Glossary of Terms

Using our glossary helps to explain the jargon of architects, designers and builders.

This glossary is written with you in mind. Our list of terms is designed to de-mystify the jargon for you.

This Glossary is a work in progress. If you have any words or terms you wish to have explained please contact us via

Building Envelope – a term used to describe the exterior elements of a building which enclose and protect the interior of a building from the exterior elements (rain, wind, snow).

The Building Envelope consists of:
1. Structure – to support the building and materials;
2. Enclosure – the exterior shell as a combination of the exterior material (cladding), and the waterproofing that protects the structure and interior areas from the exterior environment. The functionality of the enclosure can be strengthened by adding insulation to improve the thermal performance of the exterior shell.

Building Fabric – the enclosing component of a building that wraps the building interior and protects the interior environment from the effects of sun, wind, water, and temperature. The building fabric should control the transfer of energy between the interior and exterior, and includes a building’s roof, walls, windows, doors, and floor. Aspects of the building fabric can also be enhanced to provide security and privacy.

Building Structure – the bones of the building, providing the strength and resilience to support the building enclosure (building fabric), and loading such as the weight of the building fabric, those people and things that are to copy the building, as well as external loads such as wind and earthquake forces applied to the building.

The building structure consists of structural elements such as beams, columns.

Circulation – the area required for movement throughout, around, or within a building. In residential design and architecture, approximately 10% of the building area is required for the accommodation of corridors, stairs and spaces necessary for connection of spaces and functions.

Cladding – (refer also Building Envelope, above) Material, or materials, used to wrap the external portions of the building enclosure. Claddings vary from brick veneer, to timber, to zinc, to plastic. Each material presents differing functionality, and construction methodology, as well as course as presenting differing ‘personality’ to the building character. Selection of claddings also pose varying degrees of maintenance and longevity.

Client and Architect Agreement – is a formal agreement for the relationship between a client and their architect. Such an agreement is required under the Architects Act in each state or territory in Australia.

Construction Budget – or Cost of Works is defined as the value of the construction works, exclusive of GST. This is defined as the final cost of all work designed, specified, or scheduled by the architect, including all work designed, specified, and/or scheduled by specialist consultants coordinated by the architect. For further information please refer to the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Client and Architect Agreement.

Fabric – see Building Fabric, above.

Passive Design – utilising the sun’s energy to achieve natural methods of heating and cooling the building interior, without the need for mechanical heating and cooling.

Sustainable Design – (or environmental design) is the preservation of our natural resources and minimising the production of carbon facilitated by good design and strategic selection of materials and form.

The term sustainable design also relates to minimising the production of carbon during the fabrication of materials and physical objects, as well as reducing the reliance on fossil fuels to mechanise the object or utility that has been designed.

Sustainable design, or sustainable architecture, includes the use of passive solar heating and cooling in combination with the selection of materials having favourable thermal properties, and designing spaces to strategically accept sun and naturally circulate air.

Other considerations of sustainable design include:

  • construction of the building enclosure and interior utilising materials having low embodied energy
  • water capture and use throughout the building and site for water efficiency
  • good site and garden design to facilitate air flow to assist natural cooling in summer periods

Sustainable Residential Design

The creation of a home designed to take advantage of its local environment and to be constructed of materials providing good thermal properties. Sustainable Design includes passive solar heating and cooling in combination with the selection of materials having favourable thermal properties, and designing spaces to strategically accept sun and naturally circulate air.

  • To enable passive solar heating it is critical that winter daylight is allowed to enter within the primary living areas of the home. Sunlight access during the day in turn heats the exposed dense materials (high thermal performance) such as exposed concrete, brick, and concrete block.
  • To achieve passive cooling in warmer periods it is critical to ensure shading to windows and enable cross ventilation. For the summer condition the building enclosure should be designed so that direct sunlight cannot fall within the building enclosure to keep the dense materials cool.

Click on the filter “Sustainable Design’ for a selected list of houses utilising Sustainable Design

Remember, this Glossary of Terms is a work in progress. If you have any words or terms you wish to have explained feel free to contact us via






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