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Park Planning, Design & Construction Terms

Park Planning terms

Building Codes – Local requirements for how building shall be constructed.


Building Permits – Permits required for buildings and structures through the review of plan documents by local authority prior to construction.


Comprehensive Master Plan – A general plan, master plan, or land use plan — is a document designed to guide the future actions of a community with particular regard for land use. 


Concept Plan - Concept plans are part of the initial planning and budgeting phase of a development project. Concept plans can include a land development feasibility analysis and assess a potential site for development.


Contour - The difference in elevation or vertical distance measured between consecutive contour lines that represent a consistent elevation along each line. 


Connectivity – The ability to make and maintain a connection between two or more points especially accessing parks using trails, sidewalks and pedestrian and bicycle facilities.   


Drainage – Flow of surface and subsurface water. This may be accomplished by sheet flow, open channels, pipes, and drainage. Ow impact options such as bio-swales and bioretention areas.


Easement –Easement is a legal term for a type of property right held by the users of the easement. An easement encumbers a property with a use agreement or for land protection or conservation. Easements may be filed as part of the deed most often to maintain utilities, signage, provide access for public service and safety, or protect for land conservation or allow trail construction and use. 

Egress - A way out, or exit


Elevation – Generally, a height above mean sea level, or a height above the grade around a building or structure.   


Erosion - An area of land exhibiting soil movement by wind and/or water resulting in the delivery of sediment onto neighboring properties or into state waters.


Finished grade – Final grade elevation after completion of site grading or upon completion of site improvements such as improved parking areas or other facilities shown on construction documents.  


General Fund - Non-dedicated revenues not assigned to specific projects. 


Gradient - The percentage of slope measured by the change in elevation divided by the horizontal length of the slope (rise over run).


Grading - Cutting and filling of earth to establish finished grades shown on the construction documents. 


Green Infrastructure - Green infrastructure applies landscape ecology principles to urban environments with an emphasis to provide connectivity for humans and wildlife in a naturally forested environment within suburbanizing and urbanizing areas. Connectivity is often along stream corridors and in rural areas may include long distance trails and greenways allowing for wildlife connectivity.   


Heat island effect – Higher temperatures relative to surrounding areas where air and surface temperatures are higher due to loss of natural landscapes to pavements, buildings and other hardscape infrastructure. 


Ingress - A way in or entrance.


Natural grade - Grade consisting of the land prior to any land disturbance activities.


Project Program and Programming - The Project Program an overview of project criteria that becomes the basis for a project design. Programming is the process of creating the Project Program and usually involves a series of meetings with all the potential stakeholders to determine the requirements for the project. 


Public input process - This includes a variety of ways the public may provide input to elected and appointed officials and government staff. Options may include phone calls, emails, interaction on websites, public meetings, surveys, small group input meetings, and in person contacts. 

Setback –A Setback is the distance required from the street right of way and from property lines for the placing of built structures and other site improvements required to abide by the setback distance.  


Spot elevation - An existing or proposed elevation of a specific point noted as a dot or + sign on the plan. 


Swale- A linear continuous depression used to temporarily store, route and/or filter water runoff from storms. 


Zoning - Legislative or local ordinance that regulates the use of property and the construction of buildings.

Design terms

Addendum (Addenda) - Written information adding to, clarifying or modifying the bidding documents. An addendum is generally issued by the owner to the contractor during the bidding process and as such, addenda are intended to become part of the contract documents when the construction contract is executed. 


Construction Documents - Detailed plans indicating how to construct the physical spaces of a site and/or building – or All drawings, specifications and addenda associated with a specific construction project. 


Feasibility Study - The study describes if the project is feasible and what will be required to move forward with the project. The study generally evaluates a project budget and schedule.  Some feasibility studies include a conceptual design based on site investigation and preliminary cost estimates. It may include schematic grading, drainage, and utilities plans to estimate site construction costs. 


Performance Specifications - Performance Specifications contain the minimum acceptable standards and results to be achieved. Using performance specifications in lieu of material specifications allow the design/build team the greatest flexibility in meeting the project goals. 


Project Cost - Funds spent to complete a project inclusive of construction costs.  (Land purchase and costs for parks are generally not included in the project cost.)


