Updated: Dec 31, 2021
English for architects and landscape architects can be very specific however in any business setting it can also seem like everyone in the office is speaking only with phrasal verbs and idioms. To help you build this essential vocabulary, every month I'll update this page with the best and most common phrasal verbs used by architects and landscape architects in their work. I'll focus on using real-life examples listed below in alphabetical order.
Remember: it's important to learn phrasal verbs and idioms in the context of how you might use them so for example learning them in the situation you are more likely to use them in. I discuss this in more detail on Episode 4 of the Think Big Podcast.
To keep up-to-date with this page as it grows and have access to even more vocabulary sign up for the monthly vocabulary builder newsletter.
aim for: to strive to accomplish a particular goal (aim for + noun).
We are aiming for a maximum amount of sunlight in this room.
aim to do (something): to plan or hope to achieve something (aim to + verb).
We aim to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide levels by planting trees.
apply to (apply something to something: to make use of something for a practical or real situation)
We applied the rules of the standard to the design of the new public space
allow for: to take things into account when making plans
We need to allow for the extra centimetre of overlap, so it will fit correctly.
back up: in this context (to become congested)
The traffic is starting to back up on the freeway/highway.
(not to be confused with a backup which is, for example, saving a second copy of a file as a backup)
boil down to: if a situation or problem boils down to something, that is the main reason for it
This all boils down to one thing - the client's expectations which need to be managed carefully.
bounce off: if light or sound bounces off a surface, it hits it and then moves away from it again to make a space bright. Literal:
You can always see the light bouncing off in the lounge.
If you have a moment I'd like to bounce some ideas off you.
blend in: to look or seem the same as the surroundings and not easily noticeable.
Without a steel edge around the garden bed, the planting between the pavers will really blend in with the rest of the garden beds.
break down: to separate something into smaller parts
Can you break down the design into the three different stages?
bring something up: to talk about something or raise an issue.
I need to bring up something important.
brush up on: improve one's existing knowledge or skill in a particular area.
By thinking through your responses beforehand and brushing up on your English, the meeting with your client can be less stressful.
call for: to make something necessary
The situation calls for a lot of attention to detail.
check out: look at or take notice of someone or something.
I'm checking out Robin Boyd's Wall Street House.
clear up something: to remove doubts, confusion or wrong ideas.
Before we finish this meeting, I want to clear up any confusion you might have.
E.g. The architects decided to close off the property behind a large impenetrable brick wall.
come up with: produce something such as ideas or a design concept
Today we'd like to present the ideas we came up with.
cut in: interrupt someone while they are speaking (one meaning)
Sorry, can I just cut in here to say that the architect is coming on Tuesday next week so we'll be able to discuss in more detail then?
E.g. The road cuts off access to the park from the northern boundary.
E.g. Sorry to cut you off but I have something to say here.
draw up: prepare a plan, agreement, or another document in detail.
Before we start, we need to draw up a rough schedule of our next few meetings with the client.
draw on / draw upon: make use of a skill or expertise or be inspired by something
We need to draw on the expertise of the engineer
figure out: to understand or to solve something.
I've been trying to figure out how to use Vectorworks for the last week.
fill (someone) in: inform someone more fully of a matter.
"I'm going to fill you in on a few things I've been working on recently."
E.g. Why Don't Architects Just Make Buildings fit in?
follow up: to stay in contact with someone to get something done or achieved.
I just wanted to follow up to see where you're at with those plans?
Where you're at - A question to ask someone how far along they are with finishing something.
Can you send a follow-up email after our discussion today?
follow through: 1. the action of completing something 2. to complete a plan to do something.
This pattern with the windows follows through to the next room.
I'm going to follow through with the promise I made to myself to start something new this year.
get across: to communicate an idea successfully, to make someone able to understand something.
Do you understand what I'm trying to get across?
get around to: to do something after you have intended to do it for some time.
A: Did you happen to get around to calling that supplier we talked about?
B: I didn't get around to it, but I'll do it first thing on the 4th of January.
first thing: early in the morning; before anything else.
get away with: to do something successfully even though it may not be the best choice or way.
I think we could get away with just gluing the wood together, rather than nailing it in place
get down to something: to start to direct your efforts towards doing something with more focus.
We need to get down to business on this project or we'll never get our proposal submitted on time.
get into: to start discussing something.
I'd like to get into why we have made these decisions.
get something across: to manage to make someone understand something
What I'm trying to get across is that it's going to be difficult.
get through: pass a difficult or testing experience or period or complete a task, amount of work or meeting
We need to start on time today. We have a lot of work to get through.
