Construction Abbreviation List: 80 Key Acronyms to Know

Brandon Hull Head of Sales
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The performance of a construction project is based on metrics such as scope, schedule, cost, quality, and safety. But hitting the mark in all these areas can be challenging when unfamiliar terms fly around in conversations.

Whether you work directly in the field or regularly interact with construction professionals or construction management software, gaining a grasp of construction abbreviations will enhance the confidence of your interactions.

Take a look at our newly updated list of 80 construction terms to extend your vocabulary and knowledge.

Construction Terms and Abbreviations

  1. AC – Actual Cost – In earned value analysis, the actual cost is the amount of money spent on a project to date.
  2. ACI – American Concrete Institute – This is a not-for-profit technical society that develops standards and guides for concrete design, concrete mix design, testing, and sampling. The ACI publishes building codes as well as journals to spread consensus-based knowledge of concrete.
  3. ADA – American Disabilities Act – The ADA is a civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on disability. Within the context of architecture and construction, it refers to accessibility design standards for people with disabilities.
  4. AIA – American Institute of Architects – An important term for any architectural abbreviations list, the AIA is a professional organization of architects that offers education, professional guidance, advocacy, and public outreach in support of architecture and construction. When the initials are used as a suffix to a person’s name, it means that person is a licensed architect.
  5. AISC – American Institute of Steel Construction – The AISC is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association focused on the use of structural steel in construction. AISC also publishes specifications for structural steel design that are referenced in every building code.
  6. ANSI – American National Standards Institute – This private, not-for-profit organization manages the development of voluntary consensus standards for personnel, processes, products, services, and systems within the United States. ANSI also coordinates U.S. standards with international standards for the global use of American products.
  7. AOR – Architect of Record – This term refers to the architecture firm or licensed architect(s) that designed a set of plans for facilities under construction.
  8. ASCE – American Society of Civil Engineers – This tax-exempt professional organization represents civil engineers worldwide. The ASCE publishes journals and sponsors conferences related to the profession. The ASCE also publishes the “Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures,” a widely used building code.
  9. ASPH – Asphalt – In its original form, asphalt is a sticky, viscous liquid made from petroleum. It is mixed with coarse and fine aggregates to make asphaltic concrete in road construction. In that context, “asphalt” and “asphaltic concrete” are synonymous terms.
  10. BAC – Budget at Completion – The amount of money authorized for spending to complete a project.
  11. BIM – Building Information Modeling – BIM refers to processes or technology, usually software, that stores information about a project in 3D models. This information can be extracted, exchanged, and updated to support decision-making related to the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of a proposed built asset.
  12. B.O.M. – Bill of Materials – This is a comprehensive list of parts, raw materials, assemblies, sub-assemblies, documents, and other items needed to create a product.
  13. CA – Construction Administration – This refers to services offered by an architect, engineer, or designer during the construction phase, such as responding to requests for information and reviewing submittals and shop drawings.
  14. CAD – Computer-Aided Design – This refers to the use of computers and software in the creation, detailing, analysis, and modification of a design. This may also refer to software programs used for drafting and design.
  15. C.C. – Center-to-Center – In dimensional callouts, center-to-center indicates the spacing between the center of an item or component and adjacent items or components, such as reinforcing steel, columns, footings, rails, etc. It’s the same as O.C. or “on center.” It is distinct from “clear spacing.”
  16. CCM – Certified Construction Manager – This refers to a professional certification offered by the Construction Management Association of America. When used as a suffix to a person’s name, it means that person is a certified construction manager.

