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Industry jargon and what it means

At Havelock One, we are committed to providing useful information that can help people understand the nature of our industry. Before we dive into the world of the interior fit-out and construction industry in the Middle East, it is important for us to shed some light on the terminologies that we use on a daily basis.


As much as we’d love to avoid jargon, we sometimes speak ‘insider’ language and there simply isn’t any alternative word to replace it. So, to familiarise yourselves with the industry lingo, we’d like to share our handy guide of the most commonly heard buzzwords, acronyms, phrases and terms that we use in the workplace.

Award of contract

Usually, the ‘award of contract’ concludes a process, in which a client or main contractor nominates the most suitable bidder for a contract, by formally notifying the tenderer that they have won the bid. The selection process usually involves consecutive steps, including pre-qualification, short-listing, invitation to tender, tender submission, interviews, selection and negotiation of the final contract terms & conditions.

BOQ or Bill of quantities

The ‘bill of quantities’ (sometimes referred to as ‘BoQ’ or ‘BQ’) is a document prepared by the cost consultant (often a quantity surveyor) that provides project-specific measured quantities of the items of work identified by the drawings and specifications in the tender documentation.

The quantities may be measured in number, length, area, volume, weight or time. Preparing a bill of quantities requires that the design is complete and that a specification and possible alternatives have been prepared.

The bill of quantities is issued to tenderers for them to prepare a price for carrying out the works and purchasing related items. The bill of quantities assists tenderers in the calculation of construction costs for their tender, and, as it means all tendering contractors will be pricing the same quantities (rather than taking off quantities from the drawings and specifications themselves), it also provides a fair and accurate system for comparison.

CAD or Computer-aided design

‘Computer-aided design’ (CAD) or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) is the production of drawings, specifications and other design-related elements using special graphics and computer programs. CAD / CADD may be used for creating floor plans and 3D renders of how a project design will look in practice.

Concept design

‘Concept design’ generally takes place after feasibility studies and options appraisals have been carried out and a project brief has been prepared. The concept design represents the design team’s initial response to the project brief.

Concept design is followed by ‘detailed design’ or ‘developed design’, during which all the main components of the building and how they fit together are described.


A ‘contractor’ is an organisation appointed by a client (project owner or main contractor) or consultant to carry out construction works. They undertake the whole of the construction of a project, but usually in turn sub-letting parts of his work to specialist or trades contractors and others as sub-contractors.


In the construction industry, an ‘estimate’ is typically used in relation to the approximate costs associated with a construction project, for example to assess the viability or affordability of the project or aspects of it.

An estimate is an attempt to predict the likely expenditures associated with a project as accurately as possible. The degree of detail and the accuracy of estimates will typically increase as the project progresses, more decisions have been made and more information is available, however, their true accuracy only becomes apparent once the project is complete and the actual costs are incurred.


‘Fit out’ is a term used to describe the process of making interior spaces suitable for occupation. It is often used in relation to different developments, be it hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, commercial spaces such as offices, social infrastructure and government projects, clinics, spas, entertainment venues or residential buildings, where the base construction is completed by the landlord or developer and the final fit-out might be done by the occupant. Conventionally, the occupant will be leasing space as a tenant from the developer / landlord unless he’s the investor or has purchased the property.


A ‘fixture’ is an asset that is installed or otherwise fixed in or to a building or land so as to become part of that building or land in law. If the asset is intended to be permanent and effect a lasting improvement to the property, it is considered a fixture.


‘Joinery’ is the method by which two or more pieces of wood are connected. Joinery can involve simple gluing, nailing or screwing of the two pieces of wood, however, it can be as complicated as using very intricate joints. While the primary purpose of joinery is to hold wood together strongly and securely, it can also be a decorative feature of the project, in which the joinery is used.

Joinery is an important part of most woodworking and it is found in furniture, cabinetry, windows and doors, flooring, etc. It is a specialist area of carpentry and therefore working with a dedicated expert is highly recommended.


‘Installation’ is the process of delivering, assembling and handing over furniture, often as part of a new project or a refurbishment.

