I'm an architect student on the 3rd semester and I need to learn the basics about construction ASAP.

Im 29yr and never had any contact with construction prior to the architecture course - So, I need a book for beginners, absent of complex parts. I need the basics.

What I really wanted is a book that tells step-by-step what is to be done on the construction of a simple concrete house. From the preparation of the land, to a simple pillar structure, to the roof and everything in between. Nothing complex.

Can anybody recomend me 1 or more books? I'll buy anything I can put my hands on about basic construction books. I'll buy them on ebay.

Aug 4, 11 1:07 am

Book isn't going to teach construction. It only teaches he theory not the practice.

I would recommend for starters to get Francis D. K. Ching book "Building Construction Illustrated". This would be a general start for an architecture class. If I were you, I would take some construction classes during the summer. May not be part of the Architecture degree but something to get real world experience and also work in construction for a summer and also go to the lumber yard.

Just because you are studying to be an architect, don't act like you are superior and smarter than builders. Guess what... YOU'RE NOT ! ! ! !

You don't know squat about construction even after a  year degree until you actually do the work.

I have classes in historic preservation/restoration at Clatsop Community College. It entails a field-school basis model. Alot of actual hands-on workshops. It involves alot of work. It entails basic construction and then historic preservation / restoration techniques.

There are alot of books but you need to do things in a field setting to solidify the understanding.

Eventually a couple of years of working in the field with a builder could help you understand the construction side of things which can aid and supplement your architecture knowledge.

You are still young enough to work in construction from a laborer level. This will give you insight that books and architecture class won't teach you.


Aug 4, 11 1:52 am  · 
 ·  1

Fundamentals of Building Construction by Allen is a good book.

As Rik mentioned: Ching's Building Construction Illustrated is also a good choice.

Aug 4, 11 2:19 am  · 

Graphic Guide to Frame Construction (For Pros By Pros) by Rob Thallon. Get this one to as practice drawing out some of the construction details, if you draw the stuff it will go into memory better, worked for me. But I also worked construction for several years, I would recommend this you will learn so much and then you will really begin to understand how the parts go together, or see if your program has a design build program, you really need to just get out and frame a few building up.

Aug 4, 11 9:22 am  · 

Thanks Rick

I certainly will get myself as much as I can around builders and construction, and on my free time (mostly at night), I want to read about it.

I'll check out the books you mentioned.

Since I started studying architecture I hear a lot about Ching and Neufert. 

dBlock, I'm taking a look on Fundamentals of Building Construction and the last edition is VERY expensive. Do you think its exactly the same as the previous edition (which is much cheaper) ?

Shimmy, but is this real simple or is it complex? I basically want to learn how a house of bricks and cement, with concrete pillars and beams is built. Step-by-step as simple as possible.


Aug 5, 11 12:31 am  · 
Token AE

Ignore Rick the Prick.  I don't think you were implying any sort of elitism or superiority by asking for help about something you didn't know.

Rick, your inferiority complex diatribe was both highly unwarranted and irrelevant. This question has nothing to do about the poster feeling superior or what school you went to.

Costa, I have used both FDK Chings books and Allen's book throughout my career as an engineer and architect. I feel that both are fantastic and necessary for those a bit greener in their experience.

I would suggest getting both, and I don't think that the edition will matter with respect to content. I would treat Ching's book as a guide to what parts are used in the assembly and how they fit together, and Allen's book as sort of a lab manual telling you how to actually carry it out.

If you are trying to learn the basics, the books mentioned will be fine and give you exactly what you described you were after. If you are trying to create waterproofing details for the Stata center, you may need to get your hands dirty with some field experience first :)


Aug 5, 11 7:14 am  · 
1  · 

It is filled with just pictures of details of different residential building styles, paired with the Allen book with this it is a great way to understand how the parts go together. This book is really easy to understand and I highly recommend it as second book to those listed.

