"What is my architect saying?" - Architect jargon busted

Architects try to speak in plain English, but like all specialists, sometimes they get so used to using a technical term, they forget that people outside the architectural bubble have no idea what it means. With that in mind, we’ve created a jargon busterto help you decipher the terms.


Architects Registration Board. The UK body which regulates architects. All architects practising in the UK must be registered with the ARB - it's illegal to call yourself an architect if you're not.

Building envelope

The whole of the outside of your home, so the walls, floors, roof, windows and external doors.

Building regulations

The standards buildings need to meet to ensure they are healthy, safe, comfortable and environmentally sound places for people to use. They cover structural integrity, energy efficiency, fire safety, sanitation, ventilation, electrical safety and waste disposal, among other areas. Your home needs to comply with building regulations even if the work you are doing doesn't need planning permission.


Computer aided design. These are computer drawings that can be made in 3D.

Casement window

A window which has vertical hinges and typically opens outward. As distinct from a sash window, where the panes of glass slide up and down.


A material covering the outside of a building.

Conservation area

An area whose architecture is considered important and in need of preservation. Planning restrictions are tighter in conservation areas and you may not be able to do some of the things ordinary homeowners have the right to do without permission from the council.


A building's surroundings, to which it is important that the building is sympathetic.


Methods of stopping moisture seeping into your home from outside and making it damp. Various materials and methods are used to do this, from silicone and concrete to waterproof membranes under floors and on walls, damp-proof paint, and even an electrical charge.

Dormer window

A window which projects out from your roof, as opposed to a skylight, which is at the same angle as the roof.


The side of a building; also a drawing of the side of a building.


The front of a building.


The arrangement of windows in a building.


A length of timber or steel supporting a building.


A horizontal timber, stone, concrete or steel beam across the top of a door or window.

Party wall

A shared wall between two adjoining buildings.

Permitted development

hings you're allowed to build or do to your home without planning permission.

Planning authority

The authority responsible for allowing development in an area. Usually a borough or district council, unitary authority or London borough.

Professional indemnity insurance

The ARB stipulates that all architects should be covered  by this, in case someone makes a claim against them for professional negligence. If your architect doesn't have this, it's unlikely that you'd be able to claim redress if something went wrong.


Projecting slightly from a surface.

Structural engineer

A structural engineer ensures buildings are safe and structurally sound.


A measurement of how good walls, roofs, doors and windows are at keeping heat in a building. The lower the u-value, the better a material is at keeping heat in.

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