Hands-On Construction 101: Introduction
March 14, 2013
As most in this business already know — either as students or teachers — the challenge to construction (and design) education at the college or university level is finding the time in a curriculum to cover the basics of hands-on construction.
There are electives and workshops of course, usually taught by energetic but technically inexperienced professors, where students gain some understanding of construction technology, but with so much to learn, the rigors of hands-on assembly are lost to more mundane and largely predictable academic subjects.
How a House is Put Together
As a result, it remains for most constructors (and a few designers) to find out for themselves how buildings actually go together. A lucky few find sympathetic mentors or leaders with the patience to pass on the things that they cannot believe weren’t already taught in school — but most entry level professionals wind up picking things up in snatches and glimpses while being paid to do some other narrowly defined task.
At the same time, few construction managers (and fewer designers) have any desire to get down and dirty and actually “work” on a jobsite. Especially to devote the years it takes to appreciate what it’s like to actually build a building efficiently.
It stands to reason though, if one is expected to manage (or design) a technical process, it is only logical to have a deep understanding of how buildings actually go together – if for no other reason than to be able to anticipate the scope of the work, resolve problems in the field, and continually consider cost effective alternatives.
Construction is Color Blind
An important premise to understanding hands-on construction is the fact that to builders, anything that can be imagined can be built — as long as someone is willing to pay for the time, materials, and resources necessary to build and maintain the finished product. On the other hand, construction both expands and restricts the possibilities of a design. And it’s only when design and construction work together that the resulting effort is efficient, purposeful, and sensitive to the needs of our shared environment.
The goal in this series of articles is to therefore bring about some understanding of hands-on construction methods. The objective is to demonstrate the basics without fear of confusing an aesthetic of color and form with the nuts and bolts of a technical process that deals strictly in black and white.
Click to Zoom
Except for scattered notes and comments, almost all of the material to be presented in this series has been taken from our book, “How a House is Built: With 3D Construction Models,” including a few of the book’s illustrations, captioned text, videos, and models.
These articles will cover eight distinct phases of the construction of a simple house, beginning with how the house is actually located on the lot, then to excavation, foundations, framing, roofing, close-in, and MEP installations. Sidebars include a buzzword index, construction safety, and tips and tricks about the process.
SketchUp will of course be the construction modeler, giving you some idea of how we use construction models in our books and business. As most who read our books already know, none of this comes easy, so click the images to zoom, and feel free to interact with the information.
(To be continued…)