Aug 5, 11 9:42 am  · 

Hi Costafinkel, if you really want to learn, I recommend that after, or while, you're tracing / reading the books recommended above, find construction sites near where you are, find out who's building them, and email the GC to see if he'd be willing to walk you around the site sometime. Just explain you're a student and would be grateful for 15-30 minutes of his time. Just be friendly and polite and you'd be amazed what you can learn.

You don't need to work as a laborer. Don't think Corbu laid too many bricks.

Aug 5, 11 9:56 am  · 


LOL ! ! ! !

It is not inferiority complex but humility and respect for the builders. It is you that seems to have an inferiority complex. I am simply suggesting costafinkel take some time working with and around construction job site.  Also a suggestion to be mindful of the attitude because the architecture class and the book study is theory. What happens in reality isn't always exactly theory. It was written to illustrate the point to drive the point home. If you expect the 20-ft. long 2x6 to be straight then you have going to have a tough time making it so. Wood isn't always as perfectly straight as the pretty picture. Something that as an architect, you will often not think about because you are in an office and hardly ever at the lumber yard. Something the office boys will often not have a clue if they never get out of the office and on in the field.

I'm not against Francis d.k. Ching or his books or the books or the architecture school. It is something that you have to be mindful of.


Aug 5, 11 12:52 pm  · 
Token AE


In order to help you focus in on the key point that I made, I have bolded it and placed it between lines for you. Please focus your response on that section.



If someone comes asking for help, you do not berate them and then try to demonstrate your superiority with irrelevant points (most of what you wrote). You point them in the direction of the answers to their questions.



You also have no idea who I am, what my background is, or what I currently do for a living. Do not assume that you have the ability to do so.

It is irrelevant to the conversation at hand, but since you brought me up:  I am not an architect by education. I worked as an assistant to a master carpenter/ mason from age 14-19. I worked my way through my bachelor and master of engineering at various  construction management firms. I qualified for the architecture license via work experience. 

You remind me very much of one of the journeyman masons that I used to work with- he always thought that the project architects were talking down to him because they had fancy degrees and he didn't. He used to go out of his way to try to belittle any of the young intern architects that came to the jobsite to make himself feel better. It was pathetic.

Just as pathetic as your attack on someone looking for help.

I certainly do not have an inferiority complex. If anything, I have an apathy complex- except when it comes to ridiculing people (especially young) who are looking for help and trying to improve themselves.

Aug 5, 11 3:24 pm  · 
1  · 


YAWN ! ! ! !

Ok.... and you think you know me. I'm not going to sugar-coat it what I say. Guess what, costafinkel understood what I said and my main point. My point in going to construction jobsites is advice that actually is relavent to being able to get builders willing to help you learn about construction. Most builders think of architects are a bunch of idiots with fancy degrees in drawing pretty pictures that are inpractical to build no better then a 6 year old in understanding of construction yet almost always coming on to the construction jobsite thinking they know it all and are all so superior yet doesn't have a clue.

That is for a reason. A majority of architects literally can't design buildings that are practical to build because a majority of architects literally doesn't know how buildings are put together. Amazing... isn't it.

A point of advice to save the person from getting a broken nose or a black eye because he argues with the experienced crew and they had fed up with the idiot.

There is something about knowing to avoid acting like an arrogant ass to people who have done construction 12 hours a day 5-6 days a week for the past 10-20+ years.



Aug 5, 11 5:02 pm  · 

Well... a majority of young architects of contemporary. You get alot of wierd "Frank Gehry-ish" contraptions. Older architects from a time where form follows function and prior era tended to have a better grasp of how buildings are constructed.





Aug 5, 11 5:12 pm  · 

cut down the river. not across.

When does the happy hour start? We need some bourbon soaked pacifiers in here stat! Babies are teething.

Aug 5, 11 5:15 pm  · 

A majority of architects literally can't design buildings that are practical to build because a majority of architects literally doesn't know how buildings are put together. 

This simply isn't true, any more than is saying "A majority of builders literally are too scared/lazy to try building something differently than they've ever built it before."  We all know architects that don't know how to build and we all know builders that don't know how to think outside of their familiarity zone.  But the majority of both groups are willing to treat each other respectfully,  utilize one another's expertise, and work as an actual team to get a built object into the world.

