Glossary – the key terms

Swisshaus employees do not use industry jargon. But in case there is something you don’t understand, or you stumble over a term somewhere on our website, you’ll find help here. Or you could also ask your customer advisor, project manager or site manager.


Architect house

An Architect house is designed and planned individually by a Swisshaus architect from first principles for the owner. In this context, the architect takes account of the financial parameters and wishes regarding appearance, layout and fittings. The location is also included in the plans: south-facing, views and neighbouring houses are important factors.

Attic floor

The attic floor is a special top floor with a smaller area than the full floors and a flat roof.


Barrel roof

A barrel roof is a vaulted form of roof with the roof cross-section in the form of a circular segment.


Basements are storeys lying largely in the ground.


A bay is a construction element that protrudes out from the main façade. Unlike a balcony that is open at the front, a bay is enclosed.

Boundary building right

The boundary building right permits construction up to the boundary but without structural elements such as projecting eaves overhanging the boundary. This private law agreement is entered in the land registry, as is the setback easement.

Breakfast kitchen

A breakfast kitchen is a kitchen that is merged with living space.

Brick house

In contrast to wood houses, brick houses are constructed using mineral building materials like bricks and concrete. Masonry and concrete provide soundproofing and a large reservoir for heat. These provide for cool rooms in the summer and warmth in the winter by storing solar and thermal heat in the walls. Further advantages of brick houses are their longevity and value retention. Swisshaus works with local builders for brick houses and uses domestic sand, limestone, gravel and clay.

Building acceptance

At building acceptance all work by the tradesmen involved in the construction is checked by the customer and site manager. Any shortcomings are recorded in the house acceptance protocol (handover protocol).

Building height

The building height comprises the dimensions between the ground and the start of the roof (i.e. the floor of the attic storey).

Building line

The building line refers to the minimum distance of buildings and constructions from roads and other public traffic facilities as well as bodies of water, woodlands etc.

Building surface area

The building surface area refers to the area required by the building. Projecting balconies are not normally included.

Building zones

These define what can be built in which area (type and degree of building usage). Common terms include residential zone, residential/commercial zone, village/core zone, commercial and industrial zone, and so on.


A Bungalow is a single-storey house that makes it possible to live on one floor.

Butterfly roof

The butterfly roof is actually the converse of a gabled roof: To roof surfaces sloping downwards from the outside to the middle of the house converge in a roof gutter. The cross-section is reminiscent of a butterfly and has a V-shape.


Capital expenditure forecast (CEF)

All costs entailed by the construction are listed and updated on a continuous basis in the capital expenditure forecast. The CEF is a transparent method of handling the costs.

Client-architect discussion

At a client-architect discussion (CAD), the house project is discussed in detail and further developed with the Swisshaus project manager/architect. Important decisions are made and some of the sampling carried out during this discussion.


A glazed interior room or frontage that serves to extend the living space but can also be used for storing plants in the winter.

Construction site

The construction site refers to the effective area on which the building may stand. It comprises the plot less all distances such as minimum space, road distance, woodland distance or distance to waters.


The cross-ridge runs transversely to the main ridge and has a similar height. The front façade of a cross-ridge is at least level with the main façade of the building.

Customer advisor

Swisshaus customer advisors inform prospective customers in their region about the services offered by Swisshaus and jointly find the right house concept together with the customer.



Also known as a structural engineer. These people draft house plans and sketches in accordance with the specifications set by an architect.

Distance to waters

The distance to waters specifies the prescribed distance between the building and bodies of water. This is a relatively large distance that significantly reduces the construction site.


A dormer refers to a roof construction that overhangs the basic structure of the roof and is not connected to the exterior wall beneath. Dormers are installed into sloping roofs such as gabled or hipped roofs. The dormer extends the usable space of the upper storey and is fitted with a window that serves to enhance lighting and ventilation. Examples include sloped, gabled and hipped dormers.

Double-pitch roof

With a double-pitch roof two sloping roofs converge at a shared roof ridge. This traditional type of roof is very widespread and its cross-section forms a gable.



Good heat insulation and efficient heating systems enable you to save energy and cut heating costs. This is helpful not only to you but also to the environment. All Swisshaus houses are equipped with high quality heat insulation. Furthermore, Swisshaus offers custom concepts conforming to the Minergie standard.

Extra length supplement

The extra length supplement increases the minimum space if a given building length – in exceptional cases also a building height – is exceeded.


Fixed price

With a fixed price Swisshaus guarantees that the planned house can be built at the agreed price. Further information about the fixed price.

Flat roof

A flat roof is a roof with a low incline of less than 10°.

French balcony

A combination of window and door. The French balcony is a floor-length, upright rectangular window equipped with railings or bars for safety reasons. It does not protrude from the façade.


The term frontage refers to a structural projection – i.e. a part of the house protruding from the main façade.

Full floor (FF)

Full floor is used to describe all floors that do not count as top, attic or basement floors. All normal floors in housing construction are full floors.


Gross floorspace

The gross floorspace refers to the inhabitable (heated) floorspace. This also includes the staircase and exterior walls.

