Inclusive Language Glossary

To support SMPS’ efforts to become a more inclusive organization and advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion across the A/E/C industry, this glossary promotes inclusivity in how we speak, write, and present ourselves. To strengthening equitable and inclusive practices, SMPS strives to provide tools and resources to affect positive change. Words matter. Effective inclusion is intentional and requires raising awareness, planning, and implementation.

The following glossary provides an informative introduction to content our industry uses and provides options to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture. It is not comprehensive and is a living document that will be updated continually. We have included an interactive field for suggestions of new content to be considered for inclusion in the glossary. We look forward to your contributions.

This glossary is anticipated to boost endeavors to expand the use of inclusive content within the A/E/C industry. This method is being used to distinguish the influence of words and other content, with the intention to circumvent the use of content that could disregard or cause harm.

SMPS acknowledges the restrictions of language and challenging ways in which many industry-accepted terms enforce dualistic and static individualities. There are many viewpoints to the definitions and use of all content included in the glossary. We encourage everyone to continue their own learning beyond this glossary and to implement changes to be as inclusive as possible. With that in mind, you will find a curated list of resources for general inclusive content usage. Language, and how it is used, is ever evolving, and as such we must continue to grow and be open to change.

c

construction foreman

Definition: A construction foreman is responsible for coordinating and supervising a team of crew members. This can involve a wide range of tasks, from training new employees to creating reports for project managers and supervisors.

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternatives: site/construction supervisor, sup (US colloquial usage)

 

craftsman, craftsmanship

Definition: a person and especially a man who practices a trade or handicraft as a job; a person and especially a man who is skilled in a craft

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternatives: artisan, craftsperson, artisanship, craft

crew chief

Definition: Highest rank of a field crew; one who is in charge of a crew of workers

Why problematic:  coded language; the word chief has been used as a racial slur therefore can be offensive

Suggested alternatives: crew leader

d

disabled/disabled people

Definition: Disabilities are limitations that affect the basic activities of life, such as hearing, seeing, walking, breathing, cognition, and learning

Why problematic: Identity-first language—where one feels their disability to be an intrinsic part of their identity—calls for othering descriptions such as “deaf person” or “disabled”

Suggested alternative(s): people with disabilities, diverse abilities

f

final solution

Definition: In architecture, the ultimate design developed after exploring several conceptual options

Source: colloquial

Why problematic: coded language, name of Nazi plan for genocide of Jews

Suggested alternative(s):  design solution, ultimate solution, final design, solution

foreman

Definition: A first or chief person; a chief and often specially-trained worker who works with and usually leads a gang or crew; a person in charge of a group of workers, a particular operation, or a section of a plant

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): job captain, head, leader

g

​grandfathered

Definition: In AEC or city planning, an exception due to historical precedent to the current regulations or code, for example, “grandfathered in a clause.” Originated in the American South, with the result of discrimination against Black voters

Why problematic: coded language; racist connections

Suggested alternative(s): ​special case; use “legacy”

h

handicap, handicapped

Definition: In AEC: description of accommodations for people who have physical disabilities (handicapped parking, handicapped toilet)

Why problematic:  identity-first language, considered offensive by the community due to the derogatory history

Suggested alternative(s): accessible: use person-first terminology because the person is more important than their disability. For example: ” the person who is blind”—not the blind person, “the person who uses a wheelchair”—not a wheelchair user. When in doubt, ask the person their preference.

 

headshot

Definition: a photograph of a person’s head; a frame, or a sequence of frames, of videotape or motion-picture film that captures a close-up of a person’s head; a bullet or gunshot aimed at the head

Why problematic: violent connotation

Suggested alternative(s): profile photo; portrait; close-up

i

instrument man (I-Man), instrumentman

Definition: a surveyor who operates a transit, level, or similar instrument

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): instrument worker, instrument operator

m

man-hour, man hours

Definition: In AEC: referenced when working on fees/estimates; General: a unit of one hour’s work by one person that is used especially as a basis for cost accounting and wages

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): brain hours, resource hours, FTE hours, staff resources

man-made

Definition: manufactured, created, or constructed by human beings

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): human-made, human-caused/induced, anthropogenic (as in climate change); in some contexts, synthetic (eg., chemical components)

manhole/manhole cover

Definition: a hole through which one may go especially to gain access to an underground or enclosed structure

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): utility access point

manned

Definition: carrying, staffed, or performed by one or more people

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): crewed, piloted, staffed

manpower; man power

Definition: In AEC: referenced when working on fees/estimates; General: power available from or supplied by the physical effort of human beings; the total supply of persons available and fitted for service

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): brain hours, resource hours, FTE hours, staff resources

mansafe system

Definition: Systems comprising stainless steel wire rope, posts, and fixings provide users with an approved, tested and inspected method of safe access/work. These systems can be horizontal, vertical and overhead. Fall arrest systems allow users to access areas of a roof often close to the leading edge and the fall hazard

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): safety line, fall arrest system, lifeline system, harness line, rescue system, overhead or horizontal lifeline fall protection

master (i.e. "master bathroom/bedroom"); computer servers; MEP control equipment, resume versions, templates; skilled person

Definition:
Adjective: being a device or mechanism that controls the operation of another mechanism or that establishes a standard; being or relating to a master from which duplicates are made; primary or main version of a building room or space.
Noun: a worker or artisan qualified to teach apprentices; skilled, proficient, as in a master builder; one having authority over another; one having control

Why problematic: coded language

Suggested alternative(s): primary or main (for computer servers); parent and child vs master-slave; en suite (bathroom); authority, expert, scholar

r

​​​redline, redline drawings

Definition: Any design/construction drawing that shows the viewer changes that have been made on a previously approved drawing; red lines can be done with a red ink pen or any other tool, including 3D rendering software

Why problematic: coded language; refers to practice of excluding BIPOC people from certain communities

Suggested Alternative(s): ​mark up

rodman

Definition: a surveyor’s assistant who holds the leveling rod

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): rod person, survey field level X

t

tradesman

Definition: A worker in a skilled trade

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): tradesperson (UK usage); trades worker, artisan, craftsperson

u

unmanned

Definition: Not carrying, staffed, or performed by people

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): robotic, unpiloted, crewless, remotely operated, autonomous

w

workman, workingman

Definition: one who works for wages usually at manual labor

Why problematic: gendered term

Suggested alternative(s): operative (UK usage); worker; laborer

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