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I have noticed an increase recently in use of the phrase "build out" when "build" would suffice. This seems to be mainly an American English phenomenon from what I can see. Here are some examples:

Google... is also set to build out a network in Austin, Texas.

and

Technology services firm Data Stream has signed a 7,882 sq ft lease at the Chicago Board of Trade Building, where it plans to build out a data center.

and

This is a free series on how to build out a website using Wordpress

What is the origin of this usage and why has it become so popular? Is it just meaningless jargon or is there some meaning behind it, i.e. is there a difference between building a website and building out a website?

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    Related: “Build out” versus “build up”. – choster Feb 25 '14 at 23:41
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    possible duplicate of "Build out" versus "build up" – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '14 at 23:45
  • I read that question before I asked mine. I am referring specifically to use of the phrase "build out" when "build" would suffice, not as an alternative to "build up". – Frank H. Feb 26 '14 at 0:45
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    I have always heard "build out" referring to a planned build, and a "build" referencing an approved, ongoing, or completed build. For example, "He showed me the build out for the new server farm." vs. "It took us a week, but we finished the server farm build." – CodeWarrior Feb 26 '14 at 4:20
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    This is just annoying jargon that has become popular in the tech industry. – Warlike Chimpanzee Mar 5 '18 at 20:38
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Note: I didn't have a quick answer when I started looking into this so this particular answer is rather overkill. The last section contains the actual answer so you can safely skip down to the bottom. The rest of this post is me more or less documenting how I went about arriving at the final section.


Firstly, "build out" is relatively uncommon. Comparing NGrams of the various words that appear after "build", "build out" doesn't make the top 10:

  1. build a
  2. build up
  3. build the
  4. build on
  5. build and
  6. build an
  7. build their
  8. build upon
  9. build it
  10. build his

Even when restricting the following word to only prepositions, you still don't see "out" in the top 10.

So if this phrase is becoming more common, it is a very recent phenomenon and hasn't been picked up by the NGram data yet.


Secondly, when "build out" is used, it is usually followed by "of" as in, "build out of clay". The next most common uses are "build out the" and "build out a" which would seem to match your examples and/or match the examples from the linked question: "Build out" versus "build up".

So, not only is "build out" uncommon, "build out a/the" is even less common. And even when it does occur, it is usually a usage that matches the straightforward meaning from the "build [noun] out".

Even your examples can simply be reworded to match this usage:

Google... is also set to build a network out in Austin, Texas.

Technology services firm Data Stream has signed a 7,882 sq ft lease at the Chicago Board of Trade Building, where it plans to build a data center out.

This is a free series on how to build a website out using Wordpress

Each of the three examples are slightly harder to read, in my opinion, which perfectly explains why "out" was moved next to "build".


All of that being said, however, the core of your question is still valid. There does seem to be some distinction between using "build out" and "build" and none of the above explains why the writer included "out" in the first place.

CodeWarrior offers a solid explanation in the comments:

I have always heard "build out" referring to a planned build, and a "build" referencing an approved, ongoing, or completed build. For example, "He showed me the build out for the new server farm." vs. "It took us a week, but we finished the server farm build."

But this changes "build out" to a noun which is not at all what your examples are doing:

We have planned a build out.

We have planned to build out.

The NGram data shows us that "to" is the most common word before "build out" and even beats all VERB and NOUN combinations combined.


Therefore, I claim that "build out" is used in place of "build" simply because they are describing a particular type of build. This build type doesn't quite fit the definition accepted in the linked question:

build out usually refers to finishing the interior of a building or an apartment that one is renting or leasing.

To find an a more appropriate definition, we actually need to look at the definition of the noun mentioned by CodeWarrior:

Build-out is an urban planner’s estimate of the amount and location of potential development for an area. Sometimes called a "lot-yield analysis", build-out is one step of the land use planning process. Evaluation of potential development impacts begins with a build-out analysis.

build-out — the development and expansion of something, esp. of land

Thus, the phrase "build out" is used as a verb to describe the action of implementing such a build-out. If you slip this definition into your examples, the meaning translates perfectly:

  1. Google is also set to [develop and/or expand] a network in Austin, Texas.

  2. Technology services firm Data Stream has signed a 7,882 sq ft lease at the Chicago Board of Trade Building, where it plans to [develop and/or expand] a data center.

  3. This is a free series on how to [develop and/or expand] a website using Wordpress

(3) seems slightly odd to me, but that actually matches my initial reaction when you used it as the third example. (1) and (2) are better examples of this particular usage.

  • Thanks for the very detailed info but I don't think it quite addresses the question. As you say, [develop and/or expand] could be slipped into the examples instead of "build out", but "build" could be slipped in equally well. Therefore the question remains as to whether there is a difference in meaning between "build" and "build out" or whether "build out" is mere jargon for "build". – Frank H. Apr 26 '14 at 12:52
  • @FrankH. The answer is because the writers are using "build-out" in a verb form. There is not a significant difference in meaning between "build out" as a verb and "build" as a verb but the connotations of the former are of a much larger development project -- specifically one associated with developing land or business ventures. More literally, one that would require a "build-out (noun)". – MrHen Apr 26 '14 at 16:36
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I believe that the difference is between creating something raw and taking something raw and finishing it / customizing it.

If someone says that they built a webserver, I envision them connecting hardware parts, circuitboards, hard drives, network cards, etc. If they say that they built-out a webserver, I envision them configuring the operating system, installing and configuring server software, adjusting for performance tradeoffs, security, etc.

If they say they built a data center, I envision them handling the electrical wiring and HVAC systems, physical security, backup generators and fire suppression, etc. If they say that they built out a data center, I envision them setting up and connecting the actual server racks, networking gear, monitoring systems, etc.

The difference between having built Wordpress and building out Wordpress sites is whether one actually created the core Wordpress software, or uses it to create sites.

I wouldn't claim that is universal, but that is how it is used among the people that I've worked with in the tech business in U.S.

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I suspect when these terms are used by software developers:

  • "build" means they intend to fully complete the project

  • "build out" means they will start building some parts of the project, but there is no expectation of its full completion

I will build out the llama website next week.

I will start building the llama website next week.

This sort of makes sense regarding the way developers think about building software: they start with the core functionality, and only build the extraneous stuff later. Building development could work similarly.

Now what I want to know is what "close out" means! (example)

Possibly it is also a softer version, meaning "I will close this for now, but would be willing to re-open it in future".

It might also be the case that these terms have multiple meanings. In this answer someone suggests that "build out" could be applied to horizontal construction, as opposed to vertical construction.

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