Ground floor (GF)

The ground floor is the first full floor above the cellar.


Swisshaus continues to bear liability for hidden defects following the two-year warranty period. This further guarantee lasts for four years at Swisshaus as opposed to the three years prescribed by law. Further information about the guarantee.


Handover of the keys/house

Handover of the keys or house comprises a small celebration at which the house is officially handed over to the customer. Prior to this the building acceptance takes place.


A hatch refers to a roof construction within the sloping roof of a building.

Hipped roof

A hipped roof has inclined roof surfaces on all four sides of the building that all lead to the eaves. However, unlike a pavilion roof a hipped roof has a roof ridge.

House model

A predesigned, individually modifiable house with well-planned, proven layouts, plans and building processes. A house model can be modified to accommodate your own needs and ideas. This serves as the basis for your own home.


Interior construction

Interior construction comprises all work in the interior of the house such as laying the floors, plastering the walls, decorating etc.


Knee wall/knee wall height

The knee wall for sloping roofs refers to the vertical dimensions between the completed top storey floor and the sloping ceiling on the exterior wall. There are various methods for measuring the knee wall.


Lines of sight

Lines of sight are used to define zones within the area of a road intersection in which a free line of vision must be guaranteed.

Living space

Living space refers to the part of a house in which one or more persons can reside for a prolonged period (living room, bedroom, kitchen etc.).


A loggia is a covered part of a building that is open on at least one side and does not protrude from the façade.


Mansard roof

A mansard roof is a buckled gabled or hipped roof that is steeper at the bottom than at the top.


Abbreviation for multi-family house: This is a building with several apartments within a building shell.


Minergie is a quality label used to evaluate new buildings and modernised old buildings. The energy consumption of a given building is the key factor. This is measured by the energy required per square metre of heating living area (kWh/sqm). There are various Minergie standards: “Minergie” is the basic standard, “Minergie P” describes very low-energy houses, while “Minergie A” is used for zero- or plus-energy houses. Minergie is a registered trademark held by an association of the same name. The association’s members include cantons, the state, schools, associations, firms and private individuals. Swisshaus is a member and offers the Minergie standards.

Minimum space

The minimum space refers to the minimum distance required between the plot boundary and the building.  A larger minimum space is normally prescribed on a sunny side. Marked projections such as balconies and the like partially have to be taken into account.

Modular house

A modular house is a house model that can be adapted to accommodate the needs of the owner and the local conditions (plot shape, building regulations, and so on). Modular houses are proven, sophisticated house concepts that also offer advantages in terms of price.


German abbreviation for the sample energy regulations of the cantons. The MuKEn 2008 served as the basis for the various energy laws in the cantons, although some leeway was permitted for implementation. Among other things, the requirements for new and renovated buildings were tightened and convergence with the Minergie standard promoted. The MuKEn define a consumption target (4.8 litres of heating oil equivalent per square metre of living space). Swisshaus includes the energy recommendations (MuKEn) in the basic price.


Net living area/living area

The net living area refers to the effective living area (floor coverings) within the apartments.


Passive house

A passive house is heated without active heating. Instead, it uses the heat from passive sources of energy like the sun, people or electrical appliances. An airtight, well-insulated building shell and a comfort ventilation system are needed to meet the requirements. In Switzerland, passive houses are evaluated with the Minergie P standard. In annualised terms, such a house manages with less than 1.5 litres of heating oil per square metre each year. A Minergie P house requires much less heating energy than an older, conventionally constructed building.

Pavilion roof

A pavilion roof is a hipped roof on a square building structure where the roof surfaces converge at an apex rather than a roof ridge.


A pergola is normally constructed out of wood above a patio or terrace. A pergola often has plants growing above it that provide shade.


A parcel of land defined by the surveyor in the cadastral map complete with its own number and an entry in the land register.

Plot ratio

The plot ratio (PR) is a surface ratio (SR) that places the usable space in relation to the plot space. Depending on the canton in question, usable spaces (apartments, staircases etc.) are calculated either with or without the exterior walls. In the canton of Zurich, the occupied rooms on the top storey and in the basement are not calculated. The plot ratio normally lies between 0.3 and 0.8.

Example: Plot space 900 m2 x PR 0.45 = SR 405 m2

Price indication

The price indication is an approximate price for the building. As multi-family houses have to be aligned more to construction law and building land than single-family houses, a price indication is provided for MFH house ideas rather than a fixed price. The basic SFH fittings of Swisshaus are included in the price indication. Regional supplements are added to this (on request).

Project manager

The Swisshaus project manager/architect accompanies the owner through the entire planning and design process. He/she leads a team of site managers and structural engineers, and is responsible for the planning and execution of the house.

Project planning order

With the project planning order the Swisshaus architect designs and plans an individual house concept that is ready to apply for planning permission at a flat rate together with the customer. Further information about the project planning order.


Ratio of plot size to building surface area

The ratio of plot size to building surface area (PSBSA) places the plot size in relation to the building surface area (BSA).

