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Learn the meaning of some of the most common terms in architecture and construction in our glossary of terms. The terms listed below came from a number of sources and represent the most common terms in performing the design and construction process.

Architectural Drawing
A line drawing showing plan and/or elevation views of the proposed building for the purpose of showing the overall appearance of the building.

Blueprints (or prints)
Reproduction of architectural drawings used by contractors and workers to guide the building process.

Budget (Construction Budget)
(1) An itemized summary of estimated or intended expenditures for a given period of time; (2) The total sum of money allocated for a specific project.

Building Code
The legal requirements set up by the prevailing various governing agencies covering the minimum acceptable requirements for all types of construction. (See Codes)

Building Permit
A written document issued by the appropriate local governmental authority permitting construction to begin on a specific project in accordance with drawings and specifications approved by the governmental authority.

Prevailing regulations, ordinances or statutory requirements set forth by governmental agencies associated with building construction practices and owner occupancy, adopted and administered for the protection of public health, life safety and welfare.

Construction Cost
(1) The direct contractor costs for labor, material, equipment, and services; contractors overhead and profit; and other direct construction costs. Construction cost does not include the compensation paid to the Designer and Engineer and consultants, the cost of the land, rights-of-way or other costs which are defined in the contract documents as being the responsibility of the owner.

Construction Documents
A term used to represent all drawings, specifications, addenda, other pertinent construction information associated with the construction of a specific project.

(1) An agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law; (2) The writing or document containing such an agreement.

Contract Documents
A term used to represent all executed agreements between the owner and contractor; any general, supplementary or other contract conditions; the drawings and specifications; all addenda issued prior to execution of the contract; and any other items specifically stipulated as being included in the contract documents.

A properly licensed individual or company that agrees to furnish labor, materials, equipment and associated services to perform the work as specified for a specified price.

Cross Sections
Drawings that show details of the house as though it were cut in slices from the roof to the foundation. The cross sections specify the home's construction, insulation, flooring and roofing details.

A graphical representation consisting of plan views, exterior elevations, sections, and other drawings and details to depict the goal or purpose for a building or other structure.

Design Development Phase
The second phase of the Designer's basic services wherein the Designer prepares drawings and other presentation documents to fix and describe the size and character of the entire project as to architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical systems, materials and other essentials as may be appropriate; and prepares a statement of probable construction cost.

(1)  To calculate approximately the amount, extent or value of something; (2) To form an opinion of estimated costs.

Estimate of Construction Cost, Detailed
A calculation of costs prepared on the basis of a detailed analysis of materials and labor for all items of work, as contracted with an estimate based on current area, volume or similar cost units.

Exterior Elevations       
Drawings that show the front, rear and sides of a building, including exterior materials and measurements. Elevations are drawn at the same scale as the floor plan.

The exterior face of a building which is the architectural front.

Floor Plans
Plans showing the placement of interior walls and the dimensions and locations of rooms, doors, windows, stairways, etc. of each level of the house.

Foundation Plans
A detailed drawing showing all dimensions needed to construct the foundation. It includes drawings for a standard, daylight or partial basement, crawlspace, pole, pier or slab foundation. All necessary notations and dimensions are included.

Framing Plan
A drawing that shows the underlying structure of the ceilings and floors.

General Contractor
Properly licensed individual or company having primary responsibility for the work.

General Specifications
A detailed statement of particulars that provide general instructions and information regarding structure, excavating and grading, masonry and concrete work, carpentry and wood, thermal and moisture protection, and specifications about drywall, tile, flooring, glazing, caulking and sealants.

Interior Details
Drawings that show the general location of cabinets (kitchen, bathroom and utility room), fireplaces, built-in units, and other special features, depending on the nature and complexity of the item. 

Interior Finish
A term used to represent the visible elements, materials and applications applied to building's interior excluding furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The composition of the different geometrical forms that make up a house or building.

Owner-Designer Agreement:
A written form of contract between the designer and the client for professional design services.

Preliminary Drawings
The drawings that precede the final approved drawings

Roof Designs  
Drawings that show the slope, pitch and location of dormers, gables and other roof elements, including clerestory windows and skylights. These details may be shown on the elevation sheet or on a separate diagram.

Roof Framing Plan
The drawing that shows the layout of the roof framing details and materials.

Schematic Design Phase
Diagrammatic drawings done early in the design process of an architectural project in preparation for construction, usually drawn to scale and showing the entire project.

A preliminary sketch or diagram representing the proposed intent of the designer.

Schematic Design Phase
The first phase of the Designer's basic services in which the Designer consults with the owner to ascertain the requirements of the project and prepares schematic design studies consisting of drawings and other documents showing the scale and project components for the owner's approval.

Schematic Floor Plans
The floor plans conceptualized or designed to create the layout of the house. This is considered as the most essential part of the design process, wherein a creative functional solution is produced to meet all the client's requirements and specifications. Schematic Floor Plans are floor plans for planning purposes alone although they may be sufficient to be used as models for a construction document set. They do not constitute buildable plans. Further development is necessary, which may include civil, structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical engineering, etc. 