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  1. CD – Construction Documents – This refers to the complete set of plans, including contracts, drawings, specifications, special provisions, and other supporting documentation used for erecting a facility, roadway, bridge, or other built assets.
  2. CEI – Construction Engineering and Inspection – This refers to construction management and oversight of a construction project, performed by an independent consultant on behalf of an owner. The term is frequently used by departments of transportation.
  3. CF/CY – Cubic Feet, Cubic Yard – These are common units of measurement for volume. Reinforced concrete and soil are usually quantified, measured, and paid for by cubic feet or cubic yards.
  4. CM – Construction Management or Construction Manager – This refers to the practice of overseeing construction project progress and performance. It also refers to the individual(s) responsible for this practice.
  5. CMAA – Construction Management Association of America – The CMAA is a non-profit, non-government organization that defines standards for professional construction management. This organization also establishes voluntary certification for professional construction managers.
  6. CMAR – Construction Manager at Risk – This is a project delivery method where a construction manager completes a project for a guaranteed maximum price. The construction manager acts as a consultant to the owner during development and design and a general contractor during construction. The “risk” comes from the contractor having to act in the owner’s best interest and keep costs below the guaranteed maximum.
  7. CMU – Concrete Masonry Unit – A CMU is a type of rectangular block used in building and wall construction. This term is sometimes synonymous with the term “cinder block.”
  8. CO – Change Order – A change order is a formal, agreed-upon modification to a project’s scope, schedule, or cost.
  9. CO – Certificate of Occupancy – This is a document issued by a local authority that certifies a building is compliant with applicable building codes and suitable for occupancy.
  10. CPI – Cost Performance Index – In earned value analysis, the CPI is a comparison of the actual work completed to the actual cost incurred. It is computed by dividing earned value (EV) by actual cost (AC). If the CPI is equal to one, the project is on budget. If the CPI is less than one, a project is over budget. If the CPI is greater than one, a project is below project budget.
  11. CPM – Critical Path Method – This is a means of creating or analyzing a project schedule based on the longest sequence of dependent activities or tasks (also known as the critical path) and measuring the time it takes to start and finish that sequence of activities.
  12. DB – Design-Build – This is a project delivery method where the contractor or design-builder is responsible for developing the final design based on the owner’s concept. The contractor usually hires an architectural or engineering firm to create the design.
  13. DBB – Design-Bid-Build – This is a common project delivery method where design services and construction are procured separately. The contractor bids on a project based on plans (usually complete) developed by an architect or engineer.
  14. DBE – Disadvantaged Business Enterprise – This refers to a company that is certified by a government entity as being owned by a member of a disadvantaged group (often minorities, women, veterans, etc.). For federally funded infrastructure projects, a percentage of the work must be completed by certified DBEs.
  15. DIA – Diameter (inches) – This refers to the measured distance across the face of a cylindrical or circular element, such as a drilled shaft or pipe.
  16. DS – Drilled Shaft – Typically, a drilled shaft is a type of deep foundation that transfers structural loads (from a building, bridge, or wall) to a subsurface layer. It is usually made of reinforced concrete.
  17. DWG – Drawing – In computer-aided design and drafting and architectural contexts, this is an abbreviation for drawing, as in a construction sheet or blueprint.
  18. EA – Each – “EA” is used to quantify items that are counted as whole units, as opposed to a measurement of length, area, or volume.
  19. EAC – Estimate At Completion – In earned value analysis, this is the expected cost when the project is complete.
  20. ECI – Early Contractor Involvement –This is a construction contracting approach that sees main contractor involvement before a design is finalized, enabling earlier input on design feasibility and optimization. This approach is particularly useful for big, complex, or risky projects.This is one of the important construction acronyms to know if you work directly with contractors in your role.
  21. E&O – Errors and Omissions – This refers to mistakes, oversights, or missing details in a set of construction drawings.
  22. EOR – Engineer of Record – This term refers to the engineering firm or licensed engineer(s) that designed a set of plans for facilities under construction.
  23. ETC – Estimate to Complete – This is the remaining cost expected to complete a project.
  24. EV – Earned Value – EV is the percent of the total budget that is completed at a given point in the project duration.
  25. FF – Free Float – In project scheduling, it is the amount of time an activity can be postponed without affecting the early start of the tasks that follow. This calculation is based on the Critical Path Method.
  26. GMP – Guaranteed Maximum Price – This is the maximum amount of labor, materials, and profit costs that a contractor can charge for a project.
  27. GPR – Ground Penetrating Radar –This refers to an electromagnetic technology that surveys and gathers data on subsurface areas. This tool enables professionals to map underground structures with precision. 
  28. GSF – Gross Square Feet – It encompasses all square footage within a building or space, including interior and exterior walls. GSF includes vertical passages like stairs and shaft areas that connect floors.
  29. IAQ – Indoor Air Quality – This describes the air quality inside and around buildings in the context of the health and comfort of its occupants. This is an important term for a construction abbreviations list related to green buildings.
  30. ID/OD – Inside Diameter/Outside Diameter – For piping, the inside diameter refers to the width of the pipe opening. The outside diameter is the sum of the inside diameter and twice the pipe wall thickness.
  31. IFC – Issued for Construction – This building acronym indicates that a set of design drawings and specifications have gone through all the appropriate review stages and have been approved for implementation on-site. They are the final set of design documents.

