architecture & design blog
You Think You Know But You Don’t – Wrong Building Nomenclature

We are very familiar with a lot of buildings and the colloquial names people often call them. What if I tell you that most of those names are either incorrect or partially correct, for example, duplex. Duplex is the most notorious in this list as the word has different meanings in different parts of the world.

Learn the right nomenclature for buildings. Read the entire articles to know the proper names for buildings.


Sometimes called mansion in Nigeria. The right nomenclature for this house type is Detached House.

A detached house is a stand-alone single dwelling unit (single-family home) spread over two or more floors connected by an inner staircase. The name has other variations such as detached dwellings or detached residence but they describe the same building all over the world.

In Nigeria, a detached house is popularly called a duplex.

Realistically, the word duplex is confusing as its meaning varies among countries. Internationally, it is generally used to describe two attached dwelling units (either next to each other or above each other).

However, in some parts of the UK, it is used to describe a 2 floor detached house, which is a dwelling unit on 2 floors with an internal staircase. Besides a Duplex, we also have a Triplex and a Quadruplex, etc that is on 3 floors and 4 floors respectively.

A mansion, on the other hand, is set apart by its size and aristocratic look. A mansion is a large and elaborate detached house with an appearance of grandeur.

Another term synonymous with a detached house is a maisonette. But it is only when a maisonette is independently existing that it can be called a detached house when attached together they become either a terraced house or an apartment building.

So in summary, a duplex (as used in the UK) is a detached house but a detached house is not always a Duplex as it can be a Triplex or Quadruplex. Secondly, a detached house is a maisonette but a maisonette can be configured in other ways other than a detached house.

In Lagos and many fast-growing urban cities, most detached, semi-detached and terraced houses exceed 2 floors and are built on smaller plots because of the high cost of land and developers need to compensate for space by having more floors. Whenever this happens, duplexes should then be rightly called triplexes or quadruplexes as the case may be.

Building Nomenclature

Twin Duplex

The right nomenclature for this house type is Semi-Detached House

In Nigeria, a semi-detached house is popularly called a twin duplex. This is because a duplex is believed to be a single dwelling unit with multiple floors connected by an inner staircase thus when two duplexes are attached together they become a twin. However, that assumption is wrong.

A semi-detached house is a single-family dwelling house built as one of a pair that share one common wall. Often, each house’s layout is a mirror image of the other.

If at all we are to make a comparison, semi-detached houses have similarities with duplexes. The major difference between a semi-detached house and a duplex (in the original. Sense – 2 attached dwelling units with shared common wall) is that while a duplex is on a property owned by one owner a semi-detached is on two separate properties owned by individual owners who have rights and responsibilities for their own side and for their own plot.

A twin duplex from an architectural standpoint can either be an apartment building (if the duplex represents 2 dwelling unit on top of each other), a terraced house (if the duplex represents 2 dwelling units side by side) or a 2 floor semi-detached house (if the duplex represents single dwelling units connected by an internal staircase as used in the UK). Also, we should have twin Triplex and twin Quadruplex.

In order to reduce the confusion, it is best to call them semi-detached houses.

Terraced Duplex.

The right nomenclature for this house type is Terraced House or Townhouse.

The error in the name is the ‘duplex’. Like we have previously pointed out, the word ‘duplex’ has various meanings. Therefore, to be more precise we replace ‘duplex’ with ‘House’.

A terraced house is a row of identical or mirror-image houses sharing a sidewall with each unit having a small footprint on multiple floors.


The right nomenclature for this house type is Studio Apartment

Self-contained rooms in Nigeria are used to describe rooms with bathrooms and kitchen contained in them. These rooms serve as both living and bedroom.

Studio apartments are small apartments which combine one large room that serves as the living, dining, and bedroom or may have a very small room for a bedroom. Kitchen facilities may either be located in the central room, or in a small separate room, and the bathroom is usually in its own smaller room.

These apartments have different names in different parts of the world such as bed-sitters, bachelor’s apartments, efficiency apartments, etc. But the standard name for them is either studio apartments or studio flats.


The right nomenclature for this house type is Micro-apartment

The term face-me-I-face-you originated from the layout of the room in these apartments. The rooms are built in two rows separated by a corridor with their rooms and entrance doors facing each other.

Also colloquially called a tenement building or room and parlor (when the tenant rents 2 interconnected rooms instead of one). A tenement can be described as a multi-occupancy building of any sort, but particularly a run-down apartment building or slum building. A tenement building has a broader meaning and thus doesn’t specifically describe this house type.

A micro-Apartment, also known as a micro-flat is a one-room, self-contained living space, usually purpose-built, designed to accommodate a sitting space, sleeping space, bathroom and kitchenette with 14–32 square meters (50–350 sq ft). Unlike a traditional studio flat, residents may also have access to a communal kitchen, communal bathroom/shower, patio, and roof garden.

So next time instead of saying I live in a face-me-I-face-you house maybe you should say I live in a micro.

Names we get Right


A bungalow is a house, normally detached, that may contain a small loft. It is either single-story or has a second story built into a sloping roof, usually with dormer windows (one-and-a-half stories).

Block of flats

Also called apartment buildings. The term apartment and flat are the same. The countries where they are popular are what make the difference. In the US ‘apartment’ is widely used while in The Uk ‘flats are.

Flats are a single dwelling unit with a well-defined living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. When 3 or more flats are attached together they become a block of flats or apartment building.

If there are others I have left out. Kindly help me add them in the comment section and I will update the post ASAP. Kindly share with others if you liked it.

Close Menu