Can one learn construction entirely through self study?


I am doing a BA Architecture in the UK, but my understanding is that construction is not taught thoroughly at school. 

I wish to develop in depth knowledge of the subject. Is this possible to do solely by self directed study (reading many construction books) given that the university offers very few lectures on this? 

What is the best and most efficient way of learning construction as a student without having to go to a construction site?

Aug 14, 19 6:01 pm
Non Sequitur

go to site and learn to swing a hammer. 

Aug 14, 19 6:55 pm  · 

Don't be lazy and go to the construction site, and ask EVERYTHING you don't know to the people working there, and hopefully they'll ignore you.

Aug 14, 19 7:33 pm  · 

just watch YouTube videos

Aug 14, 19 8:49 pm  · 

Can't tell if you are sarcastic or not. I watch a lot of construction videos on YouTube. Next best thing to hands on.

Aug 15, 19 9:17 am  · 
( o Y o )

all you need are Legos

Aug 15, 19 7:32 am  · 

No. Period. 

Aug 15, 19 7:55 am  · 

You're a student so I guess might be hard to buy a fixer-upper but I learned a lot that way. 

Students can get on painting crews pretty easily at least here in the US. It's something and yes it will help. I worked in the office of a contractor when I was a student. Very good experience to have.

Aug 15, 19 9:21 am  · 
On the fence

We do have one member on here who is entirely self taught it appears.

Is it doable?  No.

Aug 15, 19 2:12 pm  · 

1. Pick up a summer job building houses with a contractor. You'll learn a lot but they'll likely have u doing the same thing over and over.

1. Pick up a job with a construction manager. their job is to oversee the construction (not do the manual labour) so they tend to see how all the pieces fit together & can measure performance. Might get a wider view. 

Aug 15, 19 2:18 pm  · 

Site work, piles, concrete form systems, rebar, welding, footings , foundations, steel frame, wood framing, rood cutting, water management, siding systems, roofing systems, cabinetmaking, woodworking, plastic laminates, adhesives, composite resin fabrication, plumbing systems, low voltage electrical, high voltage electrical, heating, cooling, caulkings, exterior coatings...every trade is extremely complex. Youtube, Manufacturers Websites and Tutorials, school, part time work, even a  lifetime career can only teach you so much. But I suppose every little bit helps.  The trades folk certainly appreciate the archtect who is more than just a school boy and actually rolled up his sleeves here and there. 

Aug 15, 19 2:25 pm  · 

Attending architectire school, working part time? I doubt one could become "very experienced." I hope the OP is making a living as an architect before he is "very experienced" in every associated trade. But any lityle bit would help. Archtecture schools should have some shop. Hell: sweat ome pipe, frame one hip roof, build one form, tie one rebar cage..

Aug 16, 19 6:28 am  · 

I soldered, framed a deck and mixed and placed concrete while in arch school. No pile driving unfortunately. Wouldn't it be nice if contractors and builders took some design courses too?

Aug 19, 19 7:45 am  · 

You built a deck. How neat. What does that have to do w the OP's question? But I do agree, it is far too easy to get a contractor liscense.

Sep 12, 19 12:17 pm  · 

btw. rood cutting is roof cutting typed by a fat fingered carpenter

Aug 15, 19 2:37 pm  · 

Today's construction techniques are vastly outdated and need revision. So I would expect that the problem is the institutions that are mainly responsible for the decline. 

Climate Change need new and innovative thinking so perhaps the new crop of construction workers should be given the responsibility for this change.

Example of an idea that could be the solution, check out their photos.


Aug 15, 19 4:26 pm  · 

Go volunteer with habitat on saturdays. depending on where you are, they might have multiple projects in different stages.

Aug 15, 19 11:08 pm  · 

Great suggestion

Aug 16, 19 6:29 am  · 

If i could overhaul architecture education, i would put everyone in the field for 2 years working 6-8 week 'rotations' with various trades ... and add another year working one 'focus' trade.

Aug 16, 19 11:39 am  · 

why would you do that cbii?

If anything I would encourage young design students to study business
and related topics more than construction. It is always possible to hire
a builder, but it is not so easy to hire a business consultant to help
work out how to make a living in this obviously insane profession.

Being able to build a bit is not a bad thing but it isn't what architects do. Design is not what builders do either. Spend a few hours on a site and this will be abundantly clear. Being able to do both would be great, and I wouldn't discourage it, but there is nothing morally or professionally superior that results. maybe you will make more money if you do design build. Otherwise, the systems in place work, more or less.

I'm a geek when it comes to details, and I love working out how to build our projects, however I am completely unqualified to weld or assemble a space frame, dig foundations, erect a timber frame, or put up a mortar finish. We try to hire builders who can do all this stuff instead, which is the more sensible approach as far as I can tell.