To get through this meeting we are going to need a lot of coffee.
get through to: to communicate successfully with someone or be understood
We managed to get through to the client and now they've agreed to the changes.
get underway: to start something
With all the delays and restrictions happening I'm concerned we won't be able to get underway until early next year.
get up to: to do something
What did you get up to this morning?
go about: begin or carry on with doing an activity or task
I think we are going about this in the wrong way.
go ahead: permission to proceed or continue with something
Can I schedule a meeting with the engineer for tomorrow? Sure, go ahead.
go for: to choose something
We want to go for something that complements your colour palette.
go into: investigate or inquire into something
I think it would be good to go into more detail about some of the frustrations we are having with the rest of the team.
go through with: perform an action despite challenges or difficulty
I think we will go through with our initial plan and see how they respond.
go over: consider examine or check something
Could you go over this email for me?
Could we go over the plans together?
go up/ went up
When houses go up / or they went up it means they were constructed.
The houses in the neighbourhood went up before the end of the century
kick off: to begin something
Before we kick off the meeting, I want to say thank you for all your hard work this year.
knock off - to finish work for the day
E.g. What time are you going to knock off?
Knock out - produce work at a steady fast rate. E.g. I knocked out the whole proposal in 30 minutes yesterday.
knock over - to make a strong and surprising impression on someone
E.g. The client was seriously knocked over with the concept ideas
Knock up - make something in a hurry.
E.g. We knocked up a concept plan in about 20 minutes just in time for the meeting.
1. explain something clearly and carefully.
2. spread something out to its full extent, especially so that it can be seen.
1. We need to methodically lay out all the ideas to guide the client to make decisions.
2. We need to lay out all the material samples on the table so they can touch and experience them.
Note: Not to be confused with the noun layout: the way in which the parts of something are arranged or laid out.
line up: to arrange a number of things or people in a straight row.
The columns go all the way through and they line up with the cables.
look back on: look at something in the past and usually used to reflect on something.
Looking back on how this project turned out helped me see how well we dealt with challenges as a team.
look into: to try to discover the facts about something
If we are going to slightly raise the level of the adjacent pavers, we will need to look into a masonry waterproof product for the bricks.
look out for: to pay more attention to something and to look carefully at things around you.
When you go to the site today can you look out for any defects in the paint finish?
look over: inspect something to check it's correct and acceptable.
Could you look over these plans before I send them?
1. to put (someone or something that may be changed later) on a schedule, list, etc or
2. sometimes we might say this when working through draft plans
1. When could we pencil in our next meeting? 2. I'll pencil in those ideas on the plans and we can discuss them at the next meeting.
point out: to tell someone about some specific information.
One thing I'd like to point out is we can't get access to the site until the end of the month.
put something across: to express your ideas or opinions clearly so that people understand them easily.
It's such a great idea. Thanks for putting it across.
put (something) behind someone: try to ignore or forget something unpleasant I'd like to put this year behind us; it was challenging for many of us.
put something down to something: if you put something down to something, you think it happened because of that particular thing.
I put the success of this project down to our persistence and hard work.
put something together: created something by assembling different parts.
We put together our ideas for how to design the kitchen.
There are lots of things to consider when putting a design concept together.
put up with something - to accept a situation the way it is
E.g. I'm not willing to put up with how badly the work was executed.
run through: to go through every aspect of something.
Today we're going to run through the electrical design.
run out of something: if a supply of something runs out, the supply of it has been used or is finished.
We need some more yellow trace paper. We've run out of it.
to (not) rush into something - to make your decision too quickly
E.g. Let's not rush into this or we might regret it later.
sign off on: to give official approval for something.
The purpose of today's presentation is to get sign off on the concept stage of the design.
sort itself out: to resolve or stop being a problem without anyone having to take action.
I think you should just forget about it. It will sort itself out in the end.
sort out something: to successfully deal with a problem or situation.
I'm going to call them. We really need to sort this out before the problem becomes bigger than it needs to.
step in: become involved in a difficult situation, especially in order to help or to stop something.
I'm really happy you stepped in to speak to the builder before they finished because now with the open steel purlins and no roof we can have more plants.
stick with something - maintain the decision
E.g. Can we just stick with Besser blocks?
Take into account: with kind regard for someone or something.
There are so many factors we need to take into account when planning this space.
Take into consideration: to allow for something when you're considering your options.
There are so many factors we need to take into consideration when planning this space.
take something on: to agree to do some work or be responsible for something.
We have decided that next year we will take on more projects.
take up: 1. occupy time, space, or attention. 2. become interested or engaged in a pursuit such as a hobby.
1 There are tons (lots) of storage all through here, but it's not taking up a huge amount of space.
2 I'm going to take up a drawing class next year.
think through: think about all the different parts or effects of (something) before arriving at a solution
That's a really great point. Can I think that idea through and get back to you with some other options before the end of the week?
think over - consider the options
E.g. Thanks for making that suggestion. Could you give me a week to think it over before I get back to you? get back to you = give you an answer
work through: methodically resolve something such as the design concept or construction challenges.
We need to work through some of the electrical design.
wrap up (informal): to complete something successfully or finish doing it.
Okay, we're going to need to wrap it up there.
I've got a few other projects I need to wrap up before I'll start this next one.