If you're a architectural graduate, chances are you are about to start working in the industry.
Most of us at this stage have no real exposure to practice, less an internship which may be limited due to the amount of time your mentor may have spent to brief you on the various terminology and building components.
Trust me, I have been there.
Thus, in this mega post, I will be sharing 20 things I learnt during my first year in the building industry as an architectural designer.
I find that these things should have been taught in school so here I hope that you get a head start when you enter the industry.
Read on to learn more.
Invert & Top Levels of Drains
Pile & Pile cap
Canopy & RC Flat Roof
Drainage Fall Gradient
Types of Drains
Turning & Clearance Radius
SFL & FFL for RC Flat Roofs
Railings Spacing and Openings
Drops & Rises
Catladder to Roof
RC Flat Roof
Staircase Tread & Riser
Spot Levels & Gradient
PS: If you love the compilation here, you might want to check out the downloadable PDF ebook, full of useful content across 400 topics.
1 - Gridlines
Gridlines refer to the reference, annotative lines that denote the position and alignment of columns, walls, floors and furniture.
Each grid line is labelled alphabetically from top to bottom and numerically from left to right.
They are important for coordination between all design disciplines.Gridlines should never move unless necessary, especially the four corners where coordinates are set. Some say that labelling of the horizontal gridlines should be from bottom to top due to the cartesian system - however, do follow your company standard.
2 - Apron
A building's apron refers to a slab of material — usually concrete or asphalt — that is placed in front of the door/entrance and may continue around the perimeter of the building.
It is often used to create a smooth transition between different grades of concrete or between concrete and asphalt.
Aprons are typically 150mm below the internal first storey FFL and 150mm above the driveway. They should be minimum 600mm wide - commonly 1-1.5m wide and adjacent to drains for discharge of water flowing both the building and driveway.
3 - Invert & Top Levels of Drains
A drain top level is referred to as uppermost level of the drain while the invert level refers to the lowest level. This is especailly useful to communicate the design for drainage when specifying drain width, gradient and flow in drainage plans.
Note the lines on plan that indicate the inner walls and actual width of drain channel.
4 - Pile / Pilecaps
Piles are long, slender, columnar elements typically made from steel or reinforced concrete, or sometimes timber. A foundation is described as 'piled' when its depth is more than three times its breadth.
Pile foundations are principally used to transfer the loads from superstructures.
Piles are designed for early in the design by structural engineers. They decide the position, size and number of piles based on the loading requirements.
5 - Retaining Wall
Retaining walls are relatively rigid walls used for supporting soil laterally so that it can be retained at different levels on the two sides - structures designed to restrain soil to a slope that it would not naturally keep to.
In Singapore, retaining structures with more than 1.5m visible height requires authority approval.
There are also other kinds of retaining systems, such as continuous bored piles and geotextile.
6 - Vehicular Simulations
Vehicular simulations are essential for driveway design and site planning.
When performing such simulations, the following data needs to be established - width, length, wheelbase, turning radius/clearance, speed and path.
These simulations are used to determine whether all vehicles are able to access the site.
Site planning for vehicles is important to ensure a safe and adequate passage. Heavy and long vehicles such as fire engines and trailers have their own specific dimensions and clearance requirements.
7 - Canopy & RC Flat Roof
Canopies and overhangs are placed above doors and windows on external walls to prevent rainwater from entering the rooms they give access to. RC canopies are either 150/200mm thick, depending on the extent of the overhang.
Some design considerations include the size of the door (height) and the presence of other overhangs above.
For small doors (1100mm wide), overhangs are extended 500mm sidewards and protrude 600mm to 1 m outwards.
For single storey RC flat roofs with free fall drainage (no rainwater downpipe/siphonic outlets), they should overhang and its eaves should be directly above the middle of the apron drain line. They should also have a 13-20mm throating on the underside to allow for guided dripping.
Although some engineers might suggest a slight offset of the eave line due to wind - having the eave at the middle is a good basis.
8 - Drainage Fall Gradient
Architects must consider the overall drainage concept within and around the building to allow for a proper discharge to open drains.
Do you know driveways and floors are non-flat? They are typically so to allow for water to flow towards a receiving drain/floor trap. Depending on the location and prevailing code, fall gradient is to be catered for.
One important calculation all architectural designers must understand is the spot level vs fall gradient calculation. There are a few parameters governing this - slope gradient (1:x or rise vs run), available distance and maximum rise in height.
In fact, we have created a free handy online slope gradient calculator where you can perform the above calculations.
9 - Types of Drains
Drains do not only receive water from the top but also from the sides.
For road side drains, the adjacent drain can double as a pavement with a kerb detail.
