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0946 Designing a Building

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 946 – Designing a Building.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 946. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode.

This episode is a dialogue between Kathy and Brett about designing a building. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Kathy: Seeing these blueprints really brings this project to life. I can now envision what this building will look like when it’s built.

Brett: I’m really glad. As the architect on this project, it’s my job to turn your ideas into design.

Kathy: You did a great job.

Brett: I had the help of the surveyors and a civil engineer, so I can’t take all of the credit.

Kathy: We’re ready now to solicit bids from general contractors, don’t you think?

Brett: These plans will give any contractor the specifications they need to give a detailed and accurate bid. There’ll be no problems with permits, I don’t think, because a similar structure was on this building site about 10 years ago before it was torn down.

Kathy: I’m hoping not to run into any stumbling blocks, but you never know with a building project. I’ll know we’ve cleared the hurdles when I can bring in the interior designers!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Kathy saying to Brett, “Seeing these blueprints really brings this project to life.” “Blueprints” are detailed drawings of what you need to build a certain building. It's the plan of the building – where the rooms go, where the doors go, and so forth. It's called the “blueprint” because traditionally it was printed on paper in blue ink. That's why we have the name “blueprint.” The word “blueprint” is used also in a more general way to refer to the plan of something, especially a detailed plan about how to carry out or execute a certain task.

Kathy says, “Seeing these blueprints really brings this project to life.” “To bring something to life” means to make it real, to do something that allows other people to visualize it, to see how it will look like, and also to believe that it will happen. Kathy says seeing the blueprints “brings this project to life.” She says, “I can now envision what this building will look like when it's built.” “To envision” (envision) means to imagine something – so much so that you can almost see it in your mind. You have a clear picture or a clear idea of what something will look like. You can envision things that aren't just physical objects. You can envision the success that you might have by completing a certain task.

Brett says, “I'm really glad” – I'm very happy. “As the architect on this project, it's my job to turn your ideas into design.” An “architect” (architect) is a person who designs buildings, who plans out what the building will look like and makes detailed drawings – plans that the people who are going to build the building look at in order to do their job. The architect’s job, according to Brett, is to turn the ideas of the person who wants the building built into the design. “To turn something into” something else means to transform it, to change it in such a way that it is now this other thing. In this case, we’re talking about taking ideas and changing them or “turning them into” design. “Design” here refers to how something will look or how it will function.

Kathy says, “You did a great job.” Brett responds, “I had the help of the surveyors and a civil engineer, so I can't take all of the credit.” A “surveyor” (surveyor) is a person who makes very detailed measurements in order to determine where something is located. Usually, a surveyor is used when you are going to build a new house or building. The surveyor determines the exact size of the property, often where the property you own begins and where it ends. People sometimes have surveyors come out when, for example, there may be some disagreement over where your property ends and where your neighbor’s property begins; a surveyor would help you determine that. Usually, surveyors produce what are essentially maps of a certain area of land.

Brett also used a civil engineer on this project. A “civil (civil) engineer” is a person whose job it is to help with the design and the construction, or building, of things like bridges, roads, and other similar structures. Brett says that because he got help from these other people, he can't take all of the credit. “To take all of the credit” means to say, “Yes, I deserve the praise that you are giving me. I deserve all the nice things you are saying about me.” That would be to accept or “to take all of the credit.” Here, Brett says he cannot take all of the credit because he didn't work on this project alone.

Kathy says, “We’re ready now to solicit bids from general contractors, don't you think?” “To solicit (solicit) bids (bids)” means to go out and find people who want to do your project and who will give you a price for completing your project. It doesn't have to be a building project. It could be anything that you are hiring someone else to help you complete. It could be a project related to software or computers or almost anything, really, that would require you to pay someone else to do work for you. When you solicit bids, you're usually asking for detailed information and plans about how this person or company will complete the task.

A “general contractor” is a person who manages a construction project, sometimes doing some of the work himself, but usually bringing in other people – other companies or other workers – to complete some of the more specialized work. The general contractor will often bring in what are called “subcontractors.” These are people who work under the direction of the general contractor in order to finish, for example, the plumbing or the electrical system in a building.

Brent says these plans will give contractors “the specifications they need to give a detailed and accurate bid.” “Specifications” are detailed instructions for following a plan, especially when you are creating something new, as we are here in this building. Specifications will allow the contractors “to give a detailed and accurate bid.” Something that is “accurate” (accurate) is something that is correct, something that is “exactly correct,” we might say.