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  1. IPD – Integrated Project Delivery – IPD is a construction project delivery method that involves all participants through every phase of design, fabrication, and construction. The purpose of IPD is to boost labor productivity, minimize waste, avoid delays, improve quality, and eliminate conflicts between owners, architects, and contractors.
  2. LD – Liquidated Damages – While drafting a contract, these are damages for an injured party to collect compensation for a breach of contract. In construction contracts, a contractor is often charged LDs for each day that a project goes beyond the agreed-upon completion date.
  3. LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – This is a certification program for green building. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and includes rating systems for the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of green buildings.
  4. LF – Linear Foot – This is a unit of measurement for length. It is commonly used for items that are measured and paid for by length.
  5. LOE – Level of Effort – In project management, an LOE is a type of project activity that supports other activities. It is not a work item associated with delivering the completed project. On a construction project, developing a look-ahead schedule is an example of an LOE but erecting concrete beams is not.
  6. LS – Lump Sum – Strictly speaking, a lump sum is a single payment of money instead of payment installments. In contract administration, it refers to a contract where a single price is quoted for an entire project using plans and specifications. The owner knows exactly how much the work costs in advance. LS is also a unit of payment in construction estimating. Instead of a unit price per item, or a unit of measurement, lump sum items have one price that covers the entirety of that item. It is often used for items that aren’t quantifiable such as mobilization.
  7. MOH – Materials on Hand – This refers to materials that have been purchased specifically for a project. In construction, this typically refers to materials that have been procured, but not yet installed. A contractor may request payment for these items before installation, especially to pay a supplier or vendor.
  8. NTP – Notice to Proceed – This is a formal letter from an owner or director to a contractor or consultant to start work. It is usually the official start of contract time.
  9. NTS – Not to Scale – When this abbreviation appears on construction documents, it means that the detail, floor plan, or descriptive drawing lacks a specific scale. This notation is intended to convey a rough concept or layout without accurate or precise measurements.
  10. O.C. – On Center – In dimensional callouts, on-center indicates the spacing between the center of an item or component and adjacent items or components, such as reinforcing steel, columns, footings, rails, etc. It’s the same as C.C. or “center-to-center.” It is distinct from “clear spacing.”
  11. OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration – The OSHA is a U.S. government agency under the Department of Labor. It sets and enforces standards to safeguard worker health and safety across various industries, including construction.
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  1. PDF/A – Portable Document Format/Archival – This is the globally recognized standard for preserving electronic documents. Unlike standard PDFs, PDF/A files are customized specifically for long-term archiving.
  2. PE – Professional Engineer – When used as a suffix to a name, it means that person is a licensed engineer, authorized to sign and seal plans, reports, calculations, drawings, and other technical documents.
  3. PM – Project Management or Project Manager – This refers to the practice of overseeing project progress and performance. It also refers to the individual(s) responsible for this practice.
  4. PMPProject Management Plan – This outlines a project manager’s specific understanding and approach to managing an individual project. This should not be confused with “Project Management Professional,” a certification offered by the Project Management Institute.
  5. PS&E – Plans, Specifications and Estimates – This refers to the final design (and its documents) of a project. This often shows up in transportation and transit lists of construction acronyms.
  6. PSI – Pounds per Square Inch – This is a unit of measure indicating the strength of a material as a stress or force divided by a unit area. Concrete compressive strength is often expressed in psi.
