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The building design is meant to provide people with safe dwelling houses that not only shield them from environmental hazards, but also that meet their physical, social and cultural requirements. This means that in addition to providing the housing needs of residents, a well-designed house also needs to keep their belongings safe.
According to Aceh & Islands (2007), there are eight design principles that must be followed. They include principles in laying down the foundation, a coherent structure, wall-to-roof structure, walls-to-building structure, the roof-truss ties, cross-braces between roof and walls, drainage principles and house elevation.
Willison (2006) also identifies the eight principles as the core details that must be observed in building design and the four commonly practiced construction methods which are: wood framing, steel framing, manufactured house and concrete construction.
In building design and construction, the cliché that a house is just as strong as its foundation rings true. According to Willison (2006), the type of soil where construction will be put up, the moisture content, as well as the estimated weight of the construction, must be put into consideration when laying the foundation.
This means that the ground where construction is intended to be put up must be strong enough to bear the weight of the building. If the soil is weak, like would be the case with sandy soil, the designers and construction workers must be ready to strengthen the foundation of their construction before proceeding with any other construction above the ground (Calvert, 2001). Ideally, all foundations need to be continuous under the house. The more stories a house has, the firmer a foundation it ought to have.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (2001), most foundation walls in the US are made from concrete masonry units. In a 1998 study in Minnesota and Ohio, it was established that in order to comply with building codes in the two respective areas, constructors usually use either engineered design or empirical design during construction.
In areas that registered low winds and seismic activities, the empirical design was most prevalent. The houses constructed using this design also had to be residential dwellings or other houses that measured less than 35 feet vertically. Areas that had stronger winds and more predisposed to seismic activities had the engineered design approach for most houses.
Regardless of the kind of framing (wood, concrete or steel) a house has, Willison (2006) notes that all building designs need to come up with a coherent structure which should be followed to the latter during the actual construction. This means that the structure needs to be regular, needs to integrate a ring beam in its structure especially above the doors and windows.
The ring beam should connect to defined columns. A similar beam should be integrated into the structure on top of all walls in order to connect them to defined columns. More to this the end of triangular gable walls must be supported by the construction structure as initially envisaged and patented by Boehmig (1987).
As identified earlier in this study, most foundations in the US are concrete based. However, most houses (especially residential) are framed using wood. This, therefore, raises the need for proper anchoring of the wood frames on the concrete stubs forming the foundation.
According to Willison (2006), this often requires the use of non-corrodible metal, which is cast deep into the foundation to provide the structural connection needed to support the wooden frame. It is specifically essential that each wooden column is secured to the foundation well enough.
Joining the roof structure to erected walls is also an essential part of any construction method. In concrete-based constructions, column underpins must protrude from existing concrete columns to provide the necessary structural strength to the roof. In wood-framed structures, metal ties are usually used on roof trusses to the existing wall structures.
In areas prone to natural hazards such as strong winds or earthquakes, tying the roof structure correctly to the house structure is done to retain the integrity of the house if and when a natural disaster occurs. Without the proper connections being made between the roof structure and the building, then strong winds and other natural disasters can easily sweep the roof structure away (Aceh & Islands, 2009).
The fourth design principle that must be considered in every construction according to Willison (2006) is tying walls appropriately to the established structure. This ensures that should any nature forces hit the walls, they remain contact without moving separately as would happen in walls that are not tied to the structure. For the ties to last, they must be hooked to the wall formation. More to this, staircases inside the building should have adequate support.
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Proper roofing is the fifth design principle under consideration. According to Aceh & Islands (2009), roof trusses should be firm enough during construction to provide the necessary roofing strength. For this to happen, constructors need to bolt roof trusses together using metal straps. The trusses should be flexible, but must also be strong enough to withstand strong forces from nature. Wooden blocks also need to be used to hold a different section of the truss together as nails would not provide the necessary support.
Proper cross-bracing is identified as the sixth principle in design and construction that should be upheld. Just like the main structure, the roof needs to be held together during construction. This cannot be achieved by linking the roof structure to the main building structure alone. It is at this point that bracing the different parts of the roof using cross-braces becomes essential. The braces ensure that the different parts of the roof are joined together thus making the roof stronger and more likely to withstand the adverse forces of nature.
The seven design principle regard drainage. Common sense dictates that houses constructed in high rainfall areas should have a better drainage system to prevent flooding and destroying the construction material. According to Henderson & Ginger (2008), proper drainage also prevents water logging that may become breeding grounds for insects. Lastly, the floor of the house should be elevated in such a way to avoid ground level water flowing into the house.
According to Calvart (2001), buildings could collapse for several reasons. This includes bad design, extra-ordinary loads, foundation failure, faulty construction or a combination of any of these causes. Regarding bad design, the designer fails to consider the weight load that the construction may have to bear.
Also, he may rely on misleading theories or data and may even be ignorant of the impulsive or repeated stresses that the building may be exposed to. Calvart (2001), however, notes that most structural collapses are caused by faulty construction. Here, the engineer takes the blame since he is in charge of ensuring that only quality, up-to-standard materials are used in the construction.
As stated earlier in this study, the foundation is essential to good construction. This means that however good a constructed structure is, it cannot stand for long on a bad foundation. The earth beneath a structure may just give way, therefore resulting in sinking constructions or they may lean sideways especially where the load of the building is not fairly distributed.
Impact of construction failures on building codes
It is an inherently human characteristic to learn from past experiences and failures. In areas where past nature occurrences have caused damage to residential property, it is common for area building codes to be stricter than areas that had relevantly lower incidences of building collapses.
In some parts of Australia, for example, Henderson & Ginger (2008) notes that local inspectorate has tougher building codes in areas where there are stronger winds and water ingresses. In such areas, the building collapses require constructors to consider the strengths of wind or the water levels on the construction site before embarking on the design. It is only after the approval of a proposed design by the local building authorities that the construction can go ahead as scheduled.
Regardless of the building design or construction methods used, the most essential detail in a building is that it should provide people using it in their day to day activities a safe and comfortable indoor environment. For this to happen, and as observed herein, every detail of the construction process must be held with the utmost keenness. Any neglect on the designer or the building engineer’s part may lead to consequences that may cost people’s lives.
Aceh, I. & Islands, A. (2007). Handbook on good building design and construction. Web.
Boehmig, R. (1987). Building construction: United States Patent . Web.
Calvert, J. B. (2001). The collapse of Buildings. Web.
Henderson, D & Ginger, J. (2008). Role of building codes and construction standards in Windstorm disaster mitigation. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 23(2), 40-47.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2001). Building Concrete Masonry Homes: Design and Construction Issues. Web.
Willison, R. D. (2006). Handbook on building design and construction: central Jawa. Web.