Treat each other with respect, that's the main point.  Rick, your diatribe is just furthering the divide between designers and builders - it's not being helpful.

Aug 5, 11 5:24 pm  · 


ok. good points. The reality is the divide is still there. I'm a building designer and I have often heard builders sentiments about architects. If there is a epidemic of this issue across the country then there is an issue with the education programs of architects not understanding things like construction joinery and other such. This lack of understanding causes alot of (I'll frankly call it like it is) - LIFE THREATENING and RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT of people's lives in designing.

At this point, we don't need to beat the horse any further.


Aug 5, 11 5:53 pm  · 

in addition to ching and others, go to various construction sites and observe. if you just study it from books, you will be unnecessarily intellectualizing it. that should come after you are comfortable and adept with basic practices of construction.

Aug 5, 11 5:59 pm  · 

no shit.

this myth about architects and builders being at odds with one another is strange to me.  the truth is that builders and GC's are learning same as the architects. 


i also find it damned odd that anyone recommends building with 2x4 to get a feel for construction and cure the ignorance that our education has wrought.  it ain't a bad thing but if you really want to learn how to build what we design it would take a hundred years or more just to learn a few of the relevant trades and 2x4 construction is only one small trade. 

anyway that isn't the point of being an architect,  our job is to check the spacers on the re-bar and to count the re-bar too, but we don't have to sit there tieing it together to know its done right or not.  same with the form-work of a concrete wall etc.  doing a bit of hands on work is coolio but really nothing beats just doing the inspections with someone who knows what they are talking about.

i don't really recommend books for that sort of thing myself.  the only way to get the knowledge is to be on site and watch it happen.  since typical building takes 2 to 4 years to build not sure how to do that fast either.

Aug 5, 11 7:06 pm  · 

The point is light wood framing is probably something to start because steel often requires welding and stuff needing special inspections - all of which you aren't going to get that far along. However, wood is also dynamic and teaches something that architects often will not think about. Each piece of wood is not exactly the same. They are not all cut to the exact same length. They are all straight. Some are more warped than others.

Start with smaller and simpler buildings. Now, steel and other manufacturered products like steel are often more precise on measurements while lumber is less precise.

As to the myth about architect and builders being at odds.... where are you working? A union job or a non-union work. I know that it is very real and very alive. Granted, they'll get along enough to get the job done but believe me, there is still quite a few that don't like architects all that much.

Before doing construction administration, you should know enough about construction in order to identify F*** ups otherwise, you never know. Your job is to protect HSW all the time even on the job site. You should be as competent about construction as a builder.

You should understand that the ties are important details and can be the difference beween a cracked wall and a collapsed building. You should be mindful of EVERY detail even the small ones.



Aug 5, 11 9:41 pm  · 

so, does doing 8 hours of pouring driveways yesterday give me 'street cred'?

Can't say I really feel like 10 more years 'in the mud' would do me any good as an architect, but you can't overvalue hands-on knowledge of what good quality work entails.

Aug 6, 11 2:57 am  · 

i hear ya rick.  i bin doing this 20 years now in UK and Japan.  educated in Canada (where i grew up) 

worked with some unprofessional GC'S but in general the good ones act just as the job demands and have respect for the architects.  they know what the job is worth.  the grunts are another story, but not really an issue for me. 

understood too about the experience of construction.  it isn't a bad thing, but really the thing that is important is to do the job of an architect not the GC.  i don't expect a GC to be able to design and don't know why they would expect me to weld. 

i can do basic framing, cuz like you point out it is a kind of construction that is accessible and does not require very much skill to do to a minimum standard and like most farm families on the prairies it was part of the lifestyle to know that sort of thing.  that said, most of my experience as a professional architect has been with steel and concrete and even tensile membrane structures.  no 2 x 4's though.  not in 20 years.  it is hard to say that my experience doing all that stuff as a kid taught me much about being an architect.  the job is nothing like that.