Example: Plot space 900 m2 x PSBSA 0.25 = BSA 225 m2

Ratio of property size to building volume

The ratio of property size to building volume (PSBV) places the cubic capacity (CC), i.e. the effective volume above the existing ground, in relation to the plot space. The PSBV normally lies between 1.0 and 2.5.

Example: Plot space 900 m2 x PSBV 1.4 = CC 1,260 m2


The ridge or roof ridge refers to the highest line of a building where the roof surfaces converge. The (roof) ridge is therefore the upper cutting edge of two roof surfaces or the apex of a roof.

Road distance

The road distance refers to the prescribed distance between the road and the building.

Ridge height

The ridge height comprises the dimensions from the ground to the highest point on the roof, the ridge.

Roof light

A roof light is a ceiling window that allows daylight into the building.



At the sampling stage customers specify how they wish their house to be designed (floor and wall coverings, roof tiles, doors, taps and fittings etc.).

Semi-detached house

A semi-detached house consists of two autonomous single-family houses built side by side, which share a house wall but have separate entrances.

Setback easement

The setback easement enables the minimum spaces to be reduced in some cantons so that buildings can be built closer to the plot boundary than specified in construction law. This private law agreement is entered in the land registry, as is the boundary building right.


Abbreviation for single-family house. A single-family house consists of one residential unit, sometimes including a granny flat.


The shell of the house is completed as soon as it has been erected up to the roof and the windows are installed.

SIA standards

The Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects (SIA) develops principles and regulations for construction, technology, industry and environment. The SIA construction standards are generally recognised in Switzerland.

Single house

A Single house is a house that is normally inhabited by 1-2 people and geared to their needs.

Single-pitch roof

A single-pitch roof is a sloping roof that consists of just one roof surface inclined to one side.

Site manager/Constructin manager

The Swisshaus site manager organises, schedules and supervises all the work on the building site. He/she is in constant touch with the builders and owners.

Skylights/roof windows

A skylight is a window that has been built into the roof with only the framework construction projecting from the roof surface. Often referred to as a roof window.

Sloping roof

A sloping roof is a roof with one or more roof surfaces inclining by more than 10°.

Space between buildings

The space between buildings is equivalent to twice the minimum space and must also be upheld between buildings on the same building plot.


Storeys are also referred to as floors and comprise a full horizontal subdivision of a building with (virtually) continuous flooring. A distinction is drawn between basement, full and upper storeys.

Structural projection

A structural projection is a structural component protruding from the main façade.

Swisshaus GmbH

Swisshaus AG is represented in Austria by its wholly owned subsidiary Swisshaus GmbH based in Götzis, from where it serves the provinces of Vorarlberg and Tyrol. Swisshaus GmbH works with local builders and Austrian quality products, and complies with Swiss standards of quality.



A terrace is a level and fixed raised patio that is adjoined to or embedded into a building.

Terrace house

A terrace house is built on a slope and consists of step-like storeys indented upwards. The flat roof of the lower floor normally serves as the terrace of the upper floor.

Top floor (TF)

All storeys within the area of the sloping roof with a limited knee wall height are described as top floors.

Total cost

Swisshaus uses the term total cost to refer to all costs entailed by the construction.  As well as the cost of the building, these include the costs for the building plot, the preparatory (demolitions, development, digging, draining) and related work (landscaping, supporting walls, paths, squares, lawns) as well as the ancillary building costs (fees, insurance policies, interest expenses).

Town house

A town house stands in a self-contained row of several autonomous single-family houses built side by side.


Swisshaus plans, coordinates and organises every step from groundbreaking to completion. We hand your home over to you on the agreed date at the agreed price (fixed-price guarantee). The details are described in the list of services we offer.

Two-family house

This consists of two separate apartments on two floors that are connected to each other by a shared stairway.


Upper floor (UF)

Upper floors are full floors above the ground floor that do not count as the top floor.

Usage ratio

The usage ratio places the maximum permissible size of the building in relation to the size of the plot. The most common forms are the plot ratio, ratio of property size to building volume and ratio of plot size to building surface area.


Warranty period

The warranty period, also referred to as the period permitted to submit a notice of defect, lasts for two years and commences after building acceptance. Defects can be reported during this period. Prior to the expiry of this period Swisshaus carries out a guarantee acceptance of the house. Further information about the warranty period.

Wood house

A distinction is made between wood houses and brick houses. As the name suggests, wood houses are made mainly of wood. This flexible material provides diverse options, is ecologically sound and sustainable. The Swisshaus low-energy houses featuring “ActiveClimateTech” ensure a natural, healthy indoor climate and ensure balanced humidity. Very high heat insulation is possible in a small space. Erection on the building site takes very little time indeed, so careful planning in advance is crucial. Wood houses are every bit as good and secure as brick houses.

Woodland distance

The woodland distance is the prescribed distance between the building and officially marked woodland. It is a relatively large distance that significantly reduces the construction site.


Zoning plan

This defines areas where building may take place or that are reserved for clearly defined purposes.

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