Purchase Order (PO) - Request required when purchasing materials, equipment or supplies from a vendor. 


Purchase Order Amendment (POA) - Form required when the final invoice amount differs from the Purchase Order (PO) amount 


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) & Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) - Sustainable design through use of materials, construction practices, efficient building design and site design.  


Schematic Design (SD Phase) - Conceptual plan showing locations of program space (space for park uses and activities) at a measurable scale. 


Request for Proposal (RFP) - A request for proposal (RFP) is a solicitation made, often through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or asset, to potential suppliers qualified to submit the requested commodity, service or asset.  


Scope Changes - A change to the written and agreed upon scope of work requested by the locality’s Project Review Team (Construction Manager or Director). Scope changes may or may not involve a change in project cost or time on a change order. 


Scope of Work - A written statement or list of tasks defining the actual work to be done. It is presented to the department either on a drawing or as a separate document. 


Specifications- A detailed, exact statement of requirements, especially statements prescribing materials and methods; and quality of work for a specific project. The most common arrangement for specifications substantially parallels the CSI (Construction Specification Institute) format. (see CSI) 



Construction terms

As-Built Drawings (also known as Record Drawings) - Contract drawings marked up and fields to reflect changes made during the construction process. A survey of specific improvements that show changes from the stated design requirements on the approved construction plans. 


Bidding Documents - The published advertisement or written invitation to bid, instructions to bidders, the bid form and the proposed contract documents including any acknowledged addenda issued prior to receipt of bids. 


Change Order - A written document between the Department and the contractor signed by the Department Procurement officer and the contractor authorizing a change in the work or an adjustment in the contract sum or the contract time. The contract sum and the contract time should be changed only by change order. 


Critical Path - The set of activities that must be completed on time for the project completion date to be met. Activities on the critical path have no slack time. 


Deferred Maintenance - Maintenance projects not included in the maintenance process nor in the capital repair process due to a lack of funding. 


Estimate - An approximation of the expected cost to complete the work/project as outlined in the scope of work. 


General Conditions - A written portion of the contract documents set forth by the county or city stipulating the contractor’s minimum acceptable performance requirements including the rights, responsibilities and relationships of the parties involved in the performance of the contract 


Project Manager - The designated lead person responsible for coordinating the project with the locality’s Project Review Team. 


Punch List - A list of deficiencies, incomplete, or unacceptable work items compiled by the project manager during the final inspection of the construction project.  


Time and Materials (T&M) - A written agreement between the owner and the contractor wherein payment is based on the contractor's actual cost for labor, equipment, materials, and services plus a fixed add-on amount to cover the contractor’s overhead and profit. 


Value Engineering - Evaluation of construction methods and/or materials which has the net result of reducing costs, consistent with specified performance, reliability, maintainability, aesthetic, safety, and security criteria. 


Redlines - A red-line drawing identifies corrections or changes to a previous drawing. The term red line comes from the red pen often used to amend the drawings by hand. These changes/mark-ups may also show changes made to the drawing subject matter during construction. 


Landscaping terms

Aeration – The process of creating holes or slits in compacted soil to improve water and oxygen absorption. Aeration is common on turf/grass planted fields and areas. 


Buffer - The use of landscape elements to reduce or curtail view, sound or other adjacent impacts by use of distance, vegetation, walls, earth berms, or any combination.


Canopy/Tree canopy - The horizontal tree spread, from drip line to drip line of the tree. 


Columnar - Slender, upright plants and park features.


Compost –The result of decomposing organic material into a nutrient rich soil additive. This can be yard or food waste.


Curb - A concrete or stone edging along a pathway, road. This feature is often constructed to channel stormwater flow.  


Drainage – How water will run off the site. A factor of drainage runoff is the rate at which water will pass through soil. Pavement, compacted soil and the topography or grade of the landscape may increase the rate of runoff.


Exotic - A plant that is not native to the area, region, or continent. An exotic plant may be termed and invasive it is can reproduce and replace indigenous species. 

Fence - A vertical barrier used to define a spatial boundary and/or restrict visual or physical access. 


Foliage - Leaves of a plant or plants


Geotextile - A permeable textile or fabric (natural or synthetic) used to retain or protect soil and filter or drain water.


