Dictionary for projects

99%In architecture for the 99% we want to strengthen direct engagement with the users of simple constructions, people who traditionally do not hire the services of an architect.

After the first contacts of collaboration we realized that some concepts and definitions that architects usually use and which are common when working with companies and professional construction teams are not necessarily understood by these new customers. As it is important to achieve an efficient communication, below is a glossary with common terms referring to the process of projects.


DRAWINGS are the basic documents needed to build. They are plans, sections, elevations and details. The PLANS indicate the distribution of spaces and location of walls, columns and furniture. The SECTIONS give measurements in vertical, i.e. the height of ceilings or the location of windows and doors. The ELEVATIONS show the building from outside. The DETAILS are drawings in which is shown only one aspect of the building, such as a staircase or a bathroom.

Diccionario-Planta-Corte-FachadaFig. 1 Examples of Plan, Section and Elevation

Although the drawings give concrete expression to the PROJECT, both words are not synonymous. The first simply refers to the process of drawing, the second to define what should be drawn. The project is a visualization of the building before it exists, it is a window to the future.

A construction should be planned before starting, but the drawings have different degrees of detail associated with the particular stage of the project.

For example, someone may have a lot and would want to profit, but is not sure what to do with it. Or a community could have huge aspirations for a plot and doubt whether those different uses would be compatible on the same land. Or the owner of a site wants to attract funding for a possible construction. In these cases a PROPOSAL for the consideration of stakeholders is needed. These proposals are considered to be the outline of a constructive solution that responds to specific needs of a person, group or community. It can be very detailed or simple depending of the intentions of the clients.

Diccionario-PropuestaFig.2 Freehand drawings give reviewers or promoters of a project an initial understanding of  plot capability.

To show a proposal to stakeholders that must support or approve the project (affected or beneficiaries) there are multiple tools from a simple scheme to the use of virtual reality. PRESENTATIONS can be made on physical media (posters, models, banners) or digital (multimedia projections or videos). Many times it is not needed a very detailed project to make a presentation, so they are not very costly. At other times are required complex animations that involve numerous work hours.


Fig.3 Work models showing the building located in the plot; made of cardboard that simulate the uneven terrain.

Many times a project begins with a SCHEME. This can be a spontaneous drawing on a napkin or a flowchart of relationship between physical spaces, without specifying details such as sizes, shapes and quantities. The idea can be expressed as a set of arrows or indicate the location of stairs to get to another level within an existing layout.

PowerPoint Presentation

Fig.4 Scheme containing the main ideas of a project

There are conditions to be met or BUILDING STANDARDS that differ from country to country, or even in each city. These rules organized how the land is to be developed, indicating the use, the maximum construction area and height. There are also regulations about the strength of the structure, the ventilation and safety conditions.

Once the client communicates his needs to the architect and the applicable regulations are clear, a PRELIMINARY STUDY is performed. This is a comprehensive analysis of a problem to suggest a suitable solution. There may be one or more alternatives to consider. The goal is to discuss different possibilities trying to expand the vision researching any specific topics that could be relevant.

The next step is usually a DRAFT, which is the graphic description of the spatial solution intending to achieve certain goals. It includes drawings in three dimensions (Plants, sections and facades) with measurements and precise quantities. It can still undergo changes before construction because at this stage there are no calculations of systems and services such as structure, water or electricity. At this point it is possible to have a fairly accurate idea of the cost of construction, and it’s time to make adjustments if the price does not match the available resources.

The PROJECT or DETAIL ENGINEERING is to incorporate the structural calculations and installations. The INSTALLATIONS are the support systems that carry water, energy and other services central to make buildings functional. According to the area of construction and use of the building Electrical, Water, Mechanical, Fire Protection or Communications projects are required. The information of each specialty is drawn over architectural drawings but different professionals are responsible.


Fig.5 Examples of structure, water and electrical installations drawings.

Before construction begins it is mandatory to get PERMITS. These are generally required to build or modify a building and must be obtained at the of urban control offices. They are often overlooked in small interventions, but in case of commercial or public buildings or if funding is needed are essential. The requirements for the approval of the projects are different in every country, but generally it involves a qualified professional being liable over the design and construction.

We hope these definitions are useful to clarify the process of implementing projects, and help us to develop a common language with all our potential customers. Are they what really is needed? What other aspects of the projects or relationships with the architects are not clear? Please contact us and send your questions.

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