In terms of construction, it often refers to machinery, plant, apparatus, etc., being placed in position or connected for use. Often this can refer to a system or unit with accompanying assemblies, accessories, parts, just to name a few. It can also include connection to the services, which are required to enable the installation to operate.

Installation drawings are developed from co-ordinated detail drawings and present the information needed by different trades to install part of the works. This may be particularly important for complex installations for hospitality, F&B, commercial and infrastructure projects.

LOI or Letter of intent

Usually, a ‘letter of intent’ is a non-binding document expressing an intention to enter into a contract at a future date but creating no contractual relationship until that future contract has been entered into.

Letters of intent are most commonly sent at a time when it is anticipated that the recipient will be incurring costs and overheads. They can be used as an interim arrangement to mobilise construction prior to a formal contract being executed, but they should never be seen as an alternative to a full contract and should place a limit on expenditure and the client’s liability prior to the contract being put in place.

Loose furniture

‘Loose furniture’ is a term to describe furniture that can be moved, such as lightweight chairs, tables, desks, case goods, upholstery etc.

MEP or Mechanical, electrical and plumbing

‘Mechanical, electrical and plumbing’ (MEP) systems are an important part of building services and can have many different functions.

Typically designed by specialised consultants and contractors, MEP systems can present complex challenges in terms of coordination and detailing. They must satisfy multiple objectives and criteria for design, installation, commissioning, operation, and maintenance.


As essential part of the project design process is a technically drawn ‘plan’ produced to scale and showing the spatial relationship between all functions and elements in the interior design.


The process of ‘pre-qualification’ is an information gathering and assessment that determines if a contractor’s capability, capacity, resources, management processes and performance are suitable to realise a project, depending on its scope, size and complexity.

Typical subject matter areas include financial capacity and surety, work history, licensing and qualifications, management standards, as well as regulatory, quality, safety and environmental performance data.

Only those bidders that are pre-qualified can expect an invitation to submit a tender bid.


‘Procurement’ describes the process of purchasing goods or services. There are many different routes by which the design and construction of a building can be procured. The selected route should follow a strategy that fits the long-term objectives of the client’s business plan. Speed, cost, quality, specific project constraints, origin, risk, asset ownership and financing are usually considered during procurement.


A ‘project’ is a series of related tasks, which when they are carried out in the correct order, will lead to the completion of the project. Projects are temporary, generally resulting in the creation of a tangible product or outcome.

A construction project, sometimes just referred to as a project, is the organised process of constructing, renovating, refurbishing, etc. a building, structure or infrastructure. The project process typically starts with an overarching requirement, which is developed through the creation of a brief, feasibility studies, option studies, design, financing and construction.

Construction projects are typically one offs. That is, a project team, brief and financing are put together to produce a unique design that delivers a single project.

RFP or Request for proposal

In the construction industry, if a problem or project has been defined, the client might still need expertise and qualified input on how to approach or solve the matter. A ‘request for proposal’ (RFQ) is a formal inquiry into how a consultant or contractor would provide services that match the client’s needs and what the cost implications are.

To make the process as straight-forward as possible, an RFQ should detail the scope of work, describe the organisation requesting the RFQ, their requirements and expectations, stakeholders involved, possible budget restraints and a desired schedule.


An ‘refurbishment’ is the process of renovating a space to improve its appearance and the quality of the environment it provides to those using it. It is a term used to describe a process of improvement by cleaning, decorating and re-equipping. It may also include elements of retro-fitting with the aim to re-attribute spaces or to make a building more energy efficient and sustainable.

As a broad term, refurbishment is often used interchangeably with renovation or restoration (which is to do with restoring a building to its former condition). In general, refurbishment can encompass such works as cosmetic renovations (such as painting and decorating), upgrading, major repair work, alterations, conversions, extensions and modernisations.

Scope of work

In construction, ‘scope of work’ refers to a general description of the work that is required from a party under a particular contract. It is typically prepared by a client or their consultants and included in tender documentation and then in the contract documentation.

The term scope of work is generally used to refer to construction activities, whilst a scope of services describes the services a consultant performs, although, this may also sometimes be referred to as a scope of work.

The nature of the scope of work can vary significantly from project to project. It may simply offer a very broad description of the works required, or it may provide a complete description of the project.


In the building trade, ‘setting out’ refers to the act of measuring and marking out a full-size plan of a building or element of a building on-site.

In the joinery shop, ‘setting out’ refers to the act of drawing up the full-size shop drawings or rods. Drawings are created to aid the machinists and joiners on the shop floor with the cutting, machining and finally fitting of the components of a joinery or metal item.

Shell & core

‘Shell and core’ is the term used to generally describe the finishes of a building or part of a building, when the builders have completed the construction / civil works, mostly applied to commercial buildings. The concept of shell and core (or base build) is that the developer’s scope of works is the design and construction of the base building. A range of other construction and fit-out works are left to be completed before the building is occupied.


‘Shop-fitting’ (shopfitting) is the trade of fitting-out retail and service shops and stores with equipment, fixtures and fittings. The trade applies to all kinds of outlets from small corner shops to hypermarkets and department stores. A shop fitter executes planning, designs shop layout and installs equipment and services. A shop fitting firm typically incorporates professional expertise in interior design, manufacturing of bespoke furniture, signage and fittings (with own or outsourced facilities) and purchasing of retail equipment.

Shop drawings

‘Shop drawings’ are the outcome of the setting-out process and might be prepared by contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, manufacturers or fabricators. They generally relate to pre-fabricated components, showing how they should be manufactured or installed. They take design intent drawings and specifications prepared by the project design team and develop them to show in detail how the component will actually be manufactured, fabricated, assembled or installed.

Shop drawings might be prepared for components such as structural steelwork, reinforcement, lifts, building services equipment, appliances, ductwork, piping, plumbing, windows, cabinets, electrical and data layouts, fire protection, and so on.

Space planning

‘Space planning’ is an important part of building design and is used to determine how a space or spaces should be laid out and used. It may be undertaken as part of the building design process, or as a stand-alone exercise looking at how best to plan an existing space, or a space that is being developed, for example, a tenant determining how to fit out their part of a new development. Space planning can be used for very simple spaces such as hotel bedrooms, through to very complex industrial buildings.

Good space planning can improve the well-being and productivity of the occupants of a space.

Tender document

A tender is a submission made by a prospective supplier in response to an invitation to tender. It makes an offer for the supply of goods or services. ‘Tender documents’ are prepared to seek offers from potential tenderers.

Generally, tendering refers to the suppliers required to complete construction works, rather than the process of selecting consultancy services which is commonly referred to as appointment.

Tender documents may be prepared for a range of contracts, such as equipment supply, the main construction contract, demolition, enabling works, etc.

Ideally, tender documents should be broken down into a series of packages (even if there will only be one main contract), each with its own design drawings and specifications suitable to be issued by the main contractor to potential sub-contractors.


A ‘turnkey’ fit-out provides the tenant with spaces that are fitted-out by the developer or landlord so that they are ready for use. The developer or tenant of the workspace makes sure that the contract is awarded to one party that can provide all required trades from civil to MEP, to procurement and / or manufacturing of fittings and furniture to the interior finishes, to provide an environment that’s ready to be occupied.

If a turnkey contractor has been appointed, the fact that there is only one point of contact through a fit-out means that communication between the one-stop-shop solution provider and the client is considerably more concise, making the entire process smoother and faster.

Value engineering

‘Value engineering’ is a management technique that seeks the best functional equation between cost, reliability and performance of a product, project, process or service. It is a methodology used to analyse the function of the goods and services and to obtain the required functions of the user at the lowest total cost without reducing the necessary quality of performance.

Value engineering is a powerful problem-solving tool that can reduce costs while maintaining or improving performance and quality requirements. It can improve decision-making that leads to optimal expenditure of owner funds while meeting required function and quality level.

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