Introduction to Building Construction


Chapter 1: Introduction to Building Construction

In this first chapter, we will lay the foundation for our exploration of building construction in the tropics. We will begin by defining the key concepts and terminology related to construction, ensuring that we have a common understanding of the fundamental principles.

construction professionals

Site Selection

Building construction encompasses a wide range of activities, from conceptualizing and designing a structure to procuring materials, executing the construction process, and eventually handing over a completed building. It involves collaboration among various professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors, and subcontractors, who work together to bring a vision to life.

To understand the complexities of building construction, it is essential to recognize the importance of a well-defined plan. A thorough understanding of the project requirements, including the purpose of the building, the intended occupants, and the desired functionality, lays the groundwork for a successful construction project. Proper planning ensures that the design and construction align with the project goals and comply with applicable regulations and codes.

Throughout the building construction process, numerous decisions must be made. From selecting suitable materials and construction techniques to coordinating schedules and managing resources, each choice significantly impacts the final outcome. Attention to detail and a focus on quality are paramount to ensure that the building meets the necessary standards and fulfills the expectations of the stakeholders. Hence the services of the different built environment/building construction professionals should always be engaged to ensure that the right decisions are always taken in the different aspects of the building construction enterprise thereby guaranteeing efficient and effective execution.

In building design and siting, various professionals play crucial roles to ensure that construction projects are well-planned, executed, and compliant with regulations. Here’s an outline of the different roles of building construction professionals in these aspects:

  1. Architects:
    • Design Development: Architects are responsible for creating the overall design concept of the building. They consider aesthetics, functionality, and user needs in their designs.
    • Site Analysis: Architects assess the site’s topography, climate, and surroundings to ensure that the building design integrates well with its environment.
    • Zoning Compliance: Architects work to ensure that the building design complies with local zoning regulations and building codes.
  2. Civil Engineers:
    • Site Engineering: Civil engineers assess the site conditions, including soil stability and drainage, to determine the feasibility of construction.
    • Foundation Design: They design the foundation system to support the structure based on the soil conditions and building loads.
  3. Structural Engineers:
    • Structural Analysis: Structural engineers analyze and design the building’s structural elements, ensuring they can withstand loads and meet safety standards.
    • Construction Materials: They specify materials for construction, considering factors like strength, durability, and cost.
  4. Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) Engineers:
    • System Design: MEP engineers design the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems within the building, including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), electrical wiring, and plumbing.
    • Energy Efficiency: They focus on designing systems that are energy-efficient and comply with environmental standards.
  5. Geotechnical Engineers:
    • Soil Analysis: Geotechnical engineers study the soil conditions to provide information crucial for foundation design and construction planning.
  6. Surveyors:
    • Land Surveying: Surveyors measure and map the land, providing accurate data on the site’s boundaries, elevation changes, and existing structures.
  7. Urban Planners:
    • Zoning and Land Use: Urban planners assist in navigating local zoning regulations and land-use policies, helping ensure the project aligns with community planning goals.
  8. Construction Managers:
    • Project Planning: Construction managers oversee the planning and scheduling of construction activities, ensuring that the project stays on track and within budget.
    • Quality Control: They are responsible for quality assurance during construction, ensuring that the work meets design specifications and standards.
  9. Environmental Consultants:
    • Environmental Impact Assessment: Consultants assess potential environmental impacts of the construction project and propose mitigation measures to comply with environmental regulations.
  10. Regulatory Compliance Specialists:
    • Code Compliance: Specialists ensure that the building design and construction adhere to local, state, and national building codes and regulations.


Site Preparation

Once a site has been selected by the collaborative efforts of the above mentioned professionals, the next step in the construction process involves site preparation. Site preparation is a critical phase that sets the stage for the construction of a stable and secure building. Clearing the land involves removing any vegetation, debris, or obstacles that may hinder construction activities. It is important to conduct this process responsibly, taking into account the preservation of natural resources and minimizing environmental impact. After clearing the land, the terrain must be properly leveled to provide a flat and stable foundation. This process may involve excavation, filling, and compacting the soil to ensure a solid base for construction. The stability of the foundation is crucial, as it supports the entire weight of the building and provides resistance against ground movement.

In tropical regions, specific soil considerations come into play due to the unique characteristics of the soil. Some areas may have expansive soils (shale) that are prone to swelling and shrinking with changes in moisture content. In such cases, additional measures, such as soil stabilization techniques or the use of specialized foundation systems, may be necessary to mitigate the potential risks associated with expansive soils. Furthermore, the presence of high groundwater levels or poor soil bearing capacity can pose challenges in the construction of foundations. Proper geotechnical investigations and engineering analyses are required to determine the most suitable foundation design and construction methods for the specific site conditions.

In this chapter, we have explored the initial stages of the building construction process, including site selection and preparation. We have emphasized the importance of understanding the tropical climate and its impact on site suitability and foundation design. By ensuring a well-planned and properly prepared site, construction professionals can lay the groundwork for a successful and resilient building project in the tropics. In the next chapter, we will delve into the intricacies of foundations and soil considerations, examining various types of foundation systems and their suitability for different soil conditions in tropical regions.

Continue to Chapter 2: Foundations and Soil Considerations.


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Engr. Okoye is a registered Civil engineer with interests in Engineering, Project and construction management as well as general management. He is currently the Managing Director of Conifer Konstruktion (Nig) Ltd, a Building construction/project management company located in Awka, South Eastern Nigeria.