there is a possibly apocryphal story about the tokyo forum that talks about the difference between a good architect and a good builder.  the story goes this way  - the builders designed some part of the roof assembly in layers according to functions.  it was complicated so as they recognised new needs they added a design solution for each bit, until in the end there was a perfectly functional and reasonable and buildable detail.  vinoly's staff took a look at it, saw that it worked but was crazy overcooked and redid the entire thing so that it not only worked but looked nice too, was easier to build and had fewer parts and cost less.  they built the architect's version.  of course.


what an architect does comes from a slightly different place than what a builder does and understanding materials and its capacities can be picked up in an office just as easily as in the trenches.  if you have a good mentor it is possible to achieve more than the materials allow just on their own.  some people might be able to learn that kind of finesse as a builder but my guess is they are not common.  so why not just work on being an architect instead of a builder to start with? 

why this masochistic streak in architects?  it is so misplaced.

Aug 6, 11 4:07 am  · 
go do it


as a GC  this attitude ("understanding materials and its capacities can be picked up in an office just as easily as in the trenches." ) is what bothers us guys in the field.

some things you just HAVE to learn by doing. i strongly believe that SOME HOW as a part of an architects schooling there should be 1 year mandatory in the field 40 hours per week required experience. or better yet a 1 year mandatory in the field 40 hours per week required experience running a construction company trying to make a profit. believe me that would be an education!!

i feel that you guys are required by the school establishment to have WAY  to much "book learn'in" and not enough banging nails. it is all about the money i suppose. the longer they keep you in class the more money they make. but the real education starts outside the classroom.

just my humble opinion 



Aug 6, 11 5:16 am  · 

go do it, no disrespect but of course you could flip it and say every GC should have to go through a 1 year mandatory internship in an architect's office so they could learn how to design and try to make a profit! Also would be an education! 

I actually took your advice and most of my professional experience has been working for a GC. I do agree with the just of what your saying, but the best jobs I've worked on were ones where both the architect and GC respect and understand each other.

We can generalize all day... 

Too many architects don't know how to swing a hammer; too many project manager's don't know enough about estimating; too many supers don't know enough about budgets and contracts or how to talk to clients; too many subs don't know enough about other trades; too many estimators don't have enough field experience; too many developers don't care about the communities their projects affect.

These stereotypes haven't held-up in my working experience. I'm not saying that there aren't incompetent, asshole architects trying to ruin the profit margin of every GC that they come in contact with, but the majority of people on both sides of the fence want every job to be successful. 

I think the most useful thing I've learned from working for a GC is to know when the GC is doing a good job or not, mainly because I've been there and KNOW when they are doing poorly. On the flip side, have you ever put together a perfect documentation set? As a builder, drawing inconsistencies drove me nuts (has anyone ever seen a perfect set of drawings???). You sit down and try to put together a set yourself, you quickly realize how hard it is. 

I have a theory that communication and empathy might be the two biggest keys to a successful project.





Aug 6, 11 6:05 am  · 
go do it

no disrespect perceived.

i actually do draw some of my own plans. so i do appreciate teh work of the archi-guys and girls.

i do agree with you intotheloop more trade mechanics should acquire knowledge of the design process. but most trades are learned on the job so mostly it is up to the individual to self educate; and self motivation at my end of the spectrum is a patchwork of  intensities. 

but with an architect there is a set curriculum and all i was attempting to point out is that the schools need to get you all out of the classroom and swinging hammers. it will make you a better architect, and is that not the point of school.   

Aug 6, 11 7:29 am  · 

That is exactly the actual main point to my original response to Costafinkel. The books give you theoretical insight but getting out of the classroom and learning about how buildings are built will give another form of insight including how buildings are put together and to a certain degree how construction process works.


Aug 6, 11 1:04 pm  · 

Costafinkel- The edition doesn't really matter. Basic Construction doesn't change too quickly as opposed to other fields. You can read a book from the 50's or 60's if you want....