The top level of the drain is typically 150mm above the adjacent driveway, or about a height of a step in a staircase.
The cover of the drain must be heavy duty vehicular grating if they are on the same level as the driveway. Thus, if the above configuration is applied, the grating can be substituted with a basic drain cover to hold a lower load. The cost can be reduced as such.
10 - Downhung Wall
Downhung walls are a very important detail to external works and apron linking to the main building.
The vertical face of the downhung wall exposed will prevent any moisture to seep into the underside of the ground slab and the maintain the integrity.
11 - Turning & Clearance Radius
Driveway design is integral for site planning.
The first step is to identify the different types of vehicles and their turning radius.
Typical turning radius are 3.5m(vehicles), 6.5m(fire engines), 11m(articulated vehicles, like trailers).
In addition to this, driveway clearances should be provided, as a buffer, to prevent any accident due to oversteering or delayed turning.
12 - SFL & FFL for RC Flat Roofs
Architectural designers must consider while designing drainage for RC flat roofs is to to set the lower and upper level for the screed to fall as well as the slope gradient. Typically we design 1:100 slope gradient for efficient drainage.
Benefits of having a suitable gradient include prevention of algae growth and waterlogging.
One important consideration is to the height between the upper level of the screed vs the top level of the barrier. There should be a 1m level difference to comply with building regulations regarding fall from height.
13 - Railings Design (Spacing and Openings)
It is important meet edge protection and prevention for fall from height requirements stated in your building code.
A small detail to note is the allowed diameter spacing between posts and rails - usually 100mm/150mm (non-industrial/industrial).
14 - Drops & Rises
It is important to understand water can flow down drops and not up rises across floor levels. Thus, rooms and staircases are in general a step above corridors & roofs, while toilets are below.
Consider where washing is being done and think how to prevent water from flowing elsewhere.
15 - Catladder to Roof
Catladders are provided for access to roof for maintainance, with safety cages if the height of ladder is above 3m.
The secure handhold should be installed over a 300mm kerb to prevent accidental fall and water flow down the roof.
Proper design of catladder and maintenance access is important to ensure occupant safety.
A Design For Safety meeting is typically held amongst stakeholders during the design development stage to ensure all hazards are addressed.
16 - RC Flat Roof
The reinforced concrete (RC) flat roof is one of the most common roof detail that architecture designers should know.
It is important to understand the components and rationale behind them.
In essence, the roof slab is the bottom most layer, followed by screed to fall, waterproofing membrane, insulation and precast slabs.
The RC flat roof detail will be one of the many architectural detail drawings you need to be familiar with.
I have written a post about architectural details, so do check it out and discover my top 5 details we as architectural designers should know early on in practice.
17 - Staircase Tread Depth
Staircase design is one of the most important parts of the building for horizontal circulation across floors.
When designing staircases, there are a few parameters: tread depth, length, number of risers per flight (maximum 18), landing and handrail extensions.
Tread depth are the horizontal dimension of each step that are typically 250, 275 or 300mm, depending on development type.
The wider the tread depth, the better - as there is more space for a person to step on as he/she climbs up the staircase.
18 - Staircase Riser Height
Continuing from the previous section, the height of the staircase will determine the number of risers.
If the constraint is a fixed riser height for buildability reasons, take the nearest integer when dividng the height by riser height - and provide a ramp to meet the desired level.
Common dimension for riser include 150mm and 175mm. The lower the riser height, the easier it is to travel down, however, this will mean more steps are needed.
19 - Waterproofing
Waterproofing is essential for architectural design. We need to consider water ingress/egress through the outer layers of the building (example - facade/roof/ground foundation slab).
This can be done by the application of waterproofing membranes. These are not only for the roof slab but also required on ground slab and pipe openings, where there is contact with moisture. This also includes external walls in underground developments.
Note the 300mm upturn for roof slab where this protects any moisture from seeping from the edges along parapet walls. This allows for more efficient waterproofing due to possible upslashing due to washing of the floor.
Other areas with waterproofing include kitchens & toilets, where is washing and/or wet activities.
20 - Spot Levels & Slope Gradient
One of the most common calculations done by architectural designers to determine levels and slope gradients - from driveways to wheelchair accessible ramps.
Most likely, your desired output is either the slope gradient or ramp run/distance.
That's all of the lessons that I learnt as an architectural designer, just in my first year alone.
As you can see, the learning curve for architectural graduates is steep.
This post is my attempt to break down knowledge barriers so that you can accelerate your learning and be aware of what to expect as an architectural designer in practice.
If you loved this post, you should check out my ebook below and share this post with anyone who needs a headstart in architecture.