Superdraft explains jargon used by design professionals

Minimise confusion and feel more confident while conversing with your designer when you understand the architectural jargon. Study these terms and be prepared for your next design meeting.
Superdraft Guide: Architectural Jargons Explained and Made Easy

The daunting building process plus the tricky jargon used by design professionals (e.g., building designers and draftspeople) often make a new build or renovation project hard, especially for first-time homeowners.

Here in Superdraft, we make sure our clients are not intimidated and confused because of the jargon. We make sure that our clients understand everything that the designers say.

In case you encountered a tricky word from your designer, refer from this very short list of common (and overused) terms. Each one comes with a simple interpretation to help ease you through most conversations. 

Happy reading!


Describes how the connected parts of a building are assembled to make them clear and distinct from each other. It is commonly used when describing the facade of a structure.

Building envelope

It refers to the exterior of the building: the walls, floor, and roof.


This is used to describe the overhanging part of the building that appears to defy gravity. Cantilever homes on steep and sloping sites are marvellous.


Contemporary design is all about now and the future. It features state-of-the-art materials, plus lots of glass and metal. It follows a palette of black, white, and bold, saturated colours.

On the other hand, contemporary design is forward-looking,  innovative, and responsive to the site and climate. These structures evoke a lot of feelings and opinion, which is why we see them a lot in design magazines.


The word is a combination of “curvy” and “linear” but it means curvy.

Conceptual design

A loose, possibly freehand drawing, or sketches of a design.

Schematic design

A more precise sketch of your preferred design.


The two-dimensional view of the building from the outside. Most people encounter this word when reading their set of planning drawings. Design professionals include north, south, east, or west elevations in the drawings.

Most people have a better understanding of the building’s design when shown with 3D perspective drawings. These illustrations show how the front, back, and sides of the building will look like in the real world.


Refers to the location, proportion, and type of windows. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Designers have to position windows strategically to maximise daylighting, ventilation, and outdoor views.


The side of the structure which faces the street or an open space where people can see it as a whole.


Something that offers a little bit of fun within the overall design. This object is there to draw attention or to make a statement. You can make it subtle or obvious.


A drawing that shows a vertical slice through a building. These show the varying interior heights within the building, the relationship of the building with the site and ground levels, and connections between various elements of a building.

Honestly? It is many designers’ most favourite type of drawing. It is also the most confusing.


Scale drawings show a real object with accurate sizes reduced or enlarged by a certain amount. Site plans are drawn in 1:200 scale while floor plans and elevations are drawn in a 1:100 scale.


It literally means a problem, but this jargon refers to the distance between the structure and the site boundary. Councils prescribe minimum setbacks to create uniformity within a streetscape. It also protects neighbouring properties from overshadowing and overlooking each other.


It's short for 'parti pris,' French for 'to make a decision.' For designers, Parti refers to the big idea or inspiration behind the design of the project.


When your designer asks for the program, he/she is asking for your wish list or your design brief.


Vernacular design is about designing homes based on the local climate, needs, and availability of material and skills. It’s a regional housing design.

A perfect example would be the Queenslander in northern to eastern Australia. The lightweight building materials have low thermal mass, thus the house cools faster under the region’s warm, sub-tropical climate. Its large wraparound verandah provides a spacious outdoor space that’s protected from the elements.

Key Players

Apart from jargon, it is also important for you to know the responsibilities of the people involved in your building project.

Owner (You)

Primary responsibility is deciding the use and occupancy and approving the design.


Primary responsibility is ensuring that the planning documents of the building is appropriate for the intended use and the overall building is aesthetically pleasing.


Primary responsibility is ensuring the safety and serviceability of the structure, i.e, designing the building to carry the loads safely and structural integrity.


Primary responsibility is ensuring that the members and connections are economically assembled in the field to build the structure.


Primary responsibility is ensuring that the built structure satisfies the appropriate building codes accepted by the Government.

These words are always present in design magazines and websites too. 

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Contact our Brisbane-based building designers for more info.



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