Best Schools/Programs to Gain Knowledge in Construction


My previous professional education (concept-oriented) and work experience (mostly schematic work) has left me hungry for more detailed knowledge of how buildings are made. There's only so much I can learn by browsing Ching and Arch Standards. I feel rather technically challenged when confronted with new design problems, and am often stumped and intimidated communicating with contractors. I am looking for 1 to 2-year graduate programs or vocational training that will teach me more about how buildings are constructed and the details and technologies involved. Even better is if I can gain plenty of hands-on experience. I have no intention of transitioning into the construction field. I simply want to become an architect that can design more realistically and smartly and communicate with contractors more efficiently.


Thanks in advance.

Jun 30, 13 11:56 pm

I saw this last night and am posting now.  You're right.  Ching and Arch. Standards are not sufficient in many cases.

First, I'm assuming you have a degree in architecture, or similar, and that's why you inquired about graduate construction education.  The philosophy behind MS degrees in construction is to run construction or development companies, whereas with BS degrees, it's to equip people with detailed information to work in nuts and bolts roles in construction companies, though it could be good education for an architect, thought that sounds past tense for you.

Second, if you are in an urban area, major universities have more "vocational" evening extension programs.  The same issue exists.  They tend to be CM oriented, mostly toward business, and not toward construction technology.  If you find an extension certificate in construction technology, go for it.  The other thing is that a community college may offer a certificate in construction technology.  The nomenclature of the school should not matter.  You can get the content at either a 4 year or a c.c., and it sounds like you want technology more than management.

Here's a link to ABET accredited 4 year "construction engineering technology" degrees. Use that toggle. Caution:  this list is "odd" in that it doesn't have schools like UF, VT, UW, WSU, GT, Auburn and a few others with good CM departments.  I think it's because they miss the ABET criteria by a hair or two, and are slightly tipped more toward business practices than engineering technology.  That's my hunch.  But if any of these are near you, contact them for evening or extension programs and certificates.

Jul 1, 13 2:14 pm

Going to vocational schools is a good thing. Especially if it furthers the knowledge and education of one who wants to become an architect. However, at the same time, you go to consider the possibility that if you do go to a vocational school, chances are that you will be given books from Ch'ing and Arch Standards to use as a reference. From my own experience, I've learned to build walls, stairs and furniture using books from Ch'ing and Arch Standards. There's always going to be more to learn, but it's a start.

Jul 1, 13 4:07 pm

Thanks for info.

Jul 1, 13 4:26 pm
Jul 1, 13 4:51 pm

I spent two years working on site building homes with volunteers.. obviously not feasible for everyone, but if you really want to understand building, you have to actually do it. I learned more in my first 2 months on site than I did in 2 years of tech classes. It's been great to go back to Ching books and truly be able to read the drawings having physically built many of the objects depicted.

Think about volunteering at a local building non-profit that allows its volunteers to get their hands dirty.. some will only have you scraping paint and beautifying streets, which is great, but not ideal if you're trying to learn more. 

Jul 1, 13 5:17 pm

Thank you for your responses. Some of you have simply nailed it in terms of the trouble I've been having googling the best schools with "programs in construction": they are mostly focused on CM. I already have a BA in Arch and MArch degree and about 4-5 years experience working in design firms. I intend to continue my career as a designer. I am simply looking for a way to become a much stronger designer.

The school is or what type of degree I get is nowhere on my list of priorities. I simple want to learn the most knowledge of the technology behind construction and allow that to enhance my design. While finding a short but intense academic or vocational program would be great, as square suggested, I'm seriously considering working on a construction site building homes for a year or two. Now the question is where I can find a site that is generous enough to let a newbie to get his hands dirty and learn.

Jul 2, 13 9:51 am

The sky is the limit, as they say, it just depends how much of a life change you're willing to go through.

A traditional, large construction business will not let you do anything but carry boards and hand more experienced folks tools for the first year.. my boss was a finish carpenter in Santa Barbara, CA, and that's all she did for about half of her first year. She did, however, just walk up to the boss and ask for a job, and somehow it worked. If you have some connections, it might be easier to get involved earlier.

I went through a non-profit, specifically through the AmeriCorps program. While the pay is anything but great (stipend), it's enough to live on, and you do get a $5000 scholarship per 11month term. The big benefit is that because you're working for a non-profit, the resources are more limited, thus the staff has to lean on it's americorps members a bit more in the field than the typical underlings in the private sector. People also tend to be a bit more friendly and willing to slow down and teach because you must do the same thing with your volunteers (teaching is also the best way to learn something..).

Check out Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding together, both of which typically hire AmeriCorps and let them be quite involved in the construction process. They're also in almost every major city and many small towns.

Not to mention, you'll be working for a good cause.

Jul 2, 13 2:24 pm


My answer stands, knowing you have a B.Arch and M.Arch.  You don't need more high-falutin paper.  A certificate in building technology (not management) at a community college, followed by one offered from a university, if such is actually done. You might also try to find such programs online. 

Also, take architectural on-line courses in systems such as roofing, envelope, fenestration systems, energy systems, and then some - from vendors, CSI, the AIA, etc.  Note that vendors will be selling their proprietary products. 

If you have those degrees, I'm sure you have the basics of building tech under your belt.  Many architects have that same training and simply chose to focus on learning about building assemblies, having CSI type letters after their names.  It sounds like your whole career time has been in design, and that you don't want to move over into production, where this can be learned, since it could involve either a demotion or something you'd rather not do.  And that makes sense.

Jul 2, 13 4:54 pm


I completely understand where you're coming from, I felt the same hunger for detailed construction knowledge, and desire to get my hands dirty after my Bach degree in architecture.

I opted to try construction and got a job simply by walking onto a site (it took a few tries). It was a highrise condo and I got picked up by the masonry sub as a labourer. Since I was a complete greenhorn, the pay was low and the work tedious, but it soon got better after I proved I was reliable and not a complete dipshit. After 6 months I decided I wanted to keep going and was able to become an apprentice, which meant better pay and more interesting work. I ended up doing this work for about 4 years before I decided it was time to try working in an architecture firm.

The payoff, in terms of learning the most about construction methods and materials, has been tremendous. It was also good to get away from a desk and do satisfying, physical work. The pay in the trades is nothing to sneeze at either. Maybe its not something you want to do for a few years, but try it for a summer at least!

Jul 17, 13 4:48 pm

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