As any builder knows, construction terms vary from job site to job site; one carpenter’s furring strip is another carpenter’s strapping. Like carpenters, building scientists are inconsistent when it comes to technical terms — in part because building science is a relatively young field.
In new fields of learning (including building science), vocabulary generally wanders at first, and eventually converges once consensus is reached. Reaching agreement on technical terms is useful. It helps achieve a desirable goal: efficient communication.
Some people cling tightly to their favored vocabulary and resent efforts to encourage consensus on technical terms and definitions. That’s fine, as long as no misunderstandings result.
Unless you’re a word junkie, you may roll your eyes at some of the technical disputes listed in the table below. After all, who cares whether WRB stands for “weather-resistant barrier” or “water-resistive barrier”? (Just help me nail up the freakin’ housewrap, okay?)
Other readers will delight in these debates. For interested readers, these disputed terms may be food for thought.
For the record, I’m not necessarily in favor of all of the terms in the “preferred” column. Many of these vocabulary disputes are not yet resolved. In the meantime, the words we choose should communicate our meaning clearly. Adopting an unusual (though technically correct) term doesn’t improve communication if it leaves the listener or reader confused.
Last week’s blog: “One Air Barrier or Two?”