Schematic Electrical Layout Templates
allow your contractor to show the suggested locations for switches, fixtures and outlets. These details may be shown on the floor plan or on a separate diagram.

The place where a structure or group of structures was, or is to be located (a construction site).

Site Plan
Refers to drawings or diagrams laying out the precise arrangement of a structure on a plot of land. For example, a house site plan shows the property, garage, existing building, locations, easements, utility connections, etc. It may also refer to plans for gardens, groups of buildings, or developments, where the layout of buildings, roadways, utilities, landscape elements, topography, water features, and vegetation may be depicted. A site plan is drawn at a large scale to show a large area (1"= 50'-0" or 1"=200'-00", for example).

A detailed, exact statement of particulars, especially statements prescribing materials and methods; and quality of work for a specific project. The most common arrangement for specifications substantially parallels the CSI (Construction Specification Institute) format. 

Structural Design
A term used to represent the proportioning of structural members to carry loads in a building or structure.

Working Drawing
A drawing sufficiently complete with plan and section views, dimensions, details, and notes so that whatever is shown can be constructed and/or replaced without instructions but subject to clarifications.

Restrictions of areas or regions of land within specific geographical areas based on permitted building size, character, and uses as established by governing urban authorities.


Important Copyright Notice...
The following statement is provided by the Council of Publishing Home Designers, an affiliation of the American Institute of Building Design.

Home plans are copyrighted:  Just like books, movies, and songs, federal copyright laws protect the intellectual property of architects and home designers. These legal protections exist to protect all parties. Copyright laws respect and support the intellectual property of the original architect or designer, and prevent anyone from using the design without written permission.


Don't use plans to build more than one house:  All home plans include a copyright release and a license to use the documents to construct a single home. When you purchase construction documents, we, as licenser, are granting to you, as licensee, the right to use the documents to construct a single unit. This is an exclusive license, which may not be resold, duplicated, published or distributed without written permission of the designer, architect or publisher.


Reproducing Blueprints:  Construction blueprints may not be reproduced without prior written consent of the designer. If additional sets are required for estimating or construction, please contact us for additional sets at a nominal cost. Copy shops and blueprinters are prohibited from making copies of these copyrighted documents.


Home Plans (Mylars, Vellums, Sepias):  With the purchase of a reproducible (mylars, vellums, or sepias), a license and  copyright release are also provided. In this case, as licensee, you are allowed to make up to 12 copies of the design, but such copies may only be used for the construction of a single home. For the construction of more than one unit, it is necessary to obtain an additional release or multiple licenses from the architect or designer.


Making Design Modifications:  As a plan licensee, you may customize the design to fit your personal preferences, but you must understand that the modification of the plan is done at your own risk and should be reviewed by a professional architect, home designer or engineer prior to the start of construction. Modified plans are considered 'derivative works' of the original, and it is critical that you understand that these 'derivative works' as well as the original work, still retain copyright protection. Any 'derivative work' or revised design, even if completely redrawn, may not be sold, duplicated, distributed or used to construct any units without the purchase of a license from the architect or designer.  


Don't Copy Designs:  It is illegal to copy home designs found in any plan book, on a CD-ROM or on the internet. It is a common misunderstanding that it is permissible to copy, adapt or change a floor plan or a design found in any book. It is not! It is also illegal to copy an existing home that may have been built, that is protected by copyright, even if you have never seen the plans for the home. If a particular home plan or existing home is desired, a set of plans must be purchased from an authorized source. 


Using the Home Plans:  As a plan licensee, you may lend the plans to third parties (builders, contractors, subcontractors, inspectors, government agencies, etc.) as necessary to assist in the construction of the dwelling involved. All such lent plans must be retrieved and destroyed, except for the owner's reference sets, and those sets required by government agencies, after such assistance has been completed.


Who is responsible for Copyright Infringement?  All parties, including the purchasers, designers, drafters, homeowners, builders, contractors, subcontractors, copy shops and blueprinters may be responsible if a copyright is violated. It does not matter whether an individual knows that a violation is being committed. You've heard it before: ignorance of the law is not a valid defense! To avoid legal complications and damages, it is critical that you be certain of the original plan source, and refuse to be a party to any illicit copying or borrowing of designs, derivative works, prints, and design features.


Please respect Home Design Copyrights:  In the event of any suspected violation of a copyright, or if there is any uncertainty about the plans purchased, the publisher, architect or designer should be contacted before proceeding. If a violation of a home designer's copyright is suspected, the designer or architect, and the Council of Publishing Home Designers should be contacted. Awards are sometimes offered for information about home design copyright infringement.


Penalties for Infringement:  Penalties for violating a copyright may be very severe. The responsible parties are required to pay the designer or architect's actual damages (which may be substantial), plus any profits made. The copyright law also allows the designer or architect to recover statutory damages, which may be as high as $100,000. Finally, the infringer may be required to pay the architect or designer's reasonable legal fees, which often exceed the damages.

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27702 Crown Valley Parkway,  Suite D-4  # 270
Ladera Ranch (Orange County), CA 92694
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