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Term Definition
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.


In roofing, 100 square feet of roofing material.


Additives used to stabilize plastic by helping it resist heat, loss of strength, and the effect of radiation on the bonds between the molecular chains.


A solution of coloring matter in a vehicle used to enhance the grain of wood during the finishing operation.

Stained-Glass Window

A window made of small colored glass pieces joined with leaded canes.

Standing Seam

The vertical seam formed when two sheets of metal roofing are joined.

Static Loads

Any load that does not change in magnitude or position with time.


Water in a vapor state.

Steam Separator

A device used to remove moisture from steam after it flows from the boiler.

Steam Trap

A device used to allow the passage of condensate while preventing the passage of steam.


A malleable alloy of iron and a small carefully controlled carbon content.

Steep-Slope Roofs

Roof with sufficient slope to permit rapid runoff of rain.


A towerlike ornamental construction, usually square or hexagonal, placed on the roof of a building and topped with a spire.

Stiff-Mud Process

A process used to make bricks from clay that has 12 to 15 percent moisture.


Resistance to bending or flexing.


Vertical outside member in a piece of mill work, as a door or sash.


Hanger to support the end of the joist at the beam.


Rock selected or processed by shaping to size for building or other use.


Strip of wood fastened to the jambs and head of a door or window frame against which the door or window closes.


Unit deformation in a body that results from stress.

Strain Hardening

Increasing the strength of a metal by cold-rolling.

Strand-Casting Machine

A machine that casts molten steel into a continuous strand of metal that hardens and is cut into required lengths.


Unit resistance of a body to an outside force that tends to deform the body by tension, compression or shear.

Stress-Rated Lumber

Lumber that has its modulus of elasticity determined by actual tests.

Stressed-Skin Panels

An assembly with high-strength facing panels separated by wood spacing strips and bonded firmly to them.


Heavy horizontal timber supporting other members of the frame in a wood or brick structure; a support also for steps.

Structural Clay Facing Tile

Hollow clay units used in bearing and non-bearing walls that have cores exceeding 25 percent of the gross cross sectional area.

Structural Sandwich Construction

A wood construction consisting of a high-strength facing material bonded to and acting integrally with a low-density core material.

Structure-borne Sound

Sound energy imparted directly to and transmitted by solid materials, such as building structures.


Slender structural element that resists compressive forces acting lengthwise.


A Portland cement plaster used as the finish material on building exteriors.


Vertical load-bearing or non-load bearing framing member.


Rough or structural floor placed directly on the floor joists or beams to which the finished floor is applied. As with resilient flooring, an underlayment may be required between subfloor and finished floor.


Underlying material to which a finish is applied or by which it is supported.

Suction Rate

The weight of water absorbed when a brick is partially immersed in water for one minute expressed in grams per minute or ounces per minute.

Suction, Clay Masonry

The rate at which clay masonry units absorb moisture.


An admixture used with concrete to make the wet concrete very fluid without adding additional water.

Supply Air

Conditioned air entering a space from a heating, ventilating, or air-conditioning (HVAC) unit.

Surface Burning Characteristic

Rating of interior and surface finish material providing indexes for flame spread and smoke developed, based on testing conducted according to TOP.

Surface Burning Rating

The rating of interior and surface finish material providing indexes for flame spread and smoke.

Surface Clays

Clays obtained by open-pit mining.

Surface Effect

The effect caused by the entrainment of secondary air against or parallel to a wall or ceiling when an outlet discharges air against or parallel to the wall or ceiling.

Suspended Ceiling

A finish ceiling hung from the overhead by a series of wires.

Switch, Bypass Isolation

A manually operated switch used in connection with a transfer switch to provide a means of directly connecting load conductors to a power source and for disconnecting the transfer switch.

Switch, General-Use

A switch used for general electrical control.

Switch, General-Use Snap

A general-use switch built so it can be installed in a device box or on the box cover.

Switch, Isolating

A switch used to isolate an electric circuit from the source of power.

Switch, Motor-Control

A switch used to interrupt the maximum operating overload current of a motor.

Switch, Transfer

A device used to transfer one or more conductors from one power source to another.


A large single panel or an assembly of panels with switches, overcurrent protection devices, and buses that are mounted on the face or both sides of the panel.


Devices to open and close an electric circuit or to change the connection within a circuit.

Synthetic Fibers

Fibers formed by chemical reactions.

Synthetic Materials

Materials formed by the artificial building up of simple compounds.


A type of sill construction used in balloon framing in which the header joist is placed inside the studs and is butted by the floor joists.


A fabric upon which colored threads are woven by hand to produce a design.


Precast concrete or metal structural members in the shape of the letter T.

Temper Designation

A specification of the temper or metallurgical condition of an aluminum alloy.


Measurement of the intensity (not quantity) of heat. The Fahrenheit (°F) scale places the freezing point of water at 32° and the boiling point at 212°. The Centigrade or Celsius (°C) scale, used by most countries and in scientific work, places the freezing point of water at 0° and the boiling point at 100°. On the Kelvin (K) scale, the unit of measurement equals the Celsius degree and measurement begins at absolute zero 0° (-273°C).

Tempered Glass

Heat-treated glass that has great resistance to breakage and increased toughness.


The reheating of hardened steel to decrease hardness and increase toughness.

Tempering Glass

A process used to strengthen glass by raising the temperature of the glass to near the softening point and then blowing jets of cold air on both sides suddenly to chill it and create surface tension in the glass.


A steel bar or cable in prestressed concrete used to impart stress in the concrete.

Tensile Bond Strength

The ability of a mortar to resist forces tending to pull the masonry apart.

Tensile Strength

Maximum tensile stress that can be developed in a given material under axial tensile loading. Also the measure of a material's ability to withstand stretching.

Tensile Stress

The stress per unit area of the cross-section of a material that resists elongation.


Force that tends to pull the particles of a body apart.


A hard unglazed clay tile used for ornamental work.


A finish-floor material made up of concrete and an aggregate of marble chips that after curing is ground smooth and polished.

Texture Plaster

A finish plaster used to produce rough, textured finished surfaces.

Thermal Break

Material with a low thermal conductivity that is inserted between materials, such as metal with high thermal conductivity, to slow the passage of cold or heat through the highly conductive material.

Thermal Bridge

A thermal conducting material that conducts heat through an insulated assembly of materials.

Thermal Conductance (C)

Thermal conductance is the same as thermal conductivity except it is based on a specified thickness of material rather than on one inch as used for conductivity.

Thermal Conduction

The process of heat transfer through a solid by transmitting kinetic energy from one molecule to the next.

Thermal Conductivity (k)

The rate of heat flow through one square foot of Btu per hour when a temperature difference of one degree Fahrenheit is maintained between the two surfaces.

Thermal Convection

Heat transmission by the circulation of a liquid or heated air or gas.

Thermal Expansion

All materials expand and contract to some extent with changes in temperature. The Thermal Coefficient of Linear Expansion is expressed in "Inches Per Inch Per Degree Fahrenheit." Example: gypsum board has a coefficient of 9.0 x 10-6 in. per in. per °F. This means that with an increase in temperature of 50°, a gypsum board wall 100 ft. in length will have a linear expansion of .54" or an excess of 1/2". The expansion characteristics of some other building materials are more pronounced; a 50° temperature increase would produce expansion in a 100' length of approx. 3/4" in aluminum, 3/8" in steel and 1/2" in concrete.

Thermal Insulation

A material that has a high resistance to heat flow.

Thermal Properties

The behaviour of a material when subjected to a change in termperature.

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