Aug 6, 11 2:32 pm  · 

Heck, you can even read books from the 1910s,20s and 30s. Many engineering formulas haven't changed in 80 years for basic construction and simple beams. I have stuff from the 19th century to present. However, you should be familiar with the building codes (enough about basic stuff that are accepted and not accpeted. Generally, you would want to be familiar about how to look things up in the code book and to a certain degree about how to properly interpret the "legal-ese" nature of the code text then memorizing word for word as it is modified every few years.


Aug 6, 11 3:16 pm  · 

Agree go do it. Don't think one can have enough field experience, both while in school and after graduating. 

Aug 6, 11 8:38 pm  · 

i agree with intotheloop about the generalisations.  that is my point exactly.

what i mean about getting experience in the office is working as site architect.  not sitting at desk but spending a few years at a site construction hut and meet with GC'S everyday and all that.  doesn't require welding or hammering, and still learn a lot.  not sure how far any GC will get on a 4 year project if they have anything less than complete respect for the architects working with him/her, and vice versa.  what a shitty jobsite it would be.  probably crappy building would come out of it too.


my first pro job i was taken to construction site within first month and encouraged to make visits often.  shortest projects we were involved in were two years long, longest was about 6.  so there was always opportunity to go and see the work underway and to also see the dwgs we did converted to reality (a very cool and highly educational thing btw).  it seems the most normal way to work as an architect to me, but perhaps in the usa the divisions are stronger?  or perhaps the architects are not involved with site supervision?



Aug 7, 11 4:16 am  · 


Yeah, seems like Ching is everyone's favorite architecture author. So I'll try and slowly get all of his publications, beginning with the ones related to construction.


Will look for it at an affordable price on amazon and ebay.


Yeah, I really dont mind getting around construction sites, I love it. And I wouldnt mind getting my hands dirty when needed either - Even tho I dont think that would happen very often.


I guess a person is an individual. It isnt because somebody's an architect that he cant be an experienced builder either. I have a teach who's an architect and that understand  more of construction than most contractors and carpenters. And that's because he has always worked in all kinds of construction sites.

But I have noticed that there is a lot of hostility between technical workers and architects and I guess that happens because some workers feel that some architects are not experienced enough in construction to be their bosses, and the architects just send all this hate back - Some might use their studyin time as an advantage in discussion, something that is really disgusting. 

But I would disagree about projecting stuff that "cant be build". At least in my college, explaining how your project could be built is always required. What I actually feel, is that most workers just want to build simple cubes and get annoyed when faced with more complex structures.

Furthermore, dont you think its arrogant to make fun of architects and feel all superior because you know more about technical data than someone else? What goes around, comes around, mate. Nobody wants to be the loser in the end.

And I would agree 100% with Donna.. It is supposed to be a team. Contrators need architects for projeting guidance and architects need contractors for building guidance. Fighting each other will just make it harder for everybody. 

As I said its about the person, not the title. There are other people in my class that really are into construction, and some others just want to decorate cushions (not that there is anything wrong with that).


I do agree that the architecture should have field education, but hey, if one wants to do so, one can. Architecture is a mixed course, basically based in three different fields - 1. Construction, 2. Projecting/Designing, 3. Art/History/Society. The three of them are important for a good architect, and not only knowing how to build as you seem to think.


Aug 9, 11 3:47 am  · 


I do agree. That really was my point at the heart.

You should know enough about construction that you understand the construction processes and the reality and challenges like don't expect 2x4 or 2x6 lumber to be perfectly straight when it was never straight. Go to the lumberyard and look at the wood for crying out loud as they would say. In addition, knowing and understanding the difficulties and challenges of building. It really isn't so much about building cubes but the challenges are mostly when building stuff that requires special equipment including having to INVENT a new machine to lift the component. Those are some of the real world frustration that builders deal with because it becomes much more hazardous for the builder's safety and requires so much more additional stuff that makes things difficult.

