Building Systems Basics

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Buildings are complicated, dynamic beasts. Their anatomies - just like the human body - are composed of a suite of interdependent systems. They conspire to defy gravity, bend the laws of thermodynamics to provide a balanced atmosphere, and provide for the health and safety of their inhabitants. But unlike our bodies, clean air and water, power, safety and fire protection can be delivered in a MYRIAD of ways depending on scale, budget, and sustainability goals.

How do we make informed decisions, or know where to look for more information? Despite such complexity, the principles of building systems are relatively simple - usually founded in knowledge that we have understood since the primitive hut. Here, we've assembled a set of resources that help bridge the knowledge gap - from entry points for basic concepts, and industry standards for in-depth investigation and detailed decision making. We recommend these resources as partners to any systems course, or as a refresher when taking on the Architectural Registration Exam.

The Fab Five

Structural Considerations

Heating & Cooling




Enclosure & Envelope Considerations

Life Cycle Analysis

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