As far as it goes, the architect's job is not defined by drawing and detailing as you might think. A lot of time is paperwork, project admin, legal checks of this and that, meetings (followed by paperwork), costing, etc etc. The longer you work in the field the more paperwork and meetings you will do and the less design and drafting and model making and all that jazz. Learning to build is a good reference to have but it is not going to make you much better at getting a planning permit on a 30 million pound development in a protected area. Nor will it necessarily help to smooth over a dispute over fees or costs, a delayed schedule, or ridiculous errors in design or construction.

You will learn how to detail by spending 10-15 years on construction sites as part of an office. Even a few years of work on a real project will teach you a lot.

For what it is worth, I don't feel remotely that our young staff and interns are lacking construction experience. I would be happy sometimes if they followed standards better and were more careful about layers or keeping notes after meetings, but that is just about being professional. It will be learned on the way, same as the process of construction...

Aug 17, 19 4:10 am  · 

will ... I do not disagree with anything you shared. Call me old school ... Maybe i have had a long-term issue with 'semantics' of the title 'architect' originally meaning 'master/chief builder' yet so many architects have little understanding of how things are put together. We also struggle in the States whereby we have a concerning amount of construction trades and administrators with very low skill/training. it creates a recipe of having architects and builders together without the optimal skill to execute and produce the end goal of 'architecture': (ahem) purposeful and functional and valued buildings.

Aug 19, 19 10:56 am  · 

in all honesty i am doubtful that there was ever a master architect/builder in the sense you imply. Christopher Wren didn't build St Peter's. He didn't even build the enormous wooden model on display. But he worked out how to make that double dome, which is pretty fucking smart. Brunnelleschi supposedly put a few bricks in the Dumo, but it wasnt his job. His job was to get the commission and work out how to build it, also insanely brilliant. He was on site, and skilled people did the skilled work. His skill was design, and some fabrication too, cuz it was a different time, but that is a different story. As far as it goes I dont know many seasoned architects who don't know how to put a building together after 20 years on the job. This feels like a strawman argument to me. Our job is already hard enough without having to be responsible for learning someone else's profession too. And really, learning to build with 2x4's doesnt teach very much about our profession. My first job as lead architect in my mid 20's involved working out the details for a steel space frame and to integrate it with a custom steel window system and a tent roof, both of which needed to be conceptualized and developed from scratch to fit the design intent. The way to learn that is to work on a real project as an architect, and then be there on site as millions of dollars of steel and glass and all the rest are put in place by hundreds of people...and to keep on learning. The thing is though, while I am proud of having got the technical side of the construction process (mostly) correct, it was only a fraction of the actual job. While doing that I also needed to co-ordinate with the various engineers, get a construction permit, work out the future maintenance of the building, co-ordinate with 3 construction companies cuz the city required it, prove the viability of the snow removal system, negotiate a budget, re-organize the drawings for the aforementioned construction companies to bid on discreet sections of the project, and a tonne of other stuff as well. And that was a small project, barely 5000m2. Almost none of the hardest part of my job was about construction at all. The bit I didnt do was negotiate our design fee. My boss did that (he also made sure I didnt fuck up). What I wish I had learned more about in school was HIS job, because the business of architecture is seriously brutal.

Sep 11, 19 9:45 pm  · 
1  · 

Teaching architecture without construction experience is like teaching fashion design without sewing. It’s like explaining color to the blind or music to the deaf. 

If you want to learn construction by self-study, go build something.

Aug 17, 19 9:06 am  · 
1  · 

You may wish to look up 'live site project' which was set up for architecture students to gain onsite experience in the UK. I have not done it myself but colleagues have spoke positively about it. 

Like others have said, getting a job labouring during summer holidays will be very helpful. I did this throughout my time at uni and it has immensely helped my professional development. However, with how the UK courses are structured at most unis it probably wont be that beneficial academically. Academia is increasingly disconnected to the profession and less and less emphasis is put on construction, professional management, and contract administration unfortunately.  

Aug 19, 19 6:36 am  · 

I believe you won't learn construction just by watching and taking up courses. There' no better way of learning it but only thru exposing yourself on site. Go out, start befriending contractors, subs and even those architects out there. You'll see, in no time you're already a professional yourself.

Sep 11, 19 2:56 pm  · 
Angelina Crane

It seems to me that no books will help without practice. I've read books about paper writing and when I was asked in college to write an essay on the book we read. I still couldn't do it on my own and I turned for help using this link to a useful resource on which they helped me write a high-quality essay. I would recommend that you ask for help on any courses that teach construction, I think you can find a lot of these

Jan 30, 21 9:29 am  · 

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