To talk with builders requires a little understanding of construction and also in reverse of builders talking to architects requires a little understanding of architecture (or at least building design which works fine). To coordinate with consultants and builders, you need to have an understanding of what your consultants and the builder's work to a level that you know if they are screwing up or not and whether they are BSing you or if they are honest. If you understand construction joinery to a certain degree, you'll also know their strengths and weaknesses.

It relates to structural design.

You need to think in detail at macro-level and micro-level. EVERYTHING ! ! ! !

As the saying goes about coordination -

One needs to know as much if not more about what your consultants do as  your consultant to coordinate your consultants. I would argue that you would need to sufficiently know about what your consultants do to be able to know if your client is giving good or bad advice because YOU are the one that gets sued while a consultant is often going to walk away without an issue.

I do agree it should be a team ! ! ! ! That is not in question because knowing what they do doesn't mean you have to do what they do.

How can you tell if an engineer gave you bad calcs and specifications because of bad calcs if you don't know what they do? Similar points with shop drawings from contractors. If you don't know anything about construction, how can you review shop drawings and details/specifications from builders?

Similarly, a builder should know enough about architecture to understand the drawings and specifications and what your goals are as the architect.

Architecture school may not encompass enough to prepare you which a professional degree in Architecture should prepare you to enter the field of architecture because employers generally don't teach. They just assign you work to do. This is because the teaching is suppose to happen in the school because employers time is money and so on. So time they have to spend teaching is time they could be using on the work itself. That frustrates alot of employers.

Hence alot of the frustration around IDP because it often expects too much "teaching" from employers then employers can really give to employees.

I do feel more programs should consider that more. I don't have to worry so much about construction in architecture school because I already have a bit of that to begin with. More than probably any architecture school would entail.

I am a building designer not a GC and work independent of builders by nature of my practice and my clients are generally the end-user client not the builder.

I will agree with you that it is about the person not the title. Since design starts with the Architect/Client and not the Builder, the whole purpose of construction documents is to instruct the builder on how the building is to be built. Not so much about the method of delivery but the building itself.

If you ever built furnture and cabinets before, you'll understand about connection joinery and what works well and what doesn't including allowing for expansion & contraction of the material. A building isn't a far stretch from that if you really think about it. It may not be to quite the finesse as cabinets but still.


Aug 9, 11 5:08 am  · 
Noah Walker

We have most of the "For Pros by Pros" series in my office and they are all great.  The Graphic Guide to Frame Construction is outstanding, and the books on concrete, plumbing, electrical trades are terrific references.

Aug 9, 11 10:48 am  · 
go do it

hadn't been here for a while. been putting bids together along with 4 other GC's for each project. people are scrapping the barrel on us GC's

   TOKEN the other training architects receive besides construction methods are the best parts about architects; and i always enjoy learning on architect designed or driven projects.

hell archi-people love working with me i ask a lot of questions and don't deviate from the drawings without consulting the archi-person

again you all just need more banging........................................nails that is

and also carrying wood.................... fibrous tree material of course. 

carry on

Aug 9, 11 7:04 pm  · 
On the fence

You have got to be kidding me.

Aug 11, 11 3:12 pm  · 

Ed Ford's details books. Those will teach you construction.


Aug 11, 11 5:05 pm  · 
le bossman

i'd skip the ching books and go straight for this one:

i'd also pick up one of these magazines:

and then go to home depot and get yourself one of these:

These are mostly related to wood framing but there's enough in there about concrete that you'll pick it up. 


Aug 11, 11 9:28 pm  · 

It depends on the matters. Ching books would be suited for the architecture classes which is pretty common to be a required text for the classes but other books go into more detail about construction and construction detailing intended for builders and shop drawings.



Aug 11, 11 9:43 pm  · 

so, it's been almost 8 years since you asked your question? Im curious to know how it turned out? Did you drop everything and get hired on to tend block and mix mud to learn about architecture? ..or, did you buy the books, read them cover to cover and continue with your studies? I hope you chose the latter..(from a 68 year old bricklayer with chronic tendonitis and artificial knees)

Jan 25, 18 10:37 am  · 

I think should help! 

Jan 29, 20 3:06 am  · 

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