Girth of tree - The circumference of the trunk of a tree measure at breast height (1.4 m above ground level) 


Grass paver - A permeable structural grid system for containing and stabilizing gravel and turf 


Ground cover – Low growing vegetation, mulch, wood chips, gravel, stone, or gravel used to stabilize soil from erosion.


Hard landscape - Pavements, walkways, roads, retaining walls, sculptures, street amenities, fountains and other elements of the built environment


Hardscape –The hard elements of the designed landscape that include pathways, courts, plazas, parking, internal roads, retaining walls, and other built facilities. 


Hedge - Shrubs and trees planted closely together to form a linear screen or barrier.


Irrigation - Artificial application of water to assist in growing and maintenance of plants and grass.

Landscaping fabric – Also known as weed fabric, this textile material is used under mulch to help prevent or inhibit weed growth.


Microclimate - A small, localized zone where temperature, humidity, wind and other climate factors differ from the surrounding areas. Microclimates are affected by landforms, orientation to the sun, water, and soil conditions. 


Mound - A small hill or bank of earth developed as a landscape feature.


Mulching - The practice of covering planted areas with organic matter such as leaves, mulch, pine straw or other natural material. Mulching retains moisture and improves soil conditions to optimize plant growth and prevent weed growth.  


Permeable paving - Paving surfaces that reduce runoff by allowing stormwater and rainwater to soak through the porous nature of the pavement into the ground rather than running off. 


Endemic plant - A plant naturally found in a geographic location, 


Native plant - An indigenous plant that originated in a given geographic area without human involvement. 


Naturalized plant - A plant that has become established in area outside its normal locale or place or origin. 


Sediment - Solid materials (mineral and organic) found in suspension and transported across the landscape by air, water, gravity or ice. 


Shrub - A woody plant of low to medium height, deciduous or evergreen.  


Topsoil - The uppermost layer of the soil. This layer is extremely important for growing plants and vegetables and contains a mixture of organic material, sand, and clan, and microbes needed for healthy plant growth.  


Transplanting - Moving a plant from the place it growing to another location. l


Tree - Plants whose stems and trunks survive above ground during the winter season. 


Deciduous tree - A woody plant that loses leaves at the end of their growing season.


Evergreen tree - A tree that remains green throughout the year and sheds leaves intermittently throughout the year.  


Tree drip line - The branch spread of a tree defined by the outermost circumference of a tree canopy where water drips onto the ground. 


Tree grate - A grille installed at the base of a tree, surrounded by pavement, The grate allows air, water, and nutrients to pass to the tree roots, but allows for foot traffic around the tree.    


Underplanting – Underplanting is when smaller plants are placed beneath larger plants to create a tiering effect. 


Xeriscape - A landscape that requires little or no irrigation or other maintenance.

Mapping terms

ArcMap - ArcMap is the main component of ESRI's ArcGIS suite of geospatial processing programs, and is used primarily to view, edit, create, and analyze geospatial data. ArcMap allows the user to explore data within a data set, symbolize features accordingly, and create maps. 


AutoCAD - AutoCAD is a commercial software application for 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting, available since 1982 as a desktop application and since 2010 as a mobile web- and cloud-based app marketed as AutoCAD 360. 


Geographic Information System (GIS) - A computer system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. 


Global Positioning System (GPS) - The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. The system provides critical capabilities to military, civil and commercial users around the world. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver. 


Budget and accounting terms 


Allocation - The distribution of funds from one account to one or more accounts or appropriations. 


Bond - A method of financing capital projects through long-term borrowing. 


Budget Transfer - The movement of budget dollars from one financial unit to another. 


Cash Flow - The pattern of income and expenditures, as of a company or person, and the resulting availability of cash. 


  • Archi-Monarch – Architectural information for beginner architects and students


  • ASLA Sustainable Sites


  • California State University San Marcos – Construction Terminology Cheat Sheet


  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Heat Island Effect,2%2D5%C2%B0F%20higher


  • Land – Landscape Architects Network


  • Roedell’s Landscaping and Supplies Services


  • Virginia code

Article 2.4. Erosion and Sediment Control Law. § 62.1-44.15:51

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