Key Terms

Throughout this website, we have made every effort to provide definitions for terminology that is specific to design. Hovering over a term in the middle of a text section will bring up a pop-up window that defines that term. Here, you will find a comprehensive list of every term used throughout the Outdoor PLAYbook that a definition has been written for. If you come across something that you feel should be added to this glossary, please feel free to contact us.

  • Adventure Playground
    A playground for children that contains building materials, discarded industrial parts, etc, used by the children to build with, hide in, climb on, etc.,  " which children could create and shape, dream and imagine a reality." The first adventure playgrounds were built in post-war bomb sites in the 1940s.
  • Backfilled
    Backfilling is the process of putting soil back inside a trench or in a foundation when the excavation has been completed.
  • Charrette
    A design charrette refers to an intensive workshop in which various stakeholders or experts are brought together to address a particular design issue
  • Community build
    A community build refers to the construction of a project by a team of volunteers and community members, as opposed to a professional contractor.
  • Construction drawings
    The main purpose of construction drawings (also called plans, blueprints, or working drawings)  is to show what is to be built, while the specifications focus on the materials, installation techniques, and quality standards.
  • Cured
    Curing is the process in which the concrete is protected from loss of moisture and kept within a reasonable temperature range. The result of this process is increased strength and decreased permeability. Curing is also a key player in mitigating cracks in the concrete, which severely impacts durability. Concrete typically takes 28 days to cure.
  • Curing
    Curing concrete is the term used for stopping freshly poured concrete from drying out too quickly. This is done because concrete, if left to dry out of its own accord, will not develop the full bond between all of its ingredients. It will be weaker and tend to crack more. The surface won't be as hard as it could be.
  • Deconstruction
    As opposed to demolition, deconstruction involves carefully taking apart a building or structure in order to salvage and repurpose materials.
  • Drip line
    A tree drip line is the area defined by the outermost circumference of a tree canopy where water drips from and onto the ground
  • Durability
    Durability is a key factor for the design of well-used spaces. Look to this icon to determine which elements are suited to the high traffic areas of a school ground.
  • Erosion Control
    Erosion control is the practice of preventing or controlling wind or water erosion in agriculture, land development, coastal areas, riverbanks and construction. Effective erosion controls are important techniques in preventing water pollution, soil loss, wildlife habitat loss and human property loss.
  • Formwork
    Formwork is the term given to either temporary or permanent molds into which concrete or similar materials are poured.
  • Gabions
    Gabions are wirework containers filled with rock, broken concrete, or other material, used in the construction of retaining walls and other elements.
  • Grading
    Grading in civil engineering and landscape architectural construction is the work of ensuring a level base, or one with a specified slope, for a construction work such as a foundation, the base course for a road or a railway, or landscape and garden improvements, or surface drainage.
  • Green Value
    The green value of an element is based on environmental benefits, performance, and the ecological footprint of selected materials. Look to the green value icon to design a greener, more sustainable schoolyard.
  • In-Kind
    In-kind refers to a good or service that is donated (as opposed to the donating of money). For example, this could include a piece of play equipment.
  • Invasive Species
  • KFC
    Acronym for "kit, fence, carpet": a safety-first, by-the-book approach to putting in new playgrounds. Standard play structures are selected from a catalogue, over a "carpet" of safety surfacing, and surrounded by a fence. This often leads to playgrounds that are sterile and uninspiring to kids' imaginations, and they end up underused after their novelty quickly wears off.
  • Living Building Challenge
    An international sustainable building certification program created in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute
  • Low Impact Development
    LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features, minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage that treat stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product. Rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavement are examples of LID.
  • Native Planting
    Native plants are plants endemic (indigenous) to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants).
  • Parent Advisory Council
    The School Act gives parents the right, through PACs, to assume an advisory role in every school. PAC is the officially recognized collective voice of parents of their school.
  • Permeable Paving
    Permeable paving is a range of sustainable materials and techniques for permeable pavements with a base and subbase that allow the movement of stormwater through the surface. In addition to reducing runoff, this effectively traps suspended solids and filters pollutants from the water.
  • Rain Garden
    A rain garden is a garden which takes advantage of rainfall and stormwater runoff in its design and plant selection. Usually, it is a small garden which is designed to withstand the extremes of moisture and concentrations of nutrients, particularly Nitrogen and Phosphorus, that are found in stormwater runoff.
  • Reclaimed Materials
    Reclaimed materials are considered to be any materials that have been used before either in buildings, temporary works or other uses and are re-used as construction materials without reprocessing. Reclaimed materials may be adapted and cut to size, cleaned up and refinished but they fundamentally are being re-used in their original form.
  • Risky Play
    The term “risk” here is not synonymous with danger, but instead refers to a situation in which a child can recognize and evaluate a challenge and decide on a course of action.
  • Scree
    To flatten or level concrete, while still wet, and clear protruding stones and gravel from the surface.
  • Settling
    Settling refers to natural compaction of soil over time. Unequal settling can create structural problems in construction projects, and so soil should always be compacted evenly using equipment.
  • Specifications
    Specifications are a written document that accompanies a set of construction drawings, focusing on the materials, installation techniques, and quality standards.
  • Statement of Significance
    A statement of significance (SOS) is written about a historically significant building or place in order to identify its heritage value. It ensures that heritage values are communicated in an effective and consistent manner that bridges the differences between jurisdictions. It contains: a brief description of the historic place, an identification of the key heritage values assigned to the historic place, and a list of its principal character-defining elements.
  • Stewardship
    Acting as a guardian of something valuable. In the scope of the Outdoor PLAYbook, we mean environmental stewardship: protecting the health of our natural resources and ecosystems. Anyone can be a steward of their local environment by prioritizing environmental sustainability where they live.
  • Stormwater Management
    Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the land surface. The addition of roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other surfaces that prevent water from soaking into the ground to our landscape greatly increases the runoff volume created during storms. Stormwater management reduces the rate and/or volume and removes pollutants from runoff generated on developed sites.
  • Subgrades
    Subgrade refers to the native soil (or improved soil), usually compacted. This underlies the subbase (usually gravel) and the base course, on top of which the final ground surface is constructed.
  • Tender
    When a project is designed and ready to be built, it is put to tender. It is a set window of time in which interested contractors can bid on the project. When the tender period closes, one of these contractors is selected to carry out the construction.
  • Universal Design
    Sometimes also called inclusive design, universal design refers to broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities. In other words, universally accessible spaces. 
  • Xeriscaping
    Xeriscaping is landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.