  7. PV – Planned Value – In earned value analysis, the planned value is the budgeted cost for the work scheduled to be done at any point in the duration of a project.
  8. RE – Resident Engineer – In construction, an RE is an engineer who supervises fieldwork on behalf of an owner, client, or design consultant. Sometimes this term is synonymous with “project manager,” especially one overseeing a contractor’s work.
  9. REBAR – Reinforcing Bars – This is the reinforcing steel (as opposed to structural steel) that is embedded in structural concrete to allow a member to resist tension, flexing, bending, and torsion.
  10. RFIRequest for Information – This is a question submitted by a contractor about an issue or question with the plans, specs, site conditions, contract terms, etc. An architect, engineer, or owner’s representative often provides the response.
  11. RFP – Request for Proposal – In construction, this is a formal request by an owner or owner’s representative for a contractor to present an approach or plan for completing project work. In procurement, an RFP also refers to a solicitation issued by a client for professional services such as architecture, engineering, and construction management, among others. Respondents usually provide their approach or strategy for delivering the work outlined in the solicitation.
  12. RFQ – Request for Qualifications – Similar to an RFP in procurement, this is a solicitation issued by a client for qualifications related to professional services. Respondents usually provide resumes and examples of similar or relevant projects to demonstrate their qualifications for delivering the work outlined in the solicitation.
  13. SF/SY – Square Feet, Square Yard – These are common units of measurement for area. Concrete slabs and walls are usually quantified, measured, and paid for by square feet or square yards.
  14. SPI – Schedule Performance Index – In earned value analysis, the SPI is a comparison of the actual progress or earned value to the planned progress or planned value. It is calculated by dividing the earned value (EV) by the planned value (PV). If the SPI is equal to one, the project is on time. If the SPI is less than one, the project is behind schedule. If the CPI is greater than one, the project is ahead of schedule.
  15. SSHO – Site Safety and Health Officer – This term refers to a qualified professional that oversees on-site safety and health. While not mandatory on all construction sites, a SSHO is required on-site for U.S. government and military construction projects.This is an important term for a construction abbreviation list related to federal projects. 
  16. STA. – Station – A station is a horizontal unit of measurement along the center line of a project such as a road, bridge, or wall. In transportation, it is equal to 100 feet. In plans, a station callout indicates where along a project an object is located.
  17. TCP – Traffic Control Plan – In transportation projects, this is the complete set of drawings and specifications that indicate how traffic will be controlled in various construction phases, using signage, signals, pavement markings, and barricades.
  18. TF –Total Float – In Critical Path Method, the total float is the margin that a project can withstand delays without jeopardizing the project’s end date.
  19. TYP. – Typical – In plans and drawings, the term “TYP.” indicates that a particular characteristic or detail applies to the same elements on the same page, view, or drawing. The term is analogous to “ditto.”
  20. VOC – Volatile Organic Compound – This is an organic chemical with a high vapor pressure at room temperature. VOCs are usually responsible for the odor of scents, perfumes, and pollutants. Some VOCs are harmful to humans and the environment. In the context of indoor air quality, these compounds may not be acutely toxic but can have long-term impacts on health.
  21. WBS– Work Breakdown Structure – In project management, this is a hierarchical decomposition of a project’s scope used by PMs to ensure project goals are achieved and the required deliverables are identified and created.
  22. WWF – Welded Wire Fabric – Sometimes called welded wire mesh, this is a grid of uniformly placed wires that provides flexural strength in concrete slabs, similar to rebar.

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Our team is here to help get your pilot project off the ground