This is a book on the principles of building construction primarily written for architects and students of architecture. Because the book is very comprehensive and goes into considerable detail, from the macro projects of foundation, wall, floor and roofing systems, right down to unexpected information on relatively obscure features such as door locks, timber joints used in buildings and even types of carpet weave, it could be useful for the general builder, someone engaged in building design, or even the self-builder. Most of the book consists of over 1000 exquisite fine lined drawings (there are no photographs) with textual notes written in current architectural language, which are always explained adequately, therefore the book is easily understandable to the intelligent layman. The font used for the text is strange, it looks like the elegant hand written style commonly found on architectural drawings, which is less clear and slower to read than conventional book fonts. However, many love it.
Francis Ching is a professor of architecture at the University of Washington and his book on building construction has been around for some time, first published in 1975 and revised periodically, it has become a revered classic and although focused on US methods of construction, it has been avidly read by students world-wide and adapted to their local building regulations. Well, this edition precludes the need for any adaptation, because taking the fourth edition of 2008 as the basis, Mark Mulville of the University of Greenwich, has edited it to bring it in line with European construction methods and regulations, as they stand in 2013, and with particular reference to UK Building standards. Although there are some references to the European Committee for Standardization and to the German Institute for Standardization, they are minimal and essentially this is a British version of Ching’s book, although it has to be conceded that the architectural principles illustrated in the book are universal and applicable European Continent wide.
A brief chapter on construction in the Arab Middle East States is surprisingly included and may seem out of place in a book on European construction, until it is remembered that many European architects presently ply their trade in the rich Gulf States.
The book is very thorough, illustrating both domestic and commercial construction. It begins with (1) Site Selection: sustainability, green building, carbon reduction strategies, the Passive House Standard, soil analysis, rainfall, wind, drainage, vehicle circulation and site plans etc. (2) Building Systems: regulations, wind loads, structural forces and loads, columns, beams, trusses, frames, walls, spans, lateral stability, high rise structures, membrane structures etc. (3) Foundation Systems: types, underpinning, rising and retaining walls, piles etc. (4) Floor Systems: concrete beams, slabs, prestressed and precast concrete, steel framing, composite flooring, timber joists and beams etc. (5) Wall Systems: concrete walls and formwork, masonry walls, columns, piers, arches, lintels, rammed earth and straw bale construction, hemp, steel, timber stud, structural panels etc. (6) Roof Systems: slopes, trusses, rafters, decking, prefabrication and lamination structures, etc. (7) Moisture and Thermal Protection: slates, tiles, green roofing, metal roofs, shingles, drainage and flashing, internal and external insulation, air-tightness, ventilation, vapour barriers, radon gas, structural movements and sealants, etc. (8) Doors and Windows: timber, metal, UPVC, skylights, sliding and revolving doors, etc. (9) Special Construction: stairs, elevators, fireplaces, chimneys, kitchens, bathrooms, etc. (10) Finishing: plaster types and boards, ceramic tiles, timber, stone and terrazzo flooring, acoustic ceilings, timber mouldings, etc. (11) Mechanical and Electrical Systems: thermal comfort, heating and cooling systems, water supply, hot-water, fire protection, plumbing and electrical systems, lighting, etc. (12) Materials: life-cycle assessment, etc. And so much more! At the end there is an index and several useful appendixes on human dimensions, accessibility, acoustics, egress, architectural drawing conventions, etc. The book excites few criticisms; but it is poor and inadequate on electrical installation.
The Ching-Mulville book is intelligently and efficiently written, it is concise where necessary, expansive where useful, amazingly detailed, profusely informative, and yet is always elegant and aesthetic as befits architecture at the highest level. Of its type there is probably no better publication available.
In my youth I had an unfulfilled desire to become an architect and have remained fascinated by architecture since then. A brief glance at my bookshelves will confirm this. While the bulk of my collection relates to the aesthetics and the use we make of buildings both at home and abroad, you will find a few well browsed items linked to the very practical nuts and bolts side of construction. Items like solar and geothermal heating systems, for example, and my favourite is a brilliant small book called 'Architects Pocket Book' by Charlotte Baden-Powell, which I consider a treasure trove of practical information. I also own another work by Frank Ching, so, when I spotted this book, trying to get a copy was a no brainer. And I'm so glad I did. It is a beautiful book. A work of art in itself! It is highly informative, full of brilliant ideas and beautifully illustrated throughout by Ching. Adobe were so fascinated by Ching's own stylish script he used to describe his early work that they adapted it and created a delightful digital font. I believe it is used throughout this book. Ching is an amazing character. Apart from being a talented architect and teacher, I think of him as being something of an American version of, and kindred spirit to, Wainwright, the creator of the magnificent mountain walking guides.
Based in the States, Ching has been very influential in American architecture. Originally this book was published for guidance there. It looks at everything from foundations to the finished article. It was a great success and proved highly popular. I am not in the least surprised that Wiley, the publishers, decided to adapt it for use here, taking into account the UK and European building rules. I am only surprised they took so long! The result is this brilliant collaboration between Frank Ching and Mark Mulville.
This is a highly practical book and I would not recommend it to anyone whose interest in architecture is mostly of an aesthetic nature. While it is mainly aimed at architects, engineers, and students of architecture and design, and will generate tremendous local interest amongst them, I have little doubt, from personal experience, that it will provide valuable insight for the practical lay-person with its stress on visual presentation. It is a great addition to my growing library.