Below, you will find links to archtoolbox reviews of the technical reference books that we find most valuable. We only review books that meet our high standards, but these reviews will help you determine whether the book fits your needs.
Be sure to visit our Offline Library for more useful books that should be added to your library.
Review: The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practiceby The American Institute of Architects
If you are starting your own architecture firm, you will most definitely need a copy of The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice. Written by The American Institute of Architects, the book provides every bit of information needed to build and run an architecture firm - from choosing a legal entity, to recruiting and hiring employees, to delivering a project - all neatly organized into a single hardcover volume.
The book focuses on the business aspects of running an architecture firm and leaves the design side out of the equation. It contains all the stuff you didn't learn in architecture school and all the stuff you probably wish you didn't have to worry about. That is the great benefit of the book - everything is neatly laid out and easy to find. If you are an architect and have only one business book on the shelf, The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice is the one you should choose.
The one thing that is not included in the book is full access to the AIA Contract Documents. There is a section dedicated to samples of the Documents and there are PDFs included on the enclosed CD; however, in order to actually use the AIA Contract Documents, they must be purchased directly through The American Institute of Architects. This ensures that you always have the most current documents with all of the most up-to-date language that will protect you and your clients.
Review: Architectural Graphic Standardsby Charles Ramsey, Harold Sleeper, and the American Institute of Archietcts
Considered to be the "Architect's Bible" since it was first published in 1932, Architectural Graphic Standards continues to be the go-to guide for construction detailing in most American firms. The book includes thousands of illustrations, from isometric sectional cut-away views to two-dimensional details, which help an architect understand the intricacies of architectural detailing.
The Eleventh Edition has been completely overhauled. Bruce Mau Design redesigned the book with new fonts, new layouts, and a much needed hint of color in the headings. In addition to the design, the organization of the book has been rethought and is now set up based on UniFormat, which organizes the content based on systems - substructure, shell, interiors, services, materials, etc. The new organization will take some getting used to, but better aligns with how architects work - especially in early stages of design.
Several sections have been expanded to acknowledge the important philosophical changes in the profession. The Energy and Environmental Design section has been completely reworked and is now the Sustainable Design section. The Accessibility section is now a subsection of Inclusive Design, which contains more information than ever before. In addition, case studies are now included at the end of each chapter to help translate the information into real-life design situations.
For all of the new information that is provided, some things are surprisingly missing. Previous editions of the book had lots of great dimensional information on the human body - space needs for sitting, standing, reach distances, etc - this is no longer here. Many readers also complain about the lack of information on vehicle sizes, parking layouts, and turning radii. We think the publishers need to reconsider including this information in future editions of the book. If you regularly use that information, we suggest you purchase the Tenth Edition of the book.
While the new layout may confuse some architects who have been using older editions of Architectural Graphic Standards for many years, we think the improvements were needed to address contemporary changes in the way we design buildings and will ensure that the book will continue to be an important reference for many years to come.
Review: Building Construction Illustratedby Francis D.K. Ching
Architects are naturally drawn to beautiful drawings. Building Construction Illustrated is full of Ching's wonderful hand drawings, which will provide endless enjoyment and clear diagrams of construction conditions.
Ching covers all of the major systems and materials that architects must know about and also covers overall site and building issues. As indicated by the book's title, each page has multiple fully annotated drawings that describe the particular topic. Written text accompanies each diagram to provide further information.
If there is any drawback to the book, it is that it has a limited breadth. However, the book does not attempt to provide the endless detail that other books, such as Architectural Graphic Standards, provide.
The book is a required reference for every architecture student and professional because it makes complex construction conditions easy to understand. The drawings themselves are a tutorial for every architect who wants to provide clear and concise documentation. Building Construction Illustrated is highly recommended by archtoolbox.
Consider Building Construction Illustrated instead of A Visual Dictionary of Architecture (review) if you are interested in detailed discussions sorted by building system.
Building Construction Illustrated is also available in a Kindle version.
Review: Architects' Databy Ernst Neufert
Ernst Neufert's Architects' Data is an important reference book for architects practicing in countries that use the metric system. Data is the key word - the book is full of huge amounts of information that an architect needs to plan a building.
The book is organized by building type and can assist the architect in determining space needs for every building type from places of worship to schools to the most obscure athletic facility. The housing sections are especially detailed, providing space needs for various furniture, down to the proper layout of a table place-setting. Many of the drawings and space plans have dimensions and there are diagrams of some very well known buildings for reference.
The book is comparable to Architectural Graphic Standards that is used in the US, however the focus of Neufert's book is on the initial planning of a building so there are very few construction details.
One minor drawback for US readers, as mentioned earlier, is that all of the dimensions are metric. However, Neufert provides some very extensive conversion tables. These concerns should not deter an American architect from having this book on the shelf; the value in the wide range of space planning information is incredibly useful.
Review: Fundamentals of Building Constructionby Edward Allen and Joseph Iano
There is nothing more valuable for an architect than spending time in the field observing the construction process. Unfortunately, many junior architects have not had this experience or they have had limited opportunity to observe certain types of construction. Fundamentals of Building Construction is the next best thing to actual field visits and will provide the architect with knowledge of construction techniques that they have not been exposed to.
Allen and Iano cover every major architectural construction system, from rough framing to finishes. They cover, in great detail, steel, concrete, and wood construction. Well written descriptions of building systems and techniques are accompanied by site photos and drawn details. The photos sometimes appear dated and are black-and-white; however, the content of the photos are relevant to current construction techniques. The drawings are of construction-document quality and are well annotated.
It is impossible to cover every facet of building design and construction within a single volume, and Building Construction Illustrated is no different in this respect. Building systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc) are not covered at all. However, at over 1000 pages, the book covers its topics in great detail.
As with Building Construction Illustrated by Francis Ching, archtoolbox considers Fundamentals of Building Construction to be an essential reference book for every student and professional architect.
Fundamentals of Building Construction is also available in a Kindle edition.
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