Architect Skills

Construction Observation For Aspiring Architects

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Posted By Matthew Von Dohre

Continually Building Around Us

Buildings are continuously being constructed all around us and they create opportunities for anyone to observe how buildings are constructed. 

The Heights in Tampa, FL.

Construction projects are great teaching tools for aspiring architects and even seasoned professionals like myself. They allow us to follow the process of various types of construction without actively being involved with those projects.

By observing the process you can gain a better understanding of how a building is built as well as the sequencing or order of how they are constructing the elements of the building.

During your observation of the process, you will notice changes in the different activities as well as material changes during the different stages of construction.

Understanding and Tracking Time

When observing the construction process from start to finish you can gain a sense of the amount of time it takes to construct a building project.

Many factors affect the time it takes to construct a project, several of these factors include the type of structure, the overall size of the project, the weather and any changes to the project during construction.

Learning the Various Building Systems

Through observation, you can learn what type of building structure they are constructing the building with and how they are creating the structural connections for the various components in the building.

While observing a project you can also learn what major systems they are installing in the project such as the Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection systems.

Some of the additional systems you may get to see during the construction process include the Low Voltage, Audio/ Visual, Access Control, Emergency Backup Systems, and various Food Service systems.

Starting the Exterior

Because you would be limited to only observing the project from outside of the actual construction site the systems and finer details on the interior of the building will become limited once they start applying the exterior structure, skin or finish to the building.

The Renaissance at River West

As they start to apply the exterior dont think that is the end of your ability to learn from the project, the exterior is an extremely important component of the completed project.

The exterior structure, skin or finish of a building is an important part of a building and can range from a simple finish to a very complex multilayered system.

The exterior is a very important part of a building because it creates the closure that separates the building occupants from the natural elements.

During the construction of the exterior, you will also be able to observe the decorative details that make up the complete design and finished exterior of the building.

Documenting the Process

Documenting can also be important during your observation of the construction work taking place at the various stages in the process.

You can take photos, make notes and even sketch details about the various conditions, building components and activities that are going on when you observe a construction site.

Words of Caution

Now understanding the many things you can learn from observing a building being built there are also several things you need to understand and remember when doing so:

  • Anyone can observe the construction from a safe distance behind a construction barrier or fence. 
  • Do not enter a designated construction site without authorized permission.
  • Only authorized persons can enter a construction site for safety and liability reasons.
  • Unauthorized access to a construction site could result in your arrest, fines and the possibility of jail time.

Various Job Sites I Have Been Observing

The Channelside area in Tampa, FL. has several buildings currently under construction.
A Hilton brand hotel going up next to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.
An office building in Ybor City, Tampa, FL.
A hotel on International Drive near Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.
The Ybor Hotel Tampa, FL.

I hope that this provides you a new perspective about observing buildings under construction and what you can learn while observing them. Remember to be safe, observe all laws associated with construction sites and take tons of photos.

Matthew Von Dohre, RA, RID, NCARB

Have a comment or suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.

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