Brett also tells Kathy there won't be any “problems with permits, I don't think.” “Permits” (permits) refers to official permission to do something, usually involved in modifying – changing – or constructing a new building. When you do work on your house, for example – by, I don't know, putting in a new bathroom – you have to go to the city where you live and get a permit. Basically what you're doing is paying a tax, in a way, to the city so that you can build something or change something to your current house.

Often, permits require someone from the government – from the city government or local government – to come out and look at or “inspect” your construction to make sure that everything is being done correctly and according to the laws or the “codes” (codes) for building. “Codes” are basically regulations that the government has about how you have to build a house or a building. Brett says he doesn't think there will be any problems with permits. This, of course, is what people involved in construction often tell you. “Well, I don't think there'll be any problems.” They’re not actually promising there won't be any problems.

Brett says there was a similar structure, or building, “on this building site about 10 years ago before it was torn down.” A “building site” is a place where you are going to build something, a piece of land where you are going to construct your building. “To tear (tear) down” something is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to destroy something, usually a building – a house or some other structure. Brett says the building was “torn (torn) down.” “Torn” is the past tense of “tear.”

Kathy says, “I'm hoping not to run into any stumbling blocks, but you never know with a building project.” Kathy says she's hoping not “to run into” – or to encounter or to have – “any stumbling blocks.” A “stumbling (stumbling) block” is an obstacle, something that makes progress on a project more difficult. Kathy says, “I’ll know we've cleared the hurdles when I can bring in the interior designers!” The expression “to clear (clear) the hurdles (hurdles)” means to deal with the difficulties and the challenges and the problems that you have so that you can complete your task.

A “hurdle” here means the same as an obstacle. Literally, a “hurdle” is something that you jump over in a race. If you watch the Olympics, the Summer Olympics, they’ll have a race where the runners have to jump over things. Those things that they jump over are called “hurdles.” “To clear the hurdle” means to jump over it without hitting it – to jump over it successfully. We use that idea of the hurdle to mean more generally to overcome difficulties or problems.

Kathy refers to “interior designers.” The “interior” (interior) of the building is the inside. So, an “interior designer” is the person who is responsible for deciding how the inside of the building will look – what color the walls will be, what kind of furniture will be in the building, and so forth.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Kathy: Seeing these blueprints really brings this project to life. I can now envision what this building will look like when it’s built.

Brett: I’m really glad. As the architect on this project, it’s my job to turn your ideas into design.

Kathy: You did a great job.

Brett: I had the help of the surveyors and a civil engineer, so I can’t take all of the credit.

Kathy: We’re ready now to solicit bids from general contractors, don’t you think?

Brett: These plans will give any contractor the specifications they need to give a detailed and accurate bid. There’ll be no problems with permits, I don’t think, because a similar structure was on this building site about 10 years ago before it was torn down.

Kathy: I’m hoping not to run into any stumbling blocks, but you never know with a building project. I’ll know we’ve cleared the hurdles when I can bring in the interior designers!

[end of dialogue]

The architect of ESL Podcast is our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, who always designs a wonderful script for us.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
blueprint – a detailed drawing, usually in blue ink, containing all the information needed to construct a particular building

* Can you revise these blueprints to make the closets a little bit bigger?

to bring (something) to life – to make something seem real; to do something that allows other people visualize something and believe that it is happening or will happen

* The author provides great descriptions, but the dialogue between the characters is what really brings the story to life.

to envision – to be able to imagine something so that one can almost see it in one’s mind; to have a clear picture in one’s mind of what something will look like or how it will be

* Very few people live in this town right now, but I can envision a day in the future when it will grow as big as Chicago.

architect – a person who designs buildings; a person whose job is to plan and make detailed drawings of buildings that have not yet been built

* Lyle wants to become an architect who specializes in designing energy-efficient buildings.

design – a plan showing how something will look or how it will function, especially one combining technical characteristics with creative and aesthetic (beauty) considerations

* The city is holding a contest to have people submit designs for the new park.

surveyor – a person who makes detailed measurement to determine the exact location of something and/or the distance between two objects, especially in preparation for construction projects

* The surveyors are taking measurements now, so in a few weeks we should be able to start laying down the new road.

