypsum Company. There is only one SHEETROCK brand Gypsum Panel.

Shop Drawings

Related to steel construction, working drawings giving the information needed to fabricate structural steel members.


Temporary member placed to support part of a building during construction, repair or alteration; also may support the walls of an excavation.


Bracing used to temporarily hold a wall in position.

Shrinkage Limit

Related to soils, the water content at which the soil volume is at its minimum.

Siamese Connection

A connection outside a building to which firefighters connect an alternate water supply to boost the water used by the fire suppression system.


Horizontal member at the bottom of a door or window frames to provide support and closure.

Sill Plate

Horizontal member laid directly on a foundation on which the framework of a building is erected.


Fine sand with particles smaller than 0.002 inches (0.05 mm) and larger than 0.00008 inches (0.002 mm).

Single-Ply Roofing

A roofing membrane composed of a sheet of water-proof material secured to the roof deck.


A process that fuses iron-ore dust with coke and fluxes into a clinker.

Site Investigation

An investigation and testing of the surface and subsoil of the site to record information needed to design the foundation and the structure.

Site Plan

A drawing of a construction site, showing the location of the building, contours of the land, and other features.

Site-Cast Concrete

Concrete poured and cured in its final position.


A roof opening that is covered with a watertight transparent cover.


Flat (although sometimes ribbed on the underside) reinforced concrete element of a building that provides the base for the floor or roofing materials.


A concrete slab poured and hardened directly on the surface of the earth.


A molten mass composed of fluxes and impurities removed from iron ore in the furnace.


The process of adding water to quicklime, hydrating it and forming lime putty.

Slip Form

A form designed to move upward as concrete is poured in it.


A measure of the consistency of freshly mixed concrete, mortar, or stucco.

Slump Test

A test to ascertain the slum of concrete samples.


A liquid mixture of water, bentonite clay, or Portland cement.

Slurry Wall

A wall built of a slurry used to hold up the sides of an area to be excavated.


A process in which iron ore is heated, separating the iron from the impurities.

Smoke Barriers

Continuous membranes used to resist the passage of smoke.

Smoke Developed Rating

A relative numerical classification of the fumes developed by a burning material.


Undersurface of a projection or opening; bottom of a cornice between the fascia board and the outside of the building; underside of a stair, floor or lintel.

Soft-Mud Process

A process used to make bricks when the clay contains moisture in excess of 15 percent.


A botanical group of trees that have needles and are evergreen.

Soil Anchors

Metal shafts grouted into holes drilled into the sides of an excavation to stabilize it.

Soil Stack

A vertical plumbing pipe into which waste flows through waste pipes from each fixture.

Soil Vent

That portion of a soil stack above the highest fixture waste connection to it.

Solar Energy

Radiant energy originating form the sun.

Solar Screen

A device used to divert solar energy form windows.

Sole Plate

See Plate.

Solid Clay Masonry

A unit whose core does not exceed 15 percent of the gross cross-sectional area of the unit.


Liquids used in paint and other finishing materials that give the coating workability and that evaporate, permitting the finish material to harden.

Sound Absorption

Conversion of acoustic or sound energy to another form of energy, usually heat.

Sound Insulation, Isolation

Use of building materials or constructions that will reduce or resist the transmission of sound.

Sound Intensity

Amount of sound power per unit area.

Sound Pressure Level (SPL)

Expressed in decibels, the SPL is 20 times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the sound pressure to a reference pressure of 20 micropascals. See Decibel.

Sound Transmission Class (STC)

Single-number rating for evaluating the effectiveness of a construction in isolating audible airborne sound transmission across 16 frequencies. Higher numbers indicate more effectiveness. Tested per ASTM E90.


Distance between supports, usually a beam or joist.

Span Rating

Number indicating the distance a sheet of plywood or other material can span between supports.

Spandrel Beam

Horizontal member, spanning between exterior columns, that supports the floor or roof.

Spandrel Wall

Exterior wall panel, usually between columns, that extends from the window opening on one floor to one on the next floor.

Special Units

Concrete masonry units that are designed and made for a special use.

Specific Adhesion

Bonding dense materials using the attraction of unlike electrical charges.

Specific Gravity

The ratio of the weight of one cubic foot of a material to the weight of one cubic foot of water.


A written document in which the scope of the work, materials to be used, installation procedures, and quality of workmanship are detailed.

Speed of Sound

Varies with atmospheric pressure and temperature, but is the same at all frequencies. For most architectural work, the speed of sound should be taken as 1,130 ft./second.


A tall pyramidal roof built upon a tower or steeple.

Split Ring Connector

A ring-shaped metal insert placed in circular recesses cut in joining wood members that are held together with a bolt or lag screw.

Spoil Bank

An area where soil from the excavation is stored.

Spread Foundation

A foundation that distributes the load over a large area.

Spreading Rate

The area over which a paint can be spread expressed in square feet per gallon.

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