Wise Howell: Initials in construction

Wise Howell: Initials in construction

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In this month’s Wise Howell, Jeff talks initials, their many uses and what they stand for.

Do you ever find yourself baffled by initials? I mean the use of initials in place of lengthy phrases? I mean, we all understand what is meant by the BBC, and the NHS, don’t we. But do you know what a QR code stands for? Sure, we all know what a QR code IS – it’s one of those black-and-white squares things that you scan with your phone, but do you know what the Q and the R are short for? (Quick Response, apparently.) 

The construction industry has a habit of using initials to excess – well, acronyms is the correct term – an acronym being defined as a word formed from the initial letters of other words.  

There are building terms that we are all so familiar with they almost never need explaining, except to people outside the trade. DPC (Damp Proof Course), for example. And I’ve always known my RWP (Rain Water Pipe) from my SVP (Soil & Vent Pipe). And FFL (Finished Floor Level) is pretty easy to understand. But beyond that, there are dozens – nay, hundreds – of acronyms that even the most experienced builder might have trouble with. 

I mean, I could sort of guess that a BIG is a Back Inlet Gulley, especially if there’s an arrow pointing at it on the drawing. But does a Lamp Post really have to be abbreviated to LP? 

Our American colleagues have been known to take things even further, shortening Door to DR. It’s enough to make you blow your SF (Safety Valve). 

A heating engineer that I used to work with had a great expression, when all his attempts at fixing a boiler had failed, he would always recommend RMI (Refer to Manufacturer’s Instructions). I use that one a lot, LOL! 

Many acronyms have evolved because of the limited space on construction drawings, and the advent of CAD (Computer Aided Design) appears to me to have made things worse. 

But to complicate matters, some acronyms can apply to more than one thing. For instance, if you see AC in a document, does it mean Air Conditioning, Asbestos Cement, or Alternating Current? And is LL Low Level or a Live Load? 

(While we’re on the subject, you know that annoying thing where you have to tick all the pictures containing traffic lights before you can get into a website? – it’s called CAPTCHA – Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that!) 

Trying to get to grips with all these acronyms can sometimes make you feel like you’re banging your head against a CBW (Concrete Block Wall). 

And if you feel that you’ve been taking a bit of flak at work recently, you might be interested to know that even that is an acronym as well – from the German language, meaning FliegerAbwehrKanone, or Anti-Aircraft Cannon. 

Oh well, TTFN! 

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