civil engineer – a person whose job is to design bridges, roads, dams, and similar structures

* A team of civil engineers are looking at the condition of bridges in this state.

to take all of the credit – to accept the praise or admiration for some success without mentioning all the other people who helped to make it happen

* We were shocked when Margaret took all of the credit for the report, especially since her teammates had done much more of the writing than she had.

to solicit bids – to request proposals and budgets from other organizations; to ask other organizations or businesses to submit written documents explaining how they will provide a particular service, including how much it will cost

* Is it legal to solicit bids from a company owned by a relative?

general contractor – a person who manages a construction project, performing some of the work, but mostly communicating with specialists doing the work

* A general contractor should know a lot of electricians, plumbers, drywall installers, and construction workers.

specifications – detailed instructions for following a plan, especially to create or build something

* An engineer has to approve the specifications before building can begin.

accurate – precise; exactly correct

* The doctor said his blood pressure was 150/85, but those numbers weren’t accurate, and the next reading showed he had normal blood pressure.

permit – official permission to do something, especially to create, modify, or destroy a building

* Does your company have a permit to close this street to traffic for the day?

building site – a piece of land where there is a construction project; where something is being built

* Everyone who steps onto the building site must wear a hardhat, safety glasses, and heavy boots.

to tear down – to destroy something, especially a building, so that nothing is left

* The first thing they did after buying that old house was to tear down the ugly storage shed in the backyard.

stumbling block – an obstacle; something that makes a project more difficult or slower, but not impossible

* Having a learning disability was a stumbling block for Chelsea in elementary school, but she found ways to work around it and become a top student.

to clear the hurdles – to deal with challenges or problems so that one can continue with what one wants to do; to overcome obstacles

* Let’s fill out this paperwork. Then, once we’ve cleared the administrative hurdles, we can talk about potential partnership opportunities.

Comprehension Questions
1. If you want to build a house, who would you call to plan it?
a) An architect
b) A surveyor
c) A civil engineer

2. Which of these things requires an application?
a) Specifications
b) Permits
c) Stumbling blocks

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to bring (something) to life

The phrase “to bring (something) to life,” in this podcast, means to make something seem real, allowing other people to visualize something and believe that it is happening or will happen: “This 3D model brings the planned building to life.” The phrase “the life of the party” describes someone who is very fun to be around, entertaining, and humorous at a particular event: “As usual, Blake was the life of the party, telling jokes and making everyone laugh.” The phrase “to take (one’s) life” means to kill someone: “It was horrible to watch cancer take her life.”

permit

In this podcast, the word “permit” means official permission to do something, especially to create, modify, or destroy a building: “People who live in historic homes have to get a permit to make almost any modification, even if they’re just changing a door or window.” A “driver’s permit” is a type of driver’s license that allows one to drive as long as an older, more experienced person is in the car, usually for one year while one learns to drive and prepares to take the test to get a license: “Karla’s son just got his driver’s permit, and now she’s worried about teaching him how to drive.” Finally, a “work permit” is a document that allows one to work in a foreign country: “Diana has a visa, but without a work permit, she can’t earn money while living here.”

Culture Note
Environmental Impact Statements

In the United States, the “federal” (national) government requires that individuals and companies create “environmental impact statements” (EIS) if they want to “engage in” (become involved in) actions that will significantly affect the quality of the environment, usually by building on or changing an area of land. The EIS is supposed to help government leaders make decisions about whether they should allow the “proposed” (suggested, but not yet done) project to “move forward” (progress; advance). Many states require similar documents.

An EIS is a written document. It usually describes the proposal, describes the environment that will be affected, proposes “alternatives” (other things that could be done, or other ways of doing things), and “analyzes” (studies) the “potential impact” (what might possibly happen as a result of something) on animals, plants, air, water, and historical sites, as well as “economic considerations” (issues related to money).

In general, EISs are very long, complicated documents that may take years and “considerable” (a lot of) money to write. “Critics” (people who do not like something) argue that the requirement to write an EIS slows down new “development” (the process of building structures, homes, or offices in a new area) and creates “barriers” (obstacles) to economic growth.

“Supporters” (people who like something) of the process argue that although writing an EIS is slow and expensive, it is important to consider the environmental impact of projects. They also “point out” (emphasize; state) that a project can still be approved even if the EIS shows that it will be harmful, so the